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The Result of Setting Goals: Sarah’s Story

Every year, many Americans decide to create goals and resolutions for the New Year. Sometimes they are to eat healthier, save money, or to learn more. Our clients at HOME, Inc. are incentivized to create goals about what they want out of their lives. According to the Peak Performance Center, benefits of goal-setting includes providing directions, a clearer focus on what is important, clarity in decision making,control on one’s future, provides motivation, sense of personal motivation,sense of personal satisfaction, and a purpose of life. Many of the successful HOME, Inc. stories include goal-setting. Sarah, the client in this story, set goals and did not just reach them, but conquered them! We wish the best of luck to Sarah and her kids!

Sarah first came into HOME Inc.’s Homeless Prevention Program because she was facing eviction in November of 2017. She was only receiving support from the Family Investment Program (FIP)and just started a job part-time, but had to wait a few weeks for her paycheck.She was living in a one bedroom unit and sharing a bed with her 7-year-old while she was pregnant with another child due in May. Her goals were to get her nursing degree, find transportation and secure a 2 bedroom apartment. She worked on a budget with her case manager and Family Development and Self-Sufficiency (FaDSS) worker. Sarah was able to buy a car after 3 months and increase her income after being offered a full-time job.


Sarah was still concerned with the baby due in a few months. She was wondering how she would be able to stay home with her newborn son and still pay the rent since her work did not offer paid maternity leave. With the help of her case manager, she was referred to TBRA(Temporary Based Rental Assistance) and was selected to receive it. She was able to secure a 2 bedroom house that accepted the housing assistance which helped her and provided her daughter's first bedroom to herself. It also helped Sarah because she did not have to worry about housing costs and could spend time with her newborn baby. Because of TBRA, Sarah was able to enroll in advanced CNA classes at DMAAC while she stayed at home with her baby. She completed her classes and received her certificate.

A few months ago, Sarah was luckily chosen to receive Section 8 housing assistance. She had gone back to work full-time after her maternity leave. Through a few transportation hiccups, Sarah continued to budget and meet with her case manager to get through those barriers and find a reliable vehicle. She moved into her new Section 8 housing which provided stable, ongoing housing for Sarah and her family. Her daughter did have to transfer schools but luckily Sarah had a plan in place and her daughter was able to start at the beginning of the school year. Her daughter loves her new school and is planning to be there long term. Because Sarah was approved for Section 8, she will be able to go back to school and complete her goal of getting her nursing degree.

*name was changed for privacy reasons

What we do: HOPE for Stable Families

Through partnerships with a number of human service agencies and organizations, we have the opportunity to manage targeted programs that have specific, measurable goals. HOPE for Stable Families is one of those programs.  Through funding provided by United Way of Central Iowa and the Siemer Institute, the Stable Families program assists families experiencing a housing crisis because of temporary financial issues. 

Before we talk about the specifics of the program, it is important to understand the fundamentals of why we work so hard to make sure families have access to good, affordable housing.  Safe, secure housing is the foundation for low-income families to build upon. Safe, secure and good housing means the families have their own space – not sharing an apartment with extended family members or sleeping on couches in a friend’s home.  Data shows if a family has housing, along with supportive services, they can grow and prosper, children do better in school, and parents bring in more income.

That’s why programs like HOPE for Stable Families exist.  It is for families who have experienced a financial bump in the road – a loss of a job, an illness, a large unexpected expense. Whatever happened, it takes a family that was doing okay before and creates a crisis.  With the tightening rental market and the low number of family emergency shelter beds in Polk County, this program offers a solution to help families retain their housing, avoid eviction and prevents them from becoming homeless. To do this, HOME, Inc. provides a combination of integrated services including case management, emergency and short-term financial assistance, and referrals to partner agencies in order to ensure school and housing stability for the family.

Families participating in the program are identified by partner agencies and landlords. Qualified families are:

  • Typically no more than two months behind financially.
  • Capable of stabilizing their finances, which includes having an income.
  • Willing to work on a budget and set financial goals.
  • Within the boundaries of the Des Moines Public Schools and have school aged children.
  • In the program for no more than one year.
  • Maintain contact with their case manager.

In six years, Stable Families has supported 215 families. The average financial assistance provided to a family is $2,500.  In the last fiscal year, of the families who participate in the program 100% have developed and maintained a budget. But, more impressively, a majority of the participants have also improved their financial health and 94% retained their housing.  


HOPE for Stable Families is just one way we help create housing opportunities.  If you have questions, contact our case manager at 515.243.1277 ext. 222

Ready to learn more? Here’s how the program helped one of our clients: Lisa’s story

2017-18 Annual Report Released

In a report titled, “Empower: Creating housing stability + empowering clients for a bright future,” HOME, Inc. has released its accomplishments for the 2017-18 fiscal year.  


In an open letter to readers, our Executive Director Pam Carmichael recognized that HOME, Inc. had celebrated 50 years:


Even 50 years ago, we understood that quality affordable housing was the foundation to stabilizing families. In five decades, we have acquired, rehabbed or built 380 homes and helped 285 families become homeowners. We have done everything from converting former public housing into an affordable condo association to developing affordable housing for homeless families. We also served 168,000 households through counseling and programs that assisted landlords and tenants, first-time homebuyers, existing homebuyers, as well those facing homelessness.


As for accomplishments for the past year, HOME Inc. served:


2,375 clients through the Community Housing Services Program (CHSP), which provides both counseling and education.

 36 families and 89 children through HOPE for Stable Families.

13 households through the Metro Home Improvement Program (MHIP) that assists low-income homeowners make critical improvements to their homes.  

315 Central Iowa households through homebuyer education.

To read about the rest of accomplishments, download the 2017-18 annual report here.


Goals for the coming year include:


Our immediate plans are to continue with the development of units in Capitol Park, expand homebuyer education, and work to offer more lease/purchase opportunities for our clients. We will continue to empower our clients to understand their rights and responsibilities as tenants, landlords, homeowners and near homeless families.


How do I get my deposit back? We are here to help!

One of our most common calls is from tenants who did not get their deposit back.  Here are some tips on how to make sure you do!

First, renting a place to live is like renting a car……”you must return it in good condition with a full tank of gas”. It is a tenant’s responsibility to keep the unit clean, sanitary and safe (Iowa Code 562A.17).

Let’s go over some basic information about deposits and returns in the State of Iowa. The rental deposit is money paid to the owner/landlord as a guarantee that the owner/landlord will be reimbursed for damages caused by the tenants (family and guests as well) or unpaid rent. It is important to keep all receipts from your deposit and rent paid. We can all make mathematical errors and those receipts will help if you need validation.

Keep in mind, Iowa laws allow owners/landlords a full 30 days to return your deposit, or a letter the amount they kept and why. The 30 days begins at the time the landlord receives the keys to their property, and are given a forwarding address. When you return the keys, have the owner/manager give you a receipt – this can be hand written on a piece of paper, as long as it is signed and dated. This is also a good time to give them your forwarding address as to where to send the deposit return. If you have to mail them the forwarding address, we suggest you do that via certified mail. Keep a copy of the letter you send and the mail receipt. An email is okay, as long as they respond that they have gotten the information. Unfortunately, text messages are not generally allowed to be used in small claims court as proof on these matters.

Best practice? When you move into a rental property, we advise taking pictures or a video of everything. If they have you fill out a Move In/Out sheet, keep a copy for your records. When you are ready to move,clean their property well, and then take pictures of everything again. Keep your pictures in a safe place such as your Cloud account, a flash drive or send them to your email.

Good grief! Why all this picture taking and proof? Because we don’t want you to be charged for damages that were already there when you moved in! The State of Iowa allows deposits to be up to twice the monthly rent,which is a lot of money, and why it is important that you get it returned. Do not assume your deposit can be used for last month’s rent, because damages have not yet been assessed. Your lease will give requirements for giving notice to move, so be sure you give a proper notice. If you fail to do so, laws allow landlords/owners to take the next month’s rent out from your deposit for your failure to serve notice.

Okay, okay, you have done all these things, but the landlord sends a deposit return letter and you disagree with it. This is where all your pictures and proof come in handy! Often these letters will also include a bill for what you owe that is over the amount of the deposit kept. If you disagree with what is stated in the letter, we advise to write the landlord a dispute letter, stating what you do not agree with, and let them know you do have pictures of the unit before and after. Often, this letter, by itself, can get your deposit back.

What if the owner/landlord still refuses, offers a compromise you do not agree with, or goes past the 30 day window allowed bylaw?  This, again, is where all that proof pays off. It is your civil right to file in Small Claims Civil Court, in the county where the rental property is located, and show your proof to a magistrate.Iowa Code 562A.12 states: The retention of a deposit by a landlord, or any portion of the rental deposit, in violation of the laws, shall subject the landlord to punitive damages not to exceed twice the monthly rental payment in addition to actual damages.