“ I knew this was the mission. It was my calling.” -Milagros Rodriguez
Nothing needs "navigating" more these days than the Miami-Dade housing market, especially if you are experiencing homelessness and have a record or an eviction on the books. But unfortunately, those challenges can make it nearly impossible to find a place to live. Enter "Housing Navigators." These housing professionals in the Homeless Trust's Continuum of Care are experts at matching landlords with unhoused individuals and families who are rebuilding their lives and ready for a place to call home. Their role entails assisting clients in finding housing, understanding lease agreements, advocating for specific housing needs and locations, negotiating with landlords, understanding various rental assistance programs and removing barriers to lease-up
The Homeless Trust sat down with Camillus House Navigator Milagros “Millie” Rodriguez to discuss her role in housing people experiencing homelessness. Milagros has been a Navigator in Miami-Dade for more than five years. In that time, she has interfaced with dozens and dozens of landlords and created an even more extensive Rolodex of rental property owners that trust her.
Camillus House helps individuals rebound from homelessness by providing a safe place to live, counseling, job training, and other critical rebuilding blocks. So, it was only natural that we start our conversation by asking Millie how she found her calling as a Housing Navigator?
“Before coming to work at Camillus, I was involved in the housing industry. I have 26 years of property management experience. I worked at different properties, senior housing, public housing, conventional, etc. During these times, I came across several families and individuals in need of housing and other resources. I was amazed at how easy it was for me always to lead them in the right direction.
It got me thinking that maybe I needed to be more involved in helping the less fortunate. So, after applying and being hired on the spot at Camillus House, I knew this was the mission. It was my calling.”
Given the tough rental market, has placing individuals and families made your job increasingly difficult?
“I am very lucky to have quite a number of landlords that are willing to renew and execute new leases at or below Fair Market Rents. But Camillus House can always use more landlords!”
If you had one wish for housing residents, it would be...
“I wish that... every resident I’ve successfully housed can maintain their housing and never find themselves at risk of losing it again.”
We spoke to Katherine Martinez, the Director of Emergency and Community Housing at Camillus House, to further understand the importance of Housing Navigators and how their work is crucial to the entire housing program.
“Housing Navigators are a special group of people. Not only are they in the business of finding housing for those most in need, but they are also in the business of matchmaking. They have to get to know their clients, learn their wants and needs, find out their history and then match them with the perfect landlord.”
Katherine, what is important for Miami-Dade to know about Navigators like Milagros?
“Navigators are not just available to their clients, but also an invaluable tool for landlords. Because Navigators are available to help with landlord/tenant challenges, we offer a unique service that general market tenants just don’t have. This is an invaluable resource to someone who may be concerned about housing a person experiencing homelessness.”
In your role, how do you see the relationship between Navigators and landlords flourishing and impacting others?
“I’ve spoken to many landlords who have worked with Millie, and I often hear that because of her, they keep leasing to our clients, often providing us with more units than originally agreed upon. Additionally, we’ve had several landlords who have offered to buy more properties to keep working with us and our clients.
The landlords like the support and consistent rent payments, and our clients receive a clean, safe, affordable unit. Providing such a service helps our continuum because our landlords end up referring other landlords to us, which in turn allows us to assist more clients.”
If you are a landlord and are interested in learning more about the program that works with navigators like Millie, contact Paul Imbrone at 305-349-RENT and find out how you can get started today!