U partners to help needy apartment residents

By By Constance Yonashiro

By Constance Yonashiro

Mohammed Muhandeni, a refugee from Somalia, thought the United States was a place of opportunity and justice.

At least, that’s the idea he formulated when he attended an orientation at the Hartland Apartment complex, where he now lives.

That changed one day when he came home and saw a notice taped to his door that said he had to move out.

Muhandeni said he was confused.

“Everyone should have the same rights as everyone else,” Muhandeni, 37, said through translator Ali Ali. “I have been living here for three-and-a-half years, paid rent five days before it was due and now they want me to move out, giving me no reason? It gives me a bad feeling in my heart.”

Hartland resident Yusuf Shani, 63, and former resident Mohammed Mohammed, 25, said they have seen a breakdown in the relationship between residents and new management that bought Hartland earlier this year.

Shani’s monthly rent increased over $200, and Mohammed had to find another apartment.

“Before, renting a two-bedroom apartment was $528,” Shani said through Ali. “For July, now it’s $761. The University Neighborhood Partners Hartland Center is paying for the difference, but only for this month.”

UNP is an outreach program composed of U students, faculty and staff, aiming to build a relationship between campus and west Salt Lake neighborhoods.

University Neighborhood Partners-Hartland Center, Salt Lake Community Action Program and Zions Bank became partners and opened a fund to help Hartland residents deal with housing issues.

“Needs, such as housing, are a top priority,” said Sharon Abegglen, housing director of UNP. “And it’s one of those types of big cost things you know are always going to be there, and we’re trying to help them with that.”

Many of the families in Hartland are struggling and cannot afford the rising rent, she said. The new partnership will help the residents pay for some of those costs.

“Some of these (funds) will be used to get them into other housing that may be more affordable,” Abegglen said. “For others, it might pay for two months where permanent housing subsidies would then kick in and make a difference.”

Abegglen said about 100 families would benefit from the fund, which currently only accepts private donations.

Zions Bank, where the account was opened, has had a strong relationship with UNP and SLCAP over the years and has been involved in many community issues, said Rob Brough, Zions Bank spokesman.

“It’s not a typical donation account,” Brough said. “All the donations must be made through the SLCAP, and they will be the ones that will determine where those funds will go.”

Kimberly Schmit, project coordinator at the UNP Hartland Center, said so far, the response from the public has been positive.

“Since the account was opened last week, we’ve seen about $5,000 go towards the fund,” Schmit said. “However, we used $900 in about three days helping residents with their needs.”

Hartland Apartment complex is one of the resettlement sites for two primary refugee resettlement agencies in Salt Lake City.

“However, not all the people here have refugee status,” Schmit said. “Many people are immigrants from Mexico, Central America and South America. Others come from families that have been in the U.S. for many generations.”

The common challenge among the residents, however, is receiving low incomes, she said.

“UNP brings together university departments, residents and community agencies to create and run educational programs at the UNP Hartland Partnership Center,” Schmit said.

Affordable housing is a complex, citywide issue that can only be solved through partnership, Schmit said. This account allows families to manage their housing crisis that capitalizes on their strengths, she said.

“We feel that that the UNP Hartland Partnership Center is working to create a model program that can be effective for other communities in a similar situation,” Schmit said.

For the residents dealing with housing issues and adjusting to life in America, The UNP Hartland Center has been a resource to help them through the process.

“I went to the management office and they gave me a different contract and didn’t tell me what it was,” Muhandeni said. “But I know I have a place where I can go and they can explain to me what it is. The UNP has been helping us, and I haven’t seen other people helping us, until them.”

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The University Neighborhood Partners recently opened a donation account to help low-income residents of the Hartland Apartment complex pay for rising costs of living.