Lending a helping hand to find affordable housing
At this point, concerns about affordable housing are well documented.
Local leaders have frequently spoken about it during the past few months and in some cases have held discussions or workshops on the topic. Realtors have confirmed that the inventory of entry-level homes is virtually nonexistent and local renters and those involved with rental assistance have come forward in public meetings saying rent prices have risen to a point where people struggle to afford them.
As government officials wrestle with the issue, a local resident has took it upon herself to help with the housing crisis as well. Janice Finnerin currently operates a Facebook page called Crook County Rentals on which she offers her assistance and expertise to people struggling with finding affordable housing.
"About three years ago, housing became very hard to find in Crook County," Finnerin said, as she explained the reason for forming the social media page. "I started it to help people find housing."
Finnerin came to Prineville about 15 years ago from North Carolina, after holding jobs as an assistant manager of a finance company, a collections manager and a loan manager. In Prineville, she worked with homeschool students and students taking classes online.
Having always volunteered throughout her life, 51-year-old Finnerin now faces chronic illnesses that make it difficult to leave the home for volunteer work. With the Crook County Rental page, she has found a way to continue helping others from her home.
When Finnerin first launched the site, she provided home listings as well as resources to help people with low income afford a home. Interest in the page unexpectedly took off, and she found herself busier than she ever imagined. The page now has more 2,300 followers.
"It grew so quickly that people started contacting me who were homeless and were in a situation where they are living in their car or they are couch surfing or living in a tent," she said. "It has been so busy. It's become a full-time job."
Finnerin has spent time connecting homeless people who contact her with various resources and continues to track available homes for sale or to rent. In addition, she is working to help people repair their credit.
"You can't rent if your credit is poor," she said. "I tell them where to go get their credit pulled. This is what you need to do to get rid of this collection … This is what you need to do to raise your credit (score)."
While Finnerin enjoys helping others, she admits that the "job" has become a bit difficult to sustain because of her illnesses. She points out that she answers questions all day long and this past weekend, she had 50 people waiting for her to contact them.
"It has become a bit much lately," she said. "There is a big need here and throughout Central Oregon."
Finnerin has wondered if forming a nonprofit might help her keep up with demand but has yet to see something of that nature materialize. But one thing she is not yet willing to do is cap the amount of people she helps.
"How do you say no to people?" she asks. "How do you say no to the lady that says she and her son are living in their car and it's 20 degrees outside? How do you do that? It's so hard."