(serene music) - [Elizabeth] If you don't have housing, it's hard to get a job, because you don't have an address.
You don't have a place to take a shower or get dressed or keep your stuff.
It affects every aspect of your life.
- We are experiencing a housing market failure because we cannot provide enough housing to individuals who need it.
- In a rural community, you have to be out of sight, but for survival, you've got to be somewhere where you can get food.
- Houselessness is both systemic and human.
- Trying to find a place can be extremely stressful.
Sleeping in your car is never fun.
- And I know a lot of people always talk about how they work so hard and other people don't, that's why they're in these situations.
My clients do work hard, they work 40 hours a week, but they make $13 an hour.
- I'm still young and you want my credit to be older than I am and you want, you know what I mean?
You want my income to be more than where I'm at in life in order for me to have somewhere to live.
- I'm working.
I'm looking for, for homes for me and my children.
You just pretty much have to do what you gotta do.
It gets exhausting.
- I literally was on the phone with my mother-in-law like 12 o'clock today, crying my eyes out about it.
It feels like everything is against us.
- People understand the problems, that there's no inventory, that housing is increasingly expensive but the solutions are not so easy.
- It's such a multifaceted problem that communities need to address.
We know that housing is the way for generational wealth building.
Finding our way forward and the work that we do with Habitat, the work we're doing with the Virginia Statewide Community Land Trust, it's what gives me hope.
♪ In the heartland, we rely on ourselves ♪ ♪ And one another ♪ ♪ Hand in hand, we must stand in the heartland ♪ - [Narrator] Production funding for this program is made possible by... (birds chirping) (soft guitar music) - Unlock the door real quick, please.
(dog barking) All right.
Thank God for my brother.
If it wasn't for him, I'd still be sleeping on the streets.
(somber music) I am trying to get jobs as like a data entry clerk 'cause I have training as a business software applications person.
You know, working with Microsoft Word, Access, Excel and all that.
- [Elizabeth] Unless you are extremely wealthy, I don't think that people realize how quickly things would go downhill if they did lose their job or if they couldn't work and had to rely on their retirement before they were ready to.
That's usually where the cycle starts.
Something just happens and then you can't recover.
- Trying to find a job and then getting turned down kind of messed with me... A lot, actually.
I was sleeping behind that water tower over, at the outlook on Sears Hill.
(somber country music) - Someone drew this for me, little sign, and whittled me this beautiful spiderweb collector as I'm walking through the woods.
Most of my time at work is spent outside with people sleeping in a tent or a car or places not meant for human habitation.
(music continues) - Yeah, it kind of goes in a loop here.
- [Olivia] One of the challenges in our region, especially in our more rural areas is that when you look at the numbers around homelessness in our region, it kind of looks like we don't have as much of a problem as maybe more urban areas.
- We are a rural community and we have invisible homelessness.
People in this community would get in trouble if they were sleeping somewhere visible to the general public.
- When you talk to the people who are experiencing it might look like shifting back between family or it might look like living in the park sometimes, in your car sometimes.
I think that's like a pride thing.
Dang you gotta stay in your car, ask your friend to stay with them.
I was working while I was in school.
I paid all of my loans for books and stuff like that.
Rent was definitely rising everywhere, but the apartment complex I was staying at was known for being one of the lowest, and their rent rose like every year, significantly.
My family and I sometimes didn't get along, so it's like I didn't really have a place to go.
Especially those longer periods where I'd stay in my car or be trying to find a place to stay.
I definitely wouldn't feel like going to class in the morning 'cause I wouldn't sleep very well.
- [Narcissus] My 23 year old works, my 18 year old work, I work.
How'd I wind up in a hotel?
Now, I wasn't significantly no 500, 800, 1000 behind on rent But yeah, I fell short.
I got kicked out and my mom took me in.
We're a loving family.
We love spending time together.
Ooh, big words.
And we bring up the fact that hey, you know, we gotta get a house.
- One in seven Virginians are paying over 50% of their income in housing.
You have a challenge for space in rental situations.
So landlords are consistently increasing the rent as the market dictates.
So that happens and all of a sudden, you realize, "I can't afford to live here anymore."
Are those a function of the market that we're a part of?
Is that the optimal healthy market?
No - [Elizabeth] At this point there's really nothing.
The availability of housing is small.
All the rents have gone up because people can charge what they want if they know somebody's gonna pay for it.
And also the landlords can choose who they want to rent.
So they're gonna pick people who don't have evictions, don't have a criminal record, have really high credit scores, don't owe any money to anybody, and that knocks out a lot of people.
- October the 15th, four years ago, I got released from prison.
You're looking at this paper judging me, and I get it, I 100% percent get it, because if I was a business too, you're a liability, by paper.
And I remember me and my wife used to argue a little bit on the phone when I was in prison because she's like, "Yo, you just don't know how it is out here."
"Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, we don't care.
We don't want to hear it.
Thank you for your nice," you know, "elaborate email, could have saved it."
(somber music) - [Darryl] The problem is growing faster than the solutions, and we can go through a variety of policy decisions dating back into the 70s and 80s that has led to this, but the reality is this is where we are, and so where do people choose to live when there are no other housing options?
- [Amelie] People need housing everywhere and I think the affordability crisis is everywhere.
It's not something you can escape by going back home or moving out a little farther.
With rural areas in general, land prices are going up, home prices are going up.
- [Darryl] How do you support individuals who are houseless to find that pathway into that home ownership continuum?
- [Amelie] An interest group of Habitat affiliates in Virginia realized in 2020 that they were struggling to acquire land or acquire homes that they could renovate at an affordable price to them and realized that the community land trust model could be a tool to serve more families if a statewide land trust was possible.
- A community land trust is focused around a method to keep housing permanently affordable.
The underlying land that that home is built upon is subject to a land lease, and that land lease is 99 years.
It renews every time another transaction takes place, whether it be a transfer to a family member or a home sale.
And that sets up the sort of the shared equity model shared between the land trust and the homeowner.
Under a traditional housing model, for example, the Habitat would work in, where we are providing affordable housing, after a 10 year period, those homes you see appreciate in value and over time because of the market forces of the communities you're a part of.
If a house goes to the market, we have the opportunity as a Habitat affiliate to buy it back and then provide it as an opportunity for another Habitat family, or the Land Trust will sell it to someone and based on the the underlying land lease, it has to go to somebody at 30 to 80% of area median income, and so you're not chasing your tail, you're not going after and saying we gotta build more, we gotta build two to get ahead.
- A lot of people wanna point the finger at developers, and say you need to build more affordable housing, but it doesn't pencil out to do that without some form of subsidies.
- The land trust model is about protecting the interest of us as a developer, the interest of the homeowner in wealth building, and the interest of the community that we serve to build up an inventory of affordable housing.
- An approach that limits someone's equity but stabilizes the risks is worth it.
And there are a lot of qualms that folks might have with a community land trust 'cause you can't strike it rich if the market booms, and I invite those criticisms, they're very valid, especially for people of color who have been systematically denied housing and access to mortgages for so long.
If I talk to homeowners, I'll tell them that.
They don't ask me about the equity, they're gonna gain on their homes when we talk about that.
It's mostly about like their future and what their kids' future is gonna be like.
I actually grew up in rural Albemarle County.
I think I take for granted a lot that I grew up in the house my dad grew up in.
I didn't actually realize other people didn't do that when I was growing up as a kid.
I'd be like, "What do you mean you moved here?"
There's a real opportunity for cooperative, shared living in a rural area.
I think that's a really unique thing about rural communities is there's a real tie to your land, your family, you know, what you've been doing there for a really long time.
The first Community Land Trust built by the Sherrods in Georgia, that was in a rural area.
- [Shirley] We started having meetings and decided to create a community, and then we started bringing people together.
We talked about education and the kind of educational system we wanted.
People could really plan their community.
(serene music) - [Chuck] The whole cardinal sin here is "Oh, we got a 200 acre farm.
Gosh don't break up my old family farm," you know?
But that ship's sailed, so we need housing out here and we need to take care of the land.
Maybe 10 people taking care of 20 acres each is better than letting 200 acres sit idle.
- [Olivia] We actually are also doing a regional housing study right now and we've been going all around the region and doing listening sessions and focus groups with lots of different stakeholders.
So realtors, lenders, service providers, builders.
This first year we're, like I said, doing a lot of this, you know, information gathering and then we'll sort of transition next year into building strategies, so.
Our localities have been thinking about this housing issue for a while and part of the reason it's a crisis is because a lot of people don't really know how to address it.
- There are companies out there now that are designing real eco-sustainable, high-end modulars that don't even look like a modular.
If I had those on 15 to 20 acres of land, I think I could've have sold one every week.
- [Speaker] Oh yeah.
- [Chuck] And so that's a good model.
I mean, there are communities now that are planned, let's say, they take a 200 acre tract like that, and you leave a lot of the areas, common area that is like, you know, conservation forest or community gardens that people can work on a big community garden together and then you have homes scattered because I think there's a movement now with...
In the cities and with climate change, whether it's man-made or not, with all these things, this is a pretty daggone good place to be.
(peaceful country music) - [Darryl] The challenge is, every community is different in terms of its willingness to have these conversations because if you take a look, go through comprehensive plans across the country, people will talk about the importance of affordable housing for the community.
But it's hard work to develop the code necessary to deliver upon that call.
- [Olivia] It's really hard to get everyone on the same page when there's not even shared definitions of what affordable housing is.
You know, you hear the term affordable housing, low income housing, workforce housing.
- There's a preconception of what it means to be affordable housing.
There are stereotypes that come with it and that is a danger because people are like, "It's gonna hurt my housing values."
Those preconceptions need to be disabused.
- In the past, subsidized housing has been built in ways that are purposefully unattractive and it's not a place that a lot of people, you know, feel a lot of pride for, because it wasn't built to be that way.
- If you take a look at the houses that we're building right now, we are building beautiful homes and we've invested more in our cost of construction, for example, because of the Land Trust.
Before we start jumping into thinking what it means to be affordable housing, really challenge what is it that you're concerned about in the first place.
- [Allison] There's a lot of speculation about people's morality when it comes to people that are struggling.
Like they've done something bad to cause the situation they're in, and I've never, I meet with hundreds of people and that has never been the case.
You couldn't imagine what people go through, and it's important to create a healing space for those people.
(poignant guitar music) This was a good spot as far as comfort level goes because it has a platform area right here.
But there was clearly some structure here, but this was perfect 'cause could put a fire in the corner.
Some people don't feel comfortable sleeping in an encampment where there's a bunch of people around.
It feels very insecure to them, and then I have some clients who don't feel comfortable sleeping in the woods by themselves, so I have clients that will just walk around all night long to stay warm.
- [Darryl] They rent a place on a crawlspace from someone, they live out in a field, in a tent.
We receive calls every week.
"I'm about to be evicted."
"I don't have a place to go," and that's not our scope.
And telling people no, you know those words have... a defeating impact on the people that you work with.
You go home and you can't lay it down and you're always thinking about how can we do more?
How can we serve more?
- [Allison] People can be really unkind to people that they believe are experiencing homelessness.
- [Cheyenne] It is good to talk about things, but it's different when people have like empathy versus just some sympathy, because they haven't really like been there.
So I think that's the biggest reason why I wouldn't talk about it, or sometimes I did feel kind of alienated.
I'd focus more on what I need to do to kind of try to get out of this situation.
- [Jylil] We're big on affirmations I'll just be randomly looking and I'll be like, "Home.
More than just words.
So it's like you coming down the ave and once you get to that stoplight, once you pass Bessie Weller, you take a left and go up that hill.
Almost froze out there.
- [Speaker] Do you hear me?
- [Jylil] Not yet.
- [Speaker] Check, check, check, One, two, check, one two.
- Maybe if I turn them up.
- [Speaker] Turn up the volume.
- I can hear you now.
- [Speaker] There you go.
(Jylil humming) I've always loved music.
I played the saxophone in band, I was terrible.
(Jylil laughing) Song I'm writin' now for my album, I said I don't want war, I just want peace, I'm a felon.
I just want my name on the lease.
♪ I don't want war, just want peace ♪ ♪ I want my name to go on that lease ♪ ♪ It ain't no secret ♪ ♪ I'm a felon and I'm no longer in them streets ♪ I don't really wanna focus on the negative so much, but I do kind of want to give people who hasn't been through it that perspective.
♪ I'm in my feelings I don't get like this usually ♪ It's like most of our lives, we spent in a house, in a home.
So it's like until that's ripped away, you don't really know how it feels to not have it.
♪ Living out the HoJo ♪ ♪ Used to being Superman ♪ ♪ But I done lost my mojo ♪ ♪ Three kids to feed my wife and me ♪ ♪ This (censored) is no joke ♪ ♪ Mama told me this too shall pass, baby hold on ♪ (song echoing) It's scary not knowing what's about to happen with three kids.
It got so real that we talked about divorce.
Both of us.
She came to me and I kind of agreed, and of course, I'm like, "No, no, no," but like you know selflessly, I'm like you have a child too.
Mind you, we don't share any kids together.
I have two and you have one, and we're getting told no because of me, and that's leaving you and your son in the cold when you could easily go somewhere and get an apartment or whatever with you and your son and be good.
So it definitely shook our foundation a lot.
Just trying to find housing, we almost had to separate as a family.
It was bad.
I knew that this felony was gonna make things harder for me, but I thought that if I rearranged my life, and I reconstructed the fabric of who I am, things will be a little easier for me.
No run-ins with the law, no probation violation, and so it kind of makes you feel like, where's redemption?
3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9.
- Wait, no you were supposed to go home.
- You could have went home, dad.
- Wait, all right, I'm gonna just stop here in our safety zone.
I can't erase any blemishes, but I use them as a building block.
I'm that building block for my children.
- What'd you get?
- [Child] Four.
- [Jylil] Slide.
- [Elizabeth E.] 2, 3, 4.
- Move forward 11 or change places with an opponent.
What should I do?
- [Child] Now, not mine, not mine.
- You can just move.
- It starts at home.
It starts in the home front but if I don't have a home to teach them, then how can I lead them?
- [Darryl] We know that housing stability is actually an underlying indicator for future success for children.
Yes, single family home ownership allows you to build wealth.
Stability of housing is what creates opportunity.
- We were on a list for this last year.
My wife being the person she is, persistent.
- I called her all the time, like all the time.
To the point where she kind of knew me before she even met me 'cause she's like, "Girl you call me so much."
- We were so ecstatic the day that they called us.
They were like, "Depending on the condition," and I'm like, "I don't care about the condition.
I'll clean it.
I'll clean everything by myself, 100% percent.
I don't need nobody.
Just tell me that we can move in."
- [Darryl] There's nothing more fulfilling in working with affordable housing than seeing the realization that I'm gonna be a homeowner.
People don't believe that it's real.
"When is this gonna be taken away from me?"
"This doesn't happen for someone like me."
Housing truly is transformational.
- [Jylil] This is my own very first place with my name on the lease and it's mine, and then to add on to that, I'm married to somebody and it's hers too.
(calm music) This is her name, we just found out that she's a girl last week.
Found out we were having a girl.
I couldn't even focus in the store.
I'm like, "We gotta get out of here, bro."
(laughs) This is me and my grandfather, us, our kids.
That's my best friend's daughter, my niece.
So it's not just us on this wall, it's everybody that we care about, everybody that we love.
We come from trying to build this family in everybody else's household.
And so it means a lot to be here now because it's ours.
You know, I can do whatever I want.
I can do backflips six times a day here if I wanted to.
- I think it makes a difference when you have your own space to recharge in.
Everything's how you want it to be.
And then I also take pride in paying and providing for myself.
So it's almost a sense of peace and happiness.
- It still bothers me, you know, because there's a lot of...
I'm not the only guy in Staunton Virginia or Waynesboro or Harrisonburg, Virginia, who this has happened to, or who's me and changed and moved on and became better.
That's why it still bothers me because it's like it might be somebody else like me that's still going through it.
- A lot of us don't know anything that we probably should know.
The loops, the holes.
I didn't know anything about housing to begin with.
I didn't know how to fill out a application for an apartment or a house.
I went into prison not knowing this and so I didn't know what to expect, I just expected freedom.
(laughs) I was just ready to be home.
We're still playing catch up on all the stuff that we- - [Elizabeth E.] Yeah.
- [Jylil] That we took a hit on.
- [Elizabeth E.] Being homeless is what really messed us up.
That put us back on our car payment because we did not have it (laughing).
- It just almost feels like a never ending cycle of you have to catch up or you gotta make more money just to have a place to stay.
- [Narcissus] I almost felt like I was fighting every day just to live.
Not just to even try to go out and make the next step happen.
- Little pessimistic is a common thing for me right now.
We actually made that into the timeout chair.
(Stephen laughing) If I had my own apartment, that would fix a lot of my problems, I think.
Yeah, just thinking about it makes me hope for sure (laughing).
- [Olivia] Housing is a human right, so we need to prioritize housing for all.
- The human story should highlight why this conversation about affordable housing is a moral and ethical imperative for us as individuals and elected officials and developers to tackle.
We always talk about "more than houses."
It's about opportunity, hope, dignity, change.
- It's the faith that you have to have.
It's the wanting of knowing that you deserve better and don't ever be afraid to ask for help either.
I think everybody had help at one time or another.
- [Cheyenne] Even if it seems like there's no hope sometimes there is, even if it's a little bit.
- [Narcissus] And then you look back and think about that house you wanted and you got it.
- [Narrator] Production funding for this program is made possible by... (serene country music) ♪ Who belongs ♪ ♪ Is there room enough for all ♪ ♪ Who belongs ♪ ♪ Do we stand or do we fall ♪ ♪ And there room in our hearts for this whole land ♪ ♪ Is there room ♪ ♪ For us in the heart of the land ♪ (ethereal music)