When a person applies for housing, landlords and property managers check credit, rental and criminal histories. If a person applies for a housing benefits program, history with other housing programs is checked. Sometimes, these histories can cause significant barriers to a person searching for rental housing.
If you're working with someone who's been denied housing, check out the Housing Benefits 101 Vault for activities to help people explore past problems and how they can work to overcome them to reach their housing goals.
If the past housing problems were related to a disability, an exception to the rules about past problems may be allowed as a reasonable accommodation. A local legal aid office can help a person ask for an exception.
Consider Sandra's story. Sandra had a problem at her old place because she wasn't getting the treatment she needed for her mental illness. It caused her to fall behind on rent and get evicted. Sandra got treatment and paid off her past rent debt, but was then denied housing at a new place. She asked the landlord for an exception to the tenant selection criteria due to her disability.
Another important step is to help people learn how to talk about themselves in a positive way, whether or not they have issues on their public record. It's often helpful to find people who can provide personal references — people who are willing to write letters or talk to landlords and property managers, telling them why the person would be a good tenant.