Robert Hooks leases to iCare members
Access to safe, quality, affordable housing constitutes one of the most basic and powerful social determinants of health. For people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, that may seem almost unattainable. Robert Hooks and Lisa Brooks would disagree.
Robert Hooks leases 10 apartments in Milwaukee. He finds properties with potential, renovates them, interviews potential tenants, and manages the properties. 100% of his tenants are iCare members.
Hooks grew up in Milwaukee, in the same neighborhood as one of his current properties. His parents had rented out apartments when Robert was young, and some of their entrepreneurial spirit rubbed off. Hooks first connected with iCare through Lisa Brooks, a housing navigator and community health worker for iCare who was instrumental in launching iCare’s Follow to Home for Homeless program. “Lisa called me back and said she heard I had a nice building and wanted to see it,” said Hooks. “We did a walk-through together and talked. I listened very closely to what Lisa had to say. She REALLY understands the importance of housing on people’s lives and is so connected in her communities. The things she said matched my mission, so I knew then we needed to work together.”
So what is Hooks’ mission? “My mission is to give back to my community. I grew up here. I worked here, cutting grass and taking out trash. I watched my dad making himself available for tenants. I saw there was a need: there are a lot of absentee landlords, and people charging gigantic rents that don’t match the makeup of the community. There aren’t many landlords offering this kind of quality and service at an affordable monthly rent in this community.”
Hooks knows he could charge more. So why does he prefer to rent to iCare members: even those who may have had troubled backgrounds? “Working with iCare is great,” said Hooks. “Lisa coordinates all the screenings. I do my own interviews too, but Lisa makes things a lot easier for me. She helps with background checks and sets the expectations about property rules and policies. I expect to deliver a quality product at a fair price, and in return, I expect tenants to also live up to their word. She brings me candidates who understand policies and agree to abide by them… and they do. If there’s a problem, I want them to let me know. It works out better for everyone. They get the problem fixed, and I know that further hidden damage isn’t happening.”
iCare doesn’t pay or subsidize members’ rent. Brooks does help members understand the costs they can expect. She helps them with budgeting and the importance of paying rent on time. She also helps by making members aware of down payment assistance resources.
“It’s common for landlords to ask for a down payment of two month’s rent plus the first month’s rent upfront before moving in,” said Brooks. “For many iCare members – especially members who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless – that’s an absolute deal breaker. Often, I can connect members with resources and programs offering down payment assistance. For members at risk of eviction, I can often connect them with programs to assist with arrears rent payments. We don’t want to see members in a position where being homeless is their only option.”
“iCare’s assistance puts them in a very strong position,” said Hooks. “Being able to save that money allows them to become more financially responsible, more confident. A lot of them may be coming from a car or out on the streets. It’s the kind of assistance that can change their whole frame of mind.”
Hooks is well aware of the strong connection between a person’s home and their health. “I understand mold. I understand pests. I understand the dangers of poor ventilation. I understand how a poorly maintained property can cause injuries. There are so many ways a person’s home can affect their health. Part of giving back to my community is offering a space where people can feel safe, can be healthy and they can take pride in.”
Hooks renovates apartments to make them attractive, comfortable and safe - yet affordable.
Carl was homeless and Brooks connected him with Hooks. He now lives in one of Hooks’ apartments.
“He is a very good landlord. He’s here at the building all the time. He’s a good man.”
iCare member Carl
David’s housing situation was unstable too. He alternated between staying with friends for a few days at a time and then living back on the streets -- all while recovering from a recent knee surgery. He called iCare and arranged to meet with iCare community health worker Marlon. Marlon told him about the work Lisa was doing to secure safe housing. With Marlon and Lisa’s help, David enjoys his apartment as one of Hooks’ tenant.
“I appreciate everything Lisa and Marlon have done for me. Mr. Hooks is great. Any time I need him, he’s always available.”
iCare member David
If you have properties you would like to be considered for iCare members, please send us a message from our Contact Us page and mention you’d like to connect with Lisa Brooks about housing options.