Fundraiser will aid church’s rental assistance fund


Ed Kemmick/Last Best News

First English Lutheran Church, in the background, is having a fundraiser in the park across the street from the church on Saturday.

On a fairly regular basis, said the Rev. Stacey Siebrasse, people would come to her church, First English Lutheran Church, asking for help paying their rent or in making a mortgage payment.

Sometimes the people asking for help were members of the congregation.

“We really have no way of helping them with that, and we really want people to stay in their homes,” she said.

That’s why First English is establishing a rental assistance fund, so that help is available when the need is apparent.

And that’s why First English is having its first fundraiser for the new program. “Booyah, Brats & Brews” will be held Saturday, Oct. 1, in the triangle park across the street from First English, 1243 N. 31st St., from 4 to 7 p.m.

The fundraiser will feature live music, raffles, bratwursts and four craft brew selections: Street Fight and Anger Management from Angry Hank’s Microbrewery and an Oktoberfest beer and Nutty Professor Brown Ale from Thirsty Street Brewing Co.

And of course there will be lots of booyah, described in a press release as “a scrumptious soup popular in the Midwest, with ingredients that include everything but the kitchen sink.”

The raffle items will include baskets of goods and baked items, plus two chances to win half a hog, wrapped and packaged for your freezer. Tickets are $5 each, available at the event or by calling 245-4933. Music will be provided by Sanctuary, a band consisting of Drew McDowell, Jeanne Wagner and Greg Gordon.

On the rental assistance fund, First Lutheran has been working with the Home Center, a Billings agency that provides one-stop assistance for home owners, first-time home buyers and tenants.

Alice Lahren, the intake and education coordinator for the Home Center, said the agency has had some luck working as a bridge between landlords and tenants. Many people looking to rent a place to live can’t because of bad credit, a lack of references, criminal background and other issues.

The Home Center works on teaching potential renters how to make themselves eligible, through a “Rent Strong” workshop and other offferings, and then works with landlords to take a chance on people the Home Center thinks are ready for the rental market.

In one case, Lahren said, a women who had recently completed a prison sentence wasn’t able to come up with enough money to put down a rental deposit. After the woman completed the Rent Strong workshop, Lahren convinced a landlord to let renter make small payments toward the deposit, and eventually she made the full deposit.

“We’ve got to change the perceptions on both side,” she said.

The Home Center is also starting a landlord mitigation fund, to cover any losses experienced by landlords who take a chance on renters with less than perfect backgrounds. In other cities around the country where such funds have been established, Lahren said, they are rarely used, but they do help enlist the support of landlords.

Siebrasse said First Lutheran would like to partner with the Home Center by having the church provide rental assistance money and the agency could do some of the administrative and processing work, to find a suitable rental for the person in question.

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