Ex-Felon Struggles In Search For Apartment


Finding a good place to live can be difficult as it is, but try having a felony on your record. After serving the time, some ex-convicts can struggle with it even years later. It can be a big factor when it comes to renting.

"I was convicted in 1994 for felony. And it keeps following me everywhere I go," said Kendra Donelson.

Aside from that felony possession of firearms, Donelson also has a burglary conviction from 2004 on his record. He got out of jail in 2007 and since then has worked at Tyson and lived with loved ones. Donelson is now ready to get a place of his own. "They say we can't let you in because of your past history. I should be able to come out here and find something.

Denied at numerous rental properties, leasing agents tell him it is because of the felony conviction. Donelson understands it comes with the territory of having that record, but wonders how long will it take to prove he's on a different path.

"How can a young man like myself and other people try to make it out here in society and they keep throwing this up in our face," he added.

The federal Fair Housing Act offers protection to certain classes of people, but being a felon is not one of them. Landlords have every right to deny housing based on criminal background.

"Many of the things that become difficult are the same things that become difficult for anybody. That's coming up with deposits and what's your background and what's your history," said James Wayne, Director of the 7th Judicial District Of the Iowa Department of Corrections.

Preparing for issues like this is part of the regimen at the Davenport Correctional Services Building Transitional Housing Program. Wayne says stable housing and a steady job are two big factors in rehabilitation. However, landlords have to think about safety and credibility. Each go by their own set of criteria, either a no-felony policy or considering circumstances like how long ago and what's happened to them recently.

Wayne says there are places out there. It's just a matter of making the right connection. "Others that are fine as long as you do what you're supposed to do as a tenant."

Most rental properties automatically do criminal as well as credit background checks. Landlords also often share information with each other through rental associations.

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