When Ephrem Jando – Realtor, associate broker, investor and McCormick Ranch resident – was nominated for an industry award in his early 30s and didn’t get it, he set out to understand why.
“It messed with my head a lot because I wanted to know what the difference was between me and another agent,” Jando said.
The difference was community service.
“And it really, it really changed my mindset,” he said.
Since 2015, Jando has given back in a big way to the community, from using his properties to house people experiencing homelessness to opening the Assyrian Church of the East in Gilbert.
And in March, Jando’s efforts were recognized; he was included in the Southeast Valley Regional Association of Realtors’ (SEVRAR) 40 Under 40 list.
The 40 Under 40 program recognizes the top rising stars in the real estate industry. Realtors are selected based on sales volume, community involvement and more.
“It’s an extremely humbling feeling,” said Jando, who joined Platinum Living Realty in 2018.
Jando became a full-time real estate agent in 2004 and has closed 500 real estate transactions since. In 2010, he became a broker; and in 2017, he received his California Real Estate License, making him a dual agent in both Arizona and California.
But it’s community service involvement that fulfills him, including his work with Phoenix-based HOM Inc.
HOM Inc helps vulnerable individuals and families experiencing homelessness and housing instability find safe, stable and affordable housing via two programs: Permanent Supportive Housing and Rapid Re-Housing.
Through HOM, Jando has, so far, housed two men who were experiencing homelessness.
“This is something that I would love to talk about and I hope that other real estate agents and landlords understand that there are programs out there that will give them money to help homeless people have housing,” he said.
HOM’s Rapid Re-Housing program helps homeless veterans, young adults, families and individuals find and move into a home in their community.
In addition to finding homes, the program offers flexible financial assistance and case management and services.
Jando found out about HOM via random phone call.
“A gentleman called me from home and he was a real estate agent as well,” Jando said. “He wanted me to understand the program, so I sat with him and he showed me how it works and how I do it and I took the risk and tried it.”
The first man he helped, “Mr. K,” was originally from the Midwest and was homeless for seven years in Mesa. He moved into one of Jando’s properties in 2018, and now he’s working to become a chef.
“His passion has always been to become a cook. HOM, Inc. gave him that opportunity,” Jando said. “Eventually his goal is to go get himself a job and become a chef and start living his life on his own.”
HOM assigns a counselor to each tenant. The counselor frequently checks in with the tenant and assists them with transporting them to and from work or school.
“To give this guy a house was an amazing feeling,” Jando said, adding that a couple weeks ago, he moved in a second homeless man into another one of his properties. “I plan on doing more. It’s an amazing program.”
For the dwelling unit to be eligible in the Rapid Re-Housing program, the unit must pass a housing quality standards inspection.
“I think people, landlords and real estate agents are scared of the programs because of the inspections and all these other processes that you have to go through to get approved,” Jando said. “I took the risk on one and realized how easy it was.”
Service providers and participant households determine the amount of rent and utilities the household can afford monthly. The program then subsidizes the remaining portion of the contract rent for the unit, paid directly to the landlord.
“One of the guys was sleeping in the streets until the day that I approved his application,” Jando said. “He went from literally sleeping in the streets to a one-bedroom, one-bath apartment, all utilities paid.”
Tenants remain in the home for as long as necessary for them to become financially self-sufficient and able to afford the entire contract rent with their own income.
According to HOM’s website, the Rapid Re-Housing assistance lasts approximately six months.
“I have so many friends that own apartment buildings. I wish they would just listen to me and let me give them one transaction with one of these people,” Jando said. “It’s sad when a housing administrator calls you and says, ‘We need more houses. We have vouchers, and we’re ready to pay anybody who can put these people into houses, but we can’t find any places for them.’ It’s sad because I know there are vacancies everywhere.”
Jando is considering moving a third individual into another one of his units.
“We forget there are homeless people a block away from your house who have not eaten in days,” he said. “We forget about what’s happening right around us, so community involvement is huge.”
Another community service project close to Jando’s heart is the construction and opening of Assyrian Church of the East in Gilbert.
As the project manager, Jando spent three years planning, raising funds, designing and constructing the 7,000-square-foot church, which was completed in January.
“It was an amazing feeling to give the Assyrian community a second home,” he said.
“I see the feeling of fulfillment that comes into your heart when you actually put some of your labor and create fruits out of that inside the community.”