Students at the University of Alabama at Birmingham were awarded a total of $8,500 to pursue and promote their ideas in the third annual Blazer Innovation Challenge. Jared Sluss, a senior majoring in public health, won first place for his proposal to create a nonprofit organization that matches homeless individuals with vacant rental properties.

His organization, called Link and Loan, connects those who are homeless with landlords who have empty rentals and lends the money needed for a security deposit to people with stable government checks from Social Security, disability and veterans’ pensions.

“We de-risk the whole process by pre-vetting tenants and implementing automatic drafts from these stable government checks,” said Sluss, a student in the UAB Global and Community Leadership Honors Program. “For landlords, we solve their problem of finding tenants who will pay rent, spending scores of hours looking for these tenants and losing money while their house is vacant.”

Sluss plans to use his $5,000 prize to apply for nonprofit status and to get several homeless individuals placed in new homes.

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