Safe housing is one of the most basic needs, right next to food, water, and clothing. But for many vulnerable populations, like survivors of abuse, recovering addicts, and ex-prisoners, providing transitional and emergency housing often requires more than just four walls and a roof.
Your work might start with providing shelter, but to be successful, transitional housing programs need secure and sustainable funding so you can provide both beds and program support.
Winning grant money requires much more than fancy writing and smooth talking. In fact, you’ll need to clean up your data and engage many members of your community outside of your organization.
Whether you’re planning to launch, expand, or sustain your transitional housing program, here are some strategies that will help you earn grants for your transitional housing initiative, including how to:
Let’s explore how to grow your transitional housing organization’s impact by winning grants and building connections.
The first step in obtaining grants is to research your funding opportunities. Focus on only applying for the grants that best match your organization to improve your chances of earning funding and avoid wasting time and energy.
Here are some federal programs you can apply to:
In addition to federal funding opportunities, you’ll likely have grants offered by your state or city that you can consider as well. Analyze each grant’s requirements to decide if it aligns with your ongoing goals. Each program has different prerequisites, so avoid taking a one-size-fits-all approach. Carefully crafting each proposal is crucial to maximizing your chances of success.
In the late 1990s, the United States’ housing policy radically changed in response to a congressional mandate to serve homeless populations with federal dollars. The federal Interagency Council on Homelessness successfully pushed for a focus on goal-setting and data-driven strategies to end homelessness. Now, most federal and private grants for housing assistance require the implementation of a Homeless Management Information System (HMIS).
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), an HMIS “is a local information technology system used to collect client-level data and data on the provision of housing and services to homeless individuals and families and persons at risk of homelessness.”
Housing services are responsible for selecting an HMIS software solution that complies with HUD’s data collection, management, and reporting standards. Any effort to secure grants for transitional housing should include a clear strategy for integrating a HUD-compliant HMIS, such as ETO Software.
Proactive selection and integration of an HMIS are critical to your organization’s success. Not only does high-quality HMIS software help ensure your HUD compliance, but it will also streamline program management and data collection. Most importantly, it will ensure that the beneficiaries of your housing program receive the best services from your staff.
From a funding perspective, early integration and data collection demonstrate your ability to comply with federal regulations and allow you to make a strong case for transitional housing grants. Using an HMIS can demonstrate early success, awareness of the state of homelessness, use of resources, key challenges, and strategic focus on your mission.
If your program is new, spend time researching your location. Just like any other real estate deal, location is everything for transitional housing. Your beneficiaries will need access to community resources, including:
In addition to considering local zoning requirements, you should also look into any legal restrictions on the type of residents or services offered at your site. For example, if your program provides shelter for formerly incarcerated individuals or recovering addicts, laws such as those restricting sex-offender housing or the distribution of certain medicines may restrict proximity to schools, daycare centers, parks, and other places where children are present.
Organizations with established housing assistance sites may already be tied to a location. But they can still consider how to leverage and improve their chances of capturing grant funds by thinking critically about their location’s strengths and weaknesses.
Established programs benefit from correlating their own programming data (or projections) with location-specific information. HMIS gives you the ability to capture information at the point of service, which can help you compare across programs and sites to understand why you might see different outcomes in different locations.
If you see one site anecdotally underperforming, analyzing a successful housing program may shed insight into how the two locations are different and give you ideas for how to improve. With that quantified data, you’ll have facts to back up your proposal and will have a better chance of securing funding.
Unfortunately, it’s common for transitional and emergency housing facilities to face opposition from potential neighbors. You may not be able to eliminate or avoid all opposition, but building strong community ties is critical for the success of your program and is key to showing funders that your program is sustainable.
No doubt you are talking with residents, business owners, and local government officials, seeking their support or helping to resolve their concerns. Often, these conversations require you to reframe your services to gain public support. They are also great opportunities to listen strategically and identify how different metrics can help you connect with these potential supporters and partners.
For example, if local residents are concerned about increased crime from your housing program residents, tracking and reporting related metrics about the safety of your program and the reduction in recidivism gives you the tools to combat those concerns. You might also be inspired to share data about positive outcomes related to education, job placement, use of first-time homebuyer loan programs, and self-sufficiency that show how your program participants are ultimately contributing to the neighborhood.
You can also discover if your community has needs that overlap with the needs of your beneficiaries. For example, you might discover that schools and public health officials are concerned about access to mental health resources for children and teens. Your own data can help you project the need for outside referrals to counselors and other clinicians with that expertise. That data gives you a powerful case for encouraging professionals to consider setting up a practice in your neighborhood, helping out your own program, and providing solutions for the broader community.
Organizations like Safe Alternatives to Violent Environments (SAVE) in Baltimore, MD understand how to integrate transitional housing into broader programs that address the underlying needs of those who don’t have a safe place to call home. It’s organizations like these that often find themselves gaining community acceptance, securing funding, and making a difference.
The foundation of your nonprofit’s continued success is how you tell your story. Your story is what humanizes your organization and shows grantmakers your impact. When sharing stories about your organization, remember to center your beneficiaries and let them be the protagonists of their own stories.
When crafting your grant proposals, get in touch with your beneficiaries to conduct interviews and learn their stories. Consider how to compile and present these stories to demonstrate how your organization’s mission aligns with each grantmaker. Of course, ensure you always present their stories truthfully to maintain ethical storytelling standards.
Securing funding for transitional housing is a tough job that requires a multilateral effort from your entire team and your beneficiaries. But as long as you’re strategic and center your beneficiaries, you’ll find allies in your community.
If you’re running a transitional housing program, we not only commend you, but we’re excited to support you. If you’re in need of ETO software, consider contacting us today to see if it could help you make your case and secure the funding you need to do good.
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