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 they can provide both beds and program support.
Whether you’re planning to launch, expand, or sustain a program, we’ve got some strategies that will help you capture sustainable funding for transitional housing.
In the United States, the federal US Interagency Council on Homelessness has 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 US 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. So, any effort to secure funding should include a clear strategy for integrating a HUD-compliant HMIS like ETO Software.
Early selection and integration of an HMIS are important. Not only does high-quality HMIS software help ensure your HUD compliance, but it will also simplify program management and data collection and ensure that the beneficiaries of your housing services are receiving the best services from the efforts of your staff.
From a funding perspective, early integration and data collection demonstrates your ability to comply with federal regulations and allows you to make a strong case for grant funding. Using an HMIS can demonstrate early success, use of resources, key challenges, and strategic focus on your mission.
For example, Covenant House Vancouver (CHV) has served homeless, at-risk youth ages 16-24, who have fled abuse, been forced from their homes, or who have aged out of foster care since 1997. It’s a challenging mission that incorporates a continuum of services including transitional housing. CHV’s success is built on the strategic use of data and metrics, which they collect and analyze using Social Solution’s ETO Software and qualitative reports from their staff. Not only does this data-based decision making help CHV make program improvements, but it also helps them quantify their impact to funders and improve their access to resources.
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If your program is new, spend time researching your location. Availability, cost, and community support are certainly some of the most visible hurdles, but they shouldn’t be the only factors you take into account.
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.
You probably already know that 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, 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 tool 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.
Securing funding for transitional housing is a tough job that requires a multilateral effort. If you’re running a transitional housing program, we not only commend you, but we’re excited to support you. Consider contacting us today to see if ETO software could help you make your case and secure the funding you need to do good.
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