Industry leaders leverage strengths to achieve “hire opportunity”
A victim of domestic violence, Odessa Moore
lost her job and her apartment after she and her husband separated. She and her
sixteen-month-old twins were taken in by a local shelter while Odessa
desperately searched for a job and permanent housing.
“I was sad. But I knew I was going to have a chance to get back on my feet again.”
Of the three million Americans experiencing
homelessness over the course of a year, over 80 percent are situationally
homeless. This means that they’ve experienced a life-altering event such as job
loss, domestic violence, medical emergency, or natural disaster that has forced
them to live without housing.
Individuals facing situational homelessness
are typically shut out of employment processes because of their lack of a home
address, access to transportation, and the unfortunate stigma that comes with
their personal story. They have experienced circumstances that have left them
homeless, jobless, and searching for a way out of both.
On the surface, obtaining affordable housing
and finding stable employment are two enormous problems that seem to need two
separate solutions. But when for-profit
businesses and nonprofit organizations work together, they have the
extraordinary opportunity to more effectively solve these problems by
leveraging their unique knowledge and strengths. In joining forces they can do
more good for more people than they could on their own.
Shelters to Shutters (S2S), a Stand Together
Foundation partner, has created a hybrid housing-employment program to serve
people like Odessa who need both a job and a place to call home. They’ve
created a pipeline of talent from an untapped source, pairing property
management companies with ready-to-work individuals who are experiencing homelessness.
Those companies offer career opportunities to pre-screened candidates paired
with affordable housing within their apartment communities, setting individuals
on a path toward self-sufficiency. With this 2-in-1 solution, the housing
industry itself is fighting homelessness.
It’s more than just a philanthropic checkbox
for companies looking to be more socially responsible. The Shelters to Shutters
model is sparking creativity, helping people imagine new and non-traditional
ways to solve big problems, and building bridges between the nonprofit sector
and unique business partners who can work together to reach shared goals
of helping connect people to meaningful work. S2S participants are hired in
front and back office roles—leasing agents, groundskeepers, and maintenance
“It’s a very cutting edge idea. Partnering with charities and these folks that need housing and have incredibly valuable skills to offer…having the ability to support them in their transition back to normalcy again.”
Sarah Cahill, Director of Organizational Development & Customer Experience at Gates Hudson (S2S employer)
Companies like Gates Hudson work with Shelters
to Shutters to hire, train, and support qualified, hard-working people who are
in need of jobs and housing. These individuals have the skillset and the
motivation to contribute to the mission of their business. Partnerships like
this are leading the way in reshaping hiring practices, creating a trilaterally
mutually beneficial relationship between a business, a nonprofit, and someone
in need of them both.
Shelters to Shutters partnerships are also
bolstering the multifamily housing industry as employees. Participants are
helping to solve the issue of turnover and improving operations, and
contributing to the companies’ overall efficiency, growth, and stability.
Independence Realty Trust (IRT), another S2S partner, has had such a positive experience with the individuals they have hired that they have created new positions so that they can continue to participate in the program. Fred Kapel, Vice President of HR for IRT, says their retention rate is twice as high with Shelters to Shutters participants, and he is optimistic about the impact the program can have on employees and companies across the country as it grows.
Shelters to Shutters hosts hiring fairs where
potential employers are invited to interview participants, not as homeless but
as talented, career-minded individuals who can add value to their organizations.
Together, they have created a job placement model that is re-humanizing the
hiring process. It’s a strategic partnership that has the power to change the
way we think about capable individuals and break the stigma of homelessness
across our culture.
“The folks that we’ve met and talked to and
hired—and some we’ve met and talked to and didn’t hire—they have been equally
as impressive personality-wise, reliability-wise, and technically as anybody
else,” says Kapel.
“I think folks in the program look at this as an incredible opportunity to get back on their feet. I think that motivates them to be reliable, do a good job, [and] continue to learn.”
Fred Kapel, VP of HR at IRT
Shelters To Shutters works with its partner
businesses to help participants reach personal and professional milestones.
They offer them mentorship, career-advancing training programs, and ongoing
case management support to ensure long-term success. Their mutual investment
goes far beyond a home address and a paycheck.
“We don’t want them to feel like this is just a short-term solution. We want this to be their future career.”
Sarah Cahill, Director of Organizational Development & Customer Experience at Gates Hudson
The best part is that it’s working. Shelters to Shutters has been a lifeline to over 260 people. The success rate of participants not re-entering homelessness is 93 percent. They’ve seen an 87 percent employment retention rate, and 89 percent of participants have received a wage increase and/or promotion from their employer.
This creative model of partnership has the potential to transform lives, businesses, and society at large, as more businesses and community groups think differently about helping solve entrenched problems and what that means for the lives of people like Odessa.
Today, Odessa and her twins share a beautiful two-bedroom apartment that came with her new job as a leasing agent, and she calls Shelters to Shutters “a dream come true.”