09 Apr Housing and homelessness work reaches milestones
In the early days of Greenville Partnership for Philanthropy, we learned about how service providers to the homeless in Greenville County were collaborating in new ways and how they felt a homeless coordinator would help them maximize their partnerships. We also learned how our community could make housing more affordable for a wide array of income levels. We continued to follow the progress of the resulting Greenville Homeless Alliance and the affordable housing task force, both of which were established to make good on our community’s aspirations for safe and affordable housing for all.
Both initiatives reached major milestones at the end of March. The Greenville Homeless Alliance announced the hiring of the first homeless coordinator in Susan McLarty, former Mission Outreach Coordinator with Westminster Presbyterian Church. In addition, the Greenville Housing Fund was formally launched with $2 million in equity funding for development of affordable and workforce housing (read more on these announcements in the Greenville News and 106.3 WORD).
These announcements are significant on many levels.
First, they provide tremendous leverage to the work of dedicated community partners to move the ball on issues of homelessness and housing.
For years, partners in the Greenville Homeless Alliance have worked both inside and outside the boundaries of their agencies to make homelessness brief and rare. Groups such as Miracle Hill Ministries, Salvation Army, SHARE, Triune Mercy Center, United Housing Connections, and United Ministries have provided case management, shelter, connections to long term housing, and more to those experiencing or at-risk of homelessness. But the formal establishment of GHA and the hiring of McLarty, who will focus every day on the intersect of their work and on projects such as an emergency housing crisis response plan and development of permanent supportive housing, will take the partners’ work to the next level.
Similarly, those on the front lines of housing development – Habitat for Humanity, Homes of Hope, Genesis Homes, CommunityWorks Carolina, to name a few, along with private for-profit developers – know what it takes to develop more affordable housing in locations with easy access to transit and jobs, but they bemoan the lack of capital and affordable land on which to build. The Greenville Housing Fund provides both and serves as an advocate and champion for affordable housing.
Second, these announcements are demonstrations of how the hard and foundational work of partnership pays off. The homeless providers who wrote a homeless white paper back in 2014 – which first imagined the hiring of a homeless coordinator – spent important time clarifying how they would work together in an alliance and how this new coordinator would serve the partnership, and they brought in new partners, such as funders, law enforcement, elected officials, health care, and others, to make sure the work would “stick.” The founders of the Greenville Housing Fund followed up on careful study by the City, engaged private developers and investors (rather than just the usual social sector representatives), and honed their advocacy skills in working with the City for its $2 million investment. Such work takes longer, but it means that collaborations are built on firm footing for the future.
Finally, the announcements are an example of the new roles that philanthropy is playing in Greenville County. Funders sat side-by-side with elected officials, nonprofits, developers and others in working out the details of both plans. Funders invested not just grant dollars but also time and energy in supporting the work. Funders realized the importance of political capital in advocating as the City of Greenville considered its $2 million investment in what became the Greenville Housing Fund.
(By the way, you may be wondering why are there two groups focused on housing. Greenville Homeless Alliance will not only improve coordination of services, but also advocate for housing and be the voice for those at the lowest income level (no income to $15,000 annually). The Greenville Housing Fund looks at the larger issue of affordable and workforce housing and uses systems level tactics of land acquisition, capital for investors, and public awareness to increase availability of housing for those with higher incomes (between $15,000 and $55,000)).
Those GPP members involved in the work have expressed gratitude to the nonprofit and public agencies that work on these issues for welcoming them to the table to expanding housing options and for making homelessness brief and rare.
Opportunities for involvement – financially and otherwise – continue. We will keep GPP members posted as the Greenville Housing Fund and Greenville Homeless Alliance continue their work and seek investment.