What differentiates the Supportive Housing Coalition from YES Housing, Heading Home, and other local organizations and agencies working to end homelessness? S
HC-NM, like the other agencies involved in the Albuquerque Heading Home collaboration, believe in the Housing First approach – an evidence-based approach that ends homelessness by providing individuals and families a home. There are no sobriety or employment requirements. We understand that by first housing people, we change the trajectory of their lives. Now living in a safe place, people are more likely to access services that will promote their health and well-being. We are committed to the supportive housing model which means we provide service coordination at our properties.
Why has the Supportive Housing Coalition focused on the development, ownership, and management of supportive housing for the community’s most vulnerable populations (why fulfill this niche in our local Continuum of Care)?
We started in 1996 as housing developers. At the time there was a big gap and several social service agencies simply could not provide case management and build homes at the same time. So SHC was formed by a coalition of other service agencies including St. Martin’s HopeWorks, Albuquerque Health Care for the Homeless, Therapeutic Living Services, UNM Psychiatric Hospital, and the VA. These same founding organizations remain important partners in our housing efforts today. Today however, we not only own and manage the properties we developed, we also manage over 350 scattered site housing vouchers for the City of Albuquerque, NM CYFD, and U.S. Dept. of HUD.
Beyond the services that are provided by your service coordinators, how have you established relationships with over 150 partner landlords and community partners to coordinate case management and referrals (in collaboration with programs like Heading Home)?
We started administering housing vouchers for the City of Albuquerque in 2005. We utilized our existing partnerships with our founding members. When Mayor Berry formalized the Heading Home Initiative in 2011, we were already doing the work with our partner agencies to get people housed. All of our founding partners are a part of the initiative so it was a very natural collaboration. We started with a handful of landlords and because of the efforts of our Community Housing Department, we have been able to grow that number to approximately 150 landlords in the Albuquerque area. We have some very devoted owners and landlords who believe in our mission and are very willing to partner with us to keep our tenants housed.
Why does the Supportive Housing Coalition focus on service coordination?
Without housing most people cannot attend to the myriad of activities that are required to maintain their physical safety, medical needs, and mental health. Many of our tenants do not know how to access the services they needs. Service coordination helps to bridge that gap, helping our tenants find the resources they need.
What have been the challenges and opportunities for getting residents to receive trainings, services, education, etc. under the Housing First model?
The organizations that are informed by Housing First do a great job coordinating services such as case management and housing. However, two of the biggest challenges are a shortage of affordable housing for people with very low incomes and the shortage of case managers in our state – high caseloads make it difficult to meet all the needs. Our model at SHC is to have service coordinators available at our affordable housing properties who can help tenants navigate what can be very complex and bureaucratic agencies to get the benefits and services they need. While not intensive case management, service coordinators fill a crucial role in getting our tenants connected.
At a time when property managers, social services directors, and service coordinators spend so much of their time focusing on grant applications and resource allocation, how can non-profits like Two Way Street support these individuals, organizations, and agencies with event coordination and other community building efforts? How much of a budget (if any) do project managers, social services directors, and service coordinators have for events like Poetry for a Cause?
I believe that Two Way Street can support us by using your community connections to help us spread the word about our organizations through articles and print ads, help us build our social media following by sharing our pages and posts, and co-hosting events like Poetry for a Cause. It is also helpful to introduce us to potential in-kind sponsors for food, prizes, and supplies. Budgets depend on the size of your organization. While SHC does not have a budget for these events, we are fortunate to have a meeting space where we can hold community events such as these. Two Way Street is amazing with its support for advertising and story space.
What is the value of bringing together the Arts community, the poetry community, and the homeless advocacy community through special events like Poetry for a Cause that bring local talent directly to residents?
We all learn from each other, right? This event helps us to hear each other’s stories, connect, and gain a deeper understanding of our community. And we have many artists that are experiencing homelessness or are newly housed – what a great way to get their talents seen and heard. Most of our tenants depend on public transportation that does not always create opportunity for them to get to events like these. Events like Poetry for a Cause provide a place for community and connection that they would not normally get to participate in. This is also an opportunity for other providers to table, provide educational materials, and raise awareness. Opening the doors to our partners and friends at events like this helps us nurture those relationships and create opportunities for dialogue.
How can Two Way Street support the Supportive Housing Coalition in coordinating more events like Poetry for a Cause and how often could we hold those events?
Our media trade agreement is a great start. I also like the idea of bringing our partners and existing supporters to the table to provide sponsorships. Poetry for a Cause started as a way to bring the arts to our tenants. If it also brings monetary support to our organization, we can do even more for our tenants in the long run. I think quarterly events would be amazing.
Future Goals in Collaborating with the Supportive Housing Coalition
- Encouraging landlords involved scattered-site housing to participate in events like Poetry for a Cause
- Establishing an even more robust Media Trade Agreement that helps Two Way Street recruit more vendors while getting more Supportive Housing Coalition clients to engage in skills building and employment opportunities
- Coordinating a job fair with the Supportive Housing Coalition