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Non-Profit and Private Industry Partnerships: Powerful Weapons in the Fight Against Homelessness in Nashville

Shelters to Shutters and apartment management companies provide homeless with jobs and housing

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – June 07, 2017 – When the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency in Nashville recently released its annual Point-in-Time (PIT) count of the homeless population, the numbers may have given rise to a moment of optimism. The total number of people experiencing homelessness counted during one night in late January was 2,337. That represented a slight decrease from one year earlier. But, as Mayor Megan Berry quickly cautioned, much work remains to be done.

“Indeed, the homeless population in greater Nashville and across the nation is poised to remain a significant problem in the years ahead as more people grapple with housing affordability issues,” said Andy Helmer, CEO of Fairfax, Va.-based Shelters to Shutters (S2S), a non-profit that pairs people experiencing homelessness with apartment management companies. The apartment operators provide employment and housing opportunities to S2S program participants. The program is active in greater Nashville.

However, partnerships between non-profits and companies in the private sector have immense potential to reduce the numbers of those experiencing homelessness, according to Helmer.

"This is a high-impact, private industry solution to a public social issue that offers people experiencing homelessness a real 'hand up' and puts them on a truly sustainable path with long-term jobs that pay a living wage and help provide comfortable housing," he said.

Since its founding in 2014, S2S has placed 60 people experiencing homelessness in jobs and homes at apartment communities throughout the Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, Northeast, South and Texas. Including S2S participants and their families, the organization has moved 100 people out of homelessness. S2S focuses on the 70 percent of the homeless population who are situationally homeless due to a life-altering event such as job loss, medical or health emergency, divorce, domestic abuse or the loss of a primary income earner.

"People experiencing situational homelessness are an underserved segment of society," Helmer said. "These are individuals who have marketable job skills and are ready to work, but through a series of circumstances or bad luck have lost their homes. They just need a helping hand, and the multifamily industry not only provides a job opportunity, but the potential for a new career. By leveraging partnerships with local non-profits on the ground and local property management partners, we are able to provide life-changing opportunities to get our participants back to self-sufficiency. Property management companies are uniquely qualified to help the situationally homeless because they can provide both housing and jobs.”

S2S provides its apartment management partners with pre-screened, job-trained candidates for entry-level positions such as maintenance technicians and leasing agents. Furthermore, participants have to have been drug and alcohol free for more than a year. The job retention rate for S2S participants is 92 percent. According to the National Multifamily Housing Council, the apartment industry's overall retention rate is 69 percent. However, many operators report that the retention rate for entry-level positions is only 50 percent.

In Nashville, S2S works with a number of fellow non-profits – such as the Salvation Army, Operation Stand Down Tennessee and the Safe Haven Family Shelter – to identify suitable program participants. Apartment operators who work with S2S in the metro area include Elmington Property Management, Freeman Webb Cos., Lennox Living and Middleburg.

Through Shelters to Shutters, Anthony got a place to live and a job as a full-time assistant service technician at Point Breeze, a FreemanWebb-operated community in greater Nashville. A veteran with a hard work ethic, Anthony has since advanced to service technician and recently competed in the Regional Maintenance Mania competition, where his team placed second overall, narrowly missing a bid to the National competition.

“Anthony has been a great asset to our team and the company,” said, Kirby Davis, COO of Freeman Webb.

For his part, Anthony, who after the military worked in restaurants and the service industry for many years before finding it difficult to maintain employment and afford rising rent costs, says the impact of organizations such as S2S can't be overstated.

"There’s a great need for programs like Shelters to Shutters," he said. "I can't say often enough how grateful I am for the opportunity they've given me. It has truly transformed my life and given me a real sense of purpose and pride. It's my fervent wish that as many people as possible get a chance to benefit from their services in the way that I have."

About Shelters to Shutters

Shelters to Shutters is a national 501(c)(3) organization that transitions individuals and families from homelessness to economic self-sufficiency by educating and engaging the real estate industry to provide employment and housing opportunities. Across the country, Shelters to Shutters pairs leading property management professionals with individuals experiencing homelessness who are ready to work. The result is an innovative program that provides mentorships for careers in property management, along with full-time employment and housing opportunities for individuals facing homelessness and a pipeline of high quality, motivated employees for the multifamily housing industry.

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