On Thursday, March 22, I was fortunate to be able to attend the grand opening of the Greensboro Housing Hub — a central office location designed to be a “one-stop shop” for affordable housing. This innovative response to Greensboro’s housing need is the culmination of 2 years of vision and work put in by a several of our member organizations — Community Housing Solutions, Greensboro Housing Coalition, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Greensboro, Housing Consultants Group, Partnership Homes, and Tiny Houses Greensboro with help from the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro and the City of Greensboro.
The Housing Hub initially was born out of a simple need for office and warehouse space. The various organizations already had relationships with one another and their work would occasionally overlap. What changed nearly 2 years ago was that the leadership of these organizations began meeting monthly to talk about their work and how they might do it better together. “It took the 2 years for us to have a real team. We have met monthly for over a year and a half now to build relationships. Trust is at the key of all of this,” said Maria Hanlin of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Greensboro.
“It took the 2 years for us to have a real team. We have met monthly for over a year and a half now to build relationships. Trust is at the key of all of this,” said Maria Hanlin of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Greensboro.
In those conversations, they drew inspiration from the Family Justice Center, which was designed as a “one-stop shop” for victims of domestic violence whose services were previously scattered all over the city. That center brought 60 professionals from 15 different disciplines under one roof to coordinate their services. What started with a need for space had morphed into a much more comprehensive and collaborative vision.
The goal of the Housing Hub is simple: serve more clients more effectively and more efficiently throughout the affordable housing continuum from homelessness to affordable homeownership. “When the affordable housing bond passed, it made sense to not make folks go to four or five different places to get their housing needs met,” said Sofia Crisp of Housing Consultants Group. Having six organizations serving different pieces of the continuum in one location working and planning together begins to make that goal a reality.
“This was not a hard sell to our board,” said Gene Brown of Community Housing Solutions. “We saw it as being driven by 3 benefits: lower administrative costs; finding the new space we were already looking for; and finally enhanced collaboration.”
Before moving in together several of the organizations were already collaborating in different capacities. The Housing Consultants Group was already running the homeownership classes for the Habitat affiliate. Now, being in the same building and having a better understanding of each others’ operations, they are also providing financial literacy classes and IDAs for Habitat’s partner families, particularly those who have applied, but are not yet ready for homeownership. The Housing Consultants Group also acts as the realtor for properties being rehabed by Community Housing Solutions.
“When the affordable housing bond passed, it made sense to not make folks go to four or five different places to get their housing needs met,” said Sofia Crisp of Housing Consultants Group.
“Some of the role we play is being the traffic cop, and some of it is more of a triage role,” said Brett Byerly of Greensboro Housing Coalition, the organization that first greets you when you walk in. “A lot of what we’re doing is learning what folks do and don’t do. If there is a good place or a better place to send people.”
“From a funding perspective it makes sense to put things on paper that don’t just have one organization operating in a silo,” said Sofia Crisp. What each of these organizations are also finding out is that funders are excited about this innovative collaboration and want to be a part of it.
This just makes sense. The affordable housing challenges that each of our communities face is such that no one organization can go it alone. This is particularly true because many of us are set up to address one type of housing, or leverage one funding stream, or tackle one specific problem. When folks fall outside of our skill set, we send them back out into the world. When we do the hard work of collaborating on our end, it means we are able to serve more families more comprehensively.