Our House: Financial Empowerment for the Working Homeless

Our House gives homeless and near-homeless families and individuals the resources they need to achieve financial empowerment and stability.

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Eligibility

  • I am not an employee of BNY Mellon, or an immediate family member of a BNY Mellon employee
  • I am over 18 years of age
  • My organization is incorporated as a non-profit, for-profit, or hybrid organization, or I have a partner that is incorporated and could accept funds on my behalf
  • I have already piloted my initiative and have some initial evidence of impact
  • My organization is headquartered and creating impact in the United States

Gender

  • Man

Where are you making a difference?

Arkansas: Little Rock (72206, 72201, 72202, 72204, 72205)

Focus Areas (required)

  • Business & Social Enterprise
  • Children & Youth
  • Civic Engagement
  • Development & Prosperity
  • Health & Fitness

Date Started

09/03/1987

Organization Type

  • nonprofit/NGO/citizen sector

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Scaling (expanding impact to many new places or in many new ways)

Budget

  • $1m - $5m

Website or social media URL(s) (optional)

http://www.ourhouseshelter.org – Website
https://www.instagram.com/ourhouseshelter/ - Instagram

Twitter URL

https://twitter.com/ourhouseshelter

Facebook URL

https://www.facebook.com/ourhouseshelter/

LinkedIn URL

https://www.linkedin.com/company/our-house

1.Founding Story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this to succeed.

In 1986, a single working mother in Little Rock would have had nowhere to go after experiencing a financial crisis that left her and her children homeless. Shelters only allowed for short-term stays and could not accommodate families. No organization was able to address a family’s long-term needs or planning. Following a study by the Arkansas Interfaith Conference, the United Way of Pulaski County, and other local community agencies, Our House was founded in 1987 to answer this unmet need: providing a home for working homeless families. Our House has now grown to support over 1700 individuals each year, providing solutions for families to escape homelessness, or providing the key support to ensure they never have to experience homelessness.

2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

We seek to solve the problem of family homelessness, which has persisted due to the complex challenges facing homeless families, including a lack of family-supporting jobs, the cost of childcare and transportation, and difficulties navigating complex systems such as the banking and healthcare industries. Our comprehensive, multi-generation service model helps entire families navigate past these challenges and out of homelessness permanently.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Since Our House’s foundation, and through many years of growth and expansion, we still center our programs on two core tenets: to help homeless families and individuals find employment, and requiring them to save money and gain skills promoting financial stability. Around these tenets, our organization provides extensive case management, employment services, financial literacy, children’s programs to care for their children from infancy through 12th grade, as well as a host of specialized services including reentry services, recovery support, and mental health programming. Once a family has exited homelessness, they are able to receive an additional year of case management through our homelessness-prevention program, to ensure they have access to the resources they need to sustain stability and prevent a return to homelessness. All of these services are provided on our 7-acre campus, making them easily accessible to our clients.

Our comprehensive wrap-around services are driven by our clients or families’ individual needs, working to empower them to achieve the greatest possible outcomes towards financial self-sufficiency and stability.

4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of how your solution is working to solve the problem.

Lindsey and her two young children checked into the Our House shelter after fleeing domestic violence and staying in a series of unsafe places. Over 18 months, she got a job, saved money, and learned how to manage her family’s finances. Her young children received care in our children’s programs, access to therapy to overcome the trauma they had endured, and Pre-K education. Eventually, Lindsey found a higher-paying job that she loves, moved her family into an apartment, and bought a car, paying cash with savings. And she regained custody of her teenage son, who has joined the family and thrived along with them. Now, due to Lindsey’s hard work on her finances, she has been approved for a Habitat for Humanity home. Her success is due to her own hard work, but Our House walked beside her every step of the way, providing resources, support, and encouragement to help her succeed. (See photo)

5a. Too many people in the U.S. have unmet needs for financial products and services. How is your work reaching a population(s) that is currently underserved? If it is not reaching an underserved population yet, how might it in the near future?

Our House works primarily with homeless and near-homeless individuals and families, who are underserved and most in need of financial services and planning. Many of our clients come to us unbanked, without employment, sources of income, or savings, and often with substantial debts or fines. Our clients work to address these problems through our programs which help them find employment, build savings, reduce debt burden, and access financial services, substantially improving their net worth.

5b. Please specify if the population you are reaching is underserved due to any of the following characteristics:

  • illness
  • geography
  • work status
  • race/ethnicity
  • sexual orientation
  • gender
  • age - youth
  • age - elder
  • socio-economic class

6. Marketplace: Who else is addressing the same problem? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Many organizations teach financial education, but very few employ our model of embedding financial education within a holistic, hands-on, intensive case management model that supports and empowers clients to tackle their challenges head-on. Our approach is organized around helping our clients successfully navigate and advocate for themselves within the systems that affect their lives: housing, health care, financial services, education, the workplace, and more. We employ a two-generation approach, which seeks to address the needs of a family as whole, serving parents and children together.

7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

Our House serves over 1,700 unique individuals each year through our diverse programming. In 2017, over 700 people called Our House home, including over 100 children. Of these clients, 76% moved up towards a permanent home, 59% of adults left with full-time jobs, and 70% of adults left with savings. Our Career Center served 841 adults, and helped 561 find full-time employment,with 305 different local employers. Our homelessness prevention program served 146 families, and of those who completed the program, 90% avoided a return to homelessness, 90% maintained full-time employment, 61% increased their income by at least 25%, and 56% exited with savings. In fact, the average family moved from well below to well above the poverty line in just 12 months in our program.

8a. Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling your impact?

Since 2012, Our House has expanded to meet community needs, and we expect to build on this momentum in the coming years. To date, we have tripled the capacity of our children’s center, created a homelessness prevention program, and created programs that empower clients with criminal backgrounds, young adults, and SNAP recipients. Areas for growth in the near-term include serving families residing in other housing programs in our area, focusing on families with infants referred by the local university hospital, and exploring opportunities to expand into new communities in the region.

8b. If applicable, which of the following scaling strategies have you launched?

  • Organizational Growth
  • Large Scale Partnerships
  • Organizing Conferences
  • Trainings, Consultation
  • Federations, Associations
  • Industry Standards (labels, certification, awards, etc.)

9. Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Our House maintains a diverse set of funding sources, including federal, state, and local government grants, foundation and corporate grants, United Way funding, as well as contributions from a number of local companies, congregations, and individuals. We are continually seeking out new funding sources and new areas to expand our programming to further secure our organization’s sustainability.

10. Team: What is the current composition of your team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?

The Our House team includes 48 staff members, 26 half-time AmeriCorps members, 16 full-time AmeriCorps VISTA service members, and 12 resident job trainees. Our staff brings a diversity of experiences, backgrounds, and training to the mission of serving the working homeless, with each team member targeting a specific need of our clients. Our team is dedicated to empowering our clients, and we continually work to find new additions to our team committed to improving the outcomes of those we serve.

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Ashoka page or contact
  • Email

Attachments (1)

2017 Annual Report.pdf

Our House 2017 Annual Report

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Photo of Sarah

Great explanation of community impact!