Hosts for Humanity

Hosts for Humanity provides crowdsourced housing for families traveling to receive medical care.

Photo of Jenny Owens
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  • 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


  • Woman

Where are you making a difference?

Baltimore, MD (21201)

Focus Areas (required)

  • Business & Social Enterprise
  • Children & Youth
  • Health & Fitness
  • Human Rights & Equality

Date Started

We incorporated in December of 2016, and launched our service in January of 2018

Organization Type

  • nonprofit/NGO/citizen sector

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

  • Start-Up (first few activities have happened)


  • $10k - $50k

Website or social media URL(s) (optional)

Twitter URL


Facebook URL


LinkedIn URL

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 April of 2016, my husband and I were thrilled to welcome our son Maximus to the world. Within hours of his birth, Max was diagnosed with a rare condition called Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia (CDH). His diaphragm was not fully formed at birth, allowing his bowels to move into his chest cavity, displacing his heart and and crushing and impacting the development of his left lung. The doctors gave Max a 50% chance of survival and it was a very rough start the first few months as Maximus and physicians fought for his life. While we were in the hospital we ran into many families who were struggling with housing costs on top of medical bills. We were lucky to be so close to amazing hospitals, and I decided I needed to act.

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

There are some resources to house families traveling for medical care, but the demand for housing is greater than the supply. It's estimated there are approximately 1 million nights of medical housing need per year in the US for families making under $75k. In addition, these families are often removed from their communities, reducing their emotional support. Hosts for Humanity provides housing in a supportive environment. A home, near a hospital.

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

Hosts for Humanity connects families and friends of patients traveling to receive medical care with volunteer hosts offering accommodations in their homes. By connecting patient families with volunteer hosts, Hosts for Humanity strives to ease the financial burden incurred while traveling with loved ones receiving medical care while providing emotional support. We have recruited 35 volunteer hosts in the greater Baltimore area. When a patient family needs housing they complete the online form, and I match them with a volunteer host. We're piloting this service in Baltimore, Maryland. Hosts for Humanity’s practice of matching patient families with volunteer hosts is currently managed through excel spreadsheets and via email and phone.

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

We just founding housing for a mom that has been financially devastated by health challenges. When her daughter was 13 she became very sick and the doctors had trouble diagnosing the issue. The mother was taking time off work to care for her daughter, and because of that lost her job of nearly 10 years managing the office of a medical practice. Because she lost her job, the family lost their home and is now living with a relative. The daughter is now 18 and has been in and out of hospitals for the past 5 years, experiencing most of her teens in the medical care. She continues to be very sick, and the family went from middle class to drowning in debt. We were able to house this family for 30 days by matching her with a volunteer host, saving the family over $4,400 on housing.

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?

Although our sample size is still small (n=20), at this time women and children make up 94% of all the guests we've housed through Hosts for Humanity since we launched in January. Women are often the caretakers, and when they travel for care they are often displaced from their support communities, making traveling extra challenging.

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

  • illness
  • geography
  • gender
  • age - youth
  • socio-economic class

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

There are other groups addressing the problem of medical housing both locally and nationally. Ronald McDonald House is a great example of a hospital hospitality home, but I learned from the Baltimore house director that they have a waitlist of 30 families per night. There are two regionally focused groups that provide crowdsourced housing, one in Boston and one in Philly. What we hope to do that's different is develop a web platform where vetted guests can interact directly with vetted guests in a secure environment, allowing the solution to scale nationally and beyond.

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

Since Hosts for Humanity’s official first match on January 6, 2018, volunteers have hosted 20 people for a total of 153 days, saving families more than $17,000 on housing costs. If we continue on our current pace, I project we’ll save families more than $50,000 in housing as we wrap up year one.

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

Hosts for Humanity’s practice of matching patient families with volunteer hosts is currently managed through excel spreadsheets and via email. Although this works on a small scale, we know this will be unsustainable as we grow. A website that clearly states hosts’ availability and makes finding a host as easy as booking a hotel online would increase access for patient families and increase the number of families we are able to serve. We're working with a local developer who is building this out for us, and we anticipate the website to be complete in December of 2018.

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

  • Organizational Growth
  • Campaigns
  • Industry Standards (labels, certification, awards, etc.)

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

We ask for a suggested donation of $15 per night from patient families. This money goes to Hosts for Humanity to cover our background checks, insurance, etc. As we scale and this revenue grows, we'll be able to hire employees and cover our expenses. So far, we have raised a little over $10,000 for Hosts for Humanity from small grants, family, and friends and this has been enough to get us off the ground.

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?

Jenny Owens, founder and executive director commits 10-15 hours for week to this passion project. She has her doctorate from the University of Baltimore in UX and 10 years of experience in marketing, project management, and research. There is a small board, 35 volunteer hosts, a masters student focusing on this for her thesis, and MBA student focusing on this for a capstone, 2 volunteers committed to 5+ hours of admin work, pro bono legal and marketing. We'd like to bring on FTE as we grow.

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 - Which of the following categories do you identify with? (optional)

  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French)

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 - Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities? (optional)

  • Religious minority (non-Christian)
  • Other

If you replied "Other" in the question above, please specify. (optional)

I have severe episodic migraines, and identify as a person with migraine.

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Recommended by others
  • Word of mouth

Evaluation results

4 evaluations so far

1. Overall, would you champion this entry as a excellent example to move forward to the next phase of the challenge and become a semifinalist?

Yes, absolutely! - 0%

Yes/maybe - 75%

Maybe - 25%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

2. Is this entry INNOVATIVE?

Yes, absolutely! - 75%

Yes/maybe - 25%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

3. Is this entry IMPACTFUL on financial wellbeing?

Yes, absolutely! - 75%

Yes/maybe - 25%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

4. Is this entry SUSTAINABLE?

Yes, absolutely! - 0%

Yes/maybe - 25%

Maybe - 50%

Maybe/no - 25%

No - 0%

5. What are some of the HIGHLIGHTS of strengths of this entry?

Connection to underserved community - 75%

Clarity of Model - 50%

Clarity of Writing - 50%

Idea Originality - 50%

Understanding of the marketplace or sector - 50%

Impact measurement - 0%

Impact Potential - 100%

Financial Sustainability - 0%

Team - 50%

Partnerships - 0%

Potential to scale - 50%

6. What are some of the areas for IMPROVEMENT of this entry?

Connection to underserved community - 33.3%

Clarity of Model - 33.3%

Clarity of Writing - 0%

Idea Originality - 0%

Understanding of the marketplace or sector - 0%

Impact measurement - 33.3%

Impact Potential - 0%

Financial Sustainability - 66.7%

Team - 33.3%

Partnerships - 100%

Potential to scale - 66.7%


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