The Raleigh/Wake Partnership to End Homelessness operates as a behind the scenes organization, supporting the groups that work directly with those facing homelessness. For us, collaboration with area organizations working the front lines to help solve homeless issues is key to our success. To our partner agencies that we serve, our work provides needed support so they may continue to help those at risk of homelessness.
What We Do
The Partnership assists in three areas for the community:
- Advocates for affordable housing.
- Engages homeless service providers AND property owners/managers to participate in our Housing Navigation Unit.
- Innovates within the system to create a more dynamic Coordinated Access System and the Housing Navigation Unit, providing timely action for our service providers and data that provides a more accurate picture.
Game-Changing Service: The Housing Navigation Unit
The COVID-19 virus not only caused significant numbers of illnesses and deaths, but it also created substantial economic distress. The unemployment rate continues to rise. The North Carolina Department of Labor reported April 24, 2020 as the highest single day, with 54,495 filing for unemployment assistance.
The high unemployment rate is an alarming indication of an incoming wave of evictions and foreclosures. The House Wake! strategic plan is the first step in addressing this inevitable need. As a part of Wake County’s House Wake! plan to minimize the effects of COVID-19 on the homeless and those precariously housed; the Partnership launched the Housing Navigation Unit (HNU). This new unit connects property managers to those in need of housing. They also provide continued support to participating property managers.
The Partnership is fortunate to join forces with area organizations passionate about ending homelessness, and use the power of community to address systemic causes of homelessness. One group we collaborate with is the Triangle Apartment Association (TAA). The TAA is a non-profit trade association comprised of individuals and companies that develop, own, manage, and provide goods and services to the apartment industry in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area. TAA is committed to the advancement of the rental housing industry through advocacy, engagement, and innovation.
For many in the industry, the HNU offers growing possibilities. Dustin Engelken, Government Affairs Director for TAA, teamed up with the Partnership as part of his role working with government programs involving the industry. For Engelken, “This is an opportunity to connect our member businesses with folks who need housing.” TAA members provide market-rate housing and frequently deal with clients who found rentals online or were referred by a friend. Engelken pointed out that the Navigation Unit handles folks who, unlike the typical client, find themselves in a unique and challenging position because they have vouchers or government assistance, or because they recently experienced homelessness.
“It’s a little different population that sometimes is hard to find housing for,” commented Engelken. What makes this program unique is the HNU builds relationships with landlords ready to fill vacancies that may previously have been unknown to our homeless service providers. “Our role here and the opportunity we see is putting our members in a position where they can help fill that void and provide that housing,” he continued.
Dustin Engelken, Government Affairs Director, Triangle Apartment Association
Building a Better Path Forward for a Stronger Community
More than a business opportunity, Engelken notes how the arrangement between property owners/managers and the County will impact our community in creating a new path to help end homelessness. He notes that TAA members understand the importance of housing and are in a position to provide some assistance to it. “As an organization, our members are housing providers and nobody understands better than we do—the importance of having a quality roof over your head and all of the things that means—for you to be able to hold a job, to send your kids to school, and be safe and stable.”
He also pointed out how finding housing for those without a home also benefits the broader community. “I think it’s becoming clearer, particularly in today’s environment, that housing is the building block upon which everything else rests,” he stated. “TAA’s way of contributing to helping the community-at-large is helping some of our most vulnerable residents find housing so they are put into a position where they can succeed.”
Change is Good
For many homeless service providers, the HNU will help unblock the bottleneck for those waiting for services and a home. “I think everyone recognizes that the way things have been done traditionally has not succeeded in meeting this challenge. I think the Housing Navigation Unit offers an innovative way to approach it. We’re all hoping it will be successful,” said Engelken.
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