Families Together, an organization that works to help people move from homelessness to stable homes, already had a success story to tell about how many transitions to permanent housing they provided in Wake County. Still, with a growing and changing staff, Lisa Rowe, executive director, saw a need to strengthen her team. She turned to Executive Service Corps of the Triangle (ESC), and that, too, has proven to be a success story.
ESC organized a team-building staff retreat, and Rowe, who had been on the job for about 18 months, said she and her staff came away energized and emboldened to deal with change and growth.
“The timing could not have been better,” she said. “We were already a strong team, and we are stronger now.”
Families Together has a 37-year history that starts with its original founding in 1980 as Pan Lutheran Ministries (PLM). The organization remains a PLM organization, but it has evolved into a million-dollar nonprofit with a staff of 10 and approximately 575 volunteers devoted to its mission: “Moving Wake County families from homelessness to stable homes through mentoring, housing support and connecting to community resources.”
About 35 percent of its support comes from local governments and the rest from private contributions. Most families come to the organization by referral from the emergency shelters where they have been housed. For those unable to stay in a shelter, the organization owns six apartments for short-term housing of homeless families with children. It works to move those families from emergency to settled housing arrangements within 60 days, and about 70 percent of the families served have done just that. Families Together worked with about 180 families in 2016, most headed by single mothers. Families Together assisted 70 families in moving to permanent housing that year. Their aim for 2017 is to increase that number to 85.
Most of the adults in the families served are employed, but average monthly incomes are often too low to cover the up-front costs required for move-in. So, Families Together provides direct financial assistance, including first month’s rent and utility deposits, along with financial education and referrals for job training and employment counseling to keep them going longer term.
It works. More than 80 percent of families maintain stable housing for at least a year. That is accomplished by partnering with property management companies and individual landlords to place families in rental housing and help them stay there.
Renting to lower income families can be a risky business.
“A lot of folks are willing to take a risk with our families because they know that we are going to be there to provide support,” Rowe said. “For us, it is not just about getting someone housed, it is about helping them stay housed.”
Families Together has found success working with ESC in each of the past three years, with services ranging from strategic planning to leadership training. With the latest team-building endeavor, Rowe has stated being more than satisfied.
“Working with ESC helped us to be poised for the growth and change that is ahead,” she said.
The satisfaction is mutual. The ESC consultant who facilitated the retreat remarked on the impressive quality of the Families Together staff and their clear, obvious dedication to the work they do and hopes there will be more opportunities to work with them in the future.