Boston’s CRE Industry Unites Behind One Cause
Despite being from competing firms, 31 Boston commercial real estate leaders have come to agree on one thing: aligning to end homelessness is a power move.
Whether for personal or professional reasons, the feeling of giving back or the cause of furthering equity initiatives and disrupting cycles of homelessness in Boston, these CRE leaders have chosen to support the men, women and children in Heading Home shelters to help them leave homelessness behind.
“I see giving to others who are in need of some help and support as an obligation for all of us,” said Chris Brown, CEO at John Moriarty & Associates. “Home is more than bricks and mortar; it is so important to health outcomes. Housing is the most basic step towards social capital — it’s support, safety and security and having someone there when you need it.”
Brown is one of the 31 CRE professionals rallying to raise money for Heading Home, an organization that has spent the last 47 years working to end homelessness in Greater Boston by providing emergency, transitional and permanent housing and support services to extremely low-income individuals and families.
Travis D’Amato, senior vice president and managing director at Walker & Dunlop, said one of the most rewarding parts of working with Heading Home is its success. For the last 16 years, Heading Home’s permanent housing retention rates have been more than 90%. In 2021, 97% of Heading Home clients remained housed after one year.
“My expertise is in housing, and we have a housing problem in Massachusetts — and Heading Home has the best solution to address the problem,” D’Amato said. “It is so rewarding to be involved with an organization that leverages my time and effort to solve a problem, and so successfully.”
Abundant local and national research indicates that homeownership leads to greater wealth accumulation. In 2017, the Boston Globe's Spotlight team reported that Black Bostonians had a median net worth of $8 compared to the average white household's $247K.
At Heading Home, 82% of the organization’s clients identify as nonwhite and/or Hispanic or Latino. CRE leaders agree that working with Heading Home advances their commitment to diversity and inclusion.
“Boston is one of the greatest cities in the world,” said Robert LeClair, managing director and partner at Boston Realty Advisors. “Greatness is not just for the few; it’s for everybody.”
The pandemic exacerbated the homelessness crisis in Boston, and it showed Boston’s CRE leaders the importance of home. Lauren O’Neil Goff, chief operating officer of the Private Equity Group at AEW Capital Management, said that working from home made her even more appreciative of the work Heading Home does.
“I was watching my kids sitting at the dining room table learning and thinking about how much farther they would’ve fallen if they didn’t have [a home],” she said. “Home is their reprieve from the world, home is the place where they find comfort and where they can be themselves.”
At the center of Heading Home’s case management is empowering men and women, placing them in stable housing with appropriate services. This gives parents the tools to provide a stable, less traumatic environment for their children, disrupting intergenerational cycles of poverty.
“Providing people with homes and services is teaching people to fish rather than giving them the fish,” Colliers Executive Vice President Kristin Blount said. "You think about the impact that has on the parents, their children and then on their children’s children. The impact can change the trajectory of someone’s life."
While post-pandemic recovery is in motion, Heading Home’s clients are still feeling the impacts. The majority of Heading Home clients work in healthcare, retail and food service, which were among the industries hit hardest in the last two years. A client survey conducted by Heading Home's data and research team found that 39% saw their employment status negatively change during the pandemic, and one-third experienced a loss in salary, reducing their annual income to below $14K.
“We’re trying to restore faith in humanity, we’re trying to provide hope and let people know they aren’t alone,” said Jackie Falla, director of client services at Elaine Construction.
David Olney, CEO of Berkshire Residential Investments, said that when he learned of Heading Home’s mission, he was thrilled to donate time and money, but when he actually met the team, he was inspired to take things a step forward.
“When I met the team and learned more about their clients and successes, I was compelled to ask others to join me in support of their cause,” Olney said. “I have worked in the housing industry my entire career, so I understand the importance of providing safe and affordable housing and I am honored to support Heading Home in their quest to do the same.”
Northern Bank and Trust Co. President and CEO Jim Mawn added that exposure to Heading Home's work comes with an education as well.
“I’ve learned about the psychology of homelessness and how to combat it on a number of fronts, and that has been moving for myself and for my family," Mawn said.
Driven to make a difference, these CRE leaders have ignited a movement using their voices to help others rise out of homelessness.
To join the movement, please contact Heading Home Chief Development Officer Suzanne Picher at SPicher@headinghomeinc.org.
This article was produced in collaboration between Studio B and Heading Home. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.
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