Real Estate Exec's Attempt to End Homelessness
One of the biggest challenges in reversing homelessness is finding the types of jobs that will help people return to self-sufficiency. A DC-area real estate executive may have found an answer.
Shelters to Shutters, a nonprofit launched by Middleburg Real Estate Partners CEO Chris Finlay last year, has found 20 people facing homelessness jobs through property management companies for apartment buildings. The program’s most recent partnership is with Waterton, a company in Chicago that owns 20,000 multifamily housing units and 13 hotels. The nonprofit is working on more partnerships in cities with high homelessness, including in the DC area and on the West Coast. We spoke with the organization’s property management and industry liaison, Oluchi Okezie, and marketing and development director Kristen Fagley.
One of the biggest challenges is removing the stigma of homelessness. Shelters to Shutters works with job candidates who are situationally homeless and aren’t struggling with drug or alcohol abuse or mental illness. One of its success stories involved Freeman Webb, a property management firm, and Operation Stand Down, which works with homeless veterans, both in Nashville. A veteran who was hired at Freeman Webb went on to receive his HVAC certification and has since been promoted to a larger property. Kristen says the program will grow more easily now as more partnerships form.
The Shelters to Shutters board includes Cohn Reznick’s Kenneth Donohue, Heath Strategies’ Martha Newton, Fairfax County Office to Prevent and End Homelessness’ Tom Barnett, Brookfield Property Group’s David Woodward and The Beer Institute’s Denise Dunckel. Chris (far right), a military veteran, launched the nonprofit after reading in Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine about the editor’s experience going homeless for 72 hours. He was surprised to learn that many people were willing and able to work but didn’t have an address to put on their application. As an apartment building owner, Chris also knew how high turnover was in the apartment management business. He’s also able to offer discounts to employees who live in one of his properties. The organization has large individual benefactors, but it's bringing in new corporate sponsors and philanthropic foundations.