Working Together to Provide a Solution to Senior Homelessness
How one property management company is partnering with a nonprofit to help a population in need
Peabody Properties, Inc. has enjoyed decades of success in the delivery of housing services. Well-known in the industry for its commitment to creating and maintaining award-winning affordable housing communities, of particular note are the firm’s recent accomplishments in specialized affordable housing and supportive services for formerly homeless veterans.
In 2010, Peabody Properties affiliated with Hearth, the Boston-based non-profit, serving as management agent and effectively working together to improve the lives of residents at one of Hearth’s affordable communities.
In April 2015, Peabody Properties announced the expansion of its relationship with Hearth to include five additional communities in the Hearth portfolio.
“This type of partnership is designed to create a stable environment for some of our most vulnerable citizens - previously homeless seniors - and provides the specialized supportive services they require to address their medical, mental health, and social needs, helping them rebuild their lives with dignity,” Peabody Properties’ Principal and Chief Operating Officer Melissa Fish-Crane says.
Other apartment community managers may be looking for opportunities to provide a similar service to their local communities. We asked Fish-Crane for her insights on how this project came to be and what apartment managers should plan for when establishing these types of projects.
Q: What is the main reason for participating in this project with Hearth?
Peabody Properties is driven to make a positive difference by helping those in need. Homelessness remains a serious problem in our country, and homelessness among seniors is a particular heart-break. In recent years, we have focused a significant amount of our energy, resources and passion on projects that reduce homelessness, with notable success.
Hearth’s mission aligns perfectly with our own commitment, and we have been able to segue into a partnership with Hearth on these projects because we already have the skills, expertise and service infrastructure in place to support their mission.
Q: This is not your first time partnering with Hearth. How does this project differ from previous ones?
Initially Hearth self-managed its portfolio. But it later realized that it was most comfortable focusing on the supportive services aspect of the business and partnered with us on an affordable housing project, where we would provide the property management, administration and program compliance services. It worked very well and continues today.
Q: What are a few examples of things apartment managers who are looking for this type of project should be prepared for?
Specialized housing has its unique challenges. From collecting rents to communicating with residents to maintaining units and common areas, each has an enhanced protocol. The needs of the resident population are the primary focus. Interaction with residents can be intensive. Higher operating costs are often associated with these projects as well.
The company should offer a significant depth of expertise that includes a strong social services background and an understanding on how to link different organizations in the community to meet the needs of the residents. For example, bringing in services such as a meals-on-wheels program, health-care blood pressure screenings or site social events are beneficial.
Some residents may need assistance with the basics – housekeeping, personal care, financial management, or social skills such as interaction with neighbors or re-engaging with family members.
Remember, we are helping our residents rebuild their lives and that often means dealing with physical or mental health issues. We need not be medical professionals but we need to know where to go to get answers for them. Always assisting with compassion, sensitivity and respect.
Q: What advice can you offer on relating to the types of behavioral issues that homeless veteran residents might present?
The most important first step for a company who does not have sufficient experience in the administration of specialized housing is to partner with a company who does. There are many pitfalls that can be disastrous if not prepared for in advance.
For example, there has to be an in-depth understanding of what history some homeless applicants may bring with them – past behaviors, mental health issues, poor financial choices, etc. A certain degree of flexibility in resident screening may have to be applied to accommodate the circumstances. And again, the company must be have access to the advanced professional expertise, whether in-house or outsourced, necessary to address issues pre- and post-occupancy as they arise, to assist the applicants/residents of the community as they literally work to rebuild their lives.
The company needs to be prepared to bring the local community at large in line to support the project as well. Residents who don’t understand the planned project may hold adverse opinions and pose objections that have to be addressed.
Q: How has Peabody Properties dealt with any potential averse opinions in the local community because of these types of housing projects, and what would you recommend to apartment communities that may come across the same?
We’ve had to address community resistance at times, and we have overcome the objections with an honest representation of our goals, objectives and vision for the new community. We try to educate the community on the positive aspects of this type of housing and really show them the difference that can be made in people’s lives.
Telling the story touching people’s hearts. If you’re honest and sincere, they feel how you feel — passionate — and they want to help.