Housing is healthcare. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, public health officials across the nation and state issued stay at home orders designed to curb the spread of the coronavirus and keep us all safe. But how were those experiencing homelessness to enjoy those same healthcare protections?


United Way of Central Carolinas mobilized a coalition bringing together seven nonprofit partners to respond to the urgent need to provide stable housing to those at risk for or experiencing homelessness. Partners include: Catholic Charities, Community Link, Roof Above, Socialserve, Supportive Housing Communities, The Relatives and The Salvation Army. Using funding provided by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the coalition has secured housing for 149 households to date; an additional 90 households are actively engaged in searching for housing.




United Way and our partners work using a Housing First philosophy. Housing First prioritizes finding stable housing for those experiencing homelessness. We recognize that an individual’s most basic needs for shelter and safety must be met before they can attend to longer term issues, such as securing employment, developing a budget, or entering into substance use treatment.


Within this Housing First framework, we provide rapid rehousing services, meaning one or more organizations provides short term rental subsidy and supportive services with a goal of helping households obtain housing quickly, increase their self-sufficiency, and remain stably housed once the subsidy is no longer available.




In our collaborative, one agency – Socialserve – helps each household locate, apply for, and enter into a lease agreement with a local property provider. That agency then administers the rental subsidy on the household’s behalf – paying the portion of the rent needed to allow the household to retain housing.


The other partners provide wrap-around supportive services. Agency staff works with each household to develop an individualized care coordination plan, outlining what supports are needed to help that household achieve greater self-sufficiency such as child care, health and mental health care, education or job training, or transportation.




Throughout the process, United Way serves as the ‘quarterback’ of this collective effort. We work with each partner to mediate tensions that inevitably arise in any collaborative endeavor; we problem-solve with agencies to help remove obstacles; we serve as the primary point of contact with the government officials providing funding, thereby easing the administrative burden placed on service providers; and we keep all parties focused on our shared goal: providing housing to those once homeless.


Created out of the pandemic crisis, the United Way-led collaborative promises to have long-lasting impact. By centralizing the housing search in a single entity who then works on behalf of all homeless services agencies, we have an opportunity to create a more efficient system for our community. Homeless service providers can dedicate their resources to providing critical supportive services; the housing search provider can serve as the main point of contact for property providers; and we as a community can align our resources to do have the greatest collective impact.




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