Transitional housing is more than just a homeless shelter. It’s a facility that actively helps the homeless, previously incarcerated people, victims of violence and abuse, and at-risk youth find a temporary home where they can recuperate and get back on their feet. With many states criminalizing homelessness and homeless communities constantly being at risk of life-threatening diseases and danger, now more than ever, this country needs more shelters and transitional facilities to house the homeless and other marginalized groups.
If your community doesn’t have its own transitional housing facility, then it’s always a good idea to start one, especially if you have a large homeless population in your area. It’s not only an excellent way to engage your community, but you’d be doing it and your participants a huge service.
Here are some steps to get you started on opening your own transitional housing facility.
1. Find your target population
Who in your community needs helps the most? Who would your program benefit from? There are plenty of demographics that need transitional housing other than just the homeless. There are victims of domestic and sexual abuse, veterans transitioning back to civilian life, formerly incarcerated people reintroduced to society, and at-risk youth and LGBTQ+ teens.
Determine which population you can serve best, who needs it the most, and which group has the largest population in your community. You can try accommodating more than one target population. But it’s best to concentrate your efforts on one audience so you can better manage the facility.
Do your research and find out the particular needs of each group. Better yet, go around your community and ask them yourselves. You’ll find no better feedback than the ones that are coming straight from the people you want to serve.
2. Find a facility
Once you’ve settled on a target population, now it’s time to look for real estate options. Ideally, you want multiple places that can house as many people as possible. But if you’re starting, having one house with a few separate rooms and one common living area or kitchen might be best. Just be sure to give each individual their own space for safety and privacy.
You typically want to have a facility in a residential district that’s close to any commercial businesses so that your participants have easy access to grocery stores, banks, hospitals, schools, and other facilities they’d need in their day-to-day lives. Check with local zoning laws and authorities and get the necessary permits and permissions beforehand. Also, don’t forget to look for the right homeowners’ insurance plan in case of an emergency.
Have a maximum number of people that you can accommodate, and try not to go over that. If everything is successful in the future, you can always expand or buy or rent more property which you can use to accommodate more people.
3. Get funding and support
The best way you can get funding for your transitional housing program without paying out of your own pocket is by applying for grants from the government. Plenty of government agencies and private organizations offer grants for transitional housing, like the US Department of Justice, which focuses on female victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault.
Another way you can secure funding is by engaging with your local community and asking them for monetary and in-kind donations. You can also hold fundraisers and other benefits to get the financing and foster more awareness for your initiative.
Other than financial, you want to get different types of support. Getting the support of your local government and community is the best way you can help both yourself and your participants. It can open new job opportunities for them and get more community members to volunteer their services or get them involved in your cause.
4. Get supplies
Ensure that your housing has all that your participants could need, from cooking and home appliances, comfortable furniture, and groceries and food. Get everything that any house needs and then some, taking into account the number of people who’ll be living under the same roof.
If you don’t want to be running to the grocery store for extra supplies all the time, you can get your program participants to go shopping for themselves to get them used to it. You can even teach them how to do repairs and cleaning by themselves so that they can clean up the house after themselves. This way, you’ll be teaching them essential life skills while keeping your transitional housing clean.
5. Find participants
It’s time to find participants. You can do this by either seeking them out yourself or posting an advertisement in local shelters and commercial buildings. While you might want to help as many people as possible, you should also consider taking in the right applicants or candidates. Given your chosen target group, prioritize people in dire need or who would benefit the most from the program, and be prepared to accommodate all their basic needs.
Never lose sight of your program’s primary mission and vision. You might be getting little to no monetary gain for this. However, the goal of transitional housing is not to create a business out of it but to help people in need when they need it the most.