An Idea That Gives the Homeless Housing and Jobs

Tackling homelessness may seem like an uphill battle, but this man has come up with a stunningly simple solution for giving jobs and homes to needy people with one idea.

Chris Fenlay is the mastermind behind a revolutionary nonprofit called Shelters to Shutters. The program has a simple premise: many real-estate companies offer discounted (and sometimes free) rent to property managers and staffers who live on their properties and housing complexes.

So as a means of providing income and housing to the homeless, Shelters to Shutters is partnering with private companies and nonprofits by connecting them with people who are living in poverty. By conducting hiring fairs in multiple cities, the nonprofit simultaneously connects the homeless with housing managers and persuades ever more real estate companies to participate in their program.

Despite there being a stigma behind rough sleepers in America, homeless people are potential employees who are actually incredibly reliable. The industry’s usual turnover rate is 50%, but the employees hired through Shelters to Shutters has a retention rate of 87%.

“You combine hiring managers with these candidates and it really breaks down so many stigmas and barriers,” Finlay said in an interview with Fast Company. “All of a sudden, the things that we’ve been telling them, they’re like, ‘oh, now I get it.’”

The deal is not-one sided, either—in addition to the companies receiving very loyal workers, the fresh employees receive a 77% discount on their rent; 89% of them have received raises or promotions; and 93% have not reentered homeless aid services.

Anthony Puryear is one of these success stories. He was an Army veteran who—after leaving the military—worked in the hospitality industry for years. Unfortunately, when the cost of living became too high, he found himself without a place to live. Local veteran help group Operation Stand Down then connected Puryear with Shelters to Shutters. He was hired as an assistant service technician and given secured housing. Since then, he’s been promoted to a service tech position where he is in charge of fixing up old apartment units.

“I can’t overstate how grateful I am for this opportunity and how determined I am to make the most of it,” he said.

He is just one of over 100 success stories – although Shelters to Shutters is not stopping there. They currently work in 15 cities across the country and they have plans to expand in the near future. One of their new initiatives, which is set to launch in San Franscisco, will debut by hiring 20 new people off of the streets.

Puryear said, “I want as many people as possible to get a chance to benefit from Shelters to Shutters’ services in the way that I have.”

And by the looks of it, he will get to see this happen.


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