Chris Finlay, managing partner of a Washington, D.C.-area real estate company, started nonprofit Shelters to Shutter to connect the situationally homeless with housing and jobs in large apartment complexes.
The program has been successful—the typical retention rate for entry-level employees in real estate management is 50 percent, but for Shelters to Shutters it’s more than 87 percent. These numbers challenge many of the stereotypes typically associated with homelessness, particularly the prevalence of mental illness and drug abuse. According to Fast Company, “of the half million Americans that are homeless on any given night, an estimated 20 percent to 25 percent have a severe mental illness and around 17 percent chronically abuse substances; most do not.”
The combination of cheap housing and a job, along with training for advancement, is unique. Most people hired through the program get a steep discount on rent from their employers, around 77 percent off, while a small percentage get free rent. “I think you have to put people in a position to become economically self-sufficient,” [Finlay] says.