1. Commit to Invest
Although it may sound like a cliché, results are driven by a plan that’s well conceived and appropriately funded.
Annual investments, whether through a property’s operating budget or other sources of capital, can make the difference between mediocrity and quality, says George Searcy, senior vice president of community impact at Jamboree Housing, a leading nonprofit affordable housing developer headquartered in Irvine, Calif.
Each development should be viewed in its own right, and one seat at the table needs to represent the long-term interests of the resident-services component of the development, according to Searcy.
2. Think Locally
Utilizing local community-serving agencies in the planning of the development can yield significant benefits but also requires a higher level of investment of time and resources up front, explains Searcy.
Federally Qualified Health Centers, local Head Start agencies, and local civic benefit programs all can contribute to a neighborhood-level plan that adds significant value over a one-size-fits-all approach to planning services.
3. Leverage Technology
Technology is an ever-expanding resource to reach underserved residents.
“By embracing this tool, technology can literally deliver services directly into residents’ hands,” says Flynann Janisse, executive director of Rainbow Housing Assistance Corp., which provides service-enriched programs for residents.
Offering services using a familiar and personal device such as a smart phone or tablet not only increases the reach but can also deliver better outcomes. Furthermore, it’s a service mechanism for communities that have funding restrictions, she says.
4. Enable Off-Hours Access
At the core of any successful resident-services program is the ability to help tenants become self-sufficient, most often by connecting them to employment opportunities.
“Having obtained stable employment, residents may miss out on other valuable services if [those services] are limited to normal business hours,” says Janisse.
The concept of services should be expanded to include nontraditional interaction and round-the-clock access. As an example, Rainbow cites its mobile app, which offers access to online workshops, a social wall, and a direct link to contact Rainbow. Workshops change every month, encouraging long-term engagement, and a month-at-a-time view displays what programs are scheduled.
5. Measure Impact
In the world of social services and all things philanthropic and government-subsidized, the field of social services is moving to measurable results.
“If you don’t do measurement and evaluation yourself, partner or contract with someone who does, such as LifeSTEPS and Project Access,” Searcy says.
In any case, as resources become increasingly competitive, the future looks more and more built for organizations that understand and can address questions about what effect your resident services have on the community. “Organizations that can respond to such conversations in a meaningful way have an edge on those that don’t, can’t, or won’t,” Searcy says.