Jean Johnson is executive director of House of Hope CDC, a Warwick-based nonprofit that buys, builds, renovates and/or manages 18 properties for the state’s homeless adults and families with children including 116 shelter beds, 35 permanent supportive housing units, six home ownerships and six units in development.
The organization, a community development corporation, is holding a men’s used and new clothing drive to help residents of hits Harrington Hall in Cranston this Saturday, Oct. 20 from 9 a.m. to noon in the parking lot of Executive Auto Sales in Smithfield.
PBN: Is winter the most challenging time of year for you in terms of operation?
JOHNSON: You might think that it is, but homelessness is a year round issue. Hot, humid weather can be just as devastating and debilitating to a person without adequate shelter as cold weather can. House of Hope CDC manager three shelter programs for the state of Rhode Island which account for 116 shelter beds for single adult men and women. They are at full and above capacity all the time.
PBN: Does your organization face a larger challenge in garnering volunteers or financial donations?
JOHNSON: The economy plays a huge role in financial contributions across the board. From individual contributions, to corporate giving, to government funding, every nonprofit has faced depreciating financial support over the last four years including House of Hope CDC. We are fortunate to have diversified our programs and services over the years to include affordable housing development and The House of Hope Boutique, our social venture business. We are very fortunate to have ea loyal base of support from the community who provide volunteer and financial support, but the amount of time and money they are able to give has decreased. All of our funding requires leveraging funding from addition sources so every contribution is critical.
PBN: What is the easiest way a Rhode Islander could help the state’s homeless population?
JOHNSON: The most important thing Rhode Islanders can do is vote “Yes on 7” on Nov. 9. The $25 million affordable housing bond will investment in the construction of 600 affordable homes. The last affordable housing bond voters approved in 2006 generated $800 million in economic activity and created 1,255 affordable homes in 30 cities and towns across the state. There was a marked and consistent decrease in homelessness during those years.
PBN: Have you redirected your operations or fundraising efforts in the last few years to combat the rough economy?
JOHNSON: Rather than holding steady until the economy began to stabilize, House of Hope CDC took over two failing shelter programs at the state’s request during the past three years, turning them into programs offering safe, healthy and supportive shelter and yielding the highest measurable outcomes in the shelter system. Our more recent fundraising efforts reflect the needs of the community at large, as well. Our event shave become less formal, less costly, and more fun.
PBN: How do you measure the success of your life skills program, which offer group work in a variety of topics including budgeting, parenting, health and nutrition among others?
JOHNSON: We measure the success of all our programs by individual outcomes as well as by quality of life standards. Our consumers have a wide range of abilities and talents. One person from our life skills program may end up employed and living independently in the community while another person’s success may simply be retaining a consistent placement in one of our permanent supportive housing units. The ideal is that each person is assisted in reaching his or her fullest potential while living in a safe, affordable and supportive environment. The best way to measure that success if by the size of the smile we see when we hand someone a key to their new home!