The Community Shelter Board, a collective impact organization, leads the community plan to end homelessness in Columbus and Franklin County.
Executive Director Michelle Heritage says the organization was created on the premise that public and private stakeholders should work together to fashion a collective community response to homelessness.
“Corporate leadership is very important in working to end homelessness,” she says. “Corporate leaders in Columbus are deeply involved in the work, and they are part of the reason CSB is recognized as a national model.
“Many other communities across the country don’t have the benefit of corporate presence at the table — their corporate leaders don’t see it as their issue,” Heritage says. “We are fortunate to have bold, engaged corporate leadership to end homelessness in Columbus.”
CSB’s latest initiative is a new system designed with services to move single adults more quickly into stable housing, stop repeat homelessness and add more capacity when demands are high. Smart Business spoke with Heritage about the project.
SB: Why was it necessary to create a new program for single men and women experiencing homelessness?
MH: Despite the economy doing well in Columbus and central Ohio, there are many people who are not reaping the benefits.
The number of single adults in homelessness grew 14 percent in our community over the past three years.
Two out of three single adults are unable to secure housing after entering a shelter. Sixty percent of men become homeless again, and 40 percent of women suffer the same fate. Our waitlist for emergency shelter is growing. At times we’ve had as many as 125 people waiting for a bed.
As a community, we must do better. Our system has to be sustainable. It must stop the cycle of homelessness where people enter our system, leave it and then become homeless again.
Housing must be our No. 1 goal — the sooner we can move people into a home and provide the support they need to remain housed, the sooner their lives will be stabilized in all areas.
And finally, we need to provide flexible capacity in our shelters. Everyone who needs a shelter bed should be helped rather than put on a waitlist and forced to sleep on the streets.
SB: How did the corporate community contribute?
MH: We set out to develop a transformational model and included hundreds of people in the design and planning process.
The change process itself and the related research was funded by a lead investment by Huntington Bank, followed by investments from American Electric Power, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Nationwide Insurance and Worthington Industries.
The corporate community was heavily involved in the planning process, with executives from Cardinal Health, Crane Group Co., Grange Insurance, Huntington Bank and Nationwide Insurance participating on planning teams over a nearly three-year period.