A Home For All: Budget Requests and Next Steps
BY: KATHRYN FIRMIN-SELLERS
Executive Vice President & Chief Impact Officer,
United Way of Greater Charlotte
This blog post is from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing & Homelessness Dashboard. View the original post here.
On June 27, United Way of Greater Charlotte (United Way) released the A Home For All Implementation Plan Executive Summary outlining priorities and actionable steps to move Charlotte-Mecklenburg forward in our community’s shared effort to address affordable housing and homelessness.
Over the last nine months, meticulous work led to narrowing down the 99 initial priorities put forth in the A Home For All Strategic Framework to create an Implementation Plan. The plan outlines nine initiatives to move forward over the next four years. United Way, with support from Mecklenburg County, served as the Enduring Structure leading the work. To read more about the June 2023 release of the A Home For All Implementation Plan Executive Summary, click here.
This update will provide an overview of the initial budget request put forth by United Way and approved by the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, as well as next steps.
MOVING PRIORITIES FORWARD
United Way requested funding from the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County to provide early momentum for the initiatives outlined in the Implementation Plan. These requests, now approved, will advance the following work.
To initiate the shift to a person-directed care model and introduce systems navigation, Mecklenburg County granted funding to convene key stakeholders in a year-long planning process, with a goal of mapping the current system and identifying key elements of building out the systems navigator role. This effort will require us to evaluate existing data systems to understand how they interact, and how they can be further developed to improve information sharing about existing programs and services.
Additionally, United Way will conduct an audit of skills necessary to complete the systems navigator role, and develop recommendations for a training curriculum centered on evidence-based practices. A Home For All’s Person Directed Care pillar calls for a flexible services spending account (FSSA) that braids public and private funding to be used for services tailored to an individual household’s needs. To that end, United Way will work with private and public funders to determine what should be included in the FSSA and how funds might be equitably dispersed. This is a major systems change and will require conversations with and support from many different entities. The implementation team charged with leading this work will, therefore, include as many agencies, key stakeholders, and funders as possible throughout the design process
Mecklenburg County and the City of Charlotte both provided funding to advance work to design and pilot an upstream emergency rental assistance program. United Way will use a portion of the funds to design the pilot program. Working with an implementation team comprised of key stakeholders, United Way will evaluate the innovations made to emergency rental assistance through COVID-19 to determine what to retain. We will also identify data sharing requirements, target population, and marketing strategy, and determine what other supportive services to pair with the emergency assistance. Once the design process is complete, United Way will launch a competitive grants process to select vendor(s) to implement the envisioned pilot program.
Mecklenburg County provided funds to advance the critical home repair initiative. Working with City, County, and nonprofit providers, as well those with lived experience, United Way will work with a technical assistance provider to study the critical home repair eco-system and identify opportunities to maximize the impact of available public and private funding.
The City of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, and a number of nonprofits operate successful critical home repair programs. Nevertheless, a number of barriers hinder the current critical home repair eco-system. First, it is difficult to identify and contract with construction teams that can make the repairs and meet the requirements of the program, particularly if federal revenue, which comes with often-burdensome compliance requirements, funds the program.
Second, to find help, residents must navigate through multiple programs, each with different eligibility criteria and/or scope of work performed, often determined by the funding source. To better understand these issues, United Way will seek technical assistance to evaluate our current eco-system, identify needs, assets and gaps, and recommend strategies to rethink and strengthen the critical home repair system. Desired goals include growing the number of contractors able to complete critical home repairs, improving the consumer experience accessing critical home repair, and maximize the reach and impact of the public and private resources available for critical home repair.
Finally, both Mecklenburg County and the City of Charlotte increased funding to support eviction prevention and legal advocacy. Each directed increased and new funding, respectively, to Legal Aid of North Carolina to expand their existing legal advocacy program to support tenants facing eviction. Legal advocacy providers give pro-bono advice and provide representation to tenants facing eviction or other serious housing issues, such as landlord harassment, fair housing discrimination, or unsafe living conditions.
Mecklenburg County and the City of Charlotte both provided funding to launch a systems-level pilot program to recruit and retain property providers willing to rent to households with subsidy and/or vouchers. Building on extensive planning already undertaken by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Continuum of Care, United Way will launch a competitive grants process to identify a nonprofit agency who will serve as the centralized entity charged with property provider recruitment and retention. The grant recipient is expected to use the funds to hire dedicated staff with the desired, real estate expertise, develop a strategic outreach plan to make property providers aware of the program, create the necessary messaging tools, develop the public facing dashboards to gain community buy-in, and administer a flexible funding pool to incentive property provider participation.
Work around the Strike Fund and Housing Trust Fund expansion will proceed later in the implementation process.
CENTERING RACIAL EQUITY
The A Home For All Strategic Framework and Implementation Plan acknowledge the ways in which systemic racism has historically disadvantaged certain racial groups. Both call on our community to design programs using a racial equity lens so that we might mitigate these disparities, many of which are underlying causes of experiencing homelessness. Examining disaggregated data of people experiencing homelessness by race and ethnicity indicates a clear racial disparity in Charlotte-Mecklenburg. Black individuals, who make up 33% of the Mecklenburg County population, represented 76% of people experiencing homelessness in February 2023, whereas white individuals, who make up 57% of the County population, represented only 15%. Applying a racial equity perspective informs the plan’s priority efforts and policies, and grounds our recommendations on performance metrics and measures of success in these initial requests for technical assistance.
WHY DOES THIS MATTER?
The Implementation Plan provides actionable steps for moving the A Home For All Initiative forward. It is important to be transparent with where we are in the process so that we can be held accountable and ensure the implementation of this work remains community-driven. As part of this next step, the Technical Committee will provide oversight over the totality of the work. Smaller implementation teams, consisting of city and county staff, nonprofit leaders, and those with lived expertise, will guide program design and oversee implementation of discrete initiatives.
The full Implementation Plan will be released in July. View the Implementation Plan Executive Summary here.