Who We AreThe Housing Opportunities Collaborative is an initiative being administered jointly by Fairfax County’s Office to Prevent and End Homelessness and Cornerstones, a local nonprofit. While the project is being spearheaded by these two entities, the Collaborative is truly a collective effort comprised of nearly 30 nonprofit and government entities, known as the Partnership to Prevent and End Homelessness, as well as the larger Fairfax-Falls Church community. The intent is to expand opportunities for housing for those currently experiencing or at risk of experiencing homelessness. In order to expand opportunities for housing, the Collaborative has three main functional areas of operation:
- Assist with landlord engagement and recruitment
- Streamline information and communication between nonprofits and the larger community about housing location
- Provide professional development and training opportunities for frontline staff
What We DoDue to an extremely expensive rental market in Fairfax, it is challenging, if not nearly impossible, for the individuals and families we work with to locate safe, stable, and affordable housing that fits their budget. On top of that, the stigma of homelessness creates additional challenges when looking for housing. The Collaborative is designed to meet these needs by assisting in the recruitment of landlord partners in the community who are willing to rent to our clients. In exchange, the Collaborative offers an incentive program and other supports to help make the partnership effective. Landlords can choose between two levels of membership in the Collaborative – Housing Partner or Game Changer. All we ask of Housing Partners is be willing to partner with our program and meet our basic joining criteria. Game Changers have agreed to go a step further and actually lower their entry/screening criteria to allow increased access for our clients (lower credit score, leniency on criminal or eviction history, etc.). Both Housing Partners and Game Changers have access to the incentive program, with Game Changers having access to a premium version with additional features. To find out more about being a Housing Partner or Game Changer with the Housing Opportunities Collaborative, click here. In addition to landlord recruitment, the Collaborative is also focused on providing training and professional development opportunities to frontline staff who work with individuals and families experiencing homelessness, understanding that it is only with strong, educated, and fully equipped frontline staff that the challenging job of ending homelessness will be realized. Lastly, it is our goal to provide a mutually beneficial environment of partnership and collaboration through ongoing events intended for networking amongst landlords, agency providers, and those experiencing homelessness so that we can expand the conversations about how we are going to effectively end homelessness together.
The Meaning Behind “the Collaborative”
When developing this program, it was very important to convey to both our partners and the community that it is truly a collective, collaborative, and reciprocal effort that would not exist without these vital partnerships. We cannot end homelessness if we do not work together as a system. Ultimately, the Collaborative is only as impactful as the agencies who are a part of it and it was vital that the name reflected that commitment. We do not refer to it as the HOC or by any other acronym, continuing to emphasize and highlight collaboration as the program’s core tenant.
Housing Collaborative Opportunities Support Staff
Housing Resource Coordinator, Cornerstones, Inc.
Housing Locator Support Specialist, Office to Prevent and End Homelessness