People-Based. Market-Driven.


Member enterprises use creative solutions to stabilize workers' housing

May 7, 2024

As rental costs steadily rise across the U.S., three alternative staffing enterprises are responding to gaps in public housing assistance with new ways to help workers stabilize their housing.

First Step Staffing raised significant grant dollars to implement a housing pilot in two of its markets, Atlanta and Philadelphia. In Washington's Puget Sound region, Uplift Northwest and Valeo Vocation have leased or bought buildings to make affordable housing available to workers they employ. Uplift Northwest also works closely with Housing Connector, a nonprofit intermediary that connects community-based organizations with property managers to help people access and sustain housing.

First Step Staffing – Atlanta & Philadelphia

First Step Staffing launched its program in March 2023 and helps workers get into independent housing with six months of direct rental assistance. First Step also provides some basic necessities for move-in and partners with local furniture banks to help people obtain mattresses and other furnishings.

During the 6-month period, participants open bank accounts, take financial wellness training to help them budget and save, and can acquire new skills and certifications that offer access to career pathways and higher wages. Each month, participants pay an increasing share of the rent to build their way up to paying full rent on their own.

In 2023, First Step assisted 103 individuals with $309,000 of rental assistance, an average of $3,000 per household. These workers achieved 33% higher job retention than workers not in the housing program, while justice-impacted individuals and those who identify as African-American increased their wage rates by 20%.

Uplift Northwest - Seattle

In Seattle, Uplift Northwest directly served nearly 1,200 people in 2023, with over half of them "living homeless." Uplift Northwest’s largest housing support partner is Housing Connector, a “tech-for-good” nonprofit that simplifies the housing search process and works with property managers to mitigate barriers such as credit and background checks. After move-in, Housing Connector continues to offer residents two years of “stability support” to mediate any issues that arise between property managers and tenants. 88% of Housing Connector residents remain housed in the same unit for one year and 75% for two years. (Housing Connector has currently expanded to Dallas, Denver, and Portland, Oregon.)

Uplift Northwest also leases a 47-unit building of micro-studio apartments, enabling them to offer workers small affordable rentals on a space-available basis. Each new renter is supplied with new sheets, towels and home essentials.

Valeo Vocation – Tacoma & Olympia

Building on its experience staffing local shelters, Valeo Vocation is taking steps to help workers move from shared shelters, sober housing or transitional housing into independent housing. In Olympia, Valeo has contracted with the city to manage a 29-unit tiny house village where workers can reside for up to one year. In Tacoma, Pierce County has awarded Valeo grant funds to buy and operate a larger building where they plan to offer 30 to 60 units of Single Room Occupancy (SRO) housing.

We applaud these creative approaches to help lower-wage workers navigate a very difficult housing environment. For other organizations interested in developing housing support solutions, our members share two key pieces of advice. First, avoid duplicating existing successful services in local markets, and second, thoroughly assess people’s readiness for their next move along the housing continuum. First Step, as a direct payer of rental assistance to landlords, also notes the importance of tracking rental payments to ensure their proper and timely application.

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