Photograph of six men and women holding a county commission proclamation recognizing Your Way Home’s achievements.
Photograph of a hand holding a set of two house keys.
Photograph of 10 members of the Your Way Home Advisory Council posing in front of a wall adorned with the names of Montgomery County municipalities.
Graphic depicting a timeline of important events for Your Way Home from 2007 to 2018.

 

Home >Case Studies >The Montgomery County Foundation, Joins Partner Organizations to Tackle Homelessness through Your Way Home

 

The Montgomery County Foundation Joins Partner Organizations to Tackle Homelessness through Your Way Home

 

Your Way Home Montgomery County is a partnership of public, philanthropic, and private enterprises that is significantly reducing homelessness in a wealthy suburban county northwest of Philadelphia. By many measures, Your Way Home exceeds the performance of the previous homeless care system by coordinating the efforts of government agencies, philanthropic organizations, and community organizations; serving as a forum for knowledge sharing and relationship building; and providing facilities and services for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness in the county. Under the shared leadership of the Montgomery County Foundation, Inc., as the philanthropic backbone organization and the Montgomery County Department of Housing and Community Development as the lead public-sector agency, Your Way Home has reduced homelessness in the county by 37 percent since its founding in 2014. The coalition also increased the percentage of at-risk households diverted into housing from emergency shelters, reduced the average length of stay in shelter for single adults, and helped clients participating in rapid rehousing increase their incomes. In 2016, a HUD Secretary’s Award for Public-Philanthropic Partnerships recognized Your Way through the Montgomery County Foundation.

Your Way Home Services and Programming

Your Way Home provides primarily client-facing and crisis-oriented operations that are the gateway to the county’s network of homeless services offered by partner organizations. The Call Center, for example, functions as the centralized point of entry for people seeking access to services. Your Way Home’s unified, countywide system for intake and data collection supersedes the previous, fragmented system; increases the overall efficiency of service delivery; and leaves providers better able to assess and triage need. The resulting ease of entry is less burdensome for clients as well.

Your Way Home also operates three Housing Resource Centers that divert people from shelters or from experiencing street homelessness. Staff at the centers connect individuals and families to resources that help them find permanent, stable housing. Housing Stability Coaches and Housing Locators at the centers work to rapidly rehouse homeless clients. In addition, Your Way Home operates emergency shelters, transitional housing, and permanent supportive housing. Center staff also connect clients with provider organizations offering a comprehensive range of services including childcare; food security; physical, mental, and behavioral health care; employment and job training; and veterans’ services.

The Outsized Impact of Philanthropic Funding

The Your Way Home programs, which the Montgomery County Department of Housing and Community Development oversees, are funded by a combination of philanthropic and public money. A snapshot of Your Way Home’s funding in 2016 illustrates the breadth of its activities and the specific areas supported through private and public grants (table 1). The Montgomery County Foundation administers the Your Way Home Initiative Fund, which channels philanthropic funding to Your Way Home. Although this private funding makes up less than 6 percent of Your Way Home’s total funding, its importance cannot be overstated, says Emma Hertz, administrator at the Department of Housing and Community Development. The Initiative Fund supports activities for which public money cannot be used, providing flexibility and supporting innovative programs.

Table 1. Your Way Home Program Funding, 2016

Private Grants

Public Grants

Purpose

Amount

Purpose

Amount

Client Assistance
Assists clients with purchasing basic household goods and furniture, transportation costs, and childcare

$150,000

Outreach and Engagement
Includes funding for Call Center and street outreach

$277,000

Landlord Risk Mitigation
Funds incentivizing landlords to rent to Your Way Home clients

25,000

Housing Resource Centers
Provides housing counseling and rapid rehousing

2,204,993

Capacity Building
Supports conference attendance and training for Your Way Home provider staff

20,000

Transitional Housing

575,732

Scaling Impact
Supports system evaluation and research studies, an annual summit, and pilot projects

183,610

Emergency Shelter

1,970,997

Permanent Supportive Housing

1,338,484

Other Supportive Services
Includes legal services and Supplemental Security Income/Social Security Disability Insurance Outreach, Access, and Recovery program

263,856

Total

$378,610

Total

$6,631,062

One of the Initiative Fund’s largest outlays supports general client assistance. Hertz characterizes this aspect of the partnership, saying that “while public funding can pay for the move-in costs and the rent, the private dollars pay for the dignity of being able to sit down in a chair and eat your meal off a table with a plate and fork.” The fund also supports other initiatives such as landlord risk mitigation, staff training, research, and pilot programs that test strategies to address and prevent homelessness. Without the programs that the Initiative Fund supports, Hertz says, gaps in service would remain, and Your Way Home would not be as effective as it has been.

Making Collaboration Effective

Your Way Home bases its success on several mechanisms that facilitate the cooperative and collective work of the organization’s partners. A 25-member Advisory Council represents numerous parties — landlords, housing developers, municipal officials, homeless service providers, hospitals, K–12 schools, universities, law enforcement, philanthropic foundations, and the Montgomery County Housing Authority, among others — to decide Your Way Home’s goals and strategies. Specialized Action Teams investigate specific issues and formulate recommendations. An Operations Manual is available for provider partners to coordinate entry into the homeless services system across the county.

These collaborative mechanisms evolved from longstanding working relationships among homeless service providers in Montgomery County. The deepening relationships that would eventually become Your Way Home began when a 2006 study, sponsored in part by the Montgomery County Foundation, found only average overall results from a fragmented system of service providers. The report’s conclusions spurred the first conversations about ways to improve homeless services, and in 2008, five housing and homeless service providers in one corner of the county explored whether a centralized call center aimed at streamlining client intake could improve outcomes. This pilot program expanded countywide the next year, when the county received a Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program grant through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act; the call center would go on to become a programmatic pillar of Your Way Home. Over the next several years, stakeholders made further changes as the shared vision for what might be possible expanded. For example, the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners made a substantial commitment when it designated funding from the county’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund for Your Way Home from 2014 through 2019.

A Virtuous Cycle

Your Way Home continually evaluates and amends its programs to ensure that they remain aligned with both its goals and changes in conditions. Currently, Your Way Home is launching pilot programs to address upstream causes of homelessness. These pilots will target individuals at risk of homelessness as they come into contact with other systems, including the education and legal systems. Inspiration for these programs came from a study, Unlocking Doors, written by former United States Interagency Council on Homelessness executive director Barbara Poppe and funded through Your Way Home and one of its philanthropic partners, the HealthSpark Foundation.

One pilot program will address eviction as a major source of housing instability. Beginning in 2018, a partnership between the Montgomery Bar Association, which is providing pro bono legal services, and Your Way Home is helping people facing eviction access legal resources. This collaboration is enhanced with support from the local judge, who allows the program to use a room in the courthouse. In a second pilot program, due to launch in fall 2018, school-based staff will identify children and families at risk of homelessness and connect them with services before their risk becomes acute. This project will also gather data to help determine its scalability and applicability for other communities.

The progress made by Your Way Home and its partner organizations in reducing homelessness in Montgomery County is significant. Your Way Home’s collaborative working structure was not easily built, but its ongoing innovation testifies to the strength and adaptability of the organization’s approach to complex problem-solving centered on cultivating relationships around a shared vision of change. As it continues to evolve, Your Way Home hopes to make its learning more widely available to other communities contemplating collective impact approaches to homelessness and other social problems.


 

Source:

Your Way Home Montgomery County. 2013. “Strategic Plan 2013–2015.” Accessed 9 May 2018; Your Way Home Montgomery County. 2016. “Community Impact Report.” Accessed 9 May 2018; David Barton Smith, Janet Davidson, David Ford, Christopher Hopson, and David Laufe. 2006. “An Independent Assessment of the Health, Human Services, Cultural and Educational Needs of Montgomery County.” Accessed 9 May 2018; Your Way Home Montgomery County. 2018. “Your Way Home Operations Manual: Policies & Procedures.” Accessed 9 May 2018; Your Way Home Montgomery County. n.d. “Partners: Partnership Structure.” Accessed 9 May 2018; Correspondence from Blair Dawson, community relations manager, Your Way Home Montgomery County, 30 April 2018; Jason Alexander and Emma Hertz. 2016. “Rapid Re-Housing: Lessons from Montgomery County, PA,” presentation at the National Alliance to End Homelessness Rapid Re-Housing Webinar, 18 August. Accessed 9 May 2018; U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. 2016. “The 2016 Secretary’s Award for Public-Philanthropic Partnerships: The Montgomery County Foundation, Your Way Home Montgomery County.” Accessed 9 May 2018.

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Source:

Your Way Home Montgomery County. 2018. “Your Way Home Operations Manual Policies & Procedures.” Accessed 9 May 2018.

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Source:

Montgomery County Department of Housing and Community Development. 2016. “Community Development Block Grant, Emergency Solution Grant & HOME Investment Partnership Programs 2016 Annual Action Plan.” Accessed 9 May 2018; Your Way Home Montgomery County. 2018. “Your Way Home Operations Manual Policies & Procedures.” Accessed 9 May 2018.

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Source:

Your Way Home Montgomery County. 2016. “Community Impact Report.” Accessed 9 May 2018; Montgomery County Department of Housing and Community Development. 2016. “Community Development Block Grant, Emergency Solutions Grant & HOME Investment Partnership Programs 2016 Annual Action Plan.” Accessed 9 May 2018; Your Way Home Montgomery County. n.d. “Partners: Your Way Home Initiative Fund.” Accessed 9 May 2018; Interview with Emma Hertz, 24 April 2018; Barbara Poppe, Katharine Gale, and Linda Siefkas. 2018. “Unlocking doors to homelessness prevention.” Accessed 9 May 2018.

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Source:

Your Way Home Montgomery County. 2016. “Community Impact Report.” Accessed 9 May 2018; Interview with Emma Hertz, 24 April 2018.

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Source:

Your Way Home Montgomery County. n.d. “Partners: Advisory Council.” Accessed 9 May 2018; Your Way Home Montgomery County. 2018. “Your Way Home Operations Manual Policies & Procedures.” Accessed 9 May 2018.

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Source:

David Barton Smith, Janet Davidson, David Ford, Christopher Hopson, and David Laufe. 2006. “An Independent Assessment of the Health, Human Services, Cultural and Educational Needs of Montgomery County: Executive Summary.” Accessed 9 May 2018; Russell Johnson. 2013. “The Public/Philanthropic Partnership: The Your Way Home Montgomery County Story,” Social Innovations Journal 15 (Fall). Accessed 9 May 2018; Capacity for Change. 2008. “North Penn Housing/Homeless Providers Network: Situational Analysis Report.” Accessed 9 May 2018; Your Way Home Montgomery County. 2016. “Community Impact Report.” Accessed 9 May 2018; Montgomery County Department of Housing and Community Development. 2016. “Community Development Block Grant, Emergency Solutions Grant & HOME Investment Partnership Programs 2016 Annual Action Plan.” Accessed 9 May 2018; Jason Alexander and Emma Hertz. 2016. “Rapid Re-Housing: Lessons from Montgomery County, PA,” YouTube video of National Alliance to End Homelessness Rapid Re-Housing Webinar, 18 August. Accessed 9 May 2018.

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Source:

Interview with Emma Hertz, 24 April 2018; Barbara Poppe, Katharine Gale, and Linda Siefkas. 2018. “Unlocking doors to homelessness prevention.” Accessed 9 May 2018.

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Source:

Interview with Emma Hertz, 24 April 2018; Barbara Poppe, Katharine Gale, and Linda Siefkas. “Unlocking doors to homelessness prevention.” Accessed 9 May 2018.

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Source:

Interview with Emma Hertz, 24 April 2018; Your Way Home Montgomery County. 2016. “Community Impact Report.” Accessed 9 May 2018.

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