The mission of HIRED and Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity are very much aligned. We're both committed to partnering with people to help them unlock their fullest potential. At Habitat, we do that by creating pathways to affordable homeownership. At HIRED, clients can build job skills and access workforce training. It's no surprise that our two nonprofits work together!
As so many other organizations are doing, here at Habitat we're pushing our practices and programs to be more equitable and inclusive for all. In addition, we're striving to play a role in closing the region's racial disparities in homeownership. So we've been teaming up with other organizations to advance both of those goals.
We've begun connecting with companies and nonprofits in the area to explore how they can support their clients and staff in achieving homeownership. One of the first places we went was HIRED.
Julie Brekke, Executive Director at HIRED, is a founding member of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Collective, a group of nonprofit leaders in workforce development. The group collaborates to "move talk into action" in the nonprofit sector.
Shereese Turner, Sr. Director of Programs and Services at Twin Cities Habitat, had been part of the DEI Collective at her former organization, Twin Cities Rise, and helped connect Habitat to this collaborative working group.
From there, a few of our staff members worked together to understand how we can support each other toward our equity and inclusion goals.
Serving People Who Serve Others
"When we talk about inclusion, we have to talk about how our own employees can be part of those we serve," Shereese implores. And that's exactly what Habitat and HIRED are doing.
HIRED has invited Habitat to talk to their employees about how they might qualify for our programs. Habitat benefits by spreading the word to more potential homebuyers working at HIRED, and in turn HIRED benefits by having more resources for their employees to access—and potentially more affordable housing closer to where they want to live.
"We have a number of staff members who could qualify," says Reubenna Cooley, the HR Director at HIRED. "We had to take that opportunity to help take care of them. It's just a great program."
Julie Brekke and Habitat staff first discussed the idea of a staff presentation last fall. Julie embraced the opportunity to help her staff become more knowledgeable about affordable homeownership opportunities because it would benefit them individually and the organization as a whole.
The organizations worked together to develop two opportunities for HIRED staff to learn more about Habitat. One was hosted at HIRED's offices in Minneapolis for employees in the West Metro, and one at Habitat's offices in St. Paul for employees living in the East Metro.
For Reubenna, helping her own staff learn about homeownership opportunities that might help them improve their lives simply seems like a logical extension.
"As an HR person for a nonprofit organization, I value serving people who are serving others," she says. "So I appreciate that opportunity to take care of them."
She received positive reactions from the staff, including thank you emails from some employees who attended the presentation, and one employee who didn't need the help anymore.
"I have been a homeowner through the Habitat for Humanity Homeownership program since June of 2016," that email read. "This is an excellent program and I'm very grateful to be a part of the Habitat for Humanity Program family."
In order to help even more people learn about Habitat, HIRED opened up the session to friends and family of the staff. Reubenna is especially pleased that they could introduce even more people to Habitat.
"I shared it with my daughter who shared it with people from her work, and my understanding is that there are actually two people who followed through and are going to be getting a home," she reports. "It's a great program, and I would encourage all employers to share that information as they can."
More and more employers are realizing the benefits of stable, affordable homeownership and are partnering with Habitat. Interested in starting conversations about affordable homeownership at your place of employment? Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.