Immediate successes may be hiding long-term resiliency challenges.
In late April and early May, during the early days of Virginia’s COVID-19 shutdown, HousingForward Virginia and the Virginia Housing Alliance interviewed 23 CEOs of nonprofit housing and homeless service providers in the Richmond region. The interviews were the first phase of an effort to understand how the pandemic is affecting these organizations and their clients. We’ll obtain a second phase of data in August through surveys and additional interviews.
Our goals are two-fold. First, we need to understand the pandemic’s impacts on our nonprofit housing delivery system so funders and other partners can devise strategies to address increased demand for services. Second, we must also ensure that organizations are not “lost” and the delivery system is not permanently diminished.
We want to be sure the industry will come out of the pandemic as strong as it was at the outset. With the pandemic now likely to continue for many more months, this concern is even more urgent.
What did we hear from providers? Their messages were remarkably consistent:
- In the short run, CEOs reported being able to meet increased needs, and that their organizations remained financially stable.
- Programs and services for the homeless ramped up substantially to place individuals in safer places immediately. Collaboration among providers was unprecedented, and new approaches — including a massive relocation of homeless persons into motels — were invented and implemented in record time.
- Rental housing providers are seeing new demand for support services, but rent collections are staying stable. Rehab, repair, and weatherization services were severely constrained in the early days of the pandemic.
- When the conversation shifted to the long-term, CEOs offered a much bleaker assessment. There are serious concerns about a deep recession cutting corporate and individual giving, as well as funder fatigue as the pandemic continues and creates other issues.
- Housing providers are concerned that the pandemic may have delayed impacts on the ability of families to pay rent and mortgages.
- Among the largest concerns is loss of public support as state and local budgets are hammered by reduced taxes and fees.
We hope to expand the project to include housing providers across the state in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.