The Community Housing Partnership was created from advocacy efforts around the crucial need for affordable, permanent housing for homeless people.
In 1988 a study called "Transitional Housing: The Next Step" was drafted by Paul Boden, Joe Wilson, Greg Francis and Laura Ware of the Coalition on Homelessness. This study emphasized the need for the City of San Francisco to begin prioritizing the creation of affordable, permanent housing rather than continuing to emphasize transitional housing and shelters. This study also proposed that the basic concept of transitional housing be reversed - that housing be developed in which the tenants stayed permanently and the staff were the ones to move on as the tenants’ developed the ability to manage their own communities. This concept, which at the time was very radical and unusual, became the driving force that has guided us ever since.
This same study was reviewed by then Mayor Art Agnos, and ultimately adopted by the City as formal policy. But it was the Loma Prieta Earthquake in October of 1989 that gave impetus to the implementation of the ideas outlined in this study. With the destruction caused by the earthquake, many of the hotels used for emergency housing by the Department of Human Services had been rendered unsafe for residency. The City thus had these emergency housing funds as well as FEMA funds to support reconstructing projects; private foundations were also looking at ways to support rebuilding after this destruction. This combination of factors led to a meeting between various city departments, members of the Council of Community Housing Organizations (CCHO - the San Francisco coalition of non-profit housing developers), and members of the Coalition on Homelessness (COH - an advocacy organization composed of homeless people, advocates, service providers, and community members). At this and subsequent meetings it was decided that these two coalitions would work in partnership to create a new organization whose specific purpose and mission was to develop housing dedicated and affordable to homeless people.
In order to create this new organization, CCHO and the COH decided to integrate it into the ongoing work of their memberships. The COH does nearly all of its work through the structure of working groups, comprised of homeless people, providers, and other interested members of the community. The decisions of these working groups are carried out by the staff employed by the COH, and members of the working groups also serve as representatives on the COH Board of Directors. Similarly, the CCHO has working groups which are created depending on specific issues at any given time, and are staffed by the CCHO staff, with overall decisions made by the full membership.
With similar structures and philosophies in place, the COH and CCHO moved forward create this new entity, named the Community Housing Partnership. Community Housing Partnership consisted of the following work groups:
The Housing Workgroup of the COH - its membership consisted of property managers, tenants, service providers, city staff, advocates and homeless people. Its main work was to develop the infrastructure for operations of the potential housing, such as the lease, house rules, quality of life concerns, and some screening policies. This group also focused on how Tenant Councils would be created, and how tenants would be included in future decision-making. This group was facilitated and staffed by a COH staff member, and later joined by the Program Director of the Community Housing Partnership.
The Vocational and Economic Development Workgroup of the COH - its membership consisted of training and employment service providers, city staff, participants, construction union members and contractors, business and corporate reps, advocates and homeless people. Its main work was to develop a hiring plan and vision for including homeless people and future tenants in the construction and ongoing operations of the building, and to implement a vocational and employment service plan for future staff and tenants. This group was facilitated and staffed by a COH staff member, and later joined by the Program Director of the Community Housing Partnership.
The Support Services Workgroup of the COH- its membership consisted of shelter and service providers, medical and treatment providers, legal and other advocates, and homeless people. Its main work was to develop the potential services plan (on-site and off-site) which would support future tenants in retaining their housing and re-establishing a sense of community. This group was facilitated and staffed by a COH staff member, and later joined by the Program Director of the Community Housing Partnership.
The Housing Development Workgroup of the CCHO - its membership consisted of housing developers and property managers from the various member organizations of CCHO. Its main work was to initiate pre-development on potential properties of the new entity, and provide ongoing technical support and leadership through identifying the properties to purchase, development, construction and occupancy. This group was facilitated and staffed by a CCHO staff member, and later joined by the Executive Director of the Community Housing Partnership.
The cumulative work of these workgroups lasted for over 2 years and resulted in the infrastructure of the new Community Housing Partnership. Each workgroup elected a representative to the COH Board (thus perpetuating its structure and communication linkages), and a representative to serve on the newly created Board of Directors of the Community Housing Partnership. Within CCHO, the staff of all the workgroups attended CCHO meetings, and the Community Housing Partnership's Executive Director became a member once he was hired. Lastly, the Board of Directors for the Community Housing Partnership was structured such that it would continuously have 4 representative seats each for the COH and CCHO, 3 tenant representative seats (1 for each of our current buildings) and 5 at-large seats. Each of these elements was designed to ensure ongoing communication with the founding coalitions, as well as ongoing input from homeless people, advocates, service and housing providers.
This process has reaped the benefits of a base of support which has been expanded to include tenant input as a primary priority. The inclusiveness and openness of the structure has ensured that tenants are involved in ongoing decision-making as well as be asked for input before specific decisions are made which will effect the overall functioning of their buildings and the organization.