Community Alternatives for Supportive Abodes, or CASA, provides housing for extremely low-income people who need help finding – and staying in – a stable situation.
The Raleigh-based charity develops, owns and maintains properties in Wake, Durham and Orange counties. It manages 330 affordable apartments across 55 properties.
“The market won’t serve whom we are serving,” Chief Executive Officer Debra King said.
CASA specializes in complexes with 10-12 units and seeks to place its sites along main corridors and bus lines.
“Our folks don’t have vehicles,” King said.
Those it houses include veterans, working families and people with disabilities.
Most CASA tenants earn less than $800 a month and can only pay about $250 per month in rent. CASA charges tenants 30 percent of their income in rent, allowing them to pay for other basic necessities, save for the future and prepare for a more independent life.
CASA’s goal is that once its tenants have been housed, they never face homelessness again.
In addition to providing tenants with housing, CASA supports them in their homes with mental health services and counseling and life skills assistance. Proactive property management is another priority – keeping up with the landscaping and maintenance of the properties signals to the tenants that someone cares about them, King said.
Most of CASA’s properties are small infill developments in established neighborhoods. It would be cheaper to build out in the country, King said, but CASA wants to make sure its tenants have access to city and town amenities. It also aims to make its buildings an asset to the surrounding area. In some cases, a CASA site has taken the place of an abandoned, boarded-up building.
“Wherever they are, we want them to look good with the neighborhood around it,” King said of CASA’s buildings.
Last year, 86 percent of CASA’s tenants maintained their housing for at least one year.
“People look at this issue of homelessness and think we can’t solve it, but we can,” King said.
Currently, CASA is working toward Phase Two of the Denson Apartments for Veterans at the intersection of Sedgefield Street and Guess Road in Durham. CASA is short about $250,000 for the project, King said.
“If everybody contributes a little, it helps to close that gap,” King said.
Nancye Bryan, a CASA volunteer and board member, has been involved with housing for the disabled homeless for 14 years.
“Every apartment that we can find for the homeless is one more thing that we can rejoice about,” Bryan said.
Bryan said she was especially motivated to help homeless veterans.
“I just think there’s something remarkably wrong with a system that has homeless veterans, especially if they have disabilities,” Bryan said.
CASA looks at housing as a health care issue as well, King said, because gaining housing can improve a tenant’s health immeasurably.
“It’s a powerful thing to see folks get housing,” King said.