Two institutions serving Durham’s homeless are getting together, taking a new approach to the way they do business.
Genesis Home, founded in 1989, and the InterFaith Hospitality Network (IHN), founded in 1993, are merging into a single as-yet-unnamed nonprofit by the end of this year.
The merged agency plans to offer short-term, or “emergency,” shelter for otherwise homeless families at Genesis Home’s Queen Street building; and support services for those families after they move on to homes of their own.
“We think it’s a really big deal,” said INH Director Catherine Pleil. “It’s the right thing for the community.”
For both nonprofits, the merger represents an operational switch. In Genesis Home’s case, it continues a change from long-term to short-term housing.
Originally, Genesis Home provided “transitional” housing, where families could stay for up to two years while stabilizing themselves with job training, financial counseling and so on in preparation for independent living.
At the time, said Genesis Home Director Ryan Fehrman, federal authorities considered that an important service toward ending homelessness. More recently, though, thinking has changed to favor “rapid re-housing” – moving people out of homeless shelters into homes of their own as fast as possible, with ongoing services to keep them from becoming homeless again.
So Genesis Home has been transitioning out of transitional housing toward short-term stays with ongoing support, he said.
The InterFaith Hospitality Network offers emergency shelter, using space at churches on a rotating basis – three families at a time spending nights and taking breakfast and dinner at one church for a week, then moving to another for the next week with congregation volunteers providing food and transportation and acting as overnight hosts.
IHN has a house where it has offices that families can use as a base during the day to get case-management service and look for work and housing for the longer term. IHN has set up an apartment at the house and rented other space to accommodate three more families without moving them in and out each day and church to church each week.
“We have been working toward a stationary model for the last few years,” Pleil said. “Bringing volunteers to the families instead of families to the volunteers.”
IHN began talking to Genesis Home about renting space in its building. With Genesis Home changing its own service model, Fehrman said, “A merger made more sense than two emergency shelters at the same place.
“We’ve worked loosely together for many years,” Fehrman said. “We had a foundation of (mutual) trust and respect.”
Each nonprofit brings its own support services and volunteer base into the merged operation, Pleil said.
The more than 30 congregations and 800 individuals involved with the Interfaith Hospitality Network “will continue to be critical” for providing food and hospitality and becoming part of Genesis Home’s Circles of Support mentoring for families that have moved into their own housing.
“There are so many people out there that can take part,” she said.
As for what the merged agency will be called, it won’t be either Genesis Home or IHN, Pleil said, but the name is yet to be determined.
“We haven’t started talking about that yet,” she said.