What is Neighbors-in-Need?
The Neighbors in Need: Housing the Most Vulnerable in Morris County, is a community-based participatory action research project (NIN) launched in September of 2018, with a group of 19 diverse stakeholders ー housing agencies (Family Promise, Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris County, Monarch Housing), community-based organizations (Atlantic Health Systems, Madison Baptist Church), housing voucher recipients, and landlords in partnership with Drew University.
The Community Advisory Team (CAT) was established to guide and lead the project with three key goals:
1. To articulate the existing barriers to housing our most vulnerable populations
2. To identify the services and supports our landlords need to effectively house this population
3. To build the public and private financial and civic infrastructure to support and implement a countywide intervention program
What is Community-based Participatory Action Research (CBPAR)?
Community-based participatory research enlists those who are most affected by a community issue – typically in collaboration or partnership with others who have research skills – to conduct research on and analyze that issue, with the goal of devising strategies to resolve it. The CBPAR methodology values collaboration, community voice, equity, co-creation, local relevance, capacity building, and social action.
What is the CAT?
The NIN project is guided by the Community Advisory Team. This advisory team meets monthly, generally on the second Friday of each month, to advise and lead the project.
From the general CAT membership, several members serve on the Research Working Team (RWT) and project-based subcommittees. The RWT meets weekly, every Friday of the month (except for the Fridays when CAT meetings are held) at 10:00AM. Any member of the CAT is welcome to join by emailing the project Community Liaison. In addition to the RWT, there are five project-based subcommittees that lead Year 2 of the project’s efforts. Two co-chairs lead the subcommittee’s work.
1) The Program and Resource Development Subcommittee Co-Chairs:
Alicia Alvarez & Taisia Koppel's Mission: Develop a Landlord Supportive Services Program (LSPP) based on our research results; identify the organizations involved and how they fit within the county’s system of care; define the program’s administrative structure and staffing needs; create an initial budget; and identify potential grants and other resources to support the program.
2) The Stakeholder Recruitment and Community Mobilization Subcommittee Co-Chairs: Sophia George & Rev. Craig Dunn's Mission: Identify and recruit local policymakers and elected officials to partner with CAT on project activities; create opportunities for policymakers to support our project without serving on CAT; and communicate research findings and mobilize support for program intervention from various community groups (e.g. faith-based organizations, current voucher recipients, etc.).
3) The Landlord Recruitment and Strategic Communications Subcommittee Co-Chairs:
Aleko Graham's Mission: Mobilize support for our program intervention from landlords, property managers, realtors, and other real estate industry professionals to help identify housing for chronically homeless voucher recipients. They will also create print and on-line communications (i.e. leaflets, social media posts, infographics, documentaries, policy briefings) to disseminate research findings and build support for the program. These will highlight such topics as why affordable housing is necessary, reframing “the face of homelessness,” and addressing the stigma attached to voucher recipients.
4) The Political Advocacy Subcommittee Co-Chairs:
Melissa Lapinski & Jay Everett's Mission: Educate state and local policymakers and elected officials about our research findings and mobilize support for our program. They will create talking points and identify leverage points to address the barriers faced by the chronically homeless. They will also engage local Housing Authorities to promote a united front in advocating for the housing needs of low-income residents.
5) Evaluation Committee Co-Chairs:
Franchesca Cifuentes & Becky Pruitt's Mission: Assess the impact of our work in expanding housing for chronically homeless in Morris County; assess the strength of our collaboration and success in engaging stakeholders as equal partners.
“Our goal is to really understand and unpack what the barriers are at each stage for people with vouchers to get housing.”
Results So Far and Our Projected Plan
Results of Year 1: 2018-19
• Completed a comprehensive mixed-methods which included the following research strategies:
o Qualitative study of housing ecosystem and housing program best practices
study of barriers to housing vouchers
o Focus groups and interviews with property owners, voucher tenants and
• Developed a community infrastructure to collaboratively plan a response to the challenge of chronic homelessness in Morris County
• Involved various community stakeholders in our CBPAR research
• Developed skills as a CAT in active listening, shared leadership, and community organizing
Priorities for Year 2: 2019-20
• Design a Landlord Support Services program that centers our key stakeholder, voucher recipients.
• Secure funding for the pilot year to match the FY21 operating funds in the amount of $90,000 allocated to the NIN by the federal agency, Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS)
• Create a communications strategy, implementation plan, and materials to disseminate program information
• Mobilize allies and potential allies such as Morris County elected officials, social service agency leaders, nonprofit housing providers, the faith-based sector, realtors, property owners and others community members committed to eliminating homelessness in the county
Intentions for Year 3: 2020-21
• Launch a pilot Landlord Support Services Program by October 1, 2020
• Secure funding to expand and maintain the program for FY22 and beyond