Hamilton Families Works to End Family Homelessness with Experience Cloud for Nonprofits
Responding to the needs it saw in the community, Hamilton Families grew from an overnight shelter for families in a church basement to an incubator of other nonprofits into an organization with multiple programs working towards ending family homelessness in the San Francisco Bay Area. Now a nationally recognized housing initiative, Hamilton Families’s First Avenues initiative helps families return to — and maintain — permanent housing.
Like many human services organizations that deal in case management, First Avenues started off running primarily on paper and Excel spreadsheets. As the demand for housing grew, Hamilton Families needed a technology solution that could help engage its growing number of constituents.
Hamilton Families turned to Experience Cloud for Nonprofits to do so, revamping its programs and gaining new and actionable insights. “A big part of the strategy was to look at how to use technology to improve program effectiveness and grow it to the right scale,” explains Elizabeth Hewson, Hamilton Families’s Director of Housing Solutions.
“We selected Salesforce’s Communities as this tool as it would allow us to create a searchable database of available housing units that we could have internally, and share with the families we’re working with and partner organizations.”
With the help of implementation partner and Salesforce.org Preferred Partner Cloud for Good, Hamilton Families now had a single place to store information and collaborate much more effectively to get more families in housing, faster. Case managers work in real-time alongside other staff as well as partner organizations in the community.
Engaging Families and Moving Quickly
Families also have direct access to the tool, empowering them to take ownership of their own housing search. They can easily filter a comprehensive database by criteria such as location, rent, and number of bedrooms — and ultimately make the best decision for themselves. As each housing request automatically generates an application record, staff save significant time and are alerted when a family is in need of housing, so no family falls through the cracks throughout a complex process. Families can also communicate directly with their case manager within the Community tool so each party is kept updated on the progress of an application. Staff can also view numerous additional details about each housing unit, the application, and the landlord screening criteria.
“For a family in need, the housing search process needs to happen very quickly,” says Hewson. “The fact that the family can take such an active role in their housing search in collaboration with the case manager was really critical to us.”
For Hamilton Families, it was also important to align the entire organization with its strategic goals, and see the true progress being made towards meeting them. With customizable dashboards, board and staff can see how many families are being housed successfully at any point in time.
This applicability helps make the technology much more useful to a people-centered organization: “Often times social services and case management staff are not technology-focused people, but when they see how the information can be useful to them, that’s a game changer,” explains Hewson. “The true value of Salesforce is seeing the impact of our efforts on family homelessness in San Francisco.”
Since implementing Salesforce’s Communities, Hamilton Families has tripled their housing success rate. “During the planning stages of our implementation and when we were analyzing the need for our programs, the waitlist for family shelters in San Francisco had reached a high of 240 families that were waiting for temporary and emergency shelters,” Hewson said. “Now, we are able to monitor progress on a daily basis to ensure our program is effective in assisting families in shelter to obtain stable housing and scale the program to achieve our vision of ending family homelessness in San Francisco.”
Hamilton Families hopes this number will only continue to drop as they tirelessly work to place families in permanent housing.
With Salesforce as its backbone, it plans to expand its efforts and continue to make its Community more accessible to families in need, and has already begun to translate it into Spanish.