Francis Ogutu Dr. Green Univ.

291 Organizational research Paper 10/04/2011 Knowing Mercy Housing Lakefront Mercy Housing Lakefront is one among the many successful not for profit organiza tion working within Illinois and Wisconsin communities to help address the issue of housing problem experienced by many individuals who have been experiencing h ard economic times especially during this period of economic recession. For nearly past three decades, Mercy Housing Lakefront boasts of having made a v ery noticeable progress in creating affordable housing for low income households , senior citizens and many other people who have been disabled one way or the ot her within United States. Commitment to developing an enhanced, quality and bett er value housing for the communities in which they are located is the main goal for Mercy Housing. The organization started as Lakefront SRO, a local organizati on in Chicago, developing and managing only supportive housing, with the mission to end homelessness. “About five years ago, the organization Merged with a natio nal organization and started to broaden its scope to develop more housing types including general affordable housing, assisted senior housing, independent senio r housing and workforce housing.” By having its branches spread across different geographical locations, the organ ization has been able to manage its housing units and hence able to serve quite a large number of individual households.( Mercy Lakefront Web,2010, ) Due to hard economic times, thousands of families and individuals are finding th emselves unable to keep their houses and hence the probability of one becoming h omeless has increased in the past years. Mercy Housing Lakefront has been respon ding to such crisis by building or preserving more affordable apartments. Accord ing to the Mercy’s website, there has been an increase in cases of homelessness an d almost one hundred million people in United States are either homeless or livi ng in dilapidated housing units across the country. Out of this group, 43.6 perc ent have insufficient yearly income of less than twenty five thousand dollars. Seeing a need to serve and support these community members, Mercy Housing Lakefr ont has been partnering with various organizations, both in the public and priva te sectors to address this issue of homelessness. To date, Mercy Housing has par ticipated in the development, preservation and/or financing of more than 40,000 affordable homes and an additional 7,309 homes are in the pre-development, const ruction or concept phase.(2010) Strategies Mercy Housing Service Strategies is based on two goals, that is, ensuring a stab le neighborhood and Service enriched affordable housing. (i)Moving Forward Campaign Mission Due to the recent and the continuing economic meltdown, Mercy Housing not only s eem to focus on housing issues alone but has extended its arm to reach out more to the community members who has have been hard hit by the recession. Together with development partners, the organization has developed a campaign slogan “Forwa rd Together Campaign” that would ensure that it succeeds in addressing some of t he issues that are currently facing the communities around. It plans to invest $ 1 billion dollars to support its house building or preservation program in the next few years(around7 year period). This would result in building or preserving almost 7800 housing units for families across United State. Also the organizati on plans to secure or create 8000 jobs for the community members in which it se rves and finally as a grand plan, establishing and stopping 30000 households fr om becoming homes less in the Chicago and Wisconsin. All these, according to Mercy Housing Lakefront, would be achieved through the f ollowing steps. - acquire, rehab, and recover over 2500 vacant homes. -Create 500 transitional jobs for hard to employ individuals working to protect and maintain 5000 vacant homes. -Acquire upto to 6000 delinquent mortgage and provide principal reduction and co

unseling to enable thousands of families to save their homes from fore closure. -Demolish dangerous vacant properties, establish a land bank and ultimately make land available for redevelopment. (ii) Another strategy involves the care given to those who are currently facing the housing needs and some of the components of this strategic plan involve the following: -Establishing a permanent supportive housing for individuals or families who are chronically homeless or disabled or at high risk of homelessness. -Establish a family and workforce housing for people who lack the economic resou rces to access quality, safe housing opportunities -Come up with an independent, assisted and supportive housing for older adults. Mission Statement The main driving force behind Mercy Housing Lakefront has been orchestrated by t heir desire to “create stable, vibrant and healthy communities by developing, fina ncing and operating affordable, program-enriched housing for families, seniors a nd people with special needs who lack the economic resources to access quality, safe housing opportunities.” Some few points could be gathered from this short yet powerful steering force for service to the humanity. First, this mission statem ent acknowledges the importance of creating stronger and unified communities. Wi thout unity there cannot occur any meaningful progress in a service work geared towards changing the negatives socio-economic factors affecting the community. S econdly, the mission statement addresses the ways in which it hopes to build the se strong communities. By using its available resources, both human and financia l, Mercy housing hopes to enhance and create supplemental housing to meet the cu rrent community needs. Vision The main reason for engaging in housing project is to reduce the housing payment burdens to many families. Especially during these periods in time when the hous ing prices have hiked. Mercy Hosing sees itself as an agent of change which will be able to “create a more humane world where poverty is alleviated, Communities a re healthy and all people can develop their full potential. “ With the belief that through these efforts of availing affordable housing, would result in better li ving standards for the respective communities characterized by “transformed neighb orhoods and stabilized lives.” As a result of this commitment to see their efforts come to fruition, the organization always strives to “conduct an ethical, trans parent business and in how we interact with our network of residents, communitie s, board, co-sponsors, volunteers, investors, partners and each other.” By setting high standards, being accountable, the organization works best to allocate the resources entrusted to them by sponsors or donors to serve the community in a mo re effective and efficient way possible. Not only do they speak about it but as part of commitment to the vision, the members of the organization participate i n advocacy activities together with other organizations of similar goals to push for the welfare of the less fortunate members of the community. Finally, the as pect of diversity that is encouraged within the organization encourages developm ent of new ideas. They work together with the members of the community affected to bring on board the views of the tenants. This, I believe, creates a collabora tive environment in which the members of the community feel appreciated and valu ed and are likely to contribute their skills and perspectives on issues that are addressed by Mercy Housing Lakefront that could eventually result in a great c hange. “We are collaborative: We work collaboratively, seeking the input of those who are affected by our work, internally and externally, and partner with like-m inded groups to achieve our mission.” Beneficiaries of Mercy Housing Lakefront When Mercy housing Lakefront was started in Chicago close to three decades ago, its main objective according to According to Elizabeth Tumiel, the Manager of Te nants Leadership and Development at the Chicago office, was to serve “formerly hom eless individuals who have a history of either substance abuse or mental health issues. The majority of who were men between the ages of 45 and 60.” However, du e to increasing needs for affordable housing, the organization has extended its services to low income households and marginalized individual groups. “In an effor

t to assist the millions of people in need of stable affordable housing, Mercy H ousing provides a wide range of affordable rental housing opportunities across t he United States. Our housing services are available for families, seniors and p eople with special needs, including those with developmental disabilities, HIV/A IDS and formerly homeless individuals.” Some of the quick statistics about those w ho are served by the organization are as follows: Majority of the organization’s c lients are drawn from different families which accounts for around seventy two p ercent, followed by the senior citizens residents at nineteen percentage and fin ally by the people with special needs such as formerly homeless, HIV/AIDS and ph ysically handicapped persons. Mercy Housing not only helps provide quality, affordable housing programs to tho se in need, but also offers Resident Services that help improve the community on e resident at a time. They reach out to individuals and families who need to acq uire special skills which help them “ gain perspectives that keep dreams of stabil ity and hope realities for the future.” Public Policy Priorities for 2011 From its mission and vision Statements for wanting to work for a holistic commun ity change, Mercy Housing Lakefront together with its wide network engage in a v ariety of advocacy elements to help address the housing and poverty level for th e community members. Some of their main areas of public policy concern for year 2011 include the following; • Supporting tax incentives for investments in affordable housing and community de velopment. • Advocating proactively in support of funding for basic Housing and Urban Develop ment programs. • Engaging in legislative and regulatory efforts to strengthen the nation’s housing finance system including reform of the Government Support Enterprise to increase their role in affordable multifamily finance. • Exploring linkages and resources needed between health care and housing, especia lly for seniors. • Stabilizing communities severely impacted by the foreclosure crisis.

Geographic location served by Mercy Housing? Though originally started in Chicago Illinois, Mercy Housing has increased its i nfluence and has entered into partnership with different organization which has widened its scope of operations around the United States. Some of its operating outlets are found in California, Wisconsin, Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Missouri, N ebraska, Idaho, Washington, Georgia, North and South Carolina. For the purpose o f this paper and my organization, my focus on this paper is based on the Chicag o office Staff and Volunteer groups. Mercy Housing Lakefront draws its effectiveness and great service from a pool of very distinguished members of the Chicago business community which forms its bo ard of directors. These individuals are very committed to the fight against pove rty and that’s has been a great boost for Mercy housing to make such a huge step. Their efforts are geared towards ensuring that projects of the organization succ eed in its effort to uplift the plight of low income citizens. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, I was not able to get the time to find o ut the exact number of staffs employed by Mercy housing. When I requested info rmation from the resident department, Elizabeth who is one of the managers and a lso our site coordinator in our research project wasn’t able to give the exact fig ure “I m not sure how many employees,” however, she was able to give an estimation, " but on the resident services side there are about 40 or so staff.” Among the resident staffs, there are four sub categories which include case mana

 

gement wing , employment services, educational support and tenant leadership (Wh ich we are currently working with to help come up with a survey analysis of loca l area affordable food stores. Case management staffs are responsible for helping the prospective tenants with the problem of housing. The role of the volunteers to the organization is not clearly elaborated on the website or any literature associated with Mercy Housing Lakefront. Nevertheless, Elizabeth was able to hint at some the occasions when volunteers play a greater part in helping the organization realize its goals in serving the community. Sp ecifically, Elizabeth talked of the volunteers usually work with the organizatio n “We utilize social work interns to supplement the caseloads of our case manageme nt staff. We have a literacy program in which volunteers tutor or tenants in rea ding and writing. Corporate Volunteers and donors occasionally volunteer for big events such as hosting building dinners, distributing welcome packets, chaperon ing(An older person who attends and supervises a social gathering for young peop le) outings” Donors and Sponsors to mercy housing Lakefront Mercy Housing Lakefront draws support from a great number of donors and sponsors which provide both monetary and advise resources. Some of the notable big donor s include Bank of America, which, in 2010 offered $750,000 over two years to hel p provide more affordable housing, support resident economic development program s and improve impact measurement for resident services programs. The other notab le donors include Equity residential, Fannie Mae and Trinity Health and many oth er different organizations and individuals dedicated to the mission of freeing A merica of housing problem. In addition, Mercy Housing Lakefront has formed a partnership with many other No t for profit organizations that have similar interests and objectives of allevia ting poverty and addressing the hard economic conditions facing majority of the low income households. Just to mention a few of those collaborating with Mercy H ousing to help them achieve the vision of poverty reduction and better housing i nclude; Sisters of Charity, Sisters of Mercy, Sisters of St. Joseph Orange, Sist ers of Bon Secours and many other health care providers. Resources and Assets to the organization. Mercy Housing Lakefront mostly depend on the donor goodwill to be able to achiev e a fore mentioned objectives. Due to this fact, there has been a great generosi ty from other capable members of the community and other organizations which rea dily avail their resources to be utilized by Mercy Lakefront. This is evidenced by a large pool of organizational, individual and the federal support program to help the organization achieve its mission

Success Stories Success of any organization depends on its mission and vision and this can be re flected on how much its mission is impacting the society in which it operates. A ccording to me, the success of Mercy Housing lakefront is not determined by the amount of the awards they have accumulated for the great services( of course, th e awards correlates with success). Rather I do believe that the measure of its s uccess is drawn self evident as can be deduced from the views shared by some of the residents who have benefited from these services. Also the number of donors and partners who believe in their have significantly increased over the years. For example of one of the residents who has benefited from Mercy Housing service s is the Voss Family in Chicago Illinois, who,” in 1997, as victims of domestic vi olence, lost their home and sense of security. Having no place to go, Ms. Voss and her four children moved into a homeless shelter. For the next eight years, s he worked hard but struggled to find full time employment and permanent housing. She describes the worst part as the impact this had on her children. Over the ye ars they became increasingly withdrawn, they told her “mom please don’t tell anyone we are homeless, don’t even say the word.” Ms. Voss began to lose hope. “I kept prayin g for housing," she said. "I cried and cried because we were miserable.” Their str

uggle finally ended when the family secured an apartment at the Wentworth Common s in Chicago. “When I found out that I had keys to my own apartment I cried again, but this time it was because I was so happy,” she said. Such like stories are ver y uplifting. Due to similar stories like this one, Mercy Housing has won some of the covetable awards such as Independent Charities of America Best Charity. Als o The Guide Star Award. These are just few examples showing how the work done by the organization is having its impact on a wider community level. Since 1981, Mercy Housing project has accomplished so much in that they have bee n able to start up and run 967projects, 39,400, affordable units of housing, $2. 2 billion in affordable real estate development, $197 million in affordable hous ing lending and up to now has served 135,000 people. Challenges: Working with Students to develop a survey tool that will be more helpful to res idents to identify local more affordable food stores. The organization has recen tly been significantly affected by the recent budget cuts for the General assist ance in Illinois since most of its residences rely on such programs. So working together with Loyola Chicago students, Mercy Housing lakefront( Harold Washingto n Apartments) in Chicago, Illinois, hope to: Collaboratively work with the tenants in budgeting process to identify key foods an household necessities. This will be achieved by collecting data from differe nt stores, compare and compile the survey into a simple report that would be ben eficial to the tenants. The findings of the survey will be presented to the other tenants and finally fo rmulated into a ful report that can be used as an educational resource throughou t Chicago area. Conclusion As can be seen from the preceding discussion, Mercy Housing lakefront has made a huge progress in addressing the housing situation within Chicago and many other areas within United States and it is likely that in the end, their mission and vision of seeing America freed of housing and poverty related problem would come to realization. As a student research partner working the Chicago office, I hope that my engagem ent with this exemplary organization would further its mission of alleviating ho using problems and creating more opportunities for people who would then have im proved lifestyles enabling them to concentrate on a productive planning of a bet ter life for themselves, their families and the nation at large. I also hope that as I continue to do a collaborative research and getting to kno w the residents on apersonal level, it would a greater opportunity to learn how they are coping with the situation and how the services they receive from Mercy Lakefront could be made more effective relevant to their needs.