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MCAH learned about HandUp Detroit during their campaign to raise funds for 11 different service providers and agencies in the metro Detroit region. We were inspired by their dedication to collaboration and creative solutions to meeting client needs. MCAH and HandUp Detroit will be hosing a webinar on May 24 on how crowdfunding for individual client needs has impacted the region. Register online.

Homeless and in and out of shelters for over nine months, Rick had lost most of his possessions and was feeling unstable when he entered South Oakland Shelter (SOS). In less than two months, Rick secured a Section 8 voucher and SOS assisted him in finding affordable housing. Things were starting to look up! But Rick had one hurdle standing in his way; he didn’t have the money for a security deposit or any items to make the apartment a home.

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Rick, former client at South Oakland Shelter

That’s when his case manager connected him to HandUp Detroit. Rick made an online profile to share his story and fundraise for his needs. He quickly raised the money he needed through generous online donors, and is now happily living in his own home.

Rick’s story is just one example of the impact HandUp Detroit has had on people experiencing poverty in our community. When we found HandUp, South Oakland Shelter (SOS) was looking for ways to reduce the barriers to stability our clients were facing and which we could not afford. We wanted a tool to connect donors directly to clients in meaningful ways while helping clients with their specific goals. HandUp offered just that, and in 2014 SOS became HandUp’s first regional partner.

We were blown away by the response we received from our community and clients. In our first year, we increased our individual giving by 14% and have since helped 259 clients raise over $101,000 to fulfill 769 basic needs. Upon seeing the impact of this new resource, we knew we had to bring this tool to more people in our community.

So, we began developing HandUp Detroit with two goals in mind: (1) the desire to bring this resource to other agencies and their clients, and (2) to collaborate to create a bigger impact across Metro Detroit on the issues of homelessness. We envisioned a project that used the collective power of local nonprofits by focusing on the greater good of the community, rather than continuing to work in silos and competing for limited funds.

HandUp Detroit Landing Page

HandUp Detroit Landing Page

Our first step in establishing this collaborative was a series of meetings with other nonprofits to gauge their interest. We offered our vision, access to HandUp without fee, and encouraged feedback on what it would take to create a by-county collaborative with Oakland County and Detroit nonprofits.

Second, we reached out to Oakland County’s and Detroit’s Continuum of Cares (CoCs). We knew that if we could get the support of the CoCs, they would help us get the support of their member organizations. At the same time, we met with foundations to share our idea and get feedback on their funding interests.

After confirming interest from our community, we sought formal commitment through an MOU between SOS, HandUp, and the CoCs. With this formal support, expressed interest from other nonprofits, and feedback from foundations, we were ready to apply for funding. When we secured the resources needed to launch from the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan and the McGregor Fund, we hired a HandUp Detroit Coordinator, Abby Adair, to grow and organize the collaborative.

Abby Adair, HandUp Detroit Coordinator, & Olympia, client at COTS

Abby Adair, HandUp Detroit Coordinator, & Olympia, client at COTS

Abby’s role has been to recruit nonprofit partners, train and support those partners on HandUp Detroit, and facilitate group collaboration and initiatives. Abby shared, “Growing and supporting the collaboration has been both challenging and rewarding. We are all working to help our clients get back on their feet, but achieving that success takes a lot of work. “

“I am working with agencies to integrate HandUp Detroit into their list of go-to resources. Part of my strategy is to learn each partner’s communication and work styles, discerning what they are most excited and concerned about. Each partner has limited time to devote to HandUp Detroit; thus, those details inform my approach to maximize their time. And as each agency has increased its time and effort, they are seeing how HandUp Detroit benefits their clients.”

HandUp Detroit has been overwhelmingly positive for the people served by us and our partner agencies which include: COTS, NSO, HAVEN, CHS, CSSWC, NLSM, CHN, Welcome Inn, Travelers Aid, and SOS. HandUp Detroit partners are pooling resources and learning from each other in ways we never would have before, and it’s all for the good of our client population. Moreover, HandUp Detroit serves as a useful education and advocacy tool in informing our community on the causes and effects of homelessness and poverty. There are nearly 500 stories of people like Rick on Detroit.HandUp.org of Metro Detroit neighbors in need, and anyone can read them and begin to understand the struggles that thousands of people in Metro Detroit experience.

Guest post by Abby Adair, Coordinator at HandUp Detroit and Jenny Poma, Director of Program Development at South Oakland Shelter. You can contact them at: abby@oaklandshelter.org and jenny@oaklandshelter.org