Recently, we had the opportunity to speak with Nancy Egner, Executive Director of a non-profit organization, Fellowship Housing Opportunities, Inc., in Concord, NH.
For those that are not familiar with the Fellowship Housing Opportunities, the organization has been providing affordable housing and support to chronically mentally ill adults in Concord since 1966. Initially called “Opportunity House,” the organization provided housing similar to a halfway house model for people who were discharged from New Hampshire State Hospital without a place to go. There residents were able to get shorter term housing there while they looked for something more permanent. It has changed and grown considerably since those first years!
The Fellowship Housing Opportunities is a small team with big responsibility.
In the administrative offices and working with the apartment tenants, the team consists of a team of 6. They work together to get the job done. The team consists of:
- Executive Director
- 1 Business Operations Director
- 1 Program Services Director
- 1 Admin Assistant
- 1 Maintenance Coordinator
- 1 Outreach Services Coordinator
At the 24 hour staffed licensed community mental health residence that FHO also owns and runs, there are:
6 full time staff, including a House Manager, and 5 part time staff.
“I’m very lucky, I have a good team” “One of the best parts of the job is seeing tenants, and seeing how they are doing.”
Nancy says the FHO offers affordable permanent housing through our apartments, not transitional housing, and residents can call it their home as long as they like. Many of the properties are walking distance from downtown Concord, and the feedback from tenants has been very good.
“We’re not just landlords, we do pay attention to how they’re doing, and offer some assistance to help people be successful in independent living, like grocery shopping, organization, budgeting. And we take great care of these properties. We want the property to be an asset to the community. All have had renovations and updates.”
The FHO employs a staff person that will help tenants take care of things around the house as needed, also known as “Outreach Services,” and will provide assistance with running errands, maintaining their household, and more.
Nancy tells us that some residents have been tenants for over 20 years, and the team is hoping to purchase another property in another 6 months or year. Though we currently serve 65 people, the need still far outweighs the availability. Nancy tells us that historically speaking, the FHO has been able to purchase properties and often dramatically renovate then with the assistance of HUD and the NHHFA.
Many other local organizations work with Fellowship Housing Opportunities to help bring their services to more people in need. Support from MCSB, Bangor Savings Bank, NH Charitable Foundation, Community Loan Fund, NH Development Block Grant, CDFA (Community Development Finance Authority), NH Housing Finance Authority, a number of grant foundations, and countless private citizens and others.
But, in recent years, getting affordable housing in Concord, has not been easy for many. Last year NH Housing Finance Authority said the average cost of a 1 bedroom in Concord is $1100, while the average disability check received by FHO residents is about $750 per month is $750. This can make finding affordable housing very difficult for many. And over the past few years, there has also been a decline in vacancy rates in Concord for housing. This creates even more difficulty for those looking for affordable places to live, not only by limiting options, but increasing rent prices as well.
The FHO offers Community Residence, Subsidized Housing, and Unsubsidized Housing but accepts individual housing vouchers. Depending on a potential tenant’s needs and income, they may qualify for one of these programs.
And like all non-profit organizations, the FHO is governed by a board of trustees – 10 volunteer members currently – that consists of real estate developers, mental health professionals, contract specialists, a family member of a past resident, and bankers.
When we asked how the recent Coronavirus outbreak has affected their daily activities, Nancy says, “Unfortunately FHO had to suspend Outreach Services and going into people’s homes. This is for the safety of our tenants as well as our staff.”
But, while mostly working from home, their administrative team and the apartment support team has significantly increased phone contact with tenants. The staff working in the residential program have continued to be there and doing an even bigger job than before. They have gone above and beyond and are certainly essential staff doing essential work. Nancy also tells us that she is grateful neither any staff or tenants have been infected with the illness thus far.
Now, they have started a process of trying to determine what returning to working in the office and seeing apartment tenants to support them there will look like. We believe that wearing masks is absolutely a necessary aspect for safety for all. FHO is asking residences to wear masks when in common areas, and providing masks to them for free.
In addition to the 50+ people we house and serve in the apartments, we own and operate a licensed group home that houses and provides services to 12 adults in Concord, about a block away from the admin offices of Fellowship Housing. This is a terrific program that offers support 24 hours per day 7 days a week by incredibly skilled and dedicated staff. It is designed to be more of a treatment program, in that when residents are able to move on after learning more skills to more independent housing, often within the FHO apartments. Some have been there for about 20 years, and may never move on, whereas most do progress and move on in a couple years or so. However, this is individually determined for each resident according to their individual needs and treatment plan.
Nancy had a great interest in talking about the effectiveness and outcomes for Fellowship Housing. She reported that in a study about two years ago, it was determined that people living in the apartments are about 5 times less likely to need psychiatric hospitalization once they live in a FHO apartment that prior. In addition, the people living in Fellowship House rarely need to return to the psychiatric hospital once living at Fellowship House. Given a month in the State Psychiatric Hospital costs society and taxpayers about $20,000 – $30,000 a month per individual, and living in FHO costs society about $2000 – $4000 a month, seems to be fiscally successful and well as a good quality of life for our tenants and residents.
Next year, they are planning their first Home Run, 5K Road Race/Walk, scheduled for next April 17th, 2021, as a fundraiser and community awareness event. They are working on determining a route, but it is likely that participants will get to see many of the FHO properties on the route. And it’s open to the public, so if you’d like to support a great organization, you can follow them on Facebook to stay updated. In addition, FHO is in the midst of developing some short videos with the assistance of the Dobles Foundation, with which they intend to increase their ability to inform the community about their work. FHO hopes to have a roll out of those videos in the fall of 2020.
You can learn more about the Fellowship Housing Opportunities here: http://www.fellowshiphousing.org/
The FHO is accepting donations here: http://www.fellowshiphousing.org/donate/
And you can visit them on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/FellowshipHousingOpportunities/