Pacific Southwest REALTORS® Helps Create Homeless Resources Website

San Diego’s East County communities had more than 1,000 homeless residents in early 2019, according to the best estimate of an annual homeless count, a number that will only be increasing, given the lack of new housing construction and the escalating cost of housing in the region. Looking for a way to connect this population with the local food, shelter, health, and veterans’ resources available, the area’s REALTORS® discovered that, according to additional studies, the majority of people experiencing homelessness in the area have cell phones. An increasing number of these publicly funded phones now have internet access. A $5,000 Housing Opportunity Grant enabled the Pacific Southwest Association of REALTORS® (PSAR) to partner with the San Diego East County Chamber of Commerce Foundation and The East County Homeless Task Force in developing ECAssist.org, a website serving as a one-stop resource for those experiencing homelessness.

PSAR Government Affairs Director Tracy Morgan Hollingworth explains that the initial idea was to create an app, similar to the City of San Diego’s “Getting it Done” app, but she learned from colleagues that app stores like Google and Apple are notoriously selective about the programs they’ll market. So, they decided to create a website, instead.

The East County Homeless Task Force is a collaborative grassroots organization determined to reduce homelessness in the area; its Access to Services Solutions group and its Communications and Marketing Committee worked together to develop the website. Hollingworth credits Past Chair of the PSAR Government Affairs Committee, Kay LeMenager, with providing the tireless dedication that really got the project off the ground. Grants don’t have to be large to be effective, she notes, as long as there are enough dedicated people willing to do the work. “It was a slow, methodical process – three years – collecting all that information from all those resources, but Kay and her Committee members saw it through.” Now that it’s up and running, the Task Force has a commitment from the El Cajon Collaborative, who developed the website navigation and serves one of the poorest communities of East County, to maintain and update the site over the next two years. The site is well organized and user-friendly, allowing visitors to locate food pantries, various hotlines, medical care and shelter information in just a few clicks. The site translates into 15 languages, and also has a function that accepts donations.

PSAR is now helping with marketing ECAssist.org:  press releases have gone out to the media and relevant publications; the East County Homeless Task Force and has asked other municipal entities to feature it on their own websites; and Hollingworth is working with LeMenager and her Committee to create a speakers bureau to spread the word at local civic and business clubs. Last April, honoring the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, representatives of PSAR officially presented the $5,000 check to the San Diego East County Chamber of Commerce Foundation, at a meeting of the El Cajon City Council.

“We made a great effort to try to reduce homelessness in Eastern San Diego County through the development of ECAssist.org, and we’re so grateful for the support of the REALTOR® Party that allowed us to do so,” says Hollingworth.

To learn more about how Pacific Southwest REALTORS® is working to connect area residents experiencing homelessness with available resources, contact Government Affairs Director Tracy Morgan Hollingworth at 619-618-5986.

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NAR supports cost-effective approaches towards preventing and ending homelessness. The individuals and families that are housing insecure or currently experiencing homelessness can be helped through evidence-based approaches, such as “housing first,” which prioritizes providing permanent housing as quickly as possible then providing supportive services as needed. NAR urges its state and local REALTOR® Associations to work with community stakeholders to develop innovative and proactive strategies to aid citizens experiencing homelessness or facing housing insecurity. Adopted May 2016

REALTOR® Success Stories

Hawaii REALTORS® Look to Create Housing Opportunities for the Homeless
Austin REALTORS® Accept Mayor’s Challenge to End Veterans Homelessness 

NAR’s Housing For All Symposium (2016)

Housing For All brought together NAR and the affordable housing community to address homelessness and housing affordability. Speakers included representatives from the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, Center for American Progress, National Low Income Housing Coalition, NeighborWorks America and other leaders. Attendees discussed effective affordable housing solutions; shared innovative ideas, partnerships and experiences; and formulated plans of action for their communities. Housing For All built on NAR’s policy that urges state and local REALTOR® Associations to work with community stakeholders to develop innovative and proactive strategies to aid citizens experiencing homelessness or facing housing insecurity.Housing For All Agenda

Federal Resources

  • U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness
    The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness is responsible for coordinating the federal response to homelessness across government and providing leadership for activities to assist homeless families and individuals with the goal of preventing and ending homelessness in the nation. Some agencies include:
  • The Department of Health and Human Services
    The Department of Health and Human Services is the United States government’s principal agency for protecting the health of all Americans and supporting the delivery of essential human services.
  • Department of Housing and Urban Development
    The Department of Housing and Urban Development funds a range of programs managed by local organizations to help the homeless, including shelter, food, counseling, and jobs skills programs.
  • Department of Veterans Affairs
    The Department of Veterans Affairs offers a wide array of special programs and initiatives specifically designed to help homeless veterans live as self-sufficiently and independently as possible.
  • Department of Labor
    The Department of Labor administers programs providing employment and training services that are crucial components in the comprehensive efforts to address the cycle of homelessness.
  • Department of Education
    The Department of Education supports a program that supports the coordination of the education of homeless children and youths in each state and gathers comprehensive information about homeless children and youths and the impediments they must overcome to regularly attend school.
  • Social Security Administration
    The Social Security Administration’s mission is to advance the economic security of the nation’s people through compassionate and vigilant leadership in shaping and managing America’s Social Security programs.
  • White House
    The White House has spearheaded the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to alleviate the poverty made worse by the current economic crisis. Broad investments also include $1.5 billion in Homelessness Prevention Funds to keep people in their homes or rapidly relocate them.

National Organizations


Questions? Contact Wendy Penn at 202-383-7504.

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Hawaii REALTORS® Look to Create Housing Opportunities for the Homeless

Living in Hawaii may seem like a pipe dream to mainlanders, but for many residents of the tropical paradise, where the homeless population is the highest per capita in the nation, life there is not so dreamy.  With the support of a Level Three Housing Opportunity Grant from the National Association of REALTORS®, the state association and two local REALTOR® boards are working to connect Hawaii’s landlords and property managers with programs that help people who are homeless to rent rooms or apartments.

The first Landlord Summit was conducted last fall by the Hawaii Association of REALTORS®, in Honolulu, where the state’s greatest concentration of homelessness exists.  It was attended by the governor and the mayor, and by about 300 landlords, property managers and REALTORS®, in addition to numerous social services agencies there to support landlords who were willing to rent units to people who’d been living on the streets.

“We know this is a very difficult and emotional issue for many people, and through the efforts of our local REALTORS®, we hope to begin finding some light at the end of this tunnel,” says Hawaii Association of REALTORS® Government Affairs Director Myoung Oh.  “Our goal is to educate those in a position to provide apartments, and to alleviate the misinformation that often leads to mistaken impressions of people in need.  There are many levels of homelessness.  We want to find shelter for those on the streets and also prevent any more people from slipping through the cracks when they can’t make rent.”

Oh states that, “We, as an organization, are trying to do our part, because we’re a small-knit family, one big ohana.  We have to begin by talking to individuals who can make a difference in the lives of others.” 

On Maui, where at least 5,000 people do not have homes, and a third of the population spends more than 50% of its income for rent, housing instability has reached crisis proportions.  David DeLeon, the Government Affairs Director of the REALTORS® Association of Maui, says that parts of the island resemble a third world country.  The good news, he notes, is that Governor David Ige takes the problem of homelessness across the state very seriously, and is pro-active in his commitment to solving it.  His staff attended the Landlord Summit on Maui in June.  “The REALTORS® are credible leaders on housing issues, and it’s our responsibility to raise awareness,” says DeLeon.  “If a summit gets potential landlords thinking, ‘Let’s clean out the cottage, or the back room, and give it a try,’ then that’s a good start.”

The Landlord Summit on Maui brought about 100 property owners in contact with numerous agencies and programs that provide security deposit and rental assistance, case management, translation services and mental health hotlines; as well as local government officials who were ready to hear concerns about zoning restrictions.  “In a small community,” says DeLeon, “just getting a story about the summit on the front page of the newspaper of record makes people think.  Making the need known, and highlighting the opportunities and the safety nets that are in place, can make a difference.”

The “Big Island” of Hawaii is so diverse from end to end, that its REALTOR® Association received a Housing Opportunity Grant to sponsor two landlord summits earlier this year, one in Hilo (East Hawaii), and the other in Kona (West Hawaii).  Kehaulani Costa, Association Executive of Hawaii Island REALTORS®, explains that an especially important aspect of both events was honoring landlords who were already working with social services to help families and individuals in transition to get off assistance.  “By highlighting the successes of these landlords who had accepted formerly homeless tenants, we were able to give their peers at the summits the chance to see that others were actually doing this, and that it’s working.  They were able to ask questions, and in the end, I think many understood that this is not just about the rental income, but about helping the community.” 

At the Hilo summit, where about 160 prospective landlords were in attendance, 26 units were committed for rental to Section 8 tenants or clients of other social service programs.  In Kona, 120 attended and fourteen units were pledged.  “That’s not going to take care of everyone who needs housing,” says Costa, “but it’s a start.  Those landlords will become role models for their own neighbors, and create a ripple effect.”  She hopes that her board will be able to make the summits an annual event until the rental assistance programs gain greater traction.

“This grant made it possible for us to be a part of the conversation, and part of the solution,” says Costa.  “Thanks to the REALTOR® Party, our board can bring financial resources to the table, but we don’t have the man-power to do the leg-work; the housing non-profits we’re working with are mission-driven, with plenty of vision and volunteers.  Together, it’s a wonderful, powerful collaboration.”

To learn more about how Hawaii’s REALTORS® are working with governments and social service agencies to combat homelessness, contact Myoung Oh, Government Affairs Director of the Hawaii Association of REALTORS®, at 808-733-7060; David DeLeon, Government Affairs Director of the REALTORS® Association of Maui, at 808-243-8585; or Kehaulani Costa, Association Executive of Hawaii Island REALTORS®, at 808-935-0827.

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