Even one homeless person is one person too many, panel moderator Kathy Albarado (left), founder, President and CEO of Helios, HR, told an audience at Family PASS’ June 28 panel discussion at the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce. She urged business leaders to focus on what they can do in the community to end homelessness. Ms. Albarado moderated a panel representing key elements of the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Partnership to Prevent and End Homelessness.
Fairfax County Looks to Partnership to Help the Homeless
Homelessness is something Fairfax County realized it couldn’t solve alone, panelist Thomas Barnett, told the audience of business and community leaders at the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce, speaking about how the county’s Office to Prevent and End Homelessness (OPEH) and its coalition was founded eight years ago.
As homeless numbers spiked in Fairfax County – and across the country - those responsible for addressing homelessness saw there just was not enough affordable housing in the county to serve those in need. They realized they were managing -- but not solving -- the problem and they needed the integrated efforts of the nonprofit and business sectors – and they also recognized the need to include prevention – helping at risk families before they became homeless.
Barnett, who formed the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Partnership to Prevent and End Homelessness, said that prevention is possible through mediation on behalf of those at risk of becoming homeless. Prevention makes sense and is more cost-effective. He said 30-50% of income of many low-wage workers in Fairfax currently goes towards rent. On any given week, he noted, these families, facing a second job loss, illness, or a broken car, can be on the verge of homelessness.
Affordable housing is the key, Barnett said, adding it is essential to preserve low income housing in the county. OPEH is now in the 8th year of its 10 Year Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. While homeless numbers have decreased yearly, Barnett noted, there are still over 1000 homeless, most working families, and a shortage of affordable housing.
The panel agreed that, unfortunately, stigma and prejudice remain part of the public perception on homeless people. In 2015 OPEH launched the Mannequin series, hoping to attract attention to the stories behind the homeless people seen every day in Fairfax. Many people turned away from the mannequins, reinforcing the Partnership’s view that prejudice remains.
Pat Kearns, Family PASS executive director, and other panelists told the audience that 66% of homeless are working homeless and 33% are children. These working homeless are the people who run area daycare centers, take care of senior citizens, and fill a host of other essential jobs that keep Fairfax County running. There are over 12,000 homeless in the greater DC area, with DC having the most homeless at 3,000 and Fairfax, one of the wealthiest counties in the country, second at 1059 out of seven surrounding counties.
Lack of affordable housing, a key factor in solving the problem of homelessness, led to the creation of the new Housing Opportunities Collaborative, a joint venture between Cornerstones, which provides housing and social services to the homeless, and OPEH to streamline recruitment of landlords, centralize housing location services, and train staff on housing. Abby Dunner, Housing Resource Coordinator for the Collaborative, said discussions to attract more housing includes a robust landlord incentive program.
Next Blog: Homeless Victims of Domestic Violence and Homeless Students in the Fairfax County School system.
(This program, sponsored by EAGLEBANK, was hosted and organized by Family PASS to inform and engage the business community in ending homelessness and to provide a snapshot of how the various members of the Community Partnership work in sync to end homelessness. The panelists, representing different aspects of the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Partnership to Prevent and End Homelessness’ work, talked about their organizations’ roles, from the broader County’s 10-Year Plan, to how homeless people enter the system, sheltered temporarily and finally how case managers work to house and provide the services needed that lead to having a home and financial self-sufficiency.)
Family First: How Knight Point Systems Integrates Work-Life Balance Into Its Company Culture
By: Stephanie Berkowitz, President & CEO at Northern Virginia Family Service
What does it take to rank among the best companies to work for in the area? Over the years, we’ve seen the implementation of thoughtful policies regarding work-life balance, thriving cultures with robust talent pipelines, and communities where giving back is a priority. We asked Rich Cable of Knight Point Systems (KPS) — a CARE Award winner that has also been recognized by the Washington Business Journal, Washingtonianmagazine and The Washington Post as a top workplace — to elaborate on some of KPS’ key features as a best place to work.
How did the founders of KPS develop/identify KPS’ value system?
When Bob [Eisiminger] and the other founders of KPS decided to take on the risk and challenge of starting a business, they knew they needed to establish some core values that would essentially be the foundation on which KPS would be built.
Excellent communication, knowledgeable, self-managed and having faith in themselves were all traits the founders shared. These traits, along with Bob Eisiminger’s military experience, led to the development of KPS’ core values, the 4Cs:
Candor – Open communication in an open and honest environment
Competence – Highly trained employees looking to build personal and professional growth
Commitment – To employees and customers. To excellence in everything we do
Confidence – Ability to complete the mission
What positive results have you seen from creating a company culture that places families first?
One of the primary reasons KPS was started was to ensure families come first. When the founders decided to take the leap and become business owners, many of them were in the early stages of starting their own families. They wanted to ensure they controlled their flexibility so that they were always around to provide family support and experience all the joys of parenthood. We believe that if we take care of our employees and customers, the bottom line will take care of itself.
We believe that if we take care of our employees and customers, the bottom line will take care of itself.
Describe the impact of integrating employees’ work and life on talent attraction and retention.
In today’s workplace, especially with growing technology, keeping one’s career separate from [his or her] personal life would be virtually impossible. If someone’s career and personal life are going to become intertwined, there needs to be a harmony and balance between the two.
At KPS, we give our employees significant flexibility so they can manage both their professional and personal obligations. Some of the options available are telework, flexible schedules and condensed work weeks. When employees know they have some autonomy and are trusted to get the job done, they become more satisfied with their employment. This leads to increased production, loyalty and a positive attitude.
Describe your education programs and how they are used to support your work-life philosophy and healthy organization objectives.
In the IT industry, if you are not on the forefront of new technology, you will get passed by.
Employees have access to a training budget that has no cap! An individual training plan is maintained for each employee, and employees are encouraged to learn a new skill or obtain a new certification every year. It is very rare for a training request to be denied.
In addition to the training program, KPS employees have access to an improved tuition reimbursement benefit. KPS reimburses employees 50 cents on the dollar up to $5,250 per year for tuition and other qualified expenses. Over 40 percent of our workforce takes advantage of these wonderful benefits.
Philanthropy provides resources to people and organizations that need it, it’s great for our brand, and it builds a spirit of comradery and pride amongst employees.
What positive results have you seen from creating a culture of generosity (i.e., a culture that gives back and supports the community)?
Helping others and supporting the community is good for everyone. Philanthropy provides resources to people and organizations that need it, it’s great for our brand, and it builds a spirit of comradery and pride amongst employees. Plus, it just makes you feel good!
Although there is no one way to replicate a great company, we’ve noticed a discernible trend among great places to work.
Employers believe in giving back to build a better community. According to Gallup’s 2016 Q12® Meta-Analysis, companies scoring in the top half on employee engagement nearly double their odds of success and those in the 99th percentile have four times the success rate of those at the first percentile. The difference between top-quartile and bottom-quartile companies was 21 percent in profitability and 59 percent in turnover (low-turnover).One looking to make a case for change at their company need look no further than the data presented. There is a clear connection between these attributes, deepening employee engagement and improving profitability. Figuring out how that will look and work for your company will be as unique as what you develop.
Get Your Whole Team “On Message” to Increase Your Visibility
by Robb Deigh
Comedian Lily Tomlin has a great line: "I always wanted to be somebody, but now I realize I should have been more specific."
Businesses have a similar problem - describing themselves in terms that are too general to be memorable and effective. "We create custom software." "We're a health and wellness company." "We're financial experts." Unfortunately, these kinds of descriptions are not compelling. Companies that don't stand out rarely beat the competition.
Here's a cure: As part of your PR strategy, create a compelling company description paragraph and a few messages that reveal not just what you are but -- much more important -- what you do to help your clients succeed. Focus on BENEFITS.
In the examples above, you'd be more likely to hire companies that describe themselves this way: "We are a technology company that helps organizations save 25% in design and
manufacturing costs." "We help busy individuals and families lead healthier and more energetic lives through common-sense exercise and nutrition." "We show people how to save for their future while enjoying the present."
Create messages that support your overall description. Put those messages into all of your communications
Your message document should include four parts to make it easy for everyone on your team to use the language: 1) a paragraph that describes what your company does - this is the kind of paragraph that you can use at the bottom of a press release or on the home page of your website. It says it all in just a few words. 2) your elevator speech - keep it short and very specific, 3) 5-6 key messages that you will want to use in ALL communications (marketing and press materials, website, presentations, paid ads, sales kit, elevator speech and even your on-hold phone greeting) and finally, 4) an information sheet or FAQ with all of the most important facts and figures about your organization - people, products, prices, history, contact info, etc.
Whether you have four employees or 40,000, the ability of every member of your team to speak in a unified voice, using the right messages, is a very powerful, competitive tool. Make it easy for them by creating this document from which they can cut and paste accurate and compelling information.
Robb Deigh is a new member of the Chamber, principal of RDC Public Relations in Fairfax, a book author and a frequent speaker to business groups.