A little over four years ago One Degree and Compass Family Services began a partnership with the goal of revolutionizing how homeless and other low-income families find and apply for affordable housing. That’s why we built One Home together. Last week we put that particular revolution on hold.
In the intervening years we have helped over 62,000 people search for housing, more 13,500 people have downloaded nearly 38,400 housing applications, and more than 500 people applied for housing and tracked their applications through the site (a feature we introduced late in the project). All without dedicated marketing or outreach.
Before One Home, individuals and case managers would have to browse various public lists (and, if they were lucky, get access to some organizations’ own proprietary lists), visit countless property management websites, and routinely make dozens of phone calls. While we know that creating technology to help people get on affordable housing waitlists does not ‘solve’ the housing crisis, for families struggling to find and apply for housing, we solved a real problem for people, by giving them their time back so they could spend more time taking care of their families and making ends meet.
One Home was the only cross-county affordable housing website, with listings of housing units from across Northern California. With One Home going offline, this again becomes a real need for the community.
One Degree and Compass has had a model partnership in making this a reality. Fellow mission-driven non-profit Homeless Prenatal Program (HPP) also joined Compass in 2017 to keep housing listings up to date. Since its inception, One Degree has been funding One Home’s technology development and maintenance from its general operating budget. Compass and HPP provided in-kind capacity to keep all of the housing listings up to date (no small feat).
Unfortunately, our respective organizations are no longer able to continue to spend general operating resources on maintaining the website or on keeping the housing listings up to date.
Despite being in a region that is as wealthy as ours, it is hard to overstate how difficult it is to unlock philanthropic and corporate donations, despite having a product and service that people are using to meet a very real need every day. Indeed, many philanthropies and companies have not approved funding or grant requests for this work. Some tech companies have also rejected our (very minimal) requests for in-kind services for infrastructure.
We’ve been asked many times if we’ve tried to ‘get government to pay for it.’ The answer is “of course” and we’ve tried a few different avenues. We unfortunately see a lot of “reinventing of the wheel” in government technology projects, particularly in San Francisco County, where everyone loves a new and shiny ‘pilot’ and few want to fund an existing service with proven outcomes and a professional staff. We hope that changes one day. We also hope that Bay Area governments might see the value in contributing to a project with regional scope. Like the homelessness crisis, getting people to housing is not a single county’s problem.
Given the explosive growth in tech-fueled wealth in the Bay Area and the resulting exponential increase in housing costs, a site like One Home is more important than ever. The fact that we have been unable to find funding in this context is disappointing to say the least, and affects the most marginalized members of our community most of all.
We hope that, some day, with potential long-term financial and institutional support, we might be able to restart our efforts and scale One Home beyond family units in a single region. We would love to be able to provide this service to individuals across a spectrum of circumstances (such as veterans, seniors, transitional age youth, etc.) and needs (supportive housing, transitional housing, etc.), and across the entire state. If you are interested in funding this work or helping us expand it, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Despite the challenges and the news that we are taking down the website for now, we are extremely proud to have provided One Home as a service to the community for the last four years, making it easier for tens of thousands of families to find housing options for which they are eligible to apply. We’ve saved marginalized families tens of thousands of hours by providing vital information, downloadable applications, human support, and critical tools to track their applications or that of their clients.
We are grateful to the countless individuals over the years that played a role in this work. And the work goes on. Compass, an organization that has been serving the community for over 100 years, continue to support homeless families, which is more important than ever. One Degree also continues to serve the community through our main website (1degree.org) and mobile apps, and we encourage those looking for community resources (food, shelter, employment assistance, benefits, etc.) to use and share those products.
Onward in service of our community,
Chief Operating Officer
Founding Chief Technology Officer
A few weeks ago we notified those who signed up on One Home or used the service in the last year that the site would be unavailable after July 12, 2019 so they could login and retrieve any information they had saved in their account. If someone you know needs access to their data, we can help on an individual basis; just email email@example.com.