Awards of Excellence: The Palm Tree Apartments
Fort Worth Housing Solutions wins a 2017 Award of Excellence in Program Innovation for developing a Permanent Supportive Housing community to serve the chronically homeless. Nominated from among the NAHRO Award of Merit winners each year, the Awards of Excellence winners are chosen by national juries and honored at the annual National Conference and Exhibition in October. They represent the very best in innovative programs in assisted housing and community development.
Fort Worth Housing Solutions’ (FWHS) interest in the Palm Tree Apartments in Fort Worth, Texas was spurred by their goal of combating chronic homelessness in the area. The Palm Tree Apartments had been built in 1955 and, after years of neglect, had fallen into disrepair. At the same time, the surrounding neighborhood and community was losing residents and becoming depressed. FWHS planned a rehabilitation project focused on supporting people with the greatest barriers to traditional housing (those with criminal backgrounds, eviction or bad credit histories, mental illnesses and addiction issues) with a Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) community. In 2016, the revitalization began.
Partnering with the Paulos Foundation, QuadCo Property Management (a wholly-owned subsidiary of FWHS) and DRC Solutions, FWHS created an initiative entirely dedicated to providing PSH apartments with little or no cost to residents in a supportive environment. The Paulos Foundation purchased the 24-unit apartment building and made all physical improvements; FWHS through QuadCo Property Management assisted with the rehabilitation process. The next step was for FWHS to work with the Paulos Foundation on providing Project-Based Vouchers (PBV) for total per-unit costs of $12,000. DRC Solutions is responsible for supportive services, including identifying homeless individuals needing permanent housing in accordance with a Housing First Model, community-based support and on-site case management services. They maintain a waiting list of homeless individuals who are potentially eligible for the program, complete routine screening and refer these individuals to FWHS for admission . Of the current 28 residents, 80 percent were recruited from unsheltered situations, 60 percent are over the age of 50 and 75 percent have a chronic illness. The median rent contribution is $210 and residents with no income contribute by helping with site maintenance.
FWHS manages the admission process and approves the tenants under the PBV program. QuadCo Property Management deals with all onsite activities and upkeep, and DRC Solutions advocates on behalf of the tenants, helping them understand their rights and responsibilities under fair housing and tenant/landlord laws. The Paulos Foundation is a major financial contributor, helping the property retain earnings for long-term funding and any large repairs. Additionally, the Foundation supports the project by funding DRC Solutions with their case management role and furnishing the apartments (cleaning supplies are also included). This combination of partners helps to ensure the success of not only the property but also the residents.
A key component of the housing program at the Palm Tree Apartments is equipping the residents with what they need to thrive – this includes support services to aid in resident housing retention, health and financial well-being. Resident education efforts include frequent on-site meetings and education on budgeting, conflict resolution, communication, housekeeping and nutrition. Aside from community support, residents are also given more tangible things to help them settle into their new home. With furnishing donations from an organization called “When We Love” and a $15,000 grant from the Healthy Communities Collaborative for other furniture pieces, apartments are outfitted with furnishings for those who need them. Residents are also provided with a loaded debit card and laundry detergent to use at the site’s laundry facility. This helps to keep the building clean and enhance the residents’ self-esteem.
The work FWHS has done through the Palm Tree Apartments project providing PSH apartments for 24 households who are experiencing homelessness is seeing success. When it began, a vast portion of operating and funding expenses were covered by the private Paulos Foundation, who owns the property. The cost of purchasing the property was $685,000 and an additional $397,438.15 was spent on site rehabilitation which included: new roof overlay, brick and concrete repair, new electric service, new HVAC, removal of all gas service, removal and replacement of all kitchen cabinets, floor/wall/ceiling repairs and replacement, new toilets in all units, steel pipe replacement and complete renovation of one unit. Now, after eight months in operation, the property is completely self-sustaining – thanks in part to the dedication to ongoing case management, education and assistance, all of which help improve living situations and sustainability.
Other metrics of success show the positive impact that the Palm Tree Apartments project has had on the community:
- Crimes against the property are down 23 percent from 2015
- Drugs and narcotics violations are down 38 percent from 2015
- Disorderly conduct is down 60 percent from 2015
The Palm Tree Apartments project, with the backing of a private foundation and cooperation from multiple public organizations, is “securing a tiny oasis for vulnerable people emerging from homelessness.” Because it is located in a mixed-income community, there are opportunities nearby for employment and personal growth. FWHS created a true community in the Palm Tree Apartments and its structure is one that can be replicated by finding the right public-private partnerships and development process.