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Innovative program creates homes for those experiencing homelessness

Teams of volunteers create new living spaces for Pillars’ nationally recognized Single Room Occupancy (SRO) program, thanks to generous donors in the Fox Cities. The Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago awarded one of its “Community First Awards” to Pillars of Appleton, one of three nonprofits receiving the annual award.

By Lisa Strandberg, Community Engagement Director, Pillars

“Brian” is a typical veteran who hides his emotions. But the day he moved into the Pillars Single Room Occupancy (SRO) program, he couldn’t help crying. He was finally home.

An Appleton interior renovation

SRO emerged in 2018. The program creates affordable housing for very low-income individuals who may have obstacles to renting from a traditional landlord. A multi-year grant from the Basic Needs Giving Partnership within the Community Foundation and Community Development Block Grant funding from the City of Appleton made SRO’s launch possible.

An SRO client joins staff to serve dinner

Three years and four rehabilitated homes later, 14 hard-to-house adults have left Pillars shelters to live in shared homes with support from each other and their SRO case manager. Neighborhoods win, SRO tenants win, and the community wins.

This positive impact was recently recognized by the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago (FHLBank Chicago) with the Community First Affordable Housing Award. Pillars’ SRO lending partner, Community First Credit Union (CFCU), nominated SRO for the $10,000 award.

A volunteer SRO crew

“Pillars identified the need for affordable housing, and they really took it upon themselves to bring about a solution,” says CFCU Chief Lending Officer Tim Hoff, a Pillars board member. “Creating opportunities to have multiple individuals living together with some shared space was really innovative and has done great things for our community.”

Hear more about the award in this video:

The Basic Needs Giving Partnership within the Community Foundation is supported by the U.S. Venture Fund for Basic Needs, the J.J. Keller Foundation, Inc., and other community partners. Learn more here.

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