Washington, D.C.–based property owner and operator WC Smith formed the Building Bridges to a Better Life (BBBL) program in response to a request from mayor Muriel Bowser to find housing for homeless families, who at the time had been staying at DC General Hospital or in hotels.
To provide the support and services that they knew these families would need after experiencing homelessness, WC Smith recruited several nonprofit organizations, including THEARC and Skyland Workforce Center, which it had helped to found, to find new homes in its properties, gather resources for apartment living and care, and provide education, health, and employment services.
WC Smith has worked closely with the D.C. Department of Human Services and The Community Partnership to form this program and added two new roles, program manager and case engagement coordinator, to serve as additional support and liaisons between the company, caseworkers, and families. Existing employees also have volunteered to form and maintain BBBL, which WC Smith reports has been a “new source of energy for employee morale and enthusiasm.”
On move-in, the BBBL families receive a gift basket of home necessities, including dishes, sheets and towels, and cleaning and kitchen supplies, along with a $100 supermarket gift card. These gifts are made possible through donations via Amazon Wish List. The program manager also provides families with transportation to A Wider Circle, a partner nonprofit, to select and transport gently used furniture.
Monthly workshops are available on a variety of topics, including financial literacy, stress management, and education for children and parents. Residents also can access connections to employment opportunities through partner programs, including STRIVE and DC Central Kitchen.
The BBBL program will actively support families for at least a year after move-in. This spring, WC Smith had reported housing 62 families experiencing homelessness in 17 of its properties.