Our Neighbors, Inc. is a nonprofit community housing development organization that works with the community to improve opportunities for people in need of assistance with affordable housing.
We asked Our Neighbors’ Executive Director, Stephen Crane, to tell us more about their work.
Independent Sector: Tell us about your organization’s areas of interest, the communities you serve, and how your work helps to advance an equitable and healthy sector and nation where all people can thrive.
Stephan Crane: I think our organizational values are key to understanding how our work advances an equitable and healthy sector. Our core values are:
- commitment to develop, build, and maintain decent and affordable housing for low-to-moderate income individuals and families;
- dedication to strengthening the communities we serve through collaborative approaches in housing development and services;
- demonstration of a high level of compassion and support for the persons who are in our programs and housing development projects;
- excellence in the quality of our services and products;
- accountability for program participants in assuming responsibility for their lives;
- accountability for Our Neighbors helping program participants and community partners in the achievement of positive results; and
- strategic use and stewardship of the resources utilized to achieve our mission.
IS: What are your organization’s core programs that support the community you serve and help strengthen the nonprofit sector?
SC: Our Neighbors, Inc. is a nonprofit community housing development organization that operates Permanent Supportive Housing using a “Housing First” model of engagement and a “Moving On” philosophy to guide and support households in their journey for self-sufficiency.
IS: Independent Sector brings together a diverse community of changemakers at nonprofits, foundations, and corporate giving programs that are working to achieve a racially just and healthy sector and nation where all people in the U.S. thrive. What influenced your decision to become an Independent Sector member? How does your work align with IndependentSector’s mission and our member organizations?
SC: Independent Sector (IS) has been an influential guide and touchpoint over the 20-year history of Our Neighbors, Inc. with reports, articles, newsletters, and policy advocacy ideas, and goals. Our Neighbors, Inc. works intimately with individuals and families who often are overlooked or cast aside because of social, economic, racial, gender, or ethnic differences. Because volunteers lead the organization, Independent Sector has provided resource ideas and guidance that impact strategic goals and operations. Our Neighbors, Inc. is aligned with the IS mission and other member organizations because we walk the talk of nonprofit value to a community and those people whom we serve.
IS: Independent Sector collaborates with individuals and the charitable community to create a racially just and healthy sector and nation. How does your work help to support or advance these objectives?
SC: Our Neighbors, Inc. is a supportive housing development organization that engages the communities we serve through stakeholders, clients, businesses, and partner organizations. The primary task is to develop and provide safe, decent, and affordable housing options and programs that are sensitive to the needs of a diverse population.
IS: How can collaborating with Independent Sector help you better achieve your mission?
SC: Becoming a member organization of IS allows Our Neighbors, Inc access to a larger network to tell our story and make a stronger case statement for the needs of individuals and families in an increasingly competitive environment. Collaboration was, is, and will always be a key element of making a stronger local and regional impact.
IS: Tell us about a memorable moment that affirmed how your organization’s work impacts the community you serve.
SC: Several years ago, a new property Our Neighbors, Inc. sponsored and developed had just received its CO (certificate of occupancy) and the move-in process was underway. The property took in 15 individuals into the one-bedroom units, all of whom had chronic homeless histories. Within six months of move-ins, eight of the individuals received Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) awards due in part to having a permanent address, which expedited their claims. All had been working between 10 and 20 years prior to becoming disabled. “Bringing Affordable Housing Home.”
IS: What is most special about the community or people you serve?
SC: To see eyes brighten and often tear up when the problem of finding an affordable housing solution is found by an individual or family. The jangle of keys to a safe and affordable housing unit, even just for the moment, is special.
IS: What or who inspires you to be a changemaker?
SC: Several people inspired me to work in the field of service to others. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, by his patient and sincere approach in the endorsement of Habitat for Humanity over the years; a woman named Jo Singleton, who championed servant leadership in the late 1980s and early 1990s through her career working with severe and profoundly disabled children and adults; Sharon Allred Decker, currently the COO of the Tyron International Equestrian Center, as an enterprise mentor over the past 30 years.
IS: What would you like people to know about your organization that might surprise them?
SC: We have been operating for 20 years and housed well over 3,000 families, most of whom presented themselves at first meeting as homeless. The housing we make possible is well maintained and affordable units with plans and partnerships for many more.
Photos provided courtesy of Our Neighbors, Inc.
Lindsay Marcal is Manager, Membership at Independent Sector.