Part of the solution: endowment provides sustainability for organization supporting people who are unhoused

In the early 1990s, Triangle-area health care providers realized many of their patients’ health outcomes weren’t improving because their basic needs were not being met. CASA was founded to help address that.

Originally focused on housing people living with severe mental illness, over time CASA has expanded to include anyone in need of housing with a focus on long-term, community-based solutions for the whole person. Today, CASA manages 570 housing units throughout the Triangle.

Like the rest of the Triangle, CASA is in a period of growth and  is building a 100-unit development called King’s Ridge in Raleigh, its largest undertaking to date. Expected to open in fall 2024, it will house individuals and families in studio and two- to three-bedroom apartments. Its success so far is grounded in public-private partnerships.

“We’re good at building and we’re good at knowing our residents,” said Erin Yates, King’s Ridge Director. “But we have experts in the community who can meet other needs. We don’t need to recreate the wheel, but rather make space for our partners and that’s what we’re doing with King’s Ridge.”

Aerial view of King's Ridge

 

“We’re not going anywhere”

The King’s Ridge Sustainability Endowment, an agency fund established by CASA in 2021 at the North Carolina Community Foundation, will provide a permanent source of funding for King’s Ridge so that CASA and its partners can focus on the work of serving people, rather than having to fundraise or figure out how to pay for an unexpected repair.

Molly Painter chaired the capital campaign to fund the project and the endowment. Painter connected with CASA after reading Kathy Izard’s memoir “The Hundred Story Home” about a similar undertaking in Charlotte. It led her to conduct research into the needs in the Triangle.

“I did not set out to help build 100 units of supportive housing. It all came from friendships with women who needed a home, and who could not find one due to structural barriers,” said Painter, who began to understand these barriers through relationships she built over years of regular visits to the Wake Women’s Center. “CASA’s mission to break down all those barriers was a perfect partnership.”

Painter credits her time as grants chair of the Women’s Giving Network of Wake County, an NCCF giving circle, as her first experience both seeing community needs and the impact that can be made through collective, endowed giving. WGN has supported CASA, including providing a $35,000 grant in 2023, and other NCCF fundholders have also supported the Kings Ridge development through generous gifts.

CASA is providing a long-term solution to the root causes of homelessness through King’s Ridge and their agency fund at NCCF is giving them the freedom to focus on their work.

“We’re in this for the long haul,” said Yates. “While our residents are used to living minute-to-minute, we’re not going anywhere, and this permanency will allow them the time and space to focus on those long-term goals.”

Aerial view of King's Ridge

 

Providing the tools

More than 30 years of experience have taught CASA that people need support services in addition to housing. From on-site caseworkers, two medical clinics, location near Raleigh’s planned Bus Rapid Transit line and fully furnished, move-in ready units, everything about the planning and development of King’s Ridge is designed to support residents beyond providing shelter.

“We’re not smarter or different than our unhoused neighbors. We’re simply providing tools anyone needs in order to live and thrive,” said Yates.

With CASA and King’s Ridge the connection between the behind-the-scenes work of an endowment providing support in the background and the frontline work of a nonprofit is clear.

“The reason behind CASA and King’s Ridge’s success is because the community came together and said we’re not going to let our neighbors be homeless anymore,” said Emma Doss, CASA’s Director of Mission Advancement. “The King’s Ridge Sustainability Endowment allows anyone to be a part of the long-term sustainability of that plan.”

“People often ask me how they can make a difference as just one person,” said Painter. “I’m a testament to the fact that you can. Even if you’re housing just one person, that makes a difference. We need the whole community to be a part of King’s Ridge to make it successful.”

Want to support CASA? Visit their website or contribute to the King’s Ridge endowment.