DirectEmployers Association, an HR trade group, recently launched its new charitable foundation called DirectEmployers Serves. Its main project will be to build tiny village communities for the homeless and connect them with rehabilitation resources.
Traveling around the country for conferences as the vice president of marketing for the DirectEmployers Association, Nancy Holland saw the homelessness epidemic with her own eyes.
“There’s not a place that I travel now that I don’t see a multitude of homeless,” she said. After doing some research, she found that “a lot of homeless are individuals with disabilities, or they might be veterans, or young adults, or youth, who have just found themselves in a situation where they don’t have the means to provide a home for themselves.”
These are all populations that DirectEmployers aims to help, Holland said. And while the HR trade association had previously connected its members to outside rehabilitation services and programs, such as Easterseals and We Hire Heroes, it started to think there may be an opportunity to provide services like these itself.
That’s why the association formed a philanthropic foundation called DE-Serves. The foundation will introduce a “Tiny Act of Kindness” project, which will work to transition homeless individuals into tiny village communities and provide rehabilitation programs, along with training and apprenticeship opportunities. The association’s corporate members will help provide the latter.
Holland, who will serve as the foundation’s philanthropy chair, said tiny homes are very economical because they can be repurposed from old shipping containers or discarded semi-truck trailers. More important, they also provide a safe place for homeless individuals to stay and store their belongings.
In addition, the villages will provide community. “By building these tiny villages, you are bringing like-minded people together and what springs up out of this is a sense of community,” Holland said.
Holland acknowledges that this is a long-term project, and this first year will be focused largely on getting funding in place. When asked what success might look like, Holland said it would be to have tiny village communities nationwide and transitioning homeless individuals into jobs.
“Everyone needs a sense of purpose, a reason to get up in the morning and make a contribution,” she said. “Some of us just need a kind hand to get onto that path.”