Bringing a Social Work Philosophy to Housing Stability
Launched in 2017, the CARES (Client Assessment Resources and Empowerment Services) program empowers and educates residents of Main Street Renewal, the property management arm of Amherst, to achieve greater housing stability through resource sharing, advocacy, and social-emotional support. Staffed by an in-house team of social workers and program specialists, CARES has helped thousands of Amherst residents. CARES is working to support renters housing stability and create stronger communities. By empowering and educating our residents, we are using evidence-based approaches to decrease rates of resident default and improve social welfare for thousands of residents.
Goals of CARES Program
We promote housing stability by:
2017: Launching an Industry-First Initiative To Address Renters’ Housing Insecurity
Housing instability can have devastating effects on families, communities, and neighborhoods; it can affect health outcomes, employment stability, and drive people into poverty. Renters are especially vulnerable to housing instability compared to homeowners: they are more likely to have one income or be a single-parent household, have larger families and more children in the household, and have lower incomes than homeowners. CARES was founded in 2017 to try and address those increased risks of housing instability. Initially partnering with the Steve Hicks School of Social Work at The University of Texas at Austin, CARES first launched as an industry-first initiative designed to use the social work discipline to help positively influence property management practices by providing a holistic continuum of care to renters. Today, the CARES team includes 13 in-house Program Specialists, Counselors, Supervisors, Social Workers, and a full-time Housing Counselor who work tirelessly help residents maintain their housing stability.
The CARES program makes a huge difference. I’m a perfect example – sometimes you feel embarrassed to ask for help. I was at my lowest point and had to do what was best for my family by contacting CARES. It was the right decision. She helped us from being evicted.”
– CARES Resident
CARES Specialists utilize Solution Focused Case Management Techniques which is a short-term, goal-focused, evidence-based therapeutic approach. This method helps keep residents, who often feel helpless, remain focused on solutions and remain goal-focused in times of extreme challenges or stress. We focus on building solutions, working collaboratively to support the residents and help them meet their goals.
Bringing a Social Work Philosophy to Property Management During COVID
[My CARES specialist] definitely bent over backwards for me. She was attentive. She listened to everything I had to say and tried her hardest to accommodate my needs.”
– CARES Resident
CARES does more than tailoring resources to individual cases. To further promote housing stability, CARES launched a Financial Empowerment Webinar Series run by our in-house housing counselor. This initiative was designed to educate residents on how to become financially independent, develop budgeting skills, better manage debt burdens, and create pathways to homeownership. By covering topics such as:
- “Budgeting when Behind on Bills”
- “Becoming a Homeowner”
- “Credit Repair and Debt Repayment”
- “Setting Financial Goals”
We help make financial literacy and planning accessible to all our residents. More than 2,000 residents have registered to attend these webinars so far, with a significant majority of participating residents saying they positively benefited from the content.
We know using holistic solutions and evidence-based strategies can help us help residents, and we remain committed to using the discipline of social work to provide the best care possible.
Creating Pathways to Financial Independence and Homeownership Through Financial Empowerment Programming
Housing Counseling with a focus on financial empowerment is an evidence-based eviction prevention practice that provides more positive outcomes for residents.
CARES financial empowerment programming enables Amherst to:
Empowered residents are more likely to be securely housed. CARES has a two-pronged approach to our advocacy work:
- We are advocates for our residents
- We teach residents to become advocates for themselves
We work together to identify and improve skills deficits, provide access to our in-house Housing Counselor to guide resident s through tough times, and deliver proactive intervention through education programming. Our advocacy work was in full force during the COVID-19 pandemic with our CARES team members on the frontlines of Amherst’s response, working to keep residents stably housed whilst getting back on track. Our efforts during the pandemic enabled residents to access over $40MM in emergency rental assistance, helping them cure rental arrears.
[My CARES specialist] is a superhero. She went above and beyond and she didn’t have to. If it weren’t for her, and the CARES program, we wouldn’t be able to pay our bills.”
– CARES Resident
Advocacy across the entire property management ecosystem
Through implementing social work theories such as empathy and nonjudgement, active listening, motivational interviewing, as well as learning key behavioral management techniques like de-escalation training, breathing exercises, and crisis intervention, we work to meet residents where they are.
To increase CARES’ influence among all Amherst departments, we provide our resident-facing teams training in how to use empathetic language in communicating to residents. We also launched the internal CARES Corner Newsletter which highlights CARES initiatives and the impact the program has on residents’ futures in collaboration with our operations teams. By employing a solutions-focused approach company-wide, CARES is able to help hundreds of residents every year.
[My CARES specialist] has a special gift. Not everybody has that level of patience. She was genuinely concerned about helping me. When I needed help she was there.”
– CARES Resident
 U.S. Census Bureau, https://www.statista.com/statistics/240267/number-of-housing-units-in-the-united-states/, published by Statista Research Department, Number of housing units in the United States from 1975 to 2021
 Zillow US Housing Market Research, https://www.zillow.com/research/us-housing-market-total-value-2021-30615/, January 27, 2022
 HUD PD&R National Housing Market Summary Q4 2021, page 15, https://www.huduser.gov/portal/sites/default/files/pdf/National-Summary-4Q21.pdf
 U.S. Census Bureau via https://www.statista.com/statistics/187577/housing-units-occupied-by-renter-in-the-us-since-1975/, published by Statista Research Department, Number of renter occupied housing units in the United States from 1975 to 2021
 2007-2019 HMDA and Census data tabulated by Amherst Research, https://www.consumerfinance.gov/data-research/hmda/historic-data/
 New York Fed Consumer Credit Panel/Equifax, https://www.newyorkfed.org/medialibrary/interactives/sce/sce/downloads/data/frbny-sce-credit-access-data.xlsx