Building Community and Breaking Barriers

Our Jamii Center is so much more than a safe place to rest. 

“When C and I met, she was not sure that I could help her,” reports her housing specialist. C had had bad experiences with social services in the past and expressed a lack of faith in services provided at Jamii Center. When C moved into the motel based program after several months in shelter and sleeping in cars, she was openly doubtful we could help her break down her barriers to accessing housing.  Urban League staff committed to meeting with her regularly, learning about her goals, and hearing her story. By validating and empathizing with C, her housing specialist was able to earn her trust over time. In just a few months in our Jamii program, we were able to advocate for a precious but scarce resource: a Mainstream Housing Choice Voucher. These vouchers entitle the holder to permanently affordable housing for almost any rental unit in the community

Voucher holders can choose where and what type of home they want, and never need to worry about paying more than 30% of their income to rent. C selected her apartment in a newly built apartment complex that had some security options she desired, as well as proximity to transit. She was hopeful, but at Urban League we do more than hope. Her housing specialist submitted a letter of intended support to bolster her application and began the effort to advocate to her full capacity. Thankfully, the property management company called and indicated C had been approved and offered her an apartment with an expedited move-in. C was so happy and relieved to have a place of her own.  


Despite this major accomplishment, C began to worry about how she was going to furnish her apartment. Luckily, her housing specialist was able to advocate for the purchase of some new household goods and schedule a visit to a community resource that offers free furniture. C had her inspection and got her keys the next day, and she was excited and nervous all in one. Moving from homelessness to housing can bring up a lot of bad feelings: insecurity about previous experiences, loneliness, anxiety about living alone, and the stress of new financial burdens. Our model is to help our participants by validating their concerns and helping them identify natural support while also providing direct support through ongoing services. She has been enjoying her new apartment and is excited for a fresh start.  


The Urban League’s Jamii Center opened in 2021 during the pandemic and has been a critical asset to our community. It’s been a haven for those with the greatest risk of impact due to COVID-19. Not only have we provided safety in emergency housing during a deadly pandemic, our program also supports their transitions into long-term affordable housing and rebuilds a sense of purpose, community, and stability. C’ story is one of many people whose lives have been impacted by our team lending a sympathetic ear and empowering them with the tools for a new beginning.  


Read more about our Jamii Center here.