HomeList – Business Plan

HomeList is a digital application connecting individuals experiencing homelessness with available private and public housing. Through a dialog with the user, the application gathers the user’s personal information, including any barriers to housing. Then the system matches the user with a housing program or private rental available to them. The system then contacts either the owner of the property for approval, or contacts the organization for availability. Once approved, the system then walks them through the process of signing their lease and moving in to the unit.

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Above are screens illustrating a small flow of the product. The first illustrates the the list of housing options a user would see; the second shows the process of becoming familiar with a private landlord’s lease, and the third shows how the application changes as the user progresses towards their move in date.

A key piece to HomeList is an initiative called the Landlord Outreach Program. This connects non-profit organizations seeking to end homelessness with Austin landlords and offers incentives to take in individuals who have or are currently experiencing homelessness. These incentives typically come in the form of higher than normal security deposits or guaranteed case management if there is a bad situation. These costs are paid for through a specific financial stream built to help individuals get back into housing. By aggregating these additional open units, there is enough available housing units to reduce the number of homeless individuals in Austin. This program is run by the continuum of care organization in Austin, known as the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO).

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Above is the expected journey an individual experiencing homelessness would take when using HomeList to find housing.

HomeList interfaces with the landlord outreach program and uses the list of available housing to allow people with lower barriers to rent from an understanding and accepting person. Optimally, this would cultivate stronger relationships with the landlords currently participating in the landlord outreach initiative, and gain further traction in the community as a whole. This also allows people experiencing homelessness to spend less time on the street, and less time worrying about where they will be staying. This allows a greater focus on self sustenance instead of worrying about find a place to live.

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Above is the Theory of Change diagram created to map the behavioral impact. It shows the activities performed, and the outcomes we seek to produce from them.

The promise of HomeList is to connect individuals experiencing homelessness to stable housing. Through this application, those who are living on the streets are given a direct connection to housing options accessible to them. HomeList will help to handle the transition from experiencing homelessness to stable housing.

In order to fulfill our value promise and further our reach, we plan to establish our company as a non profit. Charging the individuals who would be using our service is nothing short of predatory. As a nonprofit we do not have to satisfy a group of investors and instead can do what is best for those we serve. We also believe that as a non profit, we can better work with other non profits serving the same population. When working with other organizations, there will be less of a question of intention to do good, and no worry of maximizing profit to the detriment of the user.

In order to begin developing our product, initially we are seeking $250,000. The money would come from multiple sources: the Grants for the Benefit of Homeless Individuals (GBHI) and the McKinney Vento Homeless Assistance Grant, as well as city or state funds appropriated for initiatives ending homelessness. We would be requesting a grant of $150,000 from the Grants for the Benefit of Homeless. The GBHI is a federally funded general grant that works to tackle homelessness at the local level. They do not have a specific focus on who can apply for the grant. From the McKinney Vento Grant, we would request $100,000 to cover the organizational operating costs and infrastructure costs. The McKinney Vento grant comes out of the National Alliance to End Homelessness. This organization is the primary advocacy group at the federal policy level.

Right now we are still in the process of development estimation, but we are assuming a six month development timeframe with 3 developers, working on a client side and server side application. The main pieces of development will be the web app and mobile wrapper, as well as the integration with different types of HMIS software or Homeless Management Information Systems. All non profits who perform intakes or administer the coordinated assessment are required by HUD (the Federal Housing and Urban Development organization). There are many different companies who make this software, and integrating with their databases and information architecture can be complex. This sum of money also includes all fees for infrastructure, salaries, and grant applications. This original grant funding will allow us to perpetuate until the second month of our second year. At that point, our estimates show even with the rise of infrastructure costs, we would only require an additional $40,000 in grant money for our second year, until HomeList became sustainable. This dream of sustainability is contingent on having the buy in of 6 organizations by the end of our second year.

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Above is a financial for our first 24 months of business. This does not include the additional funding obtained at the beginning of year two for operating costs. It shows our first year with the funding requested, less the $150,000 for development costs.

To create revenue steams and achieve our vision of self-sustainability, HomeList would charge a licensing fee to the organizations who choose to buy in. Sold as an add-on to current HMIS systems, and being marketed as a cost saving initiative, HomeList would qualify for subsidy from HUD, who pays the majority of licensing costs for HMIS systems currently. At $2,000 per organization per month ($1,500 per organization if licensed by a COC) HUD contributes 75% of the cost of the system, leaving $500 per month as the cost to organizations. All profit from the sales and growth of HomeList will be used to research other markets, and expand to them if possible, as well as developing further tools to assist in ending homelessness. Our full business plan is detailed in a document here for viewing.