Housing / Human Services

Even Stronger Together

Pine Street Inn
Close up of eight hands on a wood table. Three hands are putting together a puzzle, three hands are holding wooden blocks and two hands holding a pen in front of a drawing of a light bulb

Pine Street Inn and hopeFound were long recognized as the top Boston-area anti-homelessness nonprofits – two highly effective agencies, serving sometimes-overlapping populations, via different programmatic approaches. But in 2010, with as many as 9,000 people sleeping homeless in Boston every night, their leaders both realized that neither could do enough alone to effectively tackle the longer-term housing solutions needed to combat chronic homelessness.

hopeFound, founded in 1983, was helping more than 3,000 men and women each year to recover from addiction and find employment, housing, and hope. The organization had weathered serious financial challenges in the mid-2000s, but after working with NFF staged an extraordinary recovery under Executive Director Mary Nee’s leadership, using data and discipline to strengthen its financial position and serve more people with job, housing, and addiction support. In 2010 hopeFound’s balance sheet and reputation for social impact were going strong. But its programs weren’t as comprehensive as Mary envisioned, providing temporary housing but not enough longer-term housing.

Pine Street Inn, founded in 1969, provided range of services daily to help more than 1,500 homeless men and women achieve independence and a place to call home. In 2010, Pine Street Inn’s new strategy focused on moving guests into stable supportive housing, with a plan to double their permanent-housing units and a capital campaign to finance it. A merger wasn’t on the menu when Lyndia Downie, Pine Street Inn president, met Mary Nee for breakfast that December. But it was when they left.

What followed was a year of discussion, visioning, analysis, and negotiation, guided and financed by the Catalyst Fund for Nonprofits, a collaboration to advance strategic collaborations and mergers in the Boston area. The Fund, managed by longtime hopeFound partner NFF, was supported by The Boston Foundation, Boston LISC, The Hyams Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, and the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley.

In March, 2012 a new, combined Pine Street Inn debuted, dedicated to “accelerating the transition from the streets and emergency shelter into permanent housing,” providing more clients with a greater depth of services than the two organizations had been able to do separately. Today, Pine Street Inn helps approximately 11,000 people each year with permanent housing, emergency shelter, street outreach, substance abuse treatment, and job training and placement, and works closely with other homeless service providers and local governments in a wrap-around approach.

The hopeFound-Pine Street Inn merger – and its internal and external messaging – stressed that this was a marriage from strength not financial necessity, driven by mission and impact to deliver better programs and services to more people in need. It continues to underscore a core Catalyst Fund belief, that nonprofit mergers, joint ventures, and collaborations of programs and back-office operations can be a strategic means to more, and more effective, community impact. “The decision to merge was not only a strategic one, but also an emotional one,” Lyndia reflected. “Over the longer-term this has the potential to be a powerful step toward ending homelessness in our community.”

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