Helping House of Charity Grow Their Mission

House of Charity provides housing and additional services to adults in Minneapolis experiencing long-term homelessness. Once a hotel, the building at 510 South 8th Street now houses 116 men and women who have experienced homelessness. With staff support, House of Charity’s clients tackle the barriers that keep them from maintaining housing stability.

Founded in the early 1950s, House of Charity is undergoing rapid growth. In late 2020, they opened the new Park7 building at 615 S 7th Street. The new building includes 61 studio apartments for people experiencing long-term homelessness. A second building will include a dining center, outpatient addiction and mental health program, and new offices for administration. In addition, as of January 1, 2021, House of Charity is officially part of St. Stephen’s Human Services. The merger “represents a natural progression of a long and valued relationship between the two organizations and an opportunity to more fully integrate our services in support of people experiencing homelessness, hunger, mental health issues, and substance dependence.”

With all of that growth, House of Charity’s existing system for managing client reservations and attendance — internally nicknamed the Matrix because of how confusing it was — could no longer keep up. Traust stepped in with new custom software development to help House of Charity better manage both their busy day-to-day work and the sometimes-cumbersome reporting requirements that come with public funding.

Managing Operations from Anywhere

The new, cloud-based web application streamlines the day-to-day tasks of managing such a large operation. The system matches client records — the people House of Charity serves — with their available inventory of housing. Just like any apartment complex or hotel, House of Charity needs a simple way to keep track of which client is staying in which room, which rooms are available, and which rooms need maintenance work. The new Traust-built solution makes that push-button easy.

The app helps House of Charity track needed details for each client, including case numbers, accessibility needs, and contact information. It also helps keep track of client attendance, which is critical to House of Charity’s government funding. The organization’s funding from the state requires that clients not be absent from the facility for more than 18 consecutive days or 60 days in a calendar year. That latter number can be difficult to track manually. The new system manages it automatically and warns the staff if any clients are in danger of exceeding the limits.

Reporting Has Never Been So Easy

Keeping accurate records is obviously important to a non-profit like House of Charity. The new system’s reservations module keeps track of who is in which room and when. It also makes it very easy to switch a client from one room to another and search the records to see which rooms the individual has occupied during any given timeframe. This detailed record-keeping makes House of Charity’s government-mandated reporting a snap. It might even be too easy, says Geoff Meyer, House of Charity’s Housing Services Director.

When other work at the shelter gets busy, the reporting often gets put off until things calm down. The new system lets Meyer easily complete the reporting when it’s convenient. “Having that history easily accessible for when I get delayed [on] reports,” he says, “enables my procrastination more than anything.”

The old “Matrix” system was only accessible from within House of Charity’s office — and on specific computers. That made it restrictive to use for managing client attendance. As a natively responsive app, the new system is available anytime, anywhere, and from any device. Staff can pull it up in any web browser — including their smart phones — to track attendance and manage reservations. This has been a big help, according to Meyer. “As folks are working from home, being able to go onto it from any system, anywhere, and just look at the information, update information — it’s just so much easier.”

Night-and-Day Difference

“It’s so nice to have a system that just has an actual flow to it,” says Meyer. While the House of Charity staff were initially hesitant to switch applications — “just because they had been so traumatized by the old system” — since using it, he says, they have had “nothing but praise for the system.”

The key to creating such a great tool, was the attention from the Traust team to House of Charity’s unique needs. “[They] really took the time to sit down and listen to what our experiences had been in the past and why we needed a new system.” The developers worked with Meyer and House of Charity’s leadership to design a new application that would not just fix things that were broken in the “Matrix.” They also actively brainstormed ways to add functionality that would make the staff’s workday easier.

This collaborative and consultative approach really impressed Meyer. As Traust developed the new system, they walked through their progress with the House of Charity team. “Being able to see it through the stages and being able to give input along the way has definitely made it feel like I know the system before we even started working in it,” he says. “I have so much more of a comfort with it because I was able to kind of watch it grow.”

The results are dramatic. “The system is so smooth,” says Meyer. “It’s such a night-and-day difference from the system we had been using.”