Did you know this week, November 16-24, is National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week? Since working with nonprofit organizations specializing in serving the homeless and at-risk populations, I have noticed two common sentiments in communities across the country surrounding the issue: homelessness is always a choice and it only affects those who experience it. While there are many reasons an individual might experience homelessness, the reasons that put them on their path and keep them there vary wildly from case to case. Have you seen a young person on the street? They may be aging out of the foster care system with no means to support themselves and no support system to speak of. A man or woman behaving irrationally and erratically? Forty-five percent of the half million homeless individuals in the United States are chronically mentally ill. In the 2019 Point-in-Time Count (a study that measures the number of individuals experiencing homelessness on any-given night in the U.S.) 37,085 veterans found themselves homeless. The faces of homelessness vary wildly, each with their own unique story to tell.
United Housing Connections (UHC) was one of my very first clients as an independent consultant in 2017, and we've been working together on various projects and daily marketing efforts ever since. UHC works to prevent homelessness by securing affordable housing, connecting low-income families and individuals with resources, generating support from the community, and providing long-term case support to the chronically mentally ill and disabled. They manage hundreds of doors across the Upstate of South Carolina, and today, I had the privilege of helping them open a few more.
Over the past 5 years, Greenville, South Carolina has experienced a massive localized economic expansion as construction struggles to keep up with the demands of a rapidly increasing population. From an ever-growing job market, to a family-friendly atmosphere, the influx of residents has been incredible for the local economy, but has also increased the housing premium; creating a gap in the number of low-income families and affordable housing. Today, on November 18th, United Housing Connections, along with the City of Greenville, cut the ribbon on a brand new affordable, sustainable housing property: 8 Urban Street.
A well-planned press conference serves a few purposes; it lets the community know you're open for business, gives the media a valuable story to increase engagement in the community, strengthens partnerships, and reaffirms the value and relevancy of your organization and the work you do.
Strategically planning marketing and PR for the grand opening of the new facility at the beginning of Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week was key to maximizing our media attention and improving the likelihood of attendance by influential community leaders. With several media partners responding positively to the press release the week prior, I knew media coverage looked promising for our launch. But media coordination is much more than a writing a well-crafted press release and invite. When I'm running PR for a client, I always arrive early to greet the media as they arrive. Once we connect, I find out what type of story they are looking to run. If they're doing a live stream, I want to find them the best spot with nothing blocking the shot and the best possible audio. If they're running a segment with interviews, we have a more in-depth conversation on their angle so I can pull the right people to interview and know how to prep them before they go on camera.
The press conference program had a great lineup of speakers; from the Mayor and the Executive Director, to members of the board and residents of the neighborhood. In a moment of what can only be described as divine planning, the sun came out just as board member, Babette Jones, opened her eyes from the opening prayer. It was an honor to be a part of yet another incredible initiative by United Housing Connections and I look forward to the completion of Church Street Place at Poe Mill in the future; a 36-unit, permanent supportive housing facility in Greenville.
I hope you enjoyed reading about my latest event experience. Have your own event coming up? Let me know what it is in the comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to chat more.