Building a Future of Functional Zero Homelessness One Pallet Home Community at a Time

  • May 4, 2023

A visit to The Springboard Collaborative’s Georgetown site demonstrates the value of a holistic approach.

The Springboard Collaborative  is on a mission to end homelessness in Delaware, with the goal of making Delaware the First State to achieve functional zero homelessness (aligned with the Built for Zero model). Their approach is rooted in a leading framework for holistic well-being that considers the vital conditions all people need to be healthy and well: a thriving natural world, basic needs for health and safety, dignified housing, meaningful work and wealth, lifelong learning, and reliable transportation.

Our team recently had the opportunity to see this approach in action when we visited Springboard’s first Pallet Village in Georgetown, Delaware. There was a general feeling of peace at the village. Our team arrived in the morning and it looked like any living room in America, with residents enjoying coffee, chatting with neighbors and attending to chores. 

Springboard Village Georgetown DE drone photo January 2023

Many of the residents came from an existing tent community in the woods, about a mile away. Since relocating to the Pallet Village, these residents have access to wraparound services for the first time since experiencing homelessness. They have three meals a day and a safe place to live. Some have started to decorate their homes. As part of their resident agreement with Springboard, folks volunteer to keep the property clean and safe, taking turns to do things around the property. The community radiates with a sense of pride. Residents are taken care of, and in turn take care of their surroundings. People feel safe there. 

The Delaware-based nonprofit is working towards this goal in three phases: 

  • Opening Pallet Home Villages to address short term crisis;
  • Expanding these villages to become tiny home communities; and,
  • Addressing the housing shortage in the state, starting with housing affordability.

Underlying all of this work is a belief in dignified housing, access to wraparound services like physical and mental healthcare and employment support, and low barriers of entry, making sure people are allowed to bring their pets, their spouse, or children, and are able to come and go as they please. 

Sussex County has the largest number of individuals experiencing homelessness in Delaware. The site in Georgetown was selected in response to this need. A formal agreement between Springboard and First State Community Action Agency was signed in April 2022 and the community was opened in early 2023, featuring 44 Pallet Shelters, a community room, and eventually a professional kitchen. 

Social Contract has been working with Springboard since 2021, initially to support the organization in securing capital funding and defining their value proposition. In November 2022, Springboard was named as a finalist for the Pete du Pont Freedom Foundation’s 2023 Reinventing Delaware initiative, recognizing the incredible potential of the organization to have lasting impact in the state. Through strategic guidance and our nonprofit accelerator approach, Social Contract has been facilitating Springboard’s plan for growth and scale across the state. This work has included developing a pitch deck for different audiences and helping Springboard systematize their approach.

The purpose of taking the project team to Georgetown was initially to contextualize everything we’ve heard over the course of the project and to get a better understanding of lessons learned and the challenges facing the staff. Over the course of our visit, we noticed how much support the Pallet Village has from their neighbors. The mayor of Georgetown was onsite with a hammer in-hand, making improvements to the community center, and building furniture for residents. Board members and founders, Jeff Ronald and Judson Malone were also onsite as they often are.  In one corner of the property, residents, staff and volunteers were sorting through an abundance of clothing and toiletries donated by community members and local businesses. 

Springboard Site Visit April 2023
Donations from the community
A Resident in Front of Their Home
Pallet Shelters

 

This site visit gave us so much more than answers to the project-related questions we started with. We were able to see the direct impact of this work – in addition to being able to better articulate how to replicate the approach across the state, in service of Springboard’s mission. 

The Georgetown site is at capacity, but Springboard is just getting started. In addition to building more tiny villages, the organization is exploring innovative ways to expand workforce opportunities in southern Delaware, including farming. It’s been exciting to see Springboard grow over the course of our partnership, and being able to see their vision come to life in Georgetown was an important reminder of why we do this work. 

To learn more about Springboard or their community in Georgetown, visit the-springboard.org

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