Hilliard House Bids Farewell to Longtime Director -

Friends & Neighbors

Hilliard House Bids Farewell to Longtime Director

Housing Families First to Remain Top Priority

hilliardhouseAfter a long career of helping Richmonders get back on their feet, Ross Altenbaugh is stepping down as director of Hilliard House.

“Ross is a trailblazer,” Hilliard House Board Director Caroline Nowery said. “She transformed Hilliard House from a shelter into a solution for families, making it possible for us to help more Richmonders get back into their homes. We have been fortunate to have someone so passionate– and tenacious- leading our mission,” Nowery said.

After accepting the director position in 2010, Altenbaugh spearheaded a shift to a “housing first” model that would revolutionize the organization’s approach to the serving families experiencing homelessness in Richmond.

For years, the 30-bed facility had served as a shelter for hundreds of families referred by the Richmond Homeless Point of entry. Hilliard House launched its Building Neighbors program in 2011, prioritizing the focus on helping families mitigate challenges that keep them from securing permanent housing.

Hilliard House was the first in Richmond to commit exclusively to this strategy. As a result, the organization secured permanent housing for 68 families in 2013, up from 19 in 2010. Hilliard House projects it will serve more than 80 families (nearly 250 people) in 2014.

Housing Families First

Nearly 40 percent of the adults who completed the 2013 Homeward’s annual Point-In-Time survey of Richmond’s homeless population were employed at the time. Most were female (93 percent) and more than half (52 percent) had experienced domestic violence in their life histories.

Poor work histories, prior evictions, bad credit, and felony backgrounds often prevent families from meeting housing requirements. Hilliard House helps people secure stable employment, manage finances, develop healthy coping skills and address past trauma.

“Families need stability to thrive and it starts with permanent housing,” said Altenbaugh. “Once you remove the barriers to housing, it is amazing to see what people can imagine for themselves and their children.”

The housing first model appears to be helping. Last year, Homeward reported that for the first time in 15 years, the number of Richmonders experiencing homelessness dropped below 1,000.

Looking ahead

Altenbaugh has won a number of accolades during her tenure, including the prestigious Stettinus Award for Nonprofit Leadership in Richmond, presented by The Community Foundation in 2014. Virginia Housing Coalition also named Altenbaugh as one of the top 40 under 40 in Housing in Virginia in 2012.

“I’ve had the privilege of working with an incredible, tireless team who share the same vision– that housing is a right,” Altenbaugh said. “It is hard to leave, especially after we’ve accomplished so much, but it is heartening to know the program will continue to flourish.”

Hilliard House is actively seeking candidates for Executive Director. Altenbaugh will continue to consult the Hilliard House Board and staff until the position is filled.

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