As the weather starts to get colder, one of the most heartbreaking social problems in our city becomes even more glaring. During a given year in Washington, D.C., 15,000 individuals find themselves homeless. In a single night, there are nearly 7,000 people without a place to call home. One unique organization however, is working tirelessly to get these vulnerable members of the Washington community off the streets, and into a place they can call home.

Pathways to Housing DC works to move homeless individuals suffering from mental illness, substance abuse, and other medical issues into permanent housing. Their Housing First model, based on years of research, shows that the first step to helping individuals facing mental and physical disabilities, is by moving them into a supportive home environment. And the numbers seem to back up this philosophy, as nine out of 10 individuals Pathways place in housing, stay there.

In the past decade, Pathways has succeeded in placing 500 homeless D.C. residents into permanent housing. “A safe place to call home is not only a human right,” Hannah Zollman, director for development at Pathways explains. “We believe that anyone who says they want a safe place to live is ‘housing ready,’ and that virtually all people can be successful in housing with the proper combination of supports.” Through this strategy, Pathways have been able to help hundreds of homeless individuals who have traditionally been viewed as “treatment resistant” and “not ready for housing.”

Pathways approach to ending homelessness is more than just about finding housing. Their staff includes psychiatrists, nurses, social workers and certified addictions counselors, all whom provide life-skills training, recovery assistance, trauma care, and guidance for fitness and employment.

Of course, no organization is an island, so Pathways employs help from both businesses and individuals in the D.C. community. Local nonprofits like Martha’s Table, Unity HealthcareKeys for the Homeless, A Wider Circle and Miriam’s Kitchen all have formalized relationships with Pathways. Corporations such as TJX FoundationGreenLine Real EstateWellsFargo and PNC Bank Foundation have all been generous in helping Pathways reach their funding goals. Furthermore, Pathways employs a network of over 100 landlords who work to find suitable housing for Washington’s homeless.

“Pathways is grateful to have expanded our work and reach over the past nine years.  We won’t give up until our most vulnerable neighbors all have a safe place to call home,” Zollman said.

While local and federal government contracts make up the bulk of the funding for Pathways, more is always needed. So the next time you feel guilty as you pass by a homeless person trying to survive in this cold, think of donating to Pathways to Housing DC, a dedicated organization that is having a concrete effect in ending homelessness in D.C.

[Image via Pathways to Housing DC]