The History of Community Partners

 

Community Partners is home to Housing Partnership and Parent-Child Center, which share this mission:

We are committed to Changing the Odds for our children and families facing social, emotional and financial adversity.

 

Housing Partnership (HP) was formed in 1986 after a Palm Beach County Affordable Housing Task Force recommended that the county form a public-private partnership to address the need for affordable housing in the county. William Finley, Chair of the Task Force, took the initiative to form HP and was instrumental in hiring its first CEO, George Steele. Steele and Finley successfully secured funding for the first several years of operation, which consisted primarily of grants from the county and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The organization’s focus for the first five years was on public policy work and first time homeownership for low and moderate income families, including housing production.

During the early 1990s a new CEO, John Corbett, developed a strategic vision to expand into other housing activities, most specifically multi-family rental apartments and housing for special needs. Through owning and managing apartments, HP began to recognize the need to provide other support services to families residing in those communities. Our growing experience in housing production and neighborhood revitalization was also teaching a similar lesson. The staff and board embraced the concept that the condition of the real estate in our neighborhoods was a reflection of the social and economic condition of the families living in the homes. Therefore, in the mid-1990s Housing Partnership developed its Campus for Living program, a holistic and proactive approach to linking our families with traditional social services in order to improve their lives. 

This focus on building stronger families instead of real estate transformed the organization and changed its culture. Housing became just one of several services and programs provided to our customers. One of the most successful new programs to develop out of the Campus for Living program was the Youth Enrichment Academies, a very structured, organized and disciplined after school program for school-aged children. Another successful program emerging from this concept was the Supportive Housing Program, which combines housing and social services to help special needs adults and families live independently. In 1996 Housing Partnership was honored to be named a chartered affiliate of the national NeighborWorks America, created and funded by the U.S. Congress to promote neighborhood revitalization and affordable housing.

Our experience of working directly with children in their schools and families in their communities taught the organization a lot about neighborhood and community impact. HP began to see children in the context of their families and families in the context of their neighborhoods. This knowledge prepared HP to expand its community development efforts by operating community centers on the grounds of elementary schools in disenfranchised neighborhoods. This concept originated in New York and was brought to the county by the Children’s Services Council in 2002. Housing Partnership currently operates six of ten BRIDGES Centers in Palm Beach County and is viewed as a leader in this arena. 

During this transformation, a large number of the growing staff came from the community mental health and social services profession. Prior experience in community development combined with the perspective of new staff led to an increased interest in children’s mental health and child welfare. In 2001 the state asked Corbett if he would be willing to contact the board of a struggling children’s community mental health center, Parent-Child Center (PCC). Founded in 1979, PCC was created to address the community mental health needs of children and their families in Palm Beach County. In the 1980s and 1990s, PCC was the premier provider of behavioral health services for children and families throughout the county.  Innovative programs and research were conducted through the center, and it established critical services for some populations that were considered "hard to serve." At the turn of the century, however, rapid growth and mismanagement impacted the center, pushing it to the brink of closing in 2001. Since the agency provided essential services to the community, the Department of Children & Families (DCF) approached Housing Partnership, having demonstrated a track record of responsible management, to help keep Parent-Child Center’s doors open. Soon after, Housing Partnership agreed to assume the management and financial support of Parent-Child Center,  allowing it to continue providing valuable services to its clients while restoring quality care, developing internal capacity, and expanding its programs. Both organizations, now working together, developed a strong corporate culture that embraced state of the art management concepts around best practices in all its service areas. A strong organization-wide commitment to excellence emerged.

Under the umbrella of Community Partners, the two agencies formed a partnership, sharing operational and financial oversight. With a focus on quality, recruitment of skilled personnel, and responsible fiscal management, the initial goal was stabilization and maintenance of core programs.  In 2006 the Parent-Child Center reached a milestone by becoming accredited by the national Council on Accreditation (COA). PCC was then finally in the position to turn its sights to the significant unmet social-emotional needs of children and families in Palm Beach County. Along with Housing Partnership, strong partnerships were formed with other community agencies and systems, collaborating to create a system of care. With a dedicated focus on quality and effectiveness, by 2006 Parent-Child Center once again held the reputation as the premier provider of emotional and behavioral health services for children, adolescents and their families.

Upon planning his retirement as CEO, Corbett recommended to the Board of Directors that he be succeeded in 2007 by Patrick McNamara, a member of the organization since 1999. McNamara currently heads a gifted and passionate senior leadership team, serving Community Partners and the children, families, and communities of South Florida.

Working with children and families in the neighborhoods where they reside for over 30 years, Housing Partnership and Parent-Child Center have evolved into Community Partners, a diverse organization providing a comprehensive array of housing and family services throughout Palm Beach County that is Changing the Odds for our children and families facing adversity. Our history demonstrates our desire to empower communities to to lead social change, improve quality of life, and build healthy communities.