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Social Capitalists: Common Ground

43 entrepreneurs who are changing the world
Social Capitalist 2008 Winner

Common Ground

Rosanne Haggerty, president
New York, New York
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At Common Ground, we know firsthand that the homeless have talents and dreams…that a person who is capable of extraordinary things can wind up homeless. We know too, that one can only make a difference in the lives of homeless people by first providing them with a home. Then they can actively participate in their own rehabilitation.

In 1990, Common Ground pioneered the concept of mixed-income supportive housing: affordable housing for a range of income groups with on-site social services. These services help formerly homeless tenants restore their health, regain their economic independence, and rebuild their lives. Of those we assist, 93% remain stably housed. Indeed, their lives are transformed.

Steve Kroft, in introducing a 60 Minutes story on Common Ground: “We tend to think of the homeless as hopeless cases, the flotsam and jetsam of American society, but we discovered a place that changed our perceptions of homeless people.”

Andy Court, 60 Minutes producer: “[Common Ground] took hideous welfare hotels and turned them into places where people who were recently homeless not only managed to stay off the street, but actually got jobs and put their lives back together…it really was miraculous to see not only how much the buildings had changed, but how much the people had, too.”


  • Common Ground has created more than 2,000 units of permanent and transitional housing in New York City, Connecticut, and upstate New York. With the goal of creating 4,000 additional units of housing for the homeless by 2015, we are currently developing eight properties comprising 1,375 units.
  • We have directly housed over 4,000 homeless and low-income individuals and, since early 2007, we are assisting partners in 15 cities to implement our strategies.
  • Our approach is decidedly cost-effective. Our housing costs approximately $36 per night – significantly less than alternative public expenditures on homelessness: $54 for a city shelter; $164 for a city jail cell; $467 for a psychiatric bed; or $1,185 for a hospital bed.
  • Our groundbreaking Street to Home program reduced street homelessness by 87% in New York City’s 20-block Times Square neighborhood, and by 43% in the surrounding 230 blocks of West Midtown. Spearheading a citywide strategy, Common Ground is now responsible for securing homes for people living on the streets in all of Brooklyn, Queens, and midtown Manhattan.
  • As lead partner in the Brownsville Partnership, we are focusing on the social and economic forces that undermine stability and health in Brownsville, East Brooklyn – a neighborhood with one of New York City’s highest rates of unemployment, incarceration, and child welfare involvement. In partnerships with service providers, government agencies, landlords, businesses, and community residents, we address the root causes of homelessness and upheaval in families.
  • Our Veterans Transitional Residence on the Veterans Adminstration’ss campus in Westchester County, New York, will provide homeless veterans with attractive housing, access to job training, physical and mental health services, and comprehensive support in preparing to live independently.
  • Our Common Ground Institute brings hands-on technical assistance and field support to target cities across the country and the globe, where we help create housing, share knowledge, test and model innovative solutions, and champion effective practices.
  • Our Green Design Campaign incorporates environmentally sustainable materials and practices into the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of all our new residences.
  • Common Ground has received The Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence, the Peter Drucker Award for Non-Profit Innovation, and the World Habitat Award through the United Nations and Building and Social Housing Foundation.

Today, Common Ground is one of the largest providers of housing for the homeless in the country, and a leading innovator of replicable strategies to end homelessness.