What Does It Mean that Apartment Life is Faith-Based?
by Pete Kelly, Apartment Life CEO
There are two goals of every Apartment Life program: to provide real business value to apartment owners, and to have a positive impact on people’s lives.
The first goal is fairly easy to measure. An analysis by Witten Advisors found that Apartment Life adds approximately $188,000 in annual financial benefit to the average community through reduced resident and staff turnover and increased leasing.
The second goal is harder to quantify, but equally important. Loneliness is a growing problem in America with profound physical, emotional, and spiritual effects. Apartment Life started on the foundation that all people need love and community. And people in apartments today are increasingly more transient than those who purchase homes. As a Christian, faith-based non-profit, we want to make a positive impact on peoples' lives through authentic relationships. And we want to do it in the right way.
Apartment Life is a community building program that serves every resident from any background. All of our teams are trained in Fair Housing, and in our 20-year history we have not had a single Fair Housing claim. Our desire is to serve with such excellence and to love our neighbors so well that people ask why.
Why do you put such care into these events?
Why are you taking me to the airport at 5 a.m.?
Why did you stop everything to help me jump-start my car?
These types of questions lead to amazing conversations, and sometimes even life-change. A few examples may be helpful.
A Retired Attorney
KC is a retired attorney living at a Greystar community in Charleston, South Carolina. When his Apartment Life Team first met him, they couldn’t help but notice his skeletal frame (he was 110 pounds at that time) and his yellow skin and eyes. KC was struggling with alcohol addiction, so the team regularly checked in on him and occasionally brought him meals.
One day, KC ended up in the hospital with a blood alcohol level of .473. Doctors gave him a 10 percent chance of survival. Every day, multiple times a day, the Apartment Life Team would visit KC. They’d take him food. They’d pray for him. And after he was discharged, they kept it up.
Weeks after his hospital stay, KC wrote a long post on Facebook about the incident. The same man who had previously declared he had “sworn off religion eight years ago,” publicly discussed his return to faith, thanks to the love he experienced from his Apartment Life Team. A year later, still sober and plugged into a support network through his church, KC shared his story with our board of directors. That’s the kind of life-change we seek.
But it’s not only residents whose lives are impacted.
A Head of Maintenance
Dave, the head of maintenance at a Fairfield community in San Antonio, endured unspeakable physical abuse as a child - and not just from his dad, but his mom too. “When you get back from school, you’re going to get it,” his parents would tell him. So Dave did everything he could to avoid coming home. He threw himself into athletics and after school activities, and as soon as he was old enough, he moved out.
Years later, after he was married and working for Fairfield, Dave experienced post-traumatic stress. At night he would have vivid dreams of the beatings he received as a child and would wake up swinging his fists. It became so bad his wife had to sleep in a different room. Increasingly, Dave fell into a sullen depression, and finally, his wife and 11- year-old daughter moved out. That’s when Dave hit rock bottom.
One night he decided to take his life. He had a gun and was ready to end his pain, when his Apartment Life Team stopped by unexpectedly, as they often did, to check on him. That visit saved his life.
A few days later, seeking answers, Dave decided to visit a church and something unexplainable happened. He cried through the whole service and afterward asked church leaders to pray for him. Dave said, “I can’t explain it, but as they prayed for me, it felt as if something was lifted off me. All the pain, all the sadness, all the loneliness, it was gone.” Dave had an experience that day that completely changed his life. Two weeks later, his estranged wife met him at a coffee shop. When she saw Dave she said, “Something’s different about you. What happened?” So Dave told her the story. Shortly after, their marriage was restored. His wife and daughter moved back in, and they, too, began to experience a spiritual renewal in their lives.
A Woman Who Swears Like A Sailor
Mel is a resident in Phoenix who often showed up at events angry and “swearing like a sailor.” At first, the Apartment Life Team was hesitant around Mel because they were concerned their young kids might pick up her language. But as they soon discovered, she had some good reasons to be angry.
Mel’s husband serves as a private military contractor in Iraq and is gone four months at a time, so she spends most of her time living alone. The Apartment Life Team built a friendship with her and after hearing about her loneliness, invited her to a women’s gathering at their church so she could make new friends. On the way to the meeting, Mel confided that she has terminal cancer and that she and her husband are going through in vitro fertilization so she can leave a bit of herself to him. Imagine how difficult that must be. But thanks to her management company, there’s an Apartment Life Team caring for Mel.
Rules of Engagement
There are countless other stories that could be shared: A team in Nashville who took in an 18-year-old boy after his father kicked him out of his apartment. A team in Seattle who helped a resident forgive her dying mother for the abuse she suffered growing up. A team in Orlando who helped a single father get back on his feet emotionally after his wife left him. There are a few elements each of these stories have in common - “rules of engagement” if you will:
Relationships: All of these people were impacted in the context of a friendship. Our teams are encouraged to love their neighbors and as they make friends, life-changing conversations naturally happen. We do not allow our coordinators to pass out flyers or proselytize door-to-door. In fact, we will fire them if they do. Thankfully, our teams prefer building authentic relationships.
Respect: Behind all of these stories is an attitude of respect. Apartment communities are full of residents from diverse backgrounds, and our teams are trained to treat everyone with kindness and respect. When they befriend a resident without any interest in religion (or a different religion), they don’t harass them or try to pressure them into coming to their church. They love them unconditionally. In fact, one resident so loved her Apartment Life Team, that when they moved to serve a new community, she moved with them, even though she was from a completely different faith background. That’s the kind of respectful relationship we encourage.
Care: One final thread that weaves through each story is the drive to meet practical needs. Bringing a meal to a neighbor. Visiting them in the hospital. Driving them to the airport. Every resident I’ve met whose life was positively impacted by Apartment Life talked about how the team went out of their way to care for them. As the saying goes, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
Hopefully, as you read these stories and hear the heart of our organization, you will be even more excited for Apartment Life to serve your communities. It makes great sense from a business perspective, and it also changes lives. If you have questions or stories of your own to share, please email me at PeteKelly@apartmentlife.org.