A gathering of major donors at the Pleasant Home on Wednesday learned that Housing Forward is the new name of the agency which for over 23 years has been called West Suburban PADS.
Lynda Schueler, executive director of the agency, said at the unveiling of the new brand that it came as the culmination of an almost year long process aimed at renaming the nonprofit in a way that better fits what the agency has actually grown to do.
When PADS was created by a coalition of religious congregations and community activists in 1992, its sole mission was to provide for a meal and a night’s shelter for homeless people. For the first decade or so the acronym PADS fit the agency’s mission. At present, however, 90 percent of the organization’s budget is spent on getting people out of the emergency shelters and into their own housing, making the name PADS out of date and inadequate as a brand.
Recognizing that reality, last summer Schueler and her board of directors convened three focus groups composed of 30 founders, volunteers, donors, community leaders and local clergy to discuss whether the PADS brand was still communicating the agency’s mission. “Community has always been the foundation of this organization,” said board member Chris Mickens, “so it’s only natural that the input of community members played an important role in the rebranding process.”
“The consensus which came out of those conversations,” said Schueler, “was that we’ve outgrown our name.”
“We wanted to reflect in a new name the impact we’re having on the homeless population beyond a pad on the floor of a church or synagogue. It’s not to diminish the importance of that part of our programming, which we will still refer to as PADS. What the new name reflects is that the emergency overnight shelter is one program among many.”
“Following the focus groups,” Schueler said, “we brought the process back to our rebranding committee composed of three board members and three staff people, but the six of us couldn’t agree on a name, so we did some market research including ‘mall intercepts,’ — random interviews at the Oak Brook Mall — and sending out a survey to over 200 people.”
The committee then hired a consulting firm called Bring LLC, which according to its website is “an experienced group of award-winning communications consulting, website and branding designers and content developers. . .whose clients include The Allstate Corporation,
The Boeing Company and Chicago Public Schools.”
Bring brainstormed 100 possible names, and according to Schueler, Housing Forward was chosen by the committee, because “we wanted a name that is unique to the work we do. We also felt that we wanted a name that would distinguish ourselves from the other PADS programs. We are something of an ‘industry leader’ in suburban Cook County.”
Mickens added, “As the only organization in west Cook County with a full-scale integrated solution to homelessness, it became imperative that the agency take the necessary steps to establish a brand that would reflect our impact and individuality.”
Having settled on the new name, the committee went back to Bring to create a logo. Bring tacked dozens of possible designs using “Housing Forward” to a wall in their office. According to an email from the Richter Group which teamed up with Bring to create the design, the general characteristics of a strong logotype are:
- Memorable and describable
- Timeless not trendy
- Versatile, reproducible in all sizes and media
- Appropriate to the organization
Schueler said that housing FORW>RD stuck out from the rest of the pack. “It’s very clean, and we were all drawn to the ‘greater than’ symbol, because our programming is so much more than the logo we’ve used in the past. The orange color of the greater than symbol is strong and stands out. We want it to become like our Nike swoosh. FORWARD is all in caps, because that’s the direction of the agency as well as the clients.”
The line “formerly West Suburban PADS” is temporary and will eventually be replaced with “ending homelessness” in an orange font.
Along with a new name and logo, the rebranding process also gave the agency a new mission statement. “New name. New logo. Same mission: transitioning people from housing crisis to housing stability.”
“Shelter alone does not solve homelessness,” declares a sheet of talking points used to explain the rationale for the rebranding. “What’s required is a full continuum of programming that addresses the varied and complex reasons for a person’s housing crisis.” To illustrate that statement the agency has created a pie chart graphic with the six pieces of the programming pie called PADS shelter, employment, housing, prevention, support and outreach.