I understand the feelings that many people in our community have around people experiencing homelessness, the frustration that comes up. But when you start talking to people, working with people and understanding the stories of people in our community who have lost housing, things change. You begin to understand that everyone we see experiencing homelessness is no different than you or me.
I have been a part of the Coral Street campus since 1989 and have seen a lot of transformation in our community around how we address homelessness throughout my 37 years of involvement. I have always gravitated towards this kind of work. The connections I have made with the people I’ve worked with throughout the years are truly priceless.
Early in my career, I worked for County Mental Health as a Homeless Coordinator. Later, I helped start the Downtown Outreach Program and soon thereafter, had the opportunity to be a part of the first Housing First grant in our community. The grant was operated out of the Homeless Persons Health Project (HPHP), whom I worked with for about 10 years. After finishing my work with HPHP, I did homeless outreach for some time before I finally retired.
After retirement, I continued to work on many projects in the community. I helped facilitate Project Homeless Connect, as well as the 2010 Point in Time Count, our community’s census for homelessness.
Then I met Claudia Brown who was Board President and the rest is history. She talked me into coming onto Housing Matters’ board in 2013.
Since the early nineties, I have watched Housing Matters transform from the grassroots, scrappy organization it once was, to what we now know today. I was involved with the organization when it first started, when we were struggling to fund our programs. Fast forward to today, we are scaling up our work, expanding our impact in the community, and even entering the housing market!
One of the most exciting developments I was able to witness throughout this time was when we began to really raise the bar, as an organization, in terms of how our campus looked. In the beginning, we lacked a lot of funding to ensure the campus was well taken care of, which frustrated me. I felt, and feel strongly, that our campus should represent a place of healing, safety, and peace for those who come seeking services. As funding came in, campus began to represent that, which I was so happy to see happen. Campus now feels safe and cared for. There are flowers and beautiful banners, colorful decorations and clean facilities. It has been amazing to watch campus evolve into such a legitimate and respected place. I am proud to be a part of it all.
This story was collected in May of 2021 by Andrea Feltz, Community Engagement Manager.