#166 Summer 2011 — 36th Anniversary

Doing More with Less

Our job is not to deliver services, but to empower clients to make as many decisions about their life as they can.

“Efficiencies.” “Leverage.” “Thin the soup.” These are phrases that drive my industry. We have needs that outweigh resources, and a business model that often steers our focus toward the next project in order to generate ongoing resources for programs and operations.

That’s not to say we’re not good at building projects. On the contrary — we’re great at it. We have helped accelerate green industries, building energy-efficient, healthy homes that save our residents and us money. We have matured into building for the long-term, focusing on operating and maintenance costs as much as we do on just getting it built in the first place.

I have also seen innovations across services. We’ve asked hard questions about the hidden costs of ignoring people without a home. We have shifted resources from managing problems to implementing solutions. Lives have been forever altered for the better.

Still, it can seem like we are driven more by the housing we create than by those we seek to house. What project are we doing after this one? How can we keep the pipeline going?

My hope is that over the next 36 years, we focus on making long-term investments in the prosperity and well-being of our clients. To me, that means our job is not to deliver services, but to empower clients to make as many decisions about their life as they can. Does it mean that every renter becomes a homeowner? No. Does it mean that we take a bootstraps approach to so-called self-sufficiency? Lord, no.

It does mean that we continuously examine our programs, our services, and our operations to ensure that the work we do is done by our clients and not on our clients’ behalf. In 2047, as I retire, I hope to have faith that my successor is someone with firsthand experience with poverty, with homelessness, and with racism — and I hope that any organization in my community can say the same.

After all, if we are not about empowering the people we serve, no amount of leverage or efficiency will ever meet the need.


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