This San Antonio homeless program is the program we feel needs to be replicated in Sacramento—see our press release of September 28, 2015 on our news page—and this story from The Rivard Report is an excellent one.
The path that led a San Antonio bank president to a new job running one of the country’s most comprehensive homeless shelters and transformation programs is easy to understand for those who know Kenny Wilson and why he was the unanimous choice of the Haven for Hope board of directors to become the organization’s president and CEO in April 2016.
Wilson left behind a 16-year career as president of Bank of America San Antonio, but his resumé as a successful business and civic leader is equally rich for his work and accomplishments in the worlds of nonprofits, charities, and philanthropy.
Through this involvement, he became familiar with many of the 93 partner agencies working to provide services at Haven for Hope, a 22-acre campus west of downtown San Antonio that has been providing shelter and services to homeless individuals and families in Bexar County since 2010.
While the organizations are comparatively different, Wilson attributes his experience at Bank of America as helping to guide his intentions at Haven for Hope. Citing customer service as a key focus, he expanded on the idea that treating clients with dignity and respect is integral for any successful business, and that in vulnerable moments, people often just want to be heard.
“You have to listen to people,” Wilson said. “You need to find out what’s going on and how to solve the problem – but the listening is really the medicine. And I find that that’s true here.”
Wilson was quick to make clear that he didn’t come into his new role to fix a broken system. Haven for Hope’s organizational structure and its transformational services are highly regarded as a national leader in providing comprehensive services to help minimize consequences of homelessness.
Focusing on client management, problem solving, teamwork, and teambuilding as keys to success, are essential carryover points of focus for Wilson.
During a meet-and-greet with Haven for Hope employees in March 2016, Wilson reported that he would spend the night in Prospects Courtyard, the outdoor safe sleeping area located on campus, to gain insight into the lived experience of individuals receiving services. Since beginning the position five months ago, he has stayed overnight on a number of occasions.
Wilson takes a grassroots approach toward connecting to the population he serves, regarding his time at the Courtyard as a “learning experience,” and something that he would invite anyone in the community to take part in. He went on to revisit the theme that he believes persists throughout all levels of care at Haven for Hope, and all business practices: people want to be heard and feel like their experience matters.
For individuals experiencing homelessness, determining the next right step can be a daunting experience. Feelings of guilt and shame may impact an individual’s willingness to reach out for supportive services. Couple this with co-occurring crises such as drug and alcohol addiction, unemployment, or mental health diagnoses, to name a few, the”‘next right step” could be in any number of directions.