Stepping Down as Board President
When I was elected president of ShelterCare’s board of directors two years ago, I felt honored to take a leadership role in an organization that was making such a difference in the lives of many of our community’s most vulnerable citizens—those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. My previous experience as a greeter with Project Homeless Connect first opened my eyes to the homelessness issue, when we served more than 1,000 individuals during a one-day event.
Early in my term, ShelterCare was facing some significant challenges: coordinated care organizations were just finding their footing in our community, potentially changing the way we would be reimbursed, from fee-for-service to more of an outcomes-driven focus; federal and state funding streams were changing with an emphasis on a Housing First model and rigorous reporting requirements for limited dollars; our capital campaign was winding down; and the construction of our new building at 499 W. 4th Avenue was underway. Our management team was doing a great job of focusing on the needs of the consumers, but had not yet assessed the ShelterCare organizational structure to determine whether it could successfully navigate risks of this changing environment. The closures of the Royal Avenue and Heeran Center program really brought this question to the forefront. ShelterCare, with guidance from the board, used this opportunity to make itself stronger.
In Fall 2014, ShelterCare’s Center for Programs and Services at 499 W 4th Avenue opened, following a very successful capital campaign and the refurbishment of an old timber warehouse. By centralizing our Supported Housing program into this new building, we were able to provide consistency across programs as well as access to specialty services, such as therapy and supported employment. We began holding our monthly board meetings in the building’s main conference room, which was outfitted with a large white board and big-screen video monitor for presentations, features that facilitated collaboration and a high level of involvement in our meetings. The administration, development, maintenance, and human resources departments were brought under one roof in the building, which has enhanced communication and decision-making among those departments.
We also decided to make the new building available for community-wide events and services. The Eugene Chamber of Commerce held its Business After Hours event at ShelterCare in January 2015, and AARP Tax Aide has used the site for two years to offer free tax preparation services for elderly and low-income individuals; approximately 200 tax returns were prepared in 2016.
The board also made a plan to recruit members with a broader range of skills and experience, adding new members with healthcare industry and business-organizational consulting experience to provide valuable input during our strategic planning process. Our goal was to ensure that ShelterCare can continue to provide the best services to its consumers in a financially sustainable way. Our three-month strategic planning process culminated in a robust plan with goals and accountability measures that we feel will successfully guide ShelterCare into the future, while keeping the organization true to its mission.
As we strive to become the provider of choice serving vulnerable populations, we are focusing on evidence-based, comprehensive services that increase our consumers’ independence, while maintaining their dignity and filling their lives with hope. Our Housing First model, which we were first in the community to use, allows us to enter into new partnerships because of the success of this approach. New programs that focus on youth and veterans will allow us to expand our services to additional populations that can benefit from our services. We also intend to keep our eyes open for new opportunities to provide services and new partners with whom we can collaborate.
The demand for data-driven decision-making has highlighted our need to gather and report timely and accurate financial information. We have already started that process with gusto. Our new electronic records system allows us to retrieve valuable data that is outcomes based. The newly created senior director of business operations position will ensure that our fiscal department is gathering the financial data necessary to reliably determine the sustainability of our various programs. Financial, as well as service-outcome, dashboards are being created for board meetings to assist in well-informed decision-making. For example, we have been able to determine that our relatively new Homeless Medical Recuperation program has saved the community $1.26 million in hospital costs since 2014.
We also strive to be an employer of choice to attract and retain skilled, caring employees, as well as provide them with a forum for voicing their opinions, such as internal surveys. A recent salary survey led to a boost in most employees’ salaries to ensure they are being paid a competitive wage. We are also analyzing retirement and health benefits.
ShelterCare has always interacted with its consumers in a respectful manner that encourages their input into their own paths to independence. A representative of the ShelterCare Consumer Council is now invited to attend our monthly board meetings to keep us informed about consumer issues. Additionally, ShelterCare consumers were invited to participate in the development of our newly adopted mission statement:
ShelterCare enriches lives through exceptional services that nurture hope, opportunity and dignity.
As I hand the reins over to Rebekah Lambert, the new board president, I feel that ShelterCare is better positioned to do just that.