As part of our ongoing conversation on homelessness, we asked members of our Affiliate Council—a collection of some of Family Promise’s most dynamic executive directors nationwide—to share their personal thoughts and reflections on Family Promise and the issue of family homelessness. These directors are true thought leaders, using their skills and expertise to develop and implement creative solutions that are changing the lives of parents and children in their communities. Our second post is from Tara Pagliarini, Executive Director of Family Promise of Brevard.
What brought you to Family Promise and the issue of family homelessness?
Our family relocated to Florida due to my husband’s job with the federal government. I had left a long-time job as Special Services Coordinator with the Department of Mental Health that I really loved, so the idea of starting again was disheartening. I learned about Family Promise of Brevard through a job posting for a full time executive director position working with a start-up non-profit, I’d be the only employee, on call nights and weekends, lots of evening and weekend functions, with only a few months of revenue in the bank, and in addition to developing programming, I’d also be coordinating, training and overseeing hundreds of volunteers, did I mention no other paid employees?….not sure what was actually written, but that’s what I saw! I initially passed on the posting, because in all honestly, the job sounded nearly impossible. But then I saw it posted again a month or so later and I felt like I was needed. I knew that my clinical experience paired with my program management would help get this organization off the ground. Through the Department of Mental Health, I spent a good deal of time working with vulnerable populations and families in crisis. I also took a holistic and multi-systemic approach in bringing other agencies and community groups to the table.
Is there a single story you could briefly share that illustrates why you do the work you do?
One of the first families that came through our program was a single father named David. He is a disabled veteran from Operation Desert Storm. He has three kids, two boys and a girl, and at the time that he called, we had just become operational. David and the kids had been living in his truck and he feared that DCF was going to intervene. The children’s school had just learned about our program. He called us a last ditch attempt, as there were no other programs in our county that could help him.
I could go on and tell more about his story, but I think he can say it best:
What’s so incredible about this story, and what inspires me to keep driving, is that David donated $2,000 back to our organization this past summer. He said that he hoped that he could help a couple families like we were able to help his. He said we changed his life.
What is the single biggest challenge facing your community in the fight against family homelessness?
Our biggest challenge is the lack of affordable housing. We launched our prevention/diversion program, HAND UP, last year to work with families BEFORE they become homeless because we recognize the inherent challenge in rehousing a family after they lose what they have. We sit on several task forces aimed at increasing the availability of housing.
If you could share one piece of advice for another community working to empower homeless and low-income families, what would that be?
Tell our families’ stories. Most people do not know that the number one reason families are homeless is due to the widening gap between income and housing. By breaking down stereotypes, we can move to viable solutions!