The National Coalition for the Homeless Announced last week that they were seeking a new Executive Director for the organization. They have an announcement on their website here. I am board member of NCH, so am somewhat biased here. It is sad to see Neil Donovan leave the organization. He has been with the organization since 2009 turning the organization around after a rough period. He worked well with the staff and restored some of the credibility of the organization at the National level. He always was pushing the views of homeless people to staff at HUD, Interagency Council and in Congress. He rebuilt a local advisory group in DC to push civil rights issues and make recommendations on local and national policy changes.
Neil came to Cleveland for a fundraiser in 2011 and we got to hear his strategy for involving homeless people in the struggle to end homelessness in the United States. This was a comprehensive strategy not to end homelessness for veterans or families or one of the other many most favored populations, but for all homeless people. He was always inviting those experiencing homelessness to meetings, and had his ear to the ground. Over the 30 year history of the National Coalition for the Homeless they have become known as the one group to amplify the voice of those on the streets. There are groups that represent shelters, lawyers or specific populations, but NCH has always tried to represent all different kinds of people from the hated panhandler to the innocent child to the runaways as well as the immigrants. If they were homeless, NCH represented their interests in Washington.
Neil came out of the Boston shelters and worked for years as a shelter director learning the bureacracy of funding social services as well as the struggles that homeless people face everyday. He did a great deal of consulting on rural homelessness in Ohio as well as policy work for the National Alliance. At NCH he took over the organization as it was finding its way after a low point with the financial downturn. This is one of the hardest groups in the world to work with because of the 30 years of history and the balancing act the director faces. NCH has board members who have been with the agency for 20 or more years. They have a community organizing history with staff who have been with the organization since the 1970s. They have hands in the local DC community with helping to found the street newspaper and the homeless memorial while also working on Congressional issues. We will miss Neil and hope that the Board can find a replacement to continue to rebuild the organization.
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