Crossroads has been fortunate to benefit from the leadership of The Honorable John J. McConnell, Jr., "Jack," since he joined the Board of Directors in 2006 and took on the role of Board Chair in 2011. As he steps down as Chair, we wanted to hear his perspective on the last 16 years and express our appreciation for his unwavering commitment and support. We are grateful that he will remain a member of the Board moving forward. Thank you, Jack!
What drew you to Crossroads' mission? Why is this work important to you?
The centrality of housing to a well-lived life is paramount. Many of take for granted having a place to shower, a spot for kids to come home and do homework, or a bed to rest our head at night. These fundamental basic needs are not attainable for so many. Housing should be a right, but since it's not, we need to do our part.
Having served on the Board of Directors since 2006, you've seen Crossroads evolve over the last 16 years. What accomplishments are you most proud of and what excites you about Crossroads' future?
- Assisting with a transition to a Housing First model in 2014 is the most pivotal work I've supported. It was a major shift that made housing people or keeping them housed our top priority. Housing First is an evidence-based way to end homelessness and the most effective use for donors' dollars. We knew we were at the cutting-edge of this movement; it was like turning a huge ship in the right direction. I'm proud of how we were able to bring everyone - the board, staff, clients - along, respectfully.
- Leading the CEO transition from Anne Nolan to Karen Santilli was another significant moment for Crossroads. I led the search committee and it was a big - and successful - undertaking.
- I'm also proud that we took over Harrington Hall and made it a respectful facility to assist homeless men as they do the hard work of regaining the stability they need to improve their lives and secure housing.
- Looking to the future, I'm excited that we remain committed to housing as the solution to homelessness. Crossroads aims to solve homelessness versus making people experiencing homelessness comfortable by focusing on permanent housing, not temporary shelter.
- Finally, I appreciate that Crossroads is committed to best practices. We keep our eye on "the North Star" as I like to call it. Our North Star is to get people into permanent housing safely and respectfully. This makes me proud to be involved as a volunteer and a donor. The team at Crossroads has the audacity to assume that they'll end homelessness - it's not just all talk. Their values - safety, respect, effectiveness - are front and center
Have your views about homelessness changed since joining the board?
My views have done a complete 180. I initially thought our role was making sure people needing shelter were comfortable. I didn't understand, for example, that our Community Room is actually designed as a spot for conversations between clients and staff about resolving their homelessness and not a place to stay for a while. I learned that if the Community Room was full, we weren't succeeding. I now recognize that without stable housing, everything else falls apart and the reason(s) why someone is experiencing homelessness can be complicated.
What else would you like people to know about Crossroads?
People experiencing homelessness are people just like you and me, whose lives took a tough turn and they just need a helping hand to get back on their journey. Crossroads meets people where they are with dignity and humanity. Finally, I hope donors understand how committed Crossroads is to fiscal responsibility. It's no accident that 81% of our revenue is spent on direct program support.