This week I passed a milestone in being the first Executive Director of the Torres Community Shelter to last for 6 years. It’s a fairly stressful job and no one else has held the role longer than I have. I take pride in that. In part because it’s also a milestone for me personally, I’ve never kept a job before for longer than 4 years myself. Because I don’t have any degree whatsoever and really just have a high school diploma and a few semesters of college, my path to becoming an Executive Director has been unique. I moved from job to job (project to project) in my earlier years doing non-profit work, taking on new challenges and creating new programs for non-profits because I was intrigued by the challenges and because I knew it would help me learn more about what it takes to run a successful non-profit someday. I continually got these positions because I garnered a reputation for being able to successfully launch new programs. Most people in my position have a degree in something related. I don’t, and so I needed to create my own path. What I learned through all those short term program launches is that nothing positive happens without good planning and front line support for the initiative.
In the time that I’ve been the Executive Director of the Torres Shelter, we have quadrupled the number of children we served, doubled the nightly occupancy average, doubled the number of people we help out of homelessness annually, doubled the size of our budget, and maintained a remarkable standard for successful outcomes and for safety in a “volatile” environment. We have also expanded our existing facility, created new programming, expanded our options for families and improved the compensation for our well deserved staff in the process.
For those that think our services draw people to our community—this is just false. Otherwise we would be at full capacity nightly or have a long list of people we are turning away. We, and our other community service providers, are the reasons why homelessness hasn’t completely altered our quality of life in Chico (like it has in some nearby communities). Our service providers have successfully mitigated the impact of the second worst financial crisis our country has ever faced and we are in a pretty good position now to continue to end homelessness. We can’t do this by ourselves though. We need the support of other service providers, the continued support of the religious community, more support from the business community, more support from regular citizens that want to help our community remain a good place to live, more support from medical providers like Enloe, Ampla, Feather River and more support from Chico State University. We need more support from anyone and everyone who decides they want to make a life in Chico and they want this community to be the example for how to both care about people in need and help them get back on their feet at the same time.
What we’ve done at the Torres Shelter is frankly remarkable and I thank everyone that has been a part of it, but we are also nowhere near done. The problem of homelessness in our community continues to grow and we need to be smart, sensitive, thoughtful and responsible in our continued approach to help people help themselves.
-Brad Montgomery, Executive Director