Mary Kay Sweeney
Homeward Bound of Marin, 1385 N. Hamilton Pkwy., Novato 94949; 415-382-3363; hbofm.org
Age: Ageless or (Agemore)
Residence: Bel Marin Keys
Professional Background: Teacher, Non-profit Administrator
Education: BA, English; MS, counseling; PhD, higher education and social change; Chocolatier
Staff: 50 full- and part-time
Describe your organization. Homeward Bound of Marin’s goal and role in the community is to end homelessness, both with the individuals and families we serve and on behalf of the whole community. We are the chief provider of residential support services for 500 people a night in 14 different programs throughout Marin.
In addition to residential services, we also offer training at our Fresh Starts Culinary Academy and in our apprenticeships in building maintenance and landscaping. We operate social enterprises, make fabulous Halo homemade products like jams, sauces, and chocolates, maintain an organic garden, host celebrity chef events monthly, and cater some of the tastiest food in Marin at our best-kept-secret event space, The Key Room.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. I have been in the business of ending homelessness for the past 13 years as Executive Director of Homeward Bound. Before that, I worked another 7 years learning about homelessness in various positions within the organization.
When one discovers one’s purpose in life, all energy, passion, and enthusiasm come into focus to create a work environment that is in synch. I feel fortunate to have found this place, Homeward Bound, where my gifts are realized and where, perhaps, I can make some difference.
Each day I am inspired by the people we are privileged to serve — people who struggle to overcome nearly insurmountable obstacles as they turn their lives around and discover hope in their own futures.
At Homeward Bound, we constantly challenge ourselves to greater compassion and responsiveness, to more efficient and effective use of our resources. We believe that we are doing the work of the community, on their behalf, that is, we are addressing a social issue that is a national disgrace and tragedy and we want it to end.
We are a learning organization, exploring strategies to help people make change. One of the ways we do that is by modeling self-sufficiency. Our social enterprise committee creates product ideas that can be implemented in our employment and training programs, creating jobs and income to keep our programs running. We produce Halo Truffles and Halo HomeMades—canned products from our organic garden.
My philosophy of service stems from a life direction chosen at an early age. I entered the convent and spent 17 wonderful years being of service and “vowed” to continue being of service in my life, even after leaving.
My dissertation focused on the “how” of service, the delivery (much like customer service) where I explored the impact of service from the point of view of the recipient. It became apparent that how people are treated and regarded has everything to do with a successful intervention and with a healing relationship.
At Homeward Bound, we strive to be welcoming, hospitable, and compassionate in all of our dealings.
What achievement are you most proud of? Building places of dignity for people to live.
What is your biggest challenge today? Finding housing that is affordable for people exiting homelessness.
What is the next major project either under way or on the horizon?
We are building an awesome, transformational family housing project, Oma Village, reinventing affordable housing and furthering the small house movement. We are partnering with Blu Homes, a premier builder of green precision-built homes. We’re two-thirds of the way into our capital campaign and launched our own IPO (“Immediate Public Opportunity”) with Warren Buffet buying the first $50 “share.”
What product or service would/or is helping you do your job more effectively?
We are trying to maximize crowd funding to create a movement in the community to build Oma Village and then to replicate it.
How do you think your profession will change in the next five years? The profession will probably use more social impact strategies and funding to make dramatic changes in ending homelessness.
Most admired businessperson outside your organization: Warren Buffett; Robert Reich
Current reading: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain, The New Yorker, Dwell, and Fast Company
Most Want to Meet: The Dalai Lama and Serena Williams
Stress Relievers: Tennis, swimming, working out and meditation
Favorite Hobbies: Photography, especially of flowers and other nature, and writing poetry
Words that best describe you: Innovative, creative, listener, poet, marketer
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