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Paul Fordham, deputy executive director of Novato’s Homeward Bound of Marin, wins a North Bay Business Journal Nonprofit Leadership Award

Paul Fordham

Deputy Executive Director

Homeward Bound of Marin

1385 North Hamilton Parkway, Novato 94949

415-382-3363

www.hbofm.org/

Professional background: I have served as deputy executive director of Homeward Bound since 2010, following six years with the organization’s development department. Previously, I worked in homeless services at Loaves and Fishes in Sacramento, and Julian House Shelter in England.

Fueled by a belief in the power and possibility of change, I have helped Homeward Bound launch fundraising strategies, develop social enterprises, and create nationally replicated programs such as the first ‘Nonprofit IPO.’ In 2015, I received a Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian Award from the Marin County Human Rights Commission.

Education: University of Wales, Swansea, UK, Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature and American Studies

Number of staff: 89

Describe your organization: Founded in 1974, Homeward Bound has grown to become the leading provider of shelter and supportive housing for people in Marin struggling with homelessness and pressing poverty, including working families, youth, veterans, seniors, and individuals with incarceration histories, disabilities, or mental health challenges.

Our mission of “opening doors to safety, dignity, hope, and independence,” is underscored by a vision that “everyone deserves a place to call home.”

With 16 residential options ranging from Marin’s only year-round emergency shelters to permanent supportive housing, Homeward Bound serves 1,000 people annually. We provide an array of services to help people achieve self-sufficiency and build pathways out of homelessness, including benefits access, health care linkages, housing navigation, case management, food assistance, and job training.

What is your role in the organization?

As deputy executive director at Homeward Bound of Marin I feel privileged to wear many different hats. I am involved in fundraising, social enterprise business development, program oversight, and strategic planning.

I do everything from making mini-documentary videos to help homeless clients tell their stories to advocating for affordable housing development at City Council meetings.

Along with the amazing Homeward Bound team, I have led four major capital campaigns, raising over $31 million in capital funding in recent years and have overseen development of several social enterprise initiatives including a celebrity chef cooking series, a line of dog treats, and an events and catering space.

How has your organization been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?

Homeward Bound has adapted to serve more people and vastly expand our role in Marin because of COVID-19. As a provider of essential services, our programs have grown to assist the community at this extremely challenging time.

Our top priority remains keeping people safe, healthy, and nourished in our congregate shelter and housing programs, including staff who cannot work remotely due to the nature of their essential jobs.

Homeward Bound’s staff are stretching their roles by managing new programs that allow people without homes to receive safe shelter.

We are also providing increased food assistance, virtual case management, and purchasing more cleaning products plus personal protective equipment.

In addition, our culinary team has pivoted to providing and distributing more meals to people in our programs, as well as low-income seniors in northern Marin through a new program funded by the State.

Our award-winning culinary job training program canceled classes this spring, but re-launched over the summer in a revised format as an advanced training curriculum with in-depth instruction and empowerment skills classes for people fulfilling supportive employment roles in our kitchens.

What are the ways your organization responded to increased demands for services, and fiscally, in what has your organization been forced to adjust?

As the pandemic persists, we continue opening our hearts and doors to people without a place to call home. Our essential programs for people struggling with a crisis of homelessness in Marin County have grown to keep vulnerable people safely sheltered during this critical time.

Adjusted school schedules and the economic fallout have resulted in Marin’s homeless families being acutely affected though job loss, lack of childcare, and no means to pay rent.

As people continue seeking safe refuge at our shelters and many are without jobs, we have seen an unprecedented surge for assistance, especially food relief.

At the same time, most of our community’s local pantries remain closed, putting residents in an extremely precarious situation as they are no longer able to access these vital resources to sustain themselves and their families.

Paul Fordham

Deputy Executive Director

Homeward Bound of Marin

1385 North Hamilton Parkway, Novato 94949

415-382-3363

www.hbofm.org/

To make sure people are staying nourished, we are providing weekly deliveries of pantry boxes to single adults and parents with school-age children as they face both unemployment and lack of childcare. For residents of our shelter and group housing programs, we are delivering and distributing thousands of monthly meals.

In addition, we have expanded beyond homeless services by participating in California’s ‘Great Plates Delivered Program,’ to prepare and home-deliver daily dinner and breakfast meals for Marin’s vulnerable seniors.

For six months, we also supported families and single adults receiving temporary refuge in local hotels, providing them with food, case management, and connections to permanent housing.

In our site-based shelter and housing programs, we continue mask-wearing, cleaning, temperature-checking, and maintaining social distancing among residents and staff alike.

We have also worked with the county to coordinate on-site COVID-19 testing for residents and employees.

Like other nonprofits at this difficult juncture, our organization is facing losses of critical operating revenue while also filling gaps for greatly increased needs such as food, cleaning supplies, rental assistance, and staffing. As we continue expanding services, we are stretching the limits of our budget to keep pace with demand while trying to balance shortfalls from canceled fundraising events.

With the pandemic continuing to evolve, we are remaining vigilant and adapting our services to assist the community and ensure the ongoing health and safety of our program residents and our staff.

Despite all of this, we are moving formerly unhoused people from shelters into housing at record rates. Furthermore, in November 2020 we will start construction on our latest affordable housing development in San Rafael.

What achievement are you most proud of?

Every time a family or adult moves into a housing unit that we have built, I feel a surge of pride. This is why we do this work. The solution to homelessness is homes.

If I had to pick one achievement though, it would probably be development of the nation’s first Nonprofit IPO.

We re-imagined the for-profit funding vehicle and created an Immediate Public Opportunity (IPO) to End Homelessness and offered fundraising shares to help develop a housing complex. Once people “invested” (donated) they received a “share certificate” to frame, along with their tax-deductible letter.

The Returns on Investment had names and faces and we provided ongoing updates (how many people moved into housing and secured employment, etc.)

We launched the nonprofit IPO with a Prospectus back in 2007 and were able to pitch the idea to Warren Buffett. He bought the initial $32 fundraising share and we were able to raise over $1million in $32 increments. These donations allowed us to complete construction of our Next Key Housing and Training Center in Novato and the concept has been replicated from Canada to New York to Florida.

What is your biggest challenge today?

The lack of affordable housing in the North Bay and the huge gap between service workers and the market-rate rentals. Many people are working at coffee shops, department stores, or as house-cleaners and then sleep each night in homeless shelters. There’s something dramatically wrong with a society that allows this and yet strongly opposes affordable housing development.

What is the next major project either under way or on the horizon?

In November 2020 we were scheduled to start the process of demolishing our homeless shelter in San Rafael and rebuilding a modernized shelter in its place with 32 units of supportive housing above the shelter.

I am also excited about the continued growth of our Wagster Dog Treats social enterprise business.

In 2020 we were selected to be in all Bay Area branches of Whole Foods. We are already in all branches of Pet Food Express and many independent per stores and groceries. Sales jumped over 100% year-on-year and all proceeds support employment of formerly homeless people and people with barriers to traditional jobs.

In 2021, we are expecting Wagster Treats to grow in leaps and bounds and I am excited to see where that will take us. Find out more at WagsterTreats.com

What product or service would/or is helping you do your job more effectively?

I am lost without my phone.

How do you think your profession will change in the next five years?

Unfortunately, homelessness is a growth industry. The team at Homeward Bound of Marin is working to put ourselves out of business. We would rather be in the business of operating housing than catching people as they become unhoused.

Describe a fond memory you have about working with a staff member or client of your organization?

We opened a new housing program for homeless seniors in Larkspur a few years ago and as people finally found a home after years living in the shelter and on the streets they began to share stories of their lives that revealed much more than the stigma of homelessness would have us believe.

One person was a former professional football player who had suffered a serious injury; another had toured the world for several decades as the head roadie for a major rock band but had never received health benefits or planned for retirement; and another was a talented artist who had maintained his job as a school crossing guard throughout his homelessness.

These are the stories of family members and friends and interesting lives that suddenly took a strange turn and reminds us that we should be less harsh in judging one another. After all, doesn’t everyone deserve a place to call home?

What other community involvement would you like people to know about?

For the past 11 years, I have been lucky enough to host Homeward Bound’s monthly Celebrity Chef fundraising dinners featuring some of the most amazing chefs, wineries and cookbook authors of the Wine Country and San Francisco Bay Area.

We have recently taken this series online, due to COVID, and now folks can join from anywhere in the country. We usually pair the events with local wineries or artisans to deliver products to people’s homes. We sometimes partner with other local nonprofits to double our impact and recently had an online event to raise funds for fellow NBBJ awardee Farm to Table with the amazing Duskie Estes.

QUICK TAKES

Most admired businessperson outside your organization: Carla Javitz, CEO of REDF

Current reading: “It’s time to talk (and listen): How to have Constructive Conversations About Race, Class, Sexuality, Ability & Gender in an increasingly polarized world” by Anatasia Kim Ph.D. and Alicia Del Prado Ph.D.

And I’m trying to make every recipe in “Plenty More” a cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi.

Most want to meet: Marcus Rashford

Stress relievers: Swimming. Going to the beach with my family.

Favorite hobbies: Listening to vinyl records whilst playing Lego with my kids. Coastal adventures with my family. Feeding Wagster Treats to my dog.

Social media you most use: Instagram… but less and less.

Typical day at the office: There are no typical days… which is why I like my job. There is usually some joy as folks move into housing, some sadness as someone struggles with personal demons, some creativity, and a crisis or two to solve. All involving an amazing team of committed Homeward Bound life-changing staff.

Best place to work outside of the office: Under a tree

Words that best describe you: Trying to use my privilege to help others. Wear a good hat and speak from your heart. We are all flawed.

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