New Haven for Hope CEO is the first woman to hold the title

New Haven for Hope CEO and President Kim Jefferies can trace her interest in contributing to the San Antonio community to her days working at Our Savior Lutheran Church on the North Side.

Caring for the church, located on Vance Jackson Road, was kind of a family business. Jefferies’ paternal grandfather, a pastor by profession, founded Our Lutheran Savior in the early 1970s, so his descendants felt responsible for the congregation. As a child, Jefferies sang regularly in the choir and helped clean the building.

“Even when we didn’t have much, we still gave things, and we continued to work and volunteer as we grew up. It has always been instilled in me that you are here for a purpose, and that purpose is… to use any gifts that have been given to you to serve others, ”said Jefferies.

Jefferies started his new role on Wednesday. Founded in 2010 by famed philanthropist Bill Greehey, Haven for Hope is San Antonio’s largest homeless shelter. However, it is more than just shelter. In addition to Shelter from the Elements, the organization provides a range of after-school services to the city’s approximately 2,743 homeless residents, including, but not limited to, legal aid, medical care, professional accompaniment, educational help and spiritual support.

Almost seven months after Kenny Wilson stepped down as CEO and Chairman in April 2021, Jefferies was announced as his successor. She brings years of relevant experience to the table. Before moving to Haven, Jefferies was CEO of Brighton Center, a nonprofit that cares for children with disabilities and developmental delays and their families. Most of the skills she developed during her tenure at Brighton, she said, apply to her work at Haven – a keen business acumen, a commitment to employee satisfaction, a knack for detect relevant relationships and networks. In some ways, the target audiences even overlap.

Kim Jefferies, the new CEO and president of Haven for Hope, talks about her plans for the center on Wednesday. Jefferies was previously the CEO of the Brighton Center, an organization that cares for children with developmental delays and disabilities.

Jerry Lara / Personal Photographer

“I think there are a lot of similarities between… (the disabled) and those who are homeless (in this) there is a stigma, and so people see them in a certain way,” Jefferies said.

One small step the general public can take to reduce this stigma is to label people living on the streets as “people experiencing homelessness” – person-centered language that emphasizes the humanity of the world. individual rather than their unstable housing situation.

“Being homeless is only part of their story,” Jefferies said, adding, “They are human beings. They have wants, needs, and wants, and (they) want love and compassion, just like us. We all want a place to belong.

While still in its early stages, Jefferies already has tentative plans for new initiatives and programs. Its priorities include destigmatizing homelessness, creating jobs for Haven for Hope graduates – residents who have found work and housing – and connecting the 175-300 children who live on campus in at a given time with educational support if needed.

To achieve the first of those three goals, she hopes to partner with a local publication to spotlight a successful graduate every month of the year. To achieve the second, she hopes to develop business relationships with employers such as call centers. To achieve the third goal, she hopes to help parents defend their children in school. Some may not have attended classes regularly for some time, as a recent interaction she had with a resident made clear.

One morning last week, Jefferies arrived in Haven for Hope early and saw a mother standing outside with her two school-aged children. It was only 5:30 am, but they were already waiting at the bus stop.

“One of the things about that breaks my heart a little bit about the kids here is that they are picked up on the bus first and then dropped off last so no one knows they are. homeless, ”Jefferies said.

She struck up a conversation with the mother and was told that living in Haven for Hope had allowed the children to return to normal schooling. The casual observation solidified the importance of the nonprofit organization’s mission and work in Jefferies’ mind.

“When you move from place to place, education is not a priority. But when… there’s a roof over your head until you get permanent housing, then you can really start living your life, ”Jefferies said.

Her desire to do a good job stems in part from her status as the first female CEO and President of Haven of Hope.

“I’m incredibly honored to be the first woman, but I don’t take this responsibility lightly because I want to make sure I prove and show and demonstrate how strong women can be to lead important parties. of the community of San Antonio, ”she said. noted.

But her motivation also comes, in part, from an acute awareness of the socio-economic inequalities she developed in her childhood. The second oldest of five children, Jefferies was born and raised on the North Side. While she describes the neighborhood as “a bit like the posh side of town at the time,” Jefferies herself was less well off than the majority of her peers. Her father started out as an English teacher and basketball coach and eventually became a principal, and her mother was a stay-at-home mom.

“We weren’t poor, but we were closer to that poverty line than most of the people I grew up with,” she said.

Reminders of the relative precariousness of his family’s financial situation sometimes materialized in the form of foreclosures on surrounding houses.

“It could have been us,” she said. “If my dad had lost his job, it would have been us. “

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