Saying Goodbye to Some Giants

By Sara Levin Posted on July 24, 2015 In News


Leaders at key partners in our work to end homelessness have left their roles recently. Now is a great time to pay them tribute.

All of them will have a great next act, which we look forward to. But now, let the kudos be plentiful:

Bill Hobson retired recently as CEO of Downtown Emergency Service Center, a longtime United Way grantee and key partner in our years of work to build permanent supportive housing for chronic homeless individuals. He remains passionate about ending homelessness and recently wrote a guest post about just that. He is a trailblazer and has done remarkable work in his 3+ decades with DESC:

  • Opened the first “wet housing” ten years ago. The controversial 1811 project in Seattle took a new approach to helping men and women with alcohol dependency seek services and housing.
  • Redefined the community’s approach to housing the most vulnerable homeless people—putting “housing first” above other services. Research—including a major paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association—showed the effectiveness of this approach and savings to other systems.
  • Partnered with United Way to end chronic homelessness. This included helping design the approach to house hundreds.

Jim Theofelis founded The Mockingbird Society in 2001 with a vision to improve the lives of foster youth and transform the child welfare system. Jim has also been a trailblazer. His leadership led to:

  • Multiple state laws passed to extend foster care to age 21 for young people who would otherwise age out.
  • Creation of the Mockingbird Family Model, in which families providing foster care live together as a community, supporting each other and the youth in their care. The model has now diffused across the country and even across the world.
  • Giving a voice to young people statewide through a self-published newspaper as well as opportunities to create and advocate for change with local, state and national policymakers. As part of this work, Mockingbird youth have helped United Way make this powerful video playlist that premiered at the All-Star Classic for Youth.

Jim Blanchard came to Auburn Youth Resources from the private sector 15 years ago. Instead of retirement, he made a career shift to public service, focusing on vulnerable young people in south King County. He has:

  • Advocated strongly for the needs of young people in south King County.
  • Expanded shelter for homeless youth, including opening the first young adult homeless shelter in south King County with support from United Way.

The common theme among them? Innovation, hands down.

I and everyone at United Way applaud their work and look forward to their next acts. Cheers!


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