Adapted from a Community Solutions announcement
An Episcopal priest has helped to spearhead a successful national campaign to find permanent housing for 100,000 homeless Americans in fewer than four years. The Rev. Linda M. Kaufman, canonically resident in the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, directed national field organizing for the 100,000 Homes Campaign, which announced last month that it had helped 186 communities find permanent housing for 105,580 chronically homeless Americans, including more than 31,000 veterans, since launching in July 2010. As National Field Organizer, Kaufman oversaw community enrollment and training for the campaign and logged more than 140,000 miles of travel.
The 100,000 Homes Campaign is a national movement coordinated by New York-based nonprofit organization, Community Solutions, which launched the effort in July of 2010. Kaufman served as the Campaign’s chief public speaker, addressing community groups and conferences around the country about how they could play a role. Kaufman credits her training as a preacher with preparing her for this work.
“Linda channeled her passion for social justice into organizing for the 100,000 Homes Campaign with such heart,” said Becky Kanis, who directed the Campaign. “She carried the opportunity to improve the lives of homeless Americans like the precious gift that it was, and people really responded to that. I still meet people from all over the country who say things like, ‘Do you know Linda Kaufman? She really inspired us to make the changes we had needed to make for a long time.’”
Kaufman graduated from Virginia Theological Seminary in 1986 and was ordained a priest a year later. Since 1997, she has been affiliated clergy at St. Stephen and the Incarnation Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C. She began working with people experiencing homelessness in 1985 as a volunteer at Mt. Carmel House, a D.C. program run by Catholic Charities. By 1993, she was working full time for a D.C.-based dinner program for homeless women. In the mid-1990s, she was asked to bring Housing First approach to Washington, and she worked with Pathways to Housing in New York City to create a D.C. affiliate.
Housing First, which became official federal policy under the second Bush administration, is a housing strategy that seeks to offer people experiencing homelessness permanent housing right away without requiring their participation in treatment or services. The policy, which boasts an 85 percent housing retention rate nationally, developed in contrast to traditional approaches that required homeless individuals to achieve sobriety or obtain work before offering them access to housing. Housing First offers an array of supportive services, but does not condition housing upon them.
The 100,000 Homes Campaign helped communities across the country adopt the gold standard Housing First approach, which is supported by the research consensus. Kaufman was instrumental in convincing communities to make the shift.
“For almost 30 years I have known that working with individuals who are homeless is my vocation,” Kaufman says. “The 100,000 Homes Campaign has been a powerful outlet for my growing belief that we can actually end homelessness. For the first time, I have seen how individual communities can truly end homelessness on the ground. And, if communities can do it locally, then together, we can end homelessness nationwide. I believe that this work is what God made me to do — and now I get to do it. I am so grateful.”
Image: Linda Kaufman leads volunteer training • Embellysh Photography