Monday, February 4, 2008

An Interview with Genesis Home Executive Director - Ryan Fehrman

“The heroes of the world community are not those who withdraw when difficulties ensue, not those who can envision neither the prospect of success nor the consequence of failure -- but those who stand the heat of battle." - Hurbert Humphrey

Today Tri to End Homelessness readers have a special treat - an interview with Genesis Home Executive Director, Ryan Fehrman. Ryan is a committed nonprofit professional, an advocate for change, and a dedicated multi-sport cheerleader. He also happens to be my husband.

1. You've worked at Genesis Home for 6 years, in a variety of positions, including your current one of Executive Director. What inspires you to do your work?

One of the first things that struck me about GH as a new employee was the family-like atmosphere amongst staff members. We knew each other as people, shared our interests, and did things together not because it was required, but because we wanted to. Whether that atmosphere is a reflection of the families we serve or a deliberate creation of the staff is harder to say. What I do know is that there was an immediate sense that I was part of something special, and that we would work together as a team to address whatever challenges arose from the work. As the ED, I try to foster this sense of team and comraderie because I believe that it results in a better quality of services to our clients.

The second big inspiration for me, is the clients themselves. When you see positive growth and change, it reinforces your commitment and your belief in the importance of the work. The sense of accomplishment you see when someone gets the job they want; the pride of a child who gets a good grade in school; the joy of a parent who is moving into her own apartment - these are the things that make the job worthwhile. I know that we fill a vital role in the community and I shudder to think where some of our families would be if GH was not here to help.

2. Describe a day in the life of Genesis Home's Executive Director.

There's no such thing as a "normal" day at GH. Depending on the time of year, some things are higher priorities because I'm staring down hard deadlines. Right now I'm doing a lot of reporting for our government funding sources and reapplying for government grants. The administrative burden associated with direct service provision has increased steadily over the last decade and every funder wants different reports covering different activities provided over different time periods. It's not my favorite thing to do but I feel strongly that nonprofits have to prove their effectiveness in the community to justify continued funding. It's not enough to say that you do good things - you have to prove it. GH is also in a strategic planning process examining our programs, partnerships, funding, staffing and Board functioning so I'm trying to support our facilitator with information and guidance as we move forward with that process. It's an exciting time for us and I think that the end product will be invaluable as the agency considers its role in the community and how we can improve our services. Today I'm also helping put together GH's annual report, doing a bank deposit, having one-on-one supervision with GH staff, making sure our computer lab gets de-bugged, and facilitating our resident house meeting this evening. Now you know how boring my job can really be.

3. What similarities do you see betweeen training for endurance sports and the work of ending homelessness?

Maybe that you have to be slightly crazy to do it? :) You have to 100% committed and dedicated to the desired outcome or you won't make it. There are going to be bad days, tough days along the way, but if the goal is dear to your heart, you keep moving forward. Success happens one day at a time.

4. Endurance athletes thrive on goals. What are your goals for Genesis Home in 2008?

Set a new agency record for families graduated into permanent housing (15).

Complete a strategic plan that plots the agency's goals and growth for the next 3 years.

Formalize and expand our Independent Living Program for young people (18-21) aging out of foster care.

Add an MSW or licensed therapist to our case management staff to improve our clinical expertise and bolster our services to clients with mental health and substance abuse issues.

Take time for self care whenever possible and continue to be a doting husband to my amazing wife.