Last night’s Reaching Home Dinner was, as always, an uplifting experience. Presented by the Partnership for Strong Communities, it’s an opportunity for everyone working in affordable housing and homelessness to come together, celebrate successes, and renew our commitment to the movement.
It’s also a time to honor the leaders who’ve pushed back the barriers, found new solutions, and, when the system didn’t work for people, tore it down and built a better one. Several of these champions were recognized last night—among them my friend and colleague from the Coalition on Housing and Homelessness, Alison Cunningham, who was presented with the Barbara Geller Career Achievement Award.
I first met Alison several years ago, when Columbus House took over the Middlesex Family Shelter from the American Red Cross. On her first visit to the Coalition Steering Committee meeting, I was impressed by how she spent much more time listening than speaking—but when she did speak, she had something valuable to contribute.
Joining a closely-knit group of people who have been working together for several years is not always easy. It takes finesse and tact to assimilate and become one of the gang. Alison managed it effortlessly. She is someone who understands that if you want partners, you first have to be a partner. That attitude is also reflected in the Columbus House staff whom she leads. We know we can rely on her and her team to step forward when something needs doing and say, “We’ll take care of that.”
Taking care of people is what Alison does. She projects an aura of calm and confidence that overlays a rock-solid determination to do whatever is necessary to move the fight against homelessness forward one more step. Her belief in the dignity and value of every individual is manifested in everything she does. As Melville Charitable Trust leader Janice Elliott (a gifted leader herself) said last night, “I would follow her moral compass anywhere.”
Alison, thank you for what you do—and more, for being who you are. It’s a privilege to know you, and you richly deserve the award you received last night. Congratulations