Growing up, I gave little thought to housing as a foundation to a person’s health and well-being and for personal and professional development. I never thought about it much growing up because the roof over my head was a stable one. This freed up space to focus on school, and in general, do kid things. My parents even invited me back home after college when I had a series of failed job applications, and my part-time work couldn’t pay for an apartment of my own. It was August 2008 in Florida, a hard-hit market during the recession. I was a statistic in what would be a wave of young people moving back home for similar reasons.
This season shaped my perspective about housing and what home means in more ways than I would know. During this same time period, I had begun volunteering at a local homeless shelter; and some residents shared their personal journey with me. While some were in a cycle of poverty, others shared stories of how healthcare compromised their job or that they were let go in the economic downturn, which left them struggling to pay for housing and no support network to help out. I felt instant connection, imagining where my own path would have led had I not had family who invited me home. I had safety, peace during what felt like a chaotic time, and space to determine my next steps. I was humbled and grateful.
Little did I know I would stumble into the housing industry only a few years later, collecting more stories that have made me feel inextricably connected to others. My work has largely focused on developing or implementing solutions to housing needs, including bringing life to old, deteriorated buildings, evaluating policy impacts or financial tools to development, or grappling with adults with special needs who are living without needed supports. I look forward to continuing to share stories and raise awareness about current and future housing needs through data to better inform policy.