Q & A: Nick Brown
Nick Brown, Executive Director, Religious Coalition for Emergency Human Needs
Why did you want to be the new executive director of the Religious Coalition?
As a teen, I worked in city-sponsored programs with at-risk and inner-city youth. I’ve seen those kids fall by the wayside, become homeless and end up as statistics in the system. I took this position to facilitate change. The intractable task is to stop the cycle of poverty that tends to repeat across generations. Providing a scope of services designed to intervene with the trauma that’s experienced during childhood homelessness is a good start and solid strategy to address an issue that’s larger than any one organization.
How does your organization work with other community groups?
First, the Religious Coalition simply could not survive without community support. The Coalition is made up of faith-based organizations, local, state and federal funders, civic associations, numerous foundations, and private donors from the general public. This allows the Coalition to serve those in need.
As far as doing the work, there are daily interactions with local service providers. No one agency can be the entire solution—something we understand and embrace. I consider the Coalition fortunate to be a part of a Continuum of Care that takes proactive measures to ensure there are no or few duplications in services.
What makes you most proud of your organization?
The scope of services provided. The adage of “do one thing and do it well” has merit. However, in the nonprofit environment, particularly with funding sources becoming more competitive, we must continue to innovate and provide continually evolving services.
A good example is our financial literacy curriculum to help people facing housing emergencies better manage their income. It has grown with positive outcomes. Folks who were struggling in January become sustainable and stable in March.
What are some challenges the Religious Coalition faces?
First would be the transition itself—an internal hire with me replacing the Rev. Brian Scott who retired. The transition, while seamless, still leaves an air of the unknown. The board and staff will need to acclimate to my management style and I must understand and translate their wishes into action.
Another is the ever-changing face of homelessness. There’s a younger demographic, specifically higher numbers of women and newborns. We’ve seen almost a dozen cases of infants with nowhere to go but into a shelter program. Addressing that is somewhat challenging for me and I’ve done this work for almost 20 years.