Big Goal and Team Effort Leads to Big Win for Louisville

After more than 30 years of work to create housing solutions for the poor and homeless, including 8 years as current Executive Director of Louisville’s Coalition for the Homeless, Natalie Harris knows the power of systems change and working with partners toward shared goals. But those who work in community know it can go unrewarded and unrecognized.  In July, recognition and reward came to Louisville. Here is just some of the work that it took to get there.

A Big Goal: End Youth Homelessness in Louisville by 2020

In 2016, the Community Foundation invited Natalie to apply for an Alden Fellowship, a leadership development opportunity offered to selected nonprofit leaders who exhibit a unique curiosity, a commitment to the Louisville community, and a sincere interest in exploring untapped leadership potential.

With the $5,000 Fellowship, and additional support from The Coalition, Natalie enrolled in an Executive Leadership program at Harvard University, NeighborWorks America’s “Achieving Excellence,” which equips and supports leaders over an 18-month period to define and tackle a bold goal in their community.  For Natalie, that bold goal was to end youth homelessness in Louisville by the end of 2020.

Changing the System: “A Flame Under Our Feet”

Back in Louisville and inspired by her experience at Harvard, Natalie forged a broad partnership to tackle a shorter-term goal – to house 100 young adults in 100 days.  She described this “100 Day Challenge” as a “flame under our feet that encouraged the partnership to try things they wouldn’t normally try in their daily work.”

When the partnership celebrated housing 112 young adults in 100 days, they stayed together to continue the work on the big goal – and were encouraged and supported by wins along the way including two $20,000 grants, both with a Community Foundation connection: one from the Fund for Louisville and another from [give] 502.

A Big Win: Recognition of the Hard Work

Demonstrated success and a broad coalition working toward a large, shared goal caught the attention of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.  In July, The Coalition was surrounded by community partners at The Home of the Innocents to announce a $3.45 million grant to support efforts to end youth homelessness in Louisville.

For Natalie, the 100 Day Challenge and the goal to End Youth Homelessness by 2020 were approaches to make “what is important” a “crisis,” a perspective she gained while at Harvard. We applaud Natalie’s commitment to the hard work of coalition building and look forward to celebrating the achievement of the next big goal in 2020!