This is Part 1 of a four-part series over the next few months as Luzada’s time at Aurora comes to a close. She will be retiring from her current position as Executive Director on December 31.
Fifteen years ago when I walked into this organization, I was one of seven staff. My task was to be the Program Director for the Homeless Outreach Team, which was our only program at the time. The team consisted of four case managers and an office manager who had been operating without a program director for about eight months. Life was quieter then, as we were serving about 100 households a year and with fewer meetings I could sit at my desk and search for hours to find research articles and best practices on how to serve our clients better. Search being the optimal word because there had been very little research done up to that point. No one knew what worked or if they did, it wasn’t being published.
Even with such a small agency case load, I had learned one thing every quickly. No matter how hard we worked to house a family, there would be five more to take their place tomorrow. I knew I had to find a better way to do this work or I wouldn’t last long because doing the same thing over and over again while the numbers just continued to grow, seems so futile. I had to have hoped that things could change.
When I came across A Plan not a Dream to End Homelessness by the National Alliance to End Homelessness, in my search, I finally found something tangible to hope in. A plan not to just continue to respond and manage homelessness as it occurred but a plan to focus on permanent solutions, permanent changes to ineffective systems of operations, permanent housing options instead of temporary crisis and emergency accommodations, permanent strategies to prevent homelessness from occurring in the first place, permanent hope for a better community in which to live and work for all our neighbors.
Thus began my quest to end homelessness. Not because it was easy or well accepted, because it hasn’t been either of those things but because it’s the right thing to do. It’s right for our many families that find themselves in a housing crisis. It‘s right for my staff that spend many hours struggling to find resources for their clients to make tomorrow better than today has been. And it’s right for our community, to be able to provide the very basic need of Home to every resident.
This quest is not for the faint hearted nor is it a path that can be walked along. Even though the quest is nowhere near completion after ten years, the progress has been steady. It is still worth the effort. It is still the right course to pursue. And it is still the right thing to do.
To be continued…
Luzada Hayes has served as the Executive Director of Aurora, Inc. since July 2002. Prior to that, she was the agency’s Program Director. As the Executive Director of Aurora, Luzada is currently the Resource Coordinator forDestination: Home, a comprehensive community effort to end homelessness in Evansville and Vanderburgh County over the next ten years. In addition to this project, she also directs Aurora in providing community awareness and education, advocacy, and direct service to the homeless through outreach and case management services. She promotes collaborative endeavors to improve service delivery that include: a support group for homeless service providers and a networking group for social services agencies and the local utility company. She participates on a number of boards such as the Vanderburgh and Warrick Emergency Food & Shelter Board, Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Commission of Vanderburgh County, Homeless Services Council for SW Indiana, Advisory Board for USI Social Work Program, and the BOS Steering Committee.
Luzada has worked with disadvantaged individuals and families of Evansville for the last twelve years. Before coming to Aurora in 1999, Luzada worked at Southwestern Indiana Mental Health Center and the Salvation Army. She received her BSW and MSW from the University of Southern Indiana and is a member of NASW. She is recognized by the Academy of Certified Social Workers and by the State of Indiana as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Luzada was recognized by NASW Indiana Region 8 and by the State of Indiana as Social Worker of the Year in 2003. Luzada is also a Sagamore of the Wabash as appointed by Governor Joseph Kernan.