Nancy Southwell is a Deputy Executive Director at Urban Pathways.

Hiring staff, troubleshooting problems, crafting budgets, dispensing advice: all that and more are on Nancy Southwell’s daily agenda. As Deputy Executive Director, Nancy oversees half of the organization’s program directors—specifically ones who manage housing residences.

That means a large part of Nancy’s job is to make regular site visits to ensure that real life in the residences aligns with the program’s strategic goals. Since the coronavirus pandemic began, Nancy reports, “the how has changed, but not the what. We have been challenged to figure out how to provide comprehensive, individualized services to our program clients while also maintaining social distancing and observing other public health guidance, in other words keeping everyone safe.” Top priorities: ensuring that basic needs are met, gauging emotional states of residents (and staff), and helping maintain clients’ connections with therapists and rehab programs, many now operating remotely. Another crucial task? Devising ways for clients to keep busy in the absence of activities that typically offer structure and fulfillment.

With many staff members working from home, phone calls have taken on renewed significance: Nancy regularly checks in with program leaders, who regularly check in with their staff, who regularly check in with clients.

“For many years the homeless advocacy community has been making the argument that Housing is Healthcare. Having a home is so important for every life goal,” says the trained social worker. “And having a home is now more important than ever for health, safety, stress management and mental stability.” That belief drives Nancy in a job that is often as meaningful as it is challenging, bearing fruit in ways both expected and surprising.

” I think we have been pretty successful so far in mitigating the consequences of this pandemic for our community, including both clients and staff, so far and I am hopeful as we continue forward.”