Mind the Gap: a Tribute Fund to Help End Homelessness

Mind the Gap: A Tribute Fund to End Homelessness

After 12 years of steadfast and inspirational leadership as President and CEO of United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, Michael K. Durkin retired in July, 2020.  Our community honored Mike’s legacy by establishing the “Mind the Gap” Tribute Fund to help end homelessness, an issue central to his incredible 43-year career with the United Way.

For four decades, Mike worked with nonprofit, business, and political leaders across the country to “mind the gap” – to find creative, effective, and sustainable solutions to help those struggling achieve safe, secure, and productive lives. Key to “minding the gap” is addressing the homelessness crisis. During Mike’s tenure, United Way initiated many innovative programs to address the homelessness crisis, but there is still much to be done.

COVID-19 has pushed an already strained shelter system to the brink. The depopulation of shelters because of the crisis has meant the loss of 800 beds for a system that was already beyond capacity.

Short term, we are working to create a plan for housing the individuals and families that were forced to leave shelters and stay in hotels and motels because of public health safety measures.  Long term, we must build public will to create a comprehensive plan to close the statewide gap of 160,000 units needed to provide supportive housing for all.

The engine behind this critical work is the “Mind the Gap” Tribute Fund honoring Mike Durkin.  Nearly 100 donors contributed over $1.3 million to further United Way’s work  to address the homelessness crisis.  The fund will support efforts to seed new and expand existing innovative, on-the-ground programming, including our work to end homelessness through permanent supportive housing.

“The need to provide permanent supportive housing to chronically homeless individuals has never been more acute,” said Christi Staples, Vice President of the Mind the Gap work at United Way, who was hired in July, 2020 to oversee this work. “Homelessness is a public health crisis, and as our state continues to face the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, we must reimagine and rebuild the systems to provide safe, stable housing for everyone.”

“We are so grateful for the creation of this effort by UWMB to increase collective advocacy for permanent supportive housing and believe Christi Staples brings the perfect balance of energy and expertise to this effort,” said Joe Finn, president and executive director of the Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance.

In her role, Staples will develop a unified, collective strategy to create housing and supportive services for high need/high user populations to save lives and public resources. Working with key stakeholders, Staples will establish a multi-sector stakeholder workgroup that will design, implement and oversee the campaign across the state.  This is the first initiative funded by United Way’s Mind the Gap Tribute Fund.

“We look forward to working with Christi and the United Way on a supportive housing strategy across the state,” said Lyndia Downie, President and Executive Director, Pine Street Inn. “We know that housing is the solution to homelessness, and we are grateful to the United Way for this initiative and their leadership as we work together to end homelessness in Massachusetts.”

“The United Way has always been a champion for our communities’ most vulnerable children,” said Larry Seamans, President at FamilyAid Boston. “We are delighted to have Christi’s leadership in forging a unified path to housing for all, including a growing number of homeless children and parents.”