Take Five!  Q & A with Ralph F. Boyd, Jr.


Expert Q & A | September 12, 2008

Ralph F. Boyd, Jr.
Freddie Mac, EVP
Freddie Mac Foundation, Chairman and CEO

What is the newest issue emerging in homelessness policy?
There's a lot going on right now on that front, but one of the most exciting efforts has to do with how we are all rethinking the way we get homeless families into homes, and how we keep them there. Specifically, we’re investing more and more in the Housing First model, an innovative and important tool for fighting homelessness and stabilizing families.

Housing First programs focus on very quickly placing families who are homeless, or who are at risk of becoming homeless, into permanent, affordable housing with the intensive, supportive services that are necessary for these families to achieve stability and self-sufficiency. This doesn't mean that communities no longer need temporary, emergency shelters, or longer-term transitional housing with services, but the more we can help stabilize families by ensuring that they get and stay in a house and receive the support they need, the better the family does and the more likely we are to defeat homelessness. The early returns for this model appear to be very positive. It's an approach that holds promise, and it relies heavily on providing supportive services for families that have been rapidly re-housed in permanent, affordable units.

What issue in homelessness policy should everyone be reminded of?
We all know that foreclosures are rising at an unprecedented rate, while at the same time the costs of affordable housing haven't declined in a corresponding or comparable way. With the added burden of a contracting economy and rapidly rising fuel and food costs, we can expect that demand for affordable housing will increase from both renters and homeowners. We need to be prepared to meet this demand and support families that need help.

It’s also important to remember that bricks and mortar alone do not guarantee the survival, stability, and ultimately the long-term wellbeing of vulnerable families. This is why the focus on resident services is so important. Access to job training, various counseling services, evidence-based, effective after-school programs for children at risk, financial literacy, asset building, and wellness programs need to be part of our affordable housing offerings if we're going to meaningfully change the socio-economic trajectory of vulnerable families. Without these supportive services, we risk financial stress for families, which ultimately diminishes the overall quality of life throughout our communities.

How did you start working in the field of homelessness (or housing)?
Freddie Mac is all about housing. Our mission is making home possible by providing liquidity, stability, and affordability to the mortgage market. That’s why the issue of homelessness—especially among families—is of significant interest to us. For quite some time now, we have been targeting more of our philanthropic and community investments—including those made by the Freddie Mac Foundation—on eliminating homelessness and stabilizing families in crisis as well as meeting the challenge of making home a place where children and families thrive. Beyond Freddie Mac, I sit on the board of the National Housing Partnership Foundation, which provides me another opportunity to help house those in need.

Where do you draw your inspiration?
From a young age, I found inspiration in my family. My parents were active in our community, and I watched and learned from them how using one’s voice, time, treasure, and talent could yield tremendous good. So I have always followed a path that allowed me to make a difference in the world. For many years, I practiced law. During this time, the people I met and the cases I worked on inspired me to fight for the side of good, of constructive change, and of justice and fairness of opportunity.

Now I am in a very fortunate place. Having the opportunity to lead at Freddie Mac and the Freddie Mac Foundation is a daily source of inspiration, opportunity, and challenge. At organizations with such strong missions and such a focus on good citizenship, you can’t help but want to make the biggest difference possible. And through my role, I have had the chance to get to know the nonprofits that receive support from Freddie Mac and the Freddie Mac Foundation, as well as the families, children, and young people who benefit —and in some instances are saved – by the critical services provided by those nonprofits. I have the honor of meeting these people and learning their amazing stories daily, and at the end of the day that is what really energizes and sustains me.

Why do you think ending homelessness is possible?
I think it is possible to end homelessness because we have so many strong, resolute organizations and people who are determined to put an end to it, and who have the wherewithal to actually do it. Together, we have come up with great models, great ideas, and great services. There is great evidence that we are making progress. However, in order to achieve this goal of ending homelessness we need to engage all sectors of our community. This means different things in different communities, but will always require strong existing partnerships as well as strong new partners who are going to work along side us to get this important job done. I know I’m not alone in saying that as long as there is a homelessness issue, we will continue to work to end it.

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