Homeless council director to step down

Craig Lyons served since 2007

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian social issues & neighborhoods reporter

Published:

Updated: October 27, 2011, 7:58 PM

 

Craig Lyons, the executive director of the Council for the Homeless during one of the nation’s longest and deepest economic recessions, has decided to leave his job.

Lyons, 45, said he is pursuing various options, both locally and elsewhere. He said there has been no rift or problem between him and the board of directors he answers to. On the contrary, he said: The agreement is perfectly amicable and his track record at the Council for the Homeless has been markedly successful.

“What they wanted me to do for this organization was done,” he said. “It’s time to move on.”

Cheryl Pfaff, president of the council’s board, echoed that. She said Lyons has proven to be a leader at state and national levels in the fight against homelessness.

Lyons said he is continuing to develop the written policies, strategic plans and measurement tools that will make life easier for his replacement. He said he will stay on the job until that replacement has been hired.

“I’m still here,” he said. “What’s a better time to leave the ship, when it’s sinking or when you can hand the wheel off to the next captain?”

Lyons pointed out that in recent years, despite the effects of the Great Recession, homelessness in Clark County has dropped. A recent keynote talk at a Council for the Homeless luncheon made much of the fact that homelessness in Clark County has been cut approximately in half since 2005.

In an annual countywide survey conducted early this year, about 830 homeless people were tallied in Clark County, Lyons said. That’s down from almost 1,600 in the 2005 survey.

He has said the success is largely because of a “housing first” philosophy that’s on the rise nationwide. That’s based on the idea that the essential building block of a stable life is a stable place to live.

“Let’s get them into a place to live, then we’ll start working through all the issues and barriers that got them onto the street to begin with,” Lyons has told The Columbian. Providing housing vouchers, case management and other support is far less expensive to taxpayers than the services required by street people, he said — from police patrols to shelter beds to emergency room treatment.

That philosophy has really paid off locally, he said. But the future holds renewed difficulties, he said, from budget cuts and the ongoing economic downturn to government “diversion” strategies that aim to make shelters the very last resort for homeless people.

“In the past few years we got stimulus money” from the federal government, Pfaff said. “Some of those dollars are going to go away.”

Lyons is married and has two young daughters. He took the executive director job at Council for the Homeless in 2007.

“Craig is a great person and I have really enjoyed working with him,” Pfaff said. “I know the board wishes him well. We are searching now for a new executive director. We’re strong financially and we have a great staff and a strong, committed board of directors. We will continue to move forward.”

If you’re interested in the job, visit http:/icfth.com/home to read the requirements and download an application packet. The salary range is approximately $53,000 to $81,000.