The executive director of Connections for the Homeless, who increased the organization’s success rate of getting people off the street by fourfold, will retire at the end of January.
Paul Selden has been the executive director of Connections since 2006. John Pfeiffer will replace Selden as executive director at the beginning of February, Connections announced Wednesday.
Selden, 66, said he is retiring from Connections because the organization needs someone who has the energy to keep expanding it. The job took up 60-70 hours per week, he said.
“There’s a certain point at which you just run out of the strength to do it,” he said.
When Selden started at Connections, the organization was still basically just a shelter, said Sue Loellbach, Connections’ director of development. Now, because of Selden, Loellbach described it as a housing organization that provides some shelter until people move into their own houses.
Selden also helped to develop expanded housing services and to make the organization’s housing-first approach possible. Selden’s development of increased health services, an unemployment program and an education program also helped clients reach self-sufficiency, Loellbach said.
By moving past just addressing peoples’ immediate needs, Connections was able to increase the number of people it helped off the street and into housing by 400 percent, Selden said. In addition, the agency more than doubled in size under his guidance, according to Connections.
Pfeiffer, who has worked as the first deputy commissioner for the Chicago Department of Family and Support Services since 2011, has worked with nonprofits for about 25 years, Loellbach said. Before his time at the department, Pfeiffer served for seven years as executive director and CEO of Inspiration Corp., a Chicago-based corporation that helps individuals affected by homelessness and poverty, according to Connections.
“John comes to us with a wonderful background, both in non-profit management and in homeless services,” Abbey Fishman Romanek, president of Connections’ board of directors, said in the news release. “Connections will miss Paul greatly, but we feel much better knowing that his successor is so well qualified for this challenging position.”
Loellbach said Connections’ staff has not been able to sit down with Pfeiffer yet to plan the organization’s next steps.
“Paul has really built up a lot of momentum in our programs and we’re really poised to jump into a bunch of new things,” she said. “John is aware of all those and I think is really excited about carrying that momentum forward.”
Selden said there are two areas of Connections that need expansion in the future. One area is helping homeless families with children in school. There needs to be a program developed for these families in areas throughout northern Cook County, not just in Evanston, he said. The second area is finishing a program to help homeless youth who have left their families, he said.
Connections is ready to expand into other areas outside Evanston and the communities the organization already has served, he said.
However, although Selden is retiring from Connections, he will still work to solve homelessness and housing issues, Loellbach said. Selden will still work in consulting and advocacy for other organizations and will at times still provide guidance to Connections.
“I’ll miss the staff, I’ll miss the clients, the challenge of seeing if we can’t do a better job about ending homelessness,” Selden said.
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