Community leader and photographer Cathy ten Broeke will share a message of hope about ending homelessness at the Good Leadership Breakfast this week.

Community leader and photographer Cathy tenBroeke will share a message of hope about ending homelessness at the Good Leadership Breakfast this week.

In the wealthiest country in the world, how is it possible more than 10,000 people in Minnesota won’t have their own bed to sleep in tonight – and half of those are children!?

Minnesota’s Director for Preventing and Ending Homelessness is Cathy tenBroeke. She’s a courageous and charismatic woman with a gut-wrenching and equally inspiring story. You and I are lucky, because Cathy is our speaker this Friday at the Good Leadership Breakfast Series. Will you be there?

Warm and dry tonight

It’s winter in Minnesota, which makes the idea of sleeping someplace safe and warm even more critical. Tonight I’ll be sleeping on Egyptian cotton sheets in the swanky Jonathan Club on Figueroa street in downtown Los Angeles. It’s easy to overlook Maslow’s hierarchy of needs through the lens of most leadership jobs.

Cathy tenBroeke is the final speaker at the Good Leadership Breakfast Series in 2015.

Cathy tenBroeke is the final speaker at the Good Leadership Breakfast Series in 2014.

That’s why introducing you to Cathy is so important: she was raised by good people in a safe and solid community, and educated on the private college hill at Gustavus. She first became aware of poverty issues while traveling in China after college. “Back in Minnesota, I was serving at a nice restaurant by day and working at a homeless shelter at night,” she explained. She found the evening work compelling, satisfying and magnetic. “One day a customer yelled at me for giving him the wrong spoon for his soup – I quit that day, dedicated my life to ending homelessness and never looked back,” she laughed. Her influence has been shaped by roles in Washington, D.C, the City of Minneapolis and the capital in St. Paul.

Working together

“Wow!” I thought out loud: How can we end homelessness, isn’t that impossible? “First we have to define ending homelessness, she coached. “Ending Homelessness means that if a family or individual does become homeless, we will have a crisis response system to assess their needs and quickly provide them the opportunity to access stable housing. It does not mean that no one will experience homelessness ever again.”  

Under her leadership, the state of Minnesota has positive momentum. “Within the past four years we’ve reduced the number of Veteran homeless by half!” Cathy shared. The momentum is building because there has been significant cooperation of 11 agency commissioners and staff – all focused on the idea that a safe, warm place to live is the solid ground for human dignity and growth.

High profile leadership

my familyCathy and her partner Margaret Miles were the first couple married under the Same Sex Marriage Amendment in Minnesota. Her personal and professional journey has been amplified in the public eye.  Together, she and Margaret are raising a handsome young boy – which brings the challenges and opportunities of her work close to home.  She is teaching her son that solving the homelessness crisis is less an issue of personal courage, and more about vision and cultivating the public will.

“In Minnesota we live in a place where we actually believe we can make a difference – if we work together,” she commands. “When kids don’t know where they are going to sleep – or where their next meal with be, their ability to learn in school is significantly strained,” she explained. “There are so many ways that people who support the Good Leadership Breakfast series can get involved…I look forward to sharing my story!”

Good leaders radiate goodness by helping people see what’s possible when we work together.  And they personally set the example for what’s not acceptable in a society where people live generously and promote fairness.

Will you join us for breakfast this Friday?