The Board of Directors of the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) announced today that it has hired Donald H. Whitehead Jr. as its new Executive Director. Mr. Whitehead brings more than 20 years of experience in serving and advocating for persons experiencing homelessness to NCH, including five years experiencing homelessness himself.
“At a time that our nation is experiencing record homelessness, a rise of COVID-19 infection among those experiencing homelessness, and a rising movement for racial and economic justice that calls to account decades of institutional racism that contributes to the disproportionate over-representation of people of color on our streets, we are extremely proud that the oldest national organization focused on ending homelessness in our country is now being led by Black man who has himself experienced and overcame homelessness and addiction.” said John Parvensky, outgoing NCH Director.
“I am so grateful for the opportunity to help elevate the voices of those experiencing homelessness so that our country can address the intersection of racial justice and housing justice, and finally completes the unfinished business of the civil rights movement”, said Donald H. Whitehead Jr.”
Whitehead, who has served as the NCH Board President for the past year, will give up that role to devote his full-time effort as Executive Director. Previously, Whitehead has directed several programs serving people experiencing homeless including outreach and case management, health care, emergency shelter and permanent supportive housing. He has also served as a national advocate and an Organizational Management Consultant focused on homelessness and racial equity. He brings a unique combination of direct service to those experiencing homelessness as well as years of advocacy for systemic change to end homelessness through increased federal investment in housing and services as well as an end to policies that criminalize homelessness. Whitehead is also a veteran who served three years in the U.S. Navy.
The National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH), founded in 1981, is the oldest national organization focused on ending homelessness in America. It is a national network of people currently experiencing or who have experienced homelessness, activists and advocates, community-based and faith-based service providers, and others committed to their mission of: To end and prevent homelessness while ensuring the immediate needs of those experiencing homelessness are met and their civil rights protected. Over the last 38 years through advocacy efforts addressing the root causes of homelessness including lack of affordable housing, and partnering to write landmark legislation including the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 1987.
The hiring of Whitehead to lead NCH was made possible by an anonymous two-year capacity building grant.
Sue Watlov Phillips will become Board President of NCH. Watlov Phillips has worked together with people experiencing homelessness by addressing both the immediate needs and structural causes of homelessness for over 52 years and currently serves as Executive Director of MICAH – Metropolitan Interfaith Council on Affordable Housing in Minnesota.
Dr. Rajni Shankar-Brown serves as Board Secretary of NCH. Shankar-Brown is an internationally renowned scholar-educator and social justice activist in education, is a leading expert on child and family homelessness, diversity and transformative leadership, community engagement and human rights. Dr. Shankar-Brown is a professor and the Jessie Ball duPont Endowed Chair of Social Justice Education at Stetson University, as well as the Founder and Executive Director of the Poverty and Homelessness Conference.
Barbara Anderson serves as Board Treasurer of NCH. Anderson served for 24 years as Executive Director of Haven House, an emergency shelter and service center for families and individuals experiencing homelessness in rural Indiana. She is currently devoting her time full time to advocacy and organizing on behalf of those experiencing homelessness in rural communities.
In 2019, NCH entered into a strategic alliance with the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) to leverage the strengths of each organization towards a renewed focus on elevating the crisis of homelessness being experienced in communities across America and increasing organizing and advocacy for immediate action at the Federal level to end homelessness and reduce its trauma on the millions of individuals and families experiencing homelessness and those at imminent risk of losing their homes. The agreement allowed NCH to build its capacity to focus on its strength of bringing together those experiencing homelessness to share their experiences with our nation’s leaders in a call for immediate action to end homelessness. The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless will continue to provide its administrative, financial and policy capacity to support NCH’s renewed efforts as Whitehead assumes his new position.