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How a MBA from Harvard University is transforming attention to homeless people |The new Herald works 18 hours a day, but he loves to help Miami homeless

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por Mimi WhitefieldEspecial para el Nuevo Herald Cómo un MBA de la Universidad de Harvard está transformando la atención a las personas sin hogar | El Nuevo Herald Trabaja 18 horas diarias, pero le encanta ayudar a los desamparados de Miami Cómo un MBA de la Universidad de Harvard está transformando la atención a las personas sin hogar | El Nuevo Herald Trabaja 18 horas diarias, pero le encanta ayudar a los desamparados de Miami


Those who know Symeria Hudson, the executive president of the Chapman Alliance, say that it seems to have enough energy for two.

It contributes "unlimited energy and a great attitude to its employment," says Allan Pekor, veteran member of the Chapman Board of Directors.

Read on the inhabitants of southern Florida who make a difference in their communities

This is a look the day of Hudson.

5 a.m.- He wakes up at his Fort Lauderdale condominium."I've always been an early person," says Hudson.While putting on a black pants tailor suit and prepares for the day, her husband Gary is going to take a bicycle ride between 20 and 30 miles.

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She has to go to the gym in the afternoon while he takes care of Garrett, her 3 -year -old son, and is very strict in being there almost every day there.Old marathoner, now prefers to lift weights and a gym routine that includes squats and strides.

6:30 a.m. — Es hora de levantar a Garrett y prepararlo para su escuela Montessori.He has already prepared lunch and snack and most of the days his own lunch bag is prepared.

7:30 a.m.- The whole family comes out and Gary is responsible for leaving the child at school.Depending on traffic, your trip can last between 45 minutes and an hour and a half;Wait for the trip to be shorter when Brightline resumes your service in November.

During the journey, he usually participates in two or three teleconferences and puts himself in touch with her husband to see if they arrived well at school.During today's trip he talks with his administrative assistant about his calendar, he speaks with Chapman's financial director and makes a call to the Vice President of Residential Services.

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8:35 a.m.- Hudson connects to another telephone conference while entering Chapman's parking lot, a gray building that occupies an apple in North Miami Avenue.There is no poster on the facade, an effort to preserve the anonymity of some residents who are victims of domestic abuse and mitigate any stigma about life in a homeless refuge for children who take their school buses at the door every day.

"Good morning," he tells all the people with whom he crosses: the staff, the residents and the possible users sitting in the lobby of the ground floor."It is very important that they enter through the door and feel some cordiality," he says.No one arrives directly from the street to Chapman.They are referred by the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust.

A few minutes later, Hudson arrives at his office and lights CNN, without sound.While responding to emails and attends to calls, it is a constant company that helps it keep abreast of what happens in the world.

10 a.m. — Hudson charla con un reportero y un fotógrafo del Miami Herald en una mesa de conferencias blanca y redonda con una orquídea rosa en el centro.

He says he continued going to the office every day during the pandemic."I don't abandon my team," says Hudson.

Strict protocols for COVID-19 are working

The Chapman Alliance developed a 200-page protocol to keep the staff and residents safe during the pandemic and went into action soon, gathering in February 2020 while increasing Covid-19 cases in Europe in Europe.

"We create a war room in the cafeteria," says Hudson.The use of masks is mandatory and there are N95 masks donated in the lobby for visitors.

The effort has paid off.Last year, the positivity rate at Chapman's facilities was less than 2%, and this year, even with the increase in the Delta variant, the Covid positivity rate is entering around 2.8%, says Hudson.

10:30 a.m.- Start touring the center of Chapman, which has 500 beds.Try to do the rounds weekly or at least twice a month.

"It's about spending time with people," says Hudson."Sometimes people tell me:" You make us feel as if you were one of us, "and I say it is because I am".All Chapman staff members have their personal and work mobile phone number, he says.

Although Hudson treats everyone with dignity, he is still a strong and demanding leader, says Pekor."She works very hard and when you see that at the top, she is very motivating".

Empathic mother

Empathy, says Hudson, is in his DNA.This is what he saw when he grew up in his mother, who raised five children working as an accounting assistant after his divorce.If someone was in need, he says, his mother gave him occasional jobs and feed him.It was not uncommon, says Hudson, finding a teenager from the neighborhood who had been expelled from home sleeping on the sofa of his family.

Cómo un MBA de la Universidad de Harvard está transformando la atención a las personas sin hogar | El Nuevo Herald Trabaja 18 horas diarias, pero le encanta ayudar a los desamparados de Miami

It takes approximately an hour and a half to make its rounds.In addition to greeting everyone personally, he updates and listens to his concerns.

Hudson's first stop is Xiomara Alonso's office, human resources vice president.They spoke briefly about their next meeting to put into practice the guiding values and principles of Chapman.

"Look at our intrepid team," says Hudson while approaching the Development Office, where four women are sitting at a conference table discussing how to expand the donor base of Chapman.

"Go ahead, you can play the bell," says Arlene Peterson, senior development director.Hudson touches a bell that sounds like a donation or an "incredible opportunity" arrives.This time it is a donation of $ 25,000 from Florida East Coast Industries that will support the Chapman Trades.

When he goes to greet Anthony Henderson, the Director of Project Management and Business Intelligence, to talk about the new efforts to collect, analyze and better store customer data, the bell sounds again."There is more money," says Hudson.

On their table the plans of the construction of the new Social Enterprise Academy of Chapman extend, an effort to get residents to receive the training they need to get better jobs and avoid being homeless.

"It's hard to get home if you don't have a decent salary," says Hudson.

The lack of affordable housing in the Miami area has become a real problem.To remedy it, land, financing and experience will be needed, Pekor said in a later interview."We in Chapman are a component, but creating more affordable housing will require an effort of the community in general".

Later, Henderson will meet with Hudson on the other side of the street, in a Chapman warehouse that is becoming the new headquarters of the Social Enterprise Academy.

But first he updates it on the Chap-Epp, a communication tool that was created so that social assistants Enterprise Academy remained in contact during the pandemic, but which has been expanded until it became a virtual case management platform of case management.

"It is a very effective tool.It helps us see more users, ”says Hudson.“Literally, we wrote this program sitting in my office.Companies are willing to pay for this, and we did it for free right here ”.

"Hello, Hello," Hudson tells Howard Rubin, the director of Finance, before heading to the resident zone of the ground floor, where Ben Johnson is joined, a former Marina who spent many years without a roof in theMiami streets.

He has been in Chapman for 19 years and does a bit of everything, from serving as a guide to affectionately greet visitors and, recently, beautify an inner courtyard.

“We call it the mayor of Chapman.It usually accompanies me when I do my rounds, ”says Hudson.

Alvah Chapman's vision

Alvah Chapman's shadow continues to plan on the organization that bears his name.Chapman, former executive president of Knight Ridder and editor of Miami Herald, who mobilized the community to take care of the problem of homeless, died on Christmas Day 2008.He founded the Chapman Alliance in 1992 and opened the homeless campus Assistance Center in 1995.

"I would have liked to have the pleasure of meeting Mr. Chapman and Mrs. Chapman," says Hudson."It attracted people because they trusted him".

While Hudson and Johnson stop in front of a Bust of Chapman in a small patio, Johnson says that, when he was a homeless, he lived under the underground passage on the route that Chapman used to take home to go home at night."I was the person in the neighborhood down there.Then I didn't know that God passed over and that he saw what was happening, ”says Johnson.

"It was Mr. Chapman's vision to put the Chapman alliance in Overtown, just around the corner where the drugs were," says Johnson."Now [Hudson] you will do a great job when you are here and when you are not".

"That's why I walk with him, for moments of inspiration and for stories," says Hudson.

10:55 a.m. — Hudson entra en la cafetería para ver a los cocineros.

"I know if I don't come back, I'll be on your blacklist," he laughs.Angel Cline, the head of Operations, has culinary training and is not content to put food on a dish, says Hudson.In the lunch menu of that day: pumpkin soup, turkey snacks, french fries, salad and fruit.

The recently remodeled cafeteria has been closed during the pandemic.As part of the pandemic protocol, residents only take meals to carry and eat at picnic tables in a large covered patio.Chapman chefs feed about 400 people a day, since part of the food they prepare is sent to other facilities that help homeless.

A ‘safe shelter’ for all

11:10 a.m. — Hudson se dirige a Family Resource Center, donde hay tutorías, computadoras para las tareas y una biblioteca.This is where the young residents of Chapman met last year to receive virtual classes.Here are also taught of parents, typing and technology skills.

Chapman's students have to do homework, but after 6 p.m., the center offers craft classes, film nights and game tournaments.A point system has been established that rewards students who are ready to go to school, attend the sessions with their tutors and do their tasks.They can buy small items in line with their points or deposit them at the bank.

"This is part of our financial education program," says Hudson."Unfortunately, we see that the lack of housing is generational", so the more children develop good habits to handle money, the more possibilities they will have to get a job and stay out of the street.

Gigantic figures of current and ancient players of the Heat adorn the walls.

"I love the feeling that this gives," says Hudson."It's the heart of our center.We want people to feel that it is a safe shelter ”.

11:20 a.m.- Hudson goes through a recess court where children enrolled in the Head Start program play to persecute themselves.The Head Start program is operated by Miami-Dade public schools and is open both to the children of the neighborhood and those who live in Chapman.

Its next stop is a large open room enabled as Mobile Closet, where clothes, shoes, backpacks and donated bags - both new as little used - are arranged on shelves and tables.Residents can choose a fixed number of items per week.

"You are organized so that you can have an experience like going to a store," says Hudson."Let me know if you need baby clothes," says Mobile Closet's manager.When his son is small, he brings it.

11:35 a.m.- It is time to visit the case managers and their supervisor."I'm hearing incredible things," Hudson tells a new worker.

Residents usually meet with their case managers four or five times a week.During the day, the bedrooms are closed because residents are in their jobs or at school, working to try to get a job or take other steps towards self -sufficiency and more permanent homes.

The average stay in Chapman is 90 to 100 days;In the last year, the association has helped 1,200 people find a job, says Hudson.Around half of Chapman's residents are ready for a job, he says.

11:45 a.m.- He goes to a work lunch - a César chicken salad to take - in the conference room.

Alonso, the Human Resources Chief, stops to inform him of the final draft of the new guiding principles of Chapman.They emphasize kindness, collaboration and take time for pause."Where are we going from here so that this extends more widely throughout the organization?" Hudson asks.

12:30 p.m. — Henderson le informa sobre el proyecto de la Social Enterprise Academy.The 4,000 square feet warehouse, which was full of donations, has been emptied at 70%, says, and a contractor is expected to be selected.

A 2,500 feet mezzanine will be added between the first and second floors and the classrooms will surround a central atrium where the work stations will be installed.

Great demand for labor training program

The social Enterprise Academy is Hudson's baby.Carpentry and electricity classes began in January 2020, just when the pandemic was noticed and the program, taught in collaboration with the International University of Florida (FIU), quickly went to virtual learning.

His first class of 29 students has already been graduated.Hudson hopes to expand the construction trades program, and adding classes to help residents become nursing assistants and work in cyber security.

"If we are building, we have to think about building for the future," says Hudson."The program had so much demand that we could not accept all interested applicants".Now the training is only available for Chapman residents, but eventually Hudson would like to expand it to community members.

It costs $ 7,300 for a student to curb the 15 -month certification program and Hudson expects companies and individuals to sponsor the students."Now they have the certifications they need when they request a job," says Hudson.

The reward for graduates in carpentry, he says, is a job that usually starts at $ 18 per hour, well above the minimum wage per hour of Florida, recently increased to $ 10.

But Hudson has even greater plans.“We hope to reach business training.That is the next horizon, ”he says.

1:30 p.m.-Hudson goes to the Covid-19 test center that has been installed in a Chapman parking lot.Personnel members who are not vaccinated should be done weekly and those who are vaccinated must undergo a monthly test.The test center also serves the surrounding community.

The tests at the scene began at the Miami facilities on September 13 and in Homestead on September 23, and Hudson wants to meet the Curarative staff, which manages the center."Is there anything you need or what we can help you?" Asks.While in the testing center, Hudson is done, which is sent to the laboratory every night and the results arrive in two days.

2 P.m.- The time has come to see the progress of the social Enterprise Academy first hand and chat with the architect.

There are still donated diaper packages, paper products, a Star Wars pinball machine, clothing boxes and even a giant teddy bear that must be located in other Chapman facilities, but with the almost clear building, it is time forconcentrate on what will become.

The placement of the first stone of the project is scheduled for November."He sends invitations to [Mayor Daniella] Levine Cava and [the Miami-Dade School Superintendent, Alberto] Carvalho," an employee tells."We will also need a landscape".

“In the background, Chapman is always going to be a shelter, but we are also creating services.But we have to make sure to provide adequate services, ”says Ed Joyce, the new president of the Chapman Board of Directors.

"We are very proud of the work that Symeria has done in this," says Joyce, who has passed through here to see the advances in the social Enterprise Academy.

By selecting Hudson to direct the association, “we left the typical mold of non -profit organizations, but we think we needed someone with their skills.We knew it was time to do something different.The financial aspect is very important today ".

Joyce has participated in the Chapman alliance since its creation.

At the beginning of his career, says Joyce, Alvah Chapman always encouraged him to get involved in the community, an effort that, according to Chapman, would help his career and help him personally.

After explaining his idea of helping the homeless, Chapman gave Joyce, who spent 37 years in Northern Trust, an order: to leave and present the idea to people of high heritage of the community."Alvah really challenged business leaders to be community leaders," he says.

His leadership shone during the pandemic

When Chapman's health began to fail in his last years, there was a vacuum in community leadership, says Joyce.“We are very happy to have Symeria and his team.We had to change quickly [during the pandemic] and the leadership she has contributed has really shone in a very difficult environment ”.

3 p.m.- Hudson updates office work.

3: 45-4 P.m.- He stops at the Family Resource Center to chat with Sharen.As part of his project, Harris learned to produce and conducted interviews for a podcast in which Pierre Hosang, technical director of the Miami Krew Soccer Club participated, and the star of Athletics Michelle Athley.

"What was the lesson that caught you?" Hudson asks."Pierre went ahead and I am doing it too," says Harris.“Everyone meets good and bad things, but that's life.It's a trip ".

Harris's mother lived in Chapman, but she has moved.Harris, who is still in high school and works at night in Wendy’s, stayed.But he tells Hudson that he has found a home and will move soon."We are going to find a time to talk again before you go," says Hudson.

4:20 p.m. — Con la esperanza de evitar al menos parte del tráfico de la hora pico, Hudson se marcha en su auto a Fort Lauderdale, pero el tráfico en la I-95 está atascado.

6 p.m.- Hudson usually goes to the gym from work, but today he is going home because a reporter and a photographer are visiting.

The new floor has a contemporary furniture in soft tones of gray, black and white, designed by Gary (design is his hobby, he says).The couple is interested in technology, and Hudson admits to having eight televisions in the house.

7 p.m. — La niñera de Garrett se va y él sube a visitar a sus padres y a cenar masitas de pollo.Her husband usually cook and she helps serve the food.

"My husband supports me a lot," says Hudson.

Hudson takes care of bathing time with Garrett and then, from 8 to 8:30, maybe play cards with him and read him."We could complete three or four stories books per night," says Hudson.

But tonight, Garrett receives a special gift because he has behaved very well while his parents have received visits.His father takes him to the parking lot, where he conducts a miniature jeep that a friend of London has sent him.His father controls the vehicle with a remote control.

9 p.m.- It's time to prepare Garrett to go to bed, but Hudson's day is not over."I like to prepare the work of the next day and respond to the emails that I have not been able to attend during the day," he says.

11 p.m.- The lights go out for Hudson.It has been a long day, but says that he has often had longer days in the business world."Now I give more priority to my family," he says.But he quickly adds: "I love working because I am passionate about what I do".

You can contact Mimi Whitefield in mimiwhitefield@gmail.com

This story was originally published on November 8, 2021 2:59 pm.

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