Paula & Karin reflect on their mentor-ship with Bill Perkins
We are now planning yard work and gardening projects! For those of you interested in getting outside to dig in the dirt, please sign up to volunteer on our website! Watch our website and facebook for volunteer opportunities! We will have more information in the May newsletter!
As we look at what is next for Hope & A Future, we are encouraging ourselves with what we have accomplished in years past. A while ago Paula Reif (co-founder of Hope & A Future) and I started writing about some of the people that encouraged us to move forward with our vision to create a Therapeutic Interactive Intergenerational Neighborhood. We have shared some of our stories in recent blogs.
Deciding to start was the first step. (August 2018) Next we wrote a business plan with guidance from Linda Davis from the Small business Development center (Sept 2018). Then a prototype for a possible neighborhood setting was drawn with thanks to Architect Mike McCoy (October 2018). And we received our 501©3 charitable status thanks to Tim Radelet took a week of vacation time to write it! (November 2018). Next it was time to start trying to find an affordable housing developer.
Tim introduced Paula and I to people that he thought might consider working on a risky project. Our idea was considered risky because it is pioneering and no one can be sure that people want to live the way they will in the TIIN. However since 2003 a great deal has been written about social determinants of health and the mutual benefit of shared site service delivery systems for multiple generations. This month Generations United newsletter included the very interesting article “All in Together: creating places where young and old thrive”. Bringing the generations together has become more recognized as beneficial for all age groups. But in 2003, when Paula and I started working on this project, very little had been written about the benefits of bringing the generations together. To date, current service delivery systems in the United States are just beginning to incorporate multigenerational approaches.
In 2004, Paula and I began meeting with a lot of affordable housing developers. We would often get to a point in conversations that people would say, “Hmmm, that is a good question. For complicated issues like that I usually go to Bill Perkins.” We heard this over and over and quickly decided we needed Bill (pictured left) on our team. Bill was agreeable to meeting with us and our first meeting was long and informative. Bill remembers Paula and I coming to him with our idea and asking him if he thought we were crazy to think it could happen. Bill remembers telling us that the idea “isn’t crazy, but it will be very difficult and take a lot of time to implement.” Paula and I remember Bill saying, “It is a great idea. But it will never happen.” We also remember looking at each other in wonder. Why had Bill spent so much time talking to us if he thought our idea was hopeless? Even more amazing is the fact that he met with us over and over for years and years. We would have another question that no one knew the answer to and we would ask Bill if he could give us some guidance. He would invite us to his office to talk and he was always generous with his time. At the end of each meeting he would end the conversation with, “It is a great idea. It is too bad it will never work.” I began referring to him as my friend the curmudgeon. There were more problems than Paula and I understood when we started on this project. Bill and Tim saw the problems but both of them loved the mission and vision; and hoped to find a way to make it become a reality. Both were our mentors and both encouraged us to keep trying. Many years into our unofficial mentorship relationship, Bill told me that he loved impossible projects–because they offered real challenge! Bill is an insightful and accomplished individual. He has done a great deal to help people–he has also watched well intentioned ideas not work. He is principled and respected by colleagues.
As noted in CohoMadison, “Bill Perkins has a 48-year career in housing development, policy and program design. In 2013 he began working as Bill Perkins, Community Building Consulting, LLC.
Bill founded the Wisconsin Partnership in 1985 and was Executive Director until his retirement in 2013. Under Bill’s direction, the Partnership developed almost 900 rental and sale homes; provided training, technical assistance, and consulting services to over 140 nonprofit and for-profit companies; and consulted on housing program design, evaluation and management for more than 40 local and state governments and other public agencies. The Partnership created, managed or consulted on 13 financing programs that provided over $300 million in debt and equity financing to develop, rehabilitate and conserve energy in almost 8,000 homes. Between 2001 and 2013, the Partnership managed more than $37 million in down payment assistance and counseling to over 7,300 homebuyers in Wisconsin and provided financial support for counseling to another 5,000 homebuyers and 400 renters with funding from the Housing Partnership Network. The Partnership under Bill’s direction helped more than 19,000 households live in decent, affordable homes.
Before founding the Partnership, Bill directed policy and program development from 1977 to 1985 in the Wisconsin Division of Housing, and was Administrator of the Division for four years. Bill co-founded the Community Resources Group in Cambridge, MA 1970, that worked in neighborhoods throughout New England to prevent displacement of lower income residents and promote long-term residency. Previously, he directed housing and neighborhood initiatives in the Community Development Office of the City of Cambridge.
In December 1990, President George H. W. Bush appointed Bill to the Federal Housing Finance Board, the federal agency that oversaw the Federal Home Loan Bank System. He served as the first community interest director of the FHFB until the end of 1993. Bill served for five years as Chairman of the Housing Partnership Network, a national organization whose members include the largest and highest-performing nonprofit developers in the country. Bill was awarded a Master’s in City and Regional Planning with distinction from Harvard University in 1968 and a BA in Design from Southern Illinois University in 1963.”
Bill was there for Paula and I for years and years. And he was there when we finally had a real opportunity to purchase land. Paula and I were a funny match for him. We knew nothing about affordable housing development when we started. Now we know something about it, Bill is an expert. The thing Bill and Paula and I really have in common is that we all we want to see everyone have a chance at a decent life–birth to grave. We enjoy gathering all of the voices at the table and we see the opportunity to live side by side in diverse intentional community as a roadway to really thriving in life. When asked what excites him most about the direction
of Hope & A Future, Bill states it is the “Potential for the organization to create a strong caring community built around mixed ages and incomes.”
However, the three of us had one variance in our thinking. Bill has a tendency to see the proverbial glass as half empty and Paula and I see it as half full. Since Paula and I continue to see the TIIN neighborhood as an inspired idea, we have always felt sure God would see it to completion. Not necessarily in our life time–but some day. In 2012, when we found both the beautiful land Hope & A Future is now located on and a philanthropic couple interested in helping us purchase the land–our differences became very obvious. As we began working together more, I decided it was time for me to tell Bill that I often referred to him as my curmudgeon friend. I wanted him to hear that from me before some other person informed him. Bill laughed and said he had always hoped to attain curmudgeon status. He then said that if we were coming clean he had something to tell me too. Bill told me that when he shared Hope & A Future stories with Joyce and his children, it was under the name of Wing & A Prayer. In fact, he supposed they probably thought Wing & A Prayer was the actual name of our business! He said that Joyce told him that he should help us because they may want to live at Hope & A Future some day. He said he knew that. But it was going to be very difficult and maybe it was never going to work . . .
Bill, and behind the scene his wife Joyce, have been integral players in this intergenerational community plan. Bill volunteered his time during the planning and construction of the addition. Bill and Joyce have attended potlucks, and we have enjoyed a great deal of conversation, food and music together. In addition to volunteering his skills as a housing developer, Bill contributed his wood-working creations for fundraisers and donated countless hours volunteering his time and talent to lead volunteer groups as we finished our new addition. With his vast experience as a nonprofit developer, and his inherent belief in the benefits of bringing the generations together, Bill and Joyce, have played integral roles in developing the physical spaces that will embody the TIIN model. Bill’s shared wisdom brought us to the point of creating the neighborhood design that we will seek approval to develop.
Bill has told us that he has “never encountered a more dedicated, creative group of people than the board and staff of Hope & A Future.” As it turns out, Bill is an integral member of that very group! And we are grateful.