Housing solutions are on a fast track, says leader at PATH

| September 2, 2021 | 0 Comments

TESSA MADDEN STORMS has worked with PATH for the past ten years.
Photo courtesy of PATH

Housing-forward, person-centered solutions to homelessness have been Tessa Madden Storms’s work for the past decade.

Madden Storms, who lives in Windsor Village, is the senior director of philanthropy at PATH (People Assisting The Homeless) and the regional director of PATH Santa Barbara.

“Certainly, the geographical change of pace of going on up to Santa Barbara keeps me on my toes,” Madden Storms laughed.

In her two roles at PATH, she helps individuals experiencing homelessness in both Santa Barbara and greater California. Born in Wichita, Kansas, Madden Storms moved to California in order to attend USC, where she earned a bachelor of arts degree in political science, with minors in nonprofit and organizational management.

“It was really eye-opening to me, coming from another place without this prevalent homelessness issue, to see that and to say that this doesn’t have to be the case,” Madden Storms said. “It struck me pretty significantly.”

She decided to pursue a nonprofit career in homelessness services after a college internship with Chrysalis, a downtown Los Angeles jobs-first nonprofit working to solve homelessness.

Starting on the path

She then started at PATH, and she also entered a master’s program in nonprofit management at USC. She said she joined PATH when it had only about 80 full-time employees working exclusively in Los Angeles County. PATH, which was founded in 1984 as a housing-first nonprofit in Los Angeles, now operates in 150 cities across California.

“We’ve naturally grown. People have seen the work that we’re doing, and they want to invest in that same kind of services and programs in their own communities,” Madden Storms said. “Being one of the few people that have been here for this long, getting to experience that history has been really special.”

PATH has housed over 11,800 people since 2013 — and in 2020 — served nearly 20 percent of Californians experiencing homelessness.

During the pandemic, PATH experienced one of its best fundraising years in 2020. As the senior director of philanthropy, Madden Storms manages PATH’s statewide private giving efforts, campaign-based fundraising programs, donor relations and marketing. She said that people living at home were looking for ways to stay involved without being able to leave the house.

“We were stuck at home for the better part of last year, and people who would normally be volunteering or engaging with organizations didn’t have the ability to do that,” Madden Storms said. “People who might not otherwise give actually wrote a check or donated online because that was their way of supporting the causes they cared about.”

New Housing Site

During the pandemic period, PATH unexpectedly was able to open 13 new interim housing sites. It also worked with the State of California on “Project Roomkey,” the state’s COVID response that identified immediate temporary shelters for people experiencing homelessness.

Madden Storms said PATH Santa Barbara helped run that county’s Project Roomkey program, which included the repurposing of motels, and PATH was later able to transition most of the residents participating into permanent housing.

“A lot of these solutions that we, as a homeless service provider community, had been advocating for years and years — these creative solutions and quick solutions, like prefab homes or motels –– we hadn’t ever seen really being executed in a meaningful way,” Madden Storms said. “All of a sudden, in the face of the pandemic, it’s happening in days and weeks instead of months and years.”

Madden Storms moved to Windsor Village two years ago, shortly before the pandemic started. She has been taking lots of long walks to explore the neighborhood, but she also knows the general area well as a member of the Junior League of Los Angeles since 2013.

She believes that finding a home, or “making it home” according to PATH’s mission, is the highest priority and best solution to addressing homelessness. The answer to homelessness, she said, is homes.

“People should live in dignity,” Madden Storms said. “Housing should be a right, not a privilege. That planted the seed in me in terms of homelessness services.”

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Category: People

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