2014 Prize Winner
His responsibility is to help [people] move off the streets and into permanent housing. But Tyrone does more than just that: He helps clients break down barriers that stand in their way of housing. He advocates, cajoles, follows up, networks, and works his butt off so that people can change their lives and move out from under bridges and off the streets.
- Doreen Binder, executive director, Transition Projects
In 2009, Tyrone Rucker scraped up $134 and spent it on a Greyhound ticket from Los Angeles to Portland.
I had zero, he says. I had nothing. And thats where my journey began.
Nowfive years and many roles later within Portlands subsidized housing communityhe is a case manager at Transition Projects, which serves people as they move from homelessness to housing. In TPs day center, people congregate daily for services that include laundry, lockers, showers, and a safe spot to sit away from the street.
Its a drizzly Monday. Rucker, 32, steps through the door. Immediately, a woman in a black jacket and headscarf meets him midstride.
You find me a house yet? she asks, smiling.
Awh, hey, Teresa! Tyrone says back. I got you. I got you.
OK, you been tellin me youre findin me a house, and me and Terry need a house.
I got you.
Ruckers clients always want to know about time frame. I tell them the more they work, the quicker its going to be, he says.
During his first interactions with clients, Rucker lets them know hes not an authority figure, a parole officer, or a magician.
My job is to get [a client] into a house, however that looks, he said. But he cant place them all, and he knows it.
Sometimes, thats not the case, he said. Im just accumulating people and accumulating people and Im not able to push anybody out.
But Ruckers determination and firsthand knowledge keep him focused. Having been in similar circumstances, he understands the urgency homeless individuals often feel.
Theyre why Im here, he says. Somebodys gonna walk in here and say I need help, I dont know what to do, and Ima be like, Man, I got the solution for you. And then Ill get them a house.
Bottom Line for Portland
Tyrone placed 69 families from the street into housing last year; thats more than 12.5 percent of Transition Projects annual goal of 550 families. After 12 months, his clients retention rate is more than 96 percent. By Steph Barnhart
His prize was generously sponsored by Davis Wright Tremaine.