What I Learned about Housing First from Lloyd Pendleton

This piece is authored by Matthew Doherty, former Executive Director of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness

I was truly sorry to hear of the death of my friend Lloyd Pendleton in Utah earlier this year. Lloyd had provided incredible and tireless leadership to efforts to end homelessness in Salt Lake and across Utah. He helped champion Housing First approaches throughout the country. And he made a classic appearance on the Daily Show in 2014.

I first met Lloyd in Salt Lake City in July 2005. I had traveled there to facilitate some community planning conversations. I know the exact date because, knowing so little about Utah at the time, I didn’t realize I was traveling there on Pioneer Day, a state holiday. Over the years, I saw him often—in Salt Lake, at national conferences and events, and when he served a temporary assignment with USICH in 2012. Through Lloyd and others, I learned a great deal about Salt Lake, about Utah, and about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its works.

Although Lloyd and I were different in so many ways, I often ask myself “I wonder what Lloyd would recommend in this situation?” And I know that I will do that for the rest of my life. Since Lloyd’s death, I have thought especially about the many things about Housing First approaches that I learned from him. Lloyd helped teach me:

Never stop making the case for Housing First

While Housing First approaches have taken hold in communities’ responses to homelessness, there are always people — some new to issues of homelessness and some not — who will raise questions, concerns, and objections. Lloyd was masterful at telling his own story of understanding and embracing Housing First approaches – and making that story fresh and compelling each time. That way, people felt invited in to see and embrace his perspectives.

Understand people’s motivations and values to make dialogue possible

In his TED talk on Housing First, Lloyd said “I have learned over and over again that when you listen to somebody’s story with an open heart, walk in their shoes with them, you can’t help but love and care for them and want to serve them.” Lloyd was talking about people experiencing homelessness. But I witnessed him applying this same commitment to listening to, understanding, and loving people in his efforts to spread awareness and understanding of Housing First approaches among skeptical audiences.

No single motivation is the “right” one

One of my clearest memories of Lloyd is the day I spent with him learning about the Humanitarian Service of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We spent a lot of time on the road that day and talked about what motivated us in our work to end homelessness. Lloyd’s one-word answer was “faith” and mine was “justice.” We then had a rich conversation about how those different answers had led us to many of the same places, but that our work together was strengthened because we got to those places along different paths, providing different perspectives and priorities.

Be ready for both sprinting and endurance running

Lloyd was a runner; I most definitely am not. But even I could see the influence of his running within his work. Lloyd earned his “energizer bunny” reputation by seizing and sprinting forward with important strategic opportunities, while recognizing that the ultimate goal could only be achieved by patiently and tirelessly striving toward the destination you can see in front of you, but have not yet reached.

Using Housing First approaches is being of service to people experiencing homelessness

Lloyd’s obituary included these words of tribute: “Lloyd’s life reflected his beliefs; one person can make a difference, serving others is a privilege, and all people are his brothers and sisters.” Lloyd knew that using Housing First approaches stayed true to what his brothers and sisters experiencing homelessness need and want: safe and stable places to call home. His work to spread Housing First practices was one of the many ways he sought to make a difference and to use his privileges in service to others.

I miss Lloyd. I have never met anyone with the same amazing combination of tirelessness, empathy, passion, purposefulness, care, drive, humor, strategic insights, vision, and warmth. The movement to end homelessness in our country misses Lloyd, who did his work with an inspiring personal touch and grace.

As I continue my work to further spread and strengthen Housing First approaches, I know that I am doing my part to advance and secure his great impact and legacy. And I am grateful for that.