On September 26 we lost a colleague, friend, mentor, and leader. Vince Matulionis, the long time Director of Ending Homelessness at United Way passed away after a long illness.
I had the privilege of working for and with Vince for more than a decade. He taught me so much about what it takes to make change happen. He challenged me and those around him to never settle or take no for an answer when it comes to helping the most vulnerable. Vince led with empathy, a quest for knowledge, and a unwavering commitment to social justice. He believed that ending homelessness was not only the right thing to do but that it was possible. And he had the unique ability to make others believe the same thing.
Early in my career I learned that the best time to catch Vince was between 7-8:30AM. Over coffee he'd have one crazy idea or another and by the time most people were rolling into work there'd be some screwball plan to make that idea a reality. The passion he exuded led those of us around him to do whatever we could to make it happen.
- Build a Habitat for Humanity House in the middle of the Fremont Fair? Sure.
- Have a big event for people experiencing homelessness? Actually let's have two.
- Write a plan to ....end youth homelessness, end hunger, build supportive housing, Check. Check. Check.
- Create a response to the Economic Recession - in three days? Why not!
Vince started working to end homelessness in the late 90's. He knew that it was a complex issue that needed to be solved through smart investments, good policies, and more affordable housing. He understood that solving homelessness required preventing people from becoming homeless in the first place and addressing the vast inequities in our systems. A community organizer at heart, he believed that creating lasting change meant mobilizing the entire community and giving everyone a chance to learn and pitch in.
Vince saw that homelessness was a crisis long before Seattle Mayor Murray and King County Executive Constantine declared that homelessness is in a state of emergency. He understood that we needed more urgency. empathy, and humility in our work. Most people would grow tired and frustrated with this work. They'd be discouraged that we hadn't solved homelessness in ten years . Not Vince. Right until the end he was fighting to transform our systems and bring the thousands of people experiencing homelessness into housing - because anything less was unacceptable. I am so sorry that he won't be here to finish this work.
So often we don't say thank you until it is too late. I always thought one of us would move on from United Way and I'd get to say all the nice things that I never found time to say. Vince deserves so very much thanks. Thank you Vince for creating a platform to end homelessness in our community. Thank you for sharing your drive, vision, and idealism with us. Thank you for inspiring donors, business leaders, and volunteers to get involved. Thank you for teaching me to ask for forgiveness rather than permission and to never let a good idea die because of a lack of resources. Thank you for challenging me to dream big and then bigger, for believing in me as a young leader, for and helping me find my voice. Thank you for sharing your love for books and travel. And Vince, thank you for bringing so many people out of the rain.