Leadership Profile: Cathy Alderman
Tuesday, November 27, 2018
Posted by: Emily Nilsen
Each month Housing Colorado profiles a member volunteer who serves on a committee or another volunteer opportunity. This profile features members who have shown great commitment to the mission of Housing Colorado.
Cathy Alderman has served as the Vice President of Communications and Public Policy for the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) since 2015 and oversees the Education and Advocacy (E&A) Team. The E&A Team is responsible for public/media relations, lobbying activities, social media, publications, community engagement, public outreach and education. Before joining CCH, Cathy served as the Vice President of Public Affairs for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains (PPRM) and the PPRM Action Fund overseeing policy, political, and community engagement work for a four-state region. Cathy has also worked for the Association of PeriOperative Registered Nurses (AORN) on legislative issues related to patient safety in the operating room, the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services overseeing the Medicaid Managed Care Contracts Division, and the Madison County Health Department in Ohio as an Epidemiologist and Legal Adviser. Cathy received her Juris Doctor from Tulane University Law School and a Master of Science in Public Health from the Tulane School of Public Health in Tropical Medicine. She graduated from Loyola University with a Bachelor's Degree in Philosophy and a minor degree in Environmental Management. A native of Georgia, Cathy has also lived in New Orleans; Madrid, Spain; and Columbus, Ohio before moving to Denver, Colorado in 2005.
How did you end up in affordable housing?
My career has been largely focused on social justice issues and when the opportunity to join the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) became available, I knew it would give me a chance to work on a broad number of issues related to economic and social justice including housing. Housing is at the cornerstone of people’s stability. Without it, it is difficult to obtain an education or employment, manage physical and mental healthcare issues, engage meaningfully in civic and community endeavors, etc. I wanted to work in a space supporting policies that provide stability to people of all backgrounds so that we can have a more just community in Colorado.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I work with some of the most engaged and caring people I have ever known, and they inspire me every day. I want to make their jobs easier, so they can serve more people and help provide better stability to more individuals and families. And, I enjoy engaging in thoughtful conversations about making systems and policy changes that help connect people to the resources, the support systems, and the housing they need to be successful.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
The fear that we might be doing too little too late or that we won’t be able to adequately address the issue of homelessness and housing instability for our friends and neighbors in Colorado. I remain optimistic that we can build the support within the community to do the right thing, but I am worried about apathy, NIMBY-ism, complacency, and resistance from communities that are not impacted by economic and social justice issues or feel like it is not their responsibility to build strong communities together.
How did you get involved with Housing Colorado?
When I started at CCH in 2015, I was told that much of the housing policy work for the state was being discussed at the Housing Colorado Policy Committee, so I decided I needed to become a member quickly.
How do you currently serve Housing Colorado and what do you enjoy most about volunteering?
I have served on the Policy Committee for 3 years now and this year, I served on the Conference Committee. The Policy Committee provides such a good space to discuss legislative housing proposals and the opportunity to hear from diverse backgrounds and perspectives. The Conference Committee was a good opportunity to learn more about Housing Colorado members and to help shape relevant content for the Housing NOW Conference.
What are some exciting progressions or projects currently going on in your work?
We are launching a statewide public education campaign in January to get feedback on people’s understanding of the connections between housing and health and their perceptions of homelessness. The goal is to garner statewide input and support for a permanent dedicated funding source for housing in Colorado. If we can build the right level of community relationships and provide the right learning opportunity throughout Colorado, considering differing needs of different communities, I think we can make a much better sell to the Colorado General Assembly that the State must invest in housing and homelessness now if it is ever going to solve the crisis.
What project, program or undertaking are you most proud of and why?
I’m proud of some of the innovative work that CCH has been able to do and that I get to tell elected officials and the community about. My team is responsible for public engagement and outreach including providing tours to our buildings – last year we reached over 1200 people in this work! One of CCH’s unique programs in the Ft Lyon Residential Recovery Community in Las Animas, Colorado where we provide people experiencing homelessness and suffering from a substance use disorder the opportunity to recover from their addiction, improve life stability, and re-integrate into their community of choice. It’s inspiring to see how impactful that is on people’s lives. I am also really proud of our Social Impact Bond work where we house chronically homeless individuals that are high utilizers of emergency services to help provide cost savings to the City of Denver. These programs offer evaluations and data on the benefits of housing people rather than allowing them to suffer in homelessness and sometimes I think it’s the data that could move people.
What is the best career advice you have ever been given?
Advocacy is about relationships, not just being right.
Who has been an instrumental mentor through your career? Who do you look up to?
I take a lot of inspiration from women leaders – especially those that paved their way in male-dominated fields like housing. I’ve really looked up to our female US Supreme Court Justices for their intellect, perspective, and patience.
What website(s) do you find useful in your work?
I am constantly using housing data compiled by the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, www.nlihc.org for state specific information on housing costs and availability. I also think the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has some great housing data and resources, https://www.cbpp.org/. The Center for Community Change has great Housing Trust Fund resources which is the direction that we believe Colorado needs to go in: https://communitychange.org/campaign/housing-trust-fund-project/
If you were given the chance to go on a vacation to any place of your choosing, where would you go and what would you do?
New Zealand is definitely on my bucket list. I’d want to do the full experience and visit both islands, so I can hike in the “Lord of The Rings” mountains and enjoy some time on the beautiful beaches.
What’s your favorite restaurant in Colorado?
This is a tough question because the restaurant environment is changing all the time! If I had guests coming in town tonight, I would probably suggest Bar Dough or Root Down.
What book are you currently reading? Are you enjoying it?
I’ve been trying to read more fiction and give my brain a break from news and politics. I just cracked the bind on Unsheltered, a new book by Barbara Kingsolver who is one of my favorite authors. She has a unique ability to address timely, relevant issues through compelling narrative and historical story-telling. Oddly enough, this book is about two families living generations apart and experiencing some sort of housing instability.