Since the very beginning, women have played a vital role in the leadership of Mercy Housing. Women from all walks of life have served as our leadership. From board members with real estate backgrounds to Women Religious who have served as our guiding light, we wouldn’t be where we are without these women.
We sat down with Yvonne Camacho, a member of the Board of Trustees, and Sister Rose Marie Jasinski, CBS, the chair of the Corporate Member group, part of our governance structure responsible for stewarding our vision, mission, and core values. Both of these amazing women have helped shaped Mercy Housing into the organization it is today. Keep reading to see what they had to say:
How long have you been involved with Mercy Housing?
Yvonne Camacho: I joined the Mercy Housing board as a trustee in early 2000 after being introduced to [former CEO] Sister Lillian Murphy by a previous Mercy Housing Mountain Plains board member. Sister Lillian said she was looking for someone with a financial background and an understanding of the affordable housing industry – and that I was just the person!
What’s the best part about being on the board at Mercy Housing, Yvonne?
YC: I love almost all aspects about being on this board! My fellow trustees are some of the brightest and most interesting people from all walks of life and the entire organization is focused on making a real difference in people’s lives. It is tremendously motivating to continue the mission of alleviating poverty and improving lives when we have the opportunity to meet our residents and hear their stories.
How did you get involved with Mercy Housing? What attracted you to Mercy Housing as an organization?
SRM: A Sister of Mercy who was a friend of mine from Omaha told me about the beginnings of Mercy Housing back in the ’80s, and I’ve been interested since then. When the Sisters of Bon Secours became a Co-Sponsor, that re-ignited my interest and support.
YC: I worked in the multi-housing industry for 20+ years, but on the other end of the spectrum with luxury apartments. The appeal of being able to apply all my experience in the industry to address our nation’s affordable housing issues was too good to pass up. It is my way of giving back that isn’t just a financial contribution but a more substantial continued contribution of my time and knowledge. Part of the attraction of volunteering with Mercy Housing was that its headquarters are in Denver, my hometown.
Looking forward, what excites you about Mercy Housing?
YC: We are embarking on a strategic planning process for 2020 onward and the board is focused on really looking outside the box for ways to increase our impact. That is very exciting!
Why are you passionate about affordable housing?
YC: I believe a safe place to call home is the first critical step towards lessening the impacts of poverty. When a person has a home that they can afford, they can then focus on their health, their families, their job or schooling/training and begin to better care for themselves. Eventually, most then begin to better care for others and their communities. That is how we can break the cycle of poverty.
SRM: Even being a small part of this housing ministry feels so very important for all those served; having a home is a priceless treasure.
How do you see yourself making a difference in the lives of MH residents?
YC: By working with my fellow trustees and Mercy Housing employees to ensure Mercy Housing is a financially viable, well-run company, and by providing housing and critical services to our residents. I’ve spoken to residents that have told me that Mercy Housing changed their lives with its support. While I don’t usually interact with the residents directly, I know that a successful Mercy Housing can benefit so many people in need.
SRM: By influencing decisions at the Mercy Housing board level as well as with the health system with which I am connected.
As a nation, what improvements have we made regarding affordable housing? How could we improve?
YC: Oh my — the list is endless as to what can be improved. There is always a shortage of funds to go around, whether it is to defray increasing construction costs, enable supportive housing for disabled, homeless, senior or other residents needing rent subsidies and supporting services at the properties — such as healthcare, after school care, etc.
SRM: Unfortunately, I worry about our nation and affordable housing; I’m not sure I’ve seen much improvement. This makes Mercy Housing so much more important.
Mercy Housing does more than put a roof over people’s heads, we offer a rich variety of extra programming (e.g. health and wellness, education, substance abuse assistance, etc.). Why do you think these programs are important?
YC: These programs are essential and are what really set Mercy Housing apart from other affordable housing developers and operators. It is another tool for residents to access to improve their quality of life. Whether a senior citizen that has onsite access to a nurse for chronic disease management or a family with access to after school daycare, the availability of these services allows the residents one more avenue towards a better day to day life.
SRM: They enhance quality of life and bring people together.
Where would you like to see Mercy Housing five years from now?
SRM: Mercy Housing does wonderfully enriched affordable housing. Five years from now I’d like to see more healthcare-related collaborative programs.
YC: My vision for Mercy Housing is to be able to increase its impact and touch many more lives with a healthy financial base so that it is not dependent on any one form of capital or revenue. The continuing increase in the federal and state governments’ budgets and related deficits means that all affordable housing companies will need to figure out other sources to continue providing homes for the less fortunate of our society.
What does the concept of ‘home’ mean to you?
SRM: A place that is safe, warm. A shelter from some of the harsh realities of life that can be faced with others who live in the home who are loving and accepting.
YC: Home is my oasis. The place where I feel safe, happy, and nurtured.