Ali Brown of Supportive Services for Veteran Families

Ali Brown started as a housing resource specialist for the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) team, dedicated to the idea of serving vulnerable populations. Her passion for the work has allowed her to thrive at SSVF where she is now a program manager. Helping veterans find housing and opportunity in Chicago is more than just a job for Ali, it’s a personal mission.

  1. What got you into this work?

I got an undergraduate degree in clinical psychology. I’ve always been passionate about homeless services – and actually got my start at Heartland Alliance Health right out of grad school. I was working with individuals who were chronically homeless, and just loved the feeling of the huge impact I was making on the lives of my participants.

That particular program was ending, and I knew I wanted to continue to serve individuals experiencing homelessness – and continue working for Heartland Alliance. Fortunately for me, I found SSVF.

  1. Why is this work important to the community? To the people we serve?

With veterans services specifically, there’s been a huge national push to end veteran homelessness. Having a chance to be a part of that in one of the largest cities in the country has been profound. Since 2014, we’ve seen the amount of veterans living on the streets of Chicago go from over 3,000 to under 700. That’s spectacular. These are individuals who have sacrificed for us, so of course we should make sure they can live under a roof.

  1. Was there a moment where you KNEW you were in a job that was right for you? Could you talk about that?

I’ve felt that right off the bat at Heartland Alliance. When you start to see the changes in the lives of the people we serve, it moves you. Even small successes can transform into huge life changing events. Heartland Alliance’s mission aligns with who I want to be and what I want to do.

  1. What is your favorite part of your job?

It really is all about the successes of our participants. We’ve had some participants come in a bit jaded – people who had bad experiences with other service agencies, and we’ve shifted their perspective. Seeing the hope come back into their lives, it’s so fulfilling.

  1. How can others help your work?

It really is about educating yourself to be a more helpful person. We have a coordinated entry system in Chicago that actually helps people get connected to the right program now, so knowing what is near your home or near your place of work can be a dramatic first step to helping someone exit homelessness.