Q&A with Kevin Feldt
After 15 years with Health Care for the Homeless, Kevin Feldt moved into a newly created Senior Director of Advancement role in August. He initially kicked off his time with us in 2006, bringing Bachelor's degrees in Social Work and the Arts; and a Master's degree in Public Administration. He had previous worked in disaster relief at chapters of the American Red Cross in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware. From Development Coordinator to Director of Development, Kevin shaped our approach to private fundraising—building strong individual, corporate and foundation partnerships, transforming our major gifts program, creating the Rock Your Socks 5K and evolving the Chocolate Affair fundraising events. This new role of Senior Director of Advancement puts our real estate development squarely under Kevin's leadership.
What led you to work for Health Care for the Homeless?
In short, our mission fits with my beliefs. We should meet urgent needs while working to redefine systems that cause inequity, pain and trauma in the first place. The longer I've been here though, the more I value our commitment to meeting people where they are. That acceptance is a gift we extend to each other and those we serve every day. Even before my first day, I felt it. I remember sitting, pale and sweating, waiting for my interview in the lobby of 111 Park Avenue. I felt totally out of my depth. Seeing my distress, the gentleman patiently waiting for an appointment next to me gave me a small smile and quietly offered me a section of the Baltimore Sun he was reading. That small courtesy spoke volumes about his character. When I eventually got into the interview, I met people who offered the same kind of warm, compassionate strength I see in my colleagues and in so many people who make up the Health Care for the Homeless community.
How will your role as Senior Director of Advancement differ from what you were doing as Director of Development?
The new role pairs work that is complementary, but not normally combined. In collaboration with our new Real Estate Developer, Jill Steele-McGhee, I will help the agency build out our capacity and multiyear strategy to develop affordable housing. Often “advancement” jobs focus on partnerships that advance goals that may take a few years to achieve. And that’s where we are today. We are years from having the depth of experience and knowledge to build apartments on our own, but with clear vision and strong relationships; we can make sure that our housing projects work well for people experiencing homelessness and for the neighborhoods where we hope to build.
Why does it make sense for real estate development to fall under your purview?
I’ve been working closely with Episcopal Housing Corporation (EHC) and Kevin Lindamood over the last few years to understand and map out how we fit into the affordable housing picture in Baltimore. There are some natural affinities between fundraising and real estate development—forging relationships, securing financial backing, etc.—but I've needed to learn a lot! I spent the last three years learning about business development and affordable housing from experts on our Board's Housing Committee. This year, I completed the Foundations in Real Estate (FoRE) Certificate with the Urban Land Institute. If anyone wants to dig into business models, value propositions and real estate budgets—find me! I love nerding out over this stuff.
What are one or two ways you see a racial equity approach influencing how you approach fundraising and real estate?
At the top of my mind—and an area we have begun taking steps—is reckoning with the inherent inequities in our relationships to clients. There are moral and ethical responsibilities that need revisiting before we ask a client to share their story for use at an event or in a letter. And more to answer about touring people through the clinic. These questions aren't ones that I can or should attempt to answer alone. Step one has been to gather the Communications, Policy, Equity & Engagement and Development Departments to begin reimagining what the relationships between staff members, donors and clients can and should look like.
In regards to real estate, the fact that we are building quality, deeply affordable housing is certainly a good start. But there’s a lot more to do. Baltimore’s neighborhoods are shaped by historic and present-day racist policies and practices. As developers, we have to respond in a whole new way. A big part of what we need to build is authentic partnerships with community leaders and activists that lead us to collective actions that bring health and prosperity to the neighborhood.
What are some of the big projects in the works?
There was a lot to love about the virtual Chocolate Affair Movie Night, and we're thinking through how to integrate the best parts of that experience in 2022. Stay tuned!
Sojourner Place at Oliver is taking shape, and we recently held a commemoration for the start of construction. Just as exciting, we are already working with EHC to find a suitable site for our next affordable housing development. I find it so energizing to imagine what comes next!
How will you or did you celebrate the promotion?
I made a point of telling my eight year old daughter, Penelope, about the work I’ll be doing in this role. I am so proud to do this work. Plus, I love Baltimore! It brings me a great deal of joy to know my time and energy could strengthen the neighborhoods we'll be fortunate enough to build in.
Any quirky facts or hobbies to share?
I have a penchant for obsessively getting into obscure hobbies, then dropping them after a few years. This is not an exhaustive list, but… I'm a former recreational ice hockey player (14 yrs), beer brewer (6 yrs), disc golfer (5 yrs) and bowler (6 yrs). I had a Twitter account where I exclusively posted original zombie haiku every day for a year in the early 2010s (I haven't written a haiku since).
My present activities include Olympic weightlifting, and I’m trying to learn to skateboard.
I am committed to some things! My wife and I just celebrated 16 years of marriage. I love my daughter, our cats and dog to pieces. And peanut butter. I love peanut butter.
Extend a warm congrats to Kevin when you see him next, or jot him an email (whether of congrats, or to nerd out on real estate or obscure hobbies).