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Meet 35 Under 35 Alumna Ashley Berkenpas

Ashley Berkenpas

Photo by Hillary Ehlen

Housing Navigator, Presentation Partners in Housing – Class of 2016

Can you give me a brief background on what you do and your journey?
As a Housing Navigator (HN) I am responsible for working with households experiencing homelessness to access and maintain housing. We utilize proven housing stability case management services to assigned households and utilize a strength-based approach that is rooted in housing first, harm reduction and trauma-informed care methodologies. We collaborate with community partners in housing programs and supportive service organizations. I started in 2016 when the HN Program first started. It has been amazing to be part of a vision the homeless services providers in the F-M area have been dreaming about for years prior, and United Way helped make possible. I feel lucky to be a part of the team since the beginning and watching it impact our participants’ lives and our community!

How are you looking to impact homelessness in our region?
My dream would be to see our community reach “functional zero”. This describes the situation in a community where homelessness has become a manageable problem. This means the availability of services and resources match or exceed the demand for them from the target population. For example, a community may declare they have ended homelessness when they have enough supportive housing, shelter beds, service workers, and funds to assist the number of people accessing the services. I would love for everyone to have a house to call home! Our community is doing a great job of working together to end homelessness. We need to keep on that path!

What is one tip you can give young business professionals?
Believe in yourself and take risks. I was lucky enough to have professionals in the community that believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. When I was unsure, the professionals around me assured me! I wouldn’t be a Housing Navigator and be a part of the amazing team I am now, without that push.

Why is it important that we all care about reducing homelessness in our community? What is the ripple effect?
Reducing/ending homelessness affects all of us. If we can get individuals and families safe homes to live in, we can help break generational poverty, generational homelessness, jail visits, and literacy issues. If we take care of this now our overall future as a community becomes brighter! Reducing homelessness saves our community money and gives everyone a happy community. 

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Written by Brady Drake

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