Get to know Wade Trimmer, National Health Foundation’s new executive director of housing and homeless services.
As someone trained in architecture, how did you wind up in the nonprofit world?
My interest in architecture led me to securing an apprenticeship at a firm in San Diego. From there, I moved to Los Angeles to continue my pursuit. One evening some friends and I went to Westwood to see a movie. As I was standing in line, a young girl approached me and asked me for food. I initially thought she was lost and told her I would help her find her parents. She responded by saying, “My parents aren’t here. I’m homeless and I just need some food.” I took myself out of the movie line and took her out for a piece of pizza and a soda. As we ate, I found out her name was “Angel” and she was twelve years old. She told me a horrific story about how her step-dad threw her out on the streets that she now called home. I was dismayed and did not know what I could or should do for her. After an hour or so, she said that she needed to find a place to stay and thanked me. As she walked away that night, I made a promise to myself that I would never be in a position again where I could not help someone who was so vulnerable. The next day I started calling organizations that served children experiencing homelessness and I started volunteering at a drop-in center called, “My Friend’s Place.” This was the beginning of my journey serving this population.
I grew up in a home where my parents treated everyone with dignity and respect. It was common for my dad to stop for someone who was stranded or broken down on the side of the road. If we met someone who was hungry, we’d take them out to dinner or have them over to our house. In short, my parents modeled radical hospitality. Our home was a place where everyone was welcome.
I guess I want that same kind of hospitality for everyone. I believe that everyone deserves a place to call home and that everyone needs to be in a nurturing and supportive environment. There are tens of thousands of people in Los Angeles who don’t have what I have. I am compelled and deeply resolved to do everything I can to enhance the lives of those who are often ignored and abandoned.
What attracted you to National Health Foundation?
NHF lines up with my values – enhancing dignity, treating others with respect and providing a home for vulnerable people. I had an experience a few years ago when I was speaking to “Pops,” a veteran who was experiencing homelessness. During the course of our conversation, I told him that we could arrange for him to visit the VA and that an outreach worker could sit with him and make sure he would get the help he needed. “But who will take care of Gracie,” he asked. As I inquired about Gracie, I learned that she had recently become ill, and Pops was asking for money so he could buy her soup and medication. I imagined what it must be like to be sick and sleeping on the side of a freeway underneath a tarp with no creature comforts. That made a significant impact on me.
When I think about our recuperative care services, I think about Pops and Gracie and what a critical role we play in the lives of our neighbors who are vulnerable.
If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing, what would it be?
I would create a world in which every human being can thrive.
Who inspires you and why?
I am most inspired by people who display humility, integrity and generosity. Often, I find these traits in our clients.
How do you spend your free time?
I love being out in nature on a mountain bike, motorcycle or hiking. I’m always reading a leadership book, currently “Great by Choice.”
What are your top two priorities in your new role?
My top priorities are to ensure that we are providing excellent service to our clients and stakeholders and to expand our services so we can provide excellent service to more people who need our help.