Setting the Stage for a Renewal: A Look Back on 2021

Dec 27, 2021

It’s hard to talk about 2021 without mentioning the year that preceded it. It seems like forever ago, but 2020 was the year that changed everything. So much shifted that year that simply surviving was considered success. And survive, we did!

By contrast, 2021 has been more of a mixed bag. On the one hand, the rollout of vaccines gave us all cause for optimism. But there was a lot of “cleaning up” to do, as the prior year had pushed nearly everything to the breaking point. Just as important, we needed to plan optimistically for the future, because we humans thrive on hope, and because our clients count on us to continue delivering our lifesaving services—pandemic or not.

What follows is a look back on the year. Both the challenges and the breakthroughs. Ultimately, this is a good news story, so I hope you’ll read to the end!

First let me describe a couple of the primary challenges that Guild (and many similar organizations) faced in 2021.

  • Staffing crisis By now, we’ve all heard about the Great Resignation. It’s not just happening in retail and food service. It’s affecting mental health services as well. In 2021 it became even more apparent that many mental health care workers were simply worn out from working so hard to deliver services through the pandemic. At Guild, our turnover this year was double the usual rate. The particular challenge we face is finding enough qualified candidates to fill these vacancies, as the qualifications for many federally-funded positions are very specific. (In case you missed it, we’re hiring and you can learn more about our open positions here!)
  • Uncertainty No question, we’re facing an uncertain future on many levels. Not just at Guild, but in our families and in society at large. Will new COVID strains keep prolonging the pandemic? Will the economy keep going? Will our families stay strong? Will public policy respond meaningfully to the growing crises of mental health and homelessness? We simply don’t know what the future will bring.

Delivering Services Through It All

Here’s the first bit of good news I want to highlight. Despite everything, we continued to deliver housing, mental health and employment services to our clients in 2021! We owe a huge debt of gratitude to our staff for their commitment and perseverance, and to our generous donors for continuing to show up for Guild and the individuals we serve.

An Emphasis on Recruitment and Retention

The staffing crisis is not going away anytime soon. But that’s not stopping us from getting creative. With a new head of HR in place, we’re getting traction in bringing on new, passionate team members. We feel reinvigorated that these new staffers have chosen to spend a portion of their career with Guild!

Taking a Thoughtful Approach to Growth

If there’s one thing that the pandemic has given us, it’s permission to question everything. And that’s what we did in 2021. We used this year to slow down and re-approach our mission with much more intentionality and to plot a growth trajectory that will allow us to grow our reach and continue meeting our mission.

A Strategic Focus on Building Infrastructure

Out of that work came our new strategic plan, which focuses on building the infrastructure we need to become a leader in the industry.

You may recall that in 2020 we opened the Guild Crisis and Recovery Center in Savage. Much of 2021 was spent getting that facility up to speed. Now, we feel confident that it will serve as a blueprint for how we partner with other municipalities to build additional infrastructure and capacity in the years to come. I can’t wait to share more about these potential partnerships with you in the coming year!

A Dream Leadership Team

The other major development in 2021 was the strengthening of our leadership team, including the addition of Dawn Marie Nelmark and Kari Solem as leads of our Advancement and People, Space and Technology teams. We will need serious leadership to reach our goals and that’s exactly what we have in place now – a powerful, committed team to bring us into the future.

So, what can we expect in 2022?

I believe that in the coming year we are going to see a manifestation of all the hard work we’ve done. We will begin to see our strategic planning and leadership growth pay off. Of course, we expect to make adjustments as we go. We’ll deal with the uncertainties through creativity and agility.

But I think 2022 will also be a year of stubborn dedication to our core mission. After all, we’ve been focused on long-term homelessness since 2003. We have a deep expertise and wisdom about what actually works. We’re part of the fabric of the mental health and housing communities.

So, even as the world and our community is buffeted by change and uncertainty, I want the world to know that Guild will remain in the trenches doing the work. I like to say that we don’t give up on people or problems. We keep going!

However you can–whether it’s as a donor, a volunteer, a community partner or team member–I hope you’ll join us in this vital work!