ESAC director tapped to end homelessness

February 8, 2008
By

DAVID TABER

After 12 years at the helm of the community organization Ensuring Stability through Action in our Community (ESAC), JP resident Robert Pulster is stepping down this month to head a state council charged with ending homelessness in the Commonwealth.

Gov. Deval Patrick established the current incarnation of the Interagency Council on Homelessness and Housing (ICHH) by executive order in November. The agency will “coordinate state agencies to be more deliberate about dealing with homelessness,” Pulster said.

The ICHH will review and work to improve existing programs and policies around homelessness, he said. It will also work to implement recommendations from the Commission to End Homelessness, a 30-member panel of homeless advocates and state, community and county officials, including Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray.

Pulster said the ICHH’s goal is to end homelessness in Massachusetts through a “housing first” model.

“We have developed a workable plan that, if implemented and funded properly, will end homelessness in Massachusetts,” state Sen. Byron Rushing, who co-chaired the commission, said in a press release when the recommendations were announced.

“If we invest the necessary funds and reorganization at the beginning of the plan we will see over these five years, with the decommissioning of most shelter beds, sufficient funds to be reallocated to complete this plan and prevent the reoccurrence of this inhumane problem.”

The IHCC will take the “broad directions [offered by the council] and work out specific budget and program guidelines,” according to press material.

In his time at ESAC, Pulster said, he has had some experience on the cutting edge of social trends.

The organization was working on issues around predatory and sub-prime mortgage lending “years prior to this debacle,” Pulster said.

“In 2003 ESAC held a forum on Wall Street’s role in the mortgage industry,” he said.

He is also proud, he said, of ESAC’s 130-slot GED program and work the organization has done with youth in Egleston Square.

“Many young people we are working with are highly impacted by violence in the city and are turning their lives around,” he said.

Another ESAC program, run in conjunction with Brigham and Women’s and Children’s hospitals, where home visits are conducted to households where children are living with athsma, has shown great results, Pulster said.

A study of the program by Children’s Hospital shows a two-thirds decrease in the rate of hospitalizations and emergency room visits for children in households that have received home visits, he said.

Pulster will be leaving ESAC Feb. 8. “The volunteers and board are focused on making this a smooth transition,” he said, “We want to maintain our high level of service.”

Emily Morris Litonjua, president of ESAC’s board of directors, said William Minkle of Framingham will serve as ESAC’s interim executive director. Minkle most recently served as an administrator at the South Middlesex Opportunity Council and has 28 years of non-profit experience.

The search for a permanent replacement for Pulster will begin next week, Morris Litonjua said. She estimated it will take about three months.

“Bob’s work elevated the status of the organization,” she said. Thanks to him, “ESAC is a leader regionally and possibly nationally in the sub-prime foreclosure crisis.” The organization’s growth under Pulster’s stewardship will make it easier to find a new executive director, she said.

“We are thrilled for [Pulster] and obviously it’s a big loss to ESAC,” Morris Litonjua said.

Pulster described his departure from ESAC as bittersweet and said despite the statewide focus of his new job he will continue to be active in the JP community. He will continue to serve as the Ward 19 Democratic Committee co-chair and serve on the Egleston Square Main Streets board of directors, he said.