After more than 20 years of working to help the homeless of Bergen County, Tom Flood has some ideas about what we need to do next.
Tom is a member of the board of Family Promise of Bergen County and its predecessor, the Interreligious Fellowship. He’s also a former corporate manager (General Mills, American Express, Avon) who now consults for companies such as Ameriprise and American Express. He’s trained to analyze systems and organizations, and brings the same eye to his work with Family Promise.
He thinks Family Promise can help more homeless families; can reach more families before they become homeless; and do so by tapping the professional and vocational skills of those in its extensive network of volunteers.
Sheltering and feeding folks in need is fine, Tom says, but “we need to help people develop new skills. That’s the only way we’re going to equip people to transform their lives.’’
That’s where the volunteers come in. “I’m a big believer in mentoring,’’ says Tom, who works with college students or recent graduates on ways to get their careers started. “Our volunteers have some amazing professional skills. I hope we can find a mentor for each of the families we’re trying to support.’’
Which leads him to another issue: “How can we scale our operation?’’ For Family Promise — the only agency in the county dedicated to helping homeless working families with children — he says that one challenge is “to reach some people as they’re nearing homelessness’’ and before they become homeless.
Tom says he’s seen an evolution over the decades in attitudes toward homelessness. When he joined the IRF board in the 1990s, he was charged with finding a location for a permanent facility to house homeless families. The community prejudice was striking. He recalls a meeting in one town attended by “300 to 400 people – all protesting what we were proposing. They didn’t want homeless children in their schools.’’
Now, he says, “there’s much greater public recognition of homelessness as a possibility for people with moderate incomes. There’s this whole growing group of people who just don’t earn enough income to afford housing.’’
Flood and his wife Ginny are longtime residents of Old Tappan, where they raised four children. He’s an accountant by training with a master’s degree in international business.
At Family Promise he’s also known for his stewardship of the annual Golf Outing, an important fundraiser. Personally, he says, he likes hitting the little white ball well enough, but “what I really enjoy is walking the course.’’