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Good Shepherd Housing Losing Leader

Shirley Marshall headed non-profit for nine years.

When Shirley Marshall was hired as executive director of Good Shepherd Housing and Family Services, she was concerned with internal as well as external issues. As she prepares to depart her position after nine years, she believes that most of the internal issues have been resolved and that her successor will need to focus mostly on the external issues.

Long-time board member and president emeritus, George Klett, agrees and said, "This place really grew under her [Shirley]. We can now concentrate on the programs. Her dedication is something. She has a great presence and ability to reach out to people," he said.

So well trained is the Good Shepherd Housing staff that they will operate without a director until a new one is hired. Shannon Steene, deputy director, will act as interim director; he is one of the candidates being considered for the permanent position. Klett said that they have formed a transitional and search committee and are reviewing candidates.

"She [Shirley] took the foundation of a good organization and built it into a nationally recognized and award-winning leader in housing support for the working poor and disabled. Our community has been very blessed by her leadership and I am thankful to have worked with her," said board member Dan Storck.

"It is not often that we get to see how we truly made a difference in peoples" lives, but Shirley Marshall's contributions to our community and to our poorest neighbors was profound. Shirley Marshall has had a profound impact on our community and our working poor struggling to keep a roof over their family's heads. Her personal integrity, hard work, organizational skills and commitment to affordable housing for our working poor has been uncompromising. We will deeply miss her and her leadership."

MARSHALL ACCOMPLISHED many things during her nine years as executive director, however there are two things in particular that she is pleased with. She is glad that she is leaving Good Shepherd Housing fiscally stable and with a solid base of programs.

"Fiscally we are moving ahead. We've been able to attract donors, individuals, foundations and the county. We have money to move ahead and serve people," said Marshall. "I am also proud of our programs. Many of them were started by volunteers who knew what they were doing. We've refined and shaped them as the community has changed. The programs are only as good as the people who run them — our staff and volunteers are outstanding."

One of those programs, called the rental/sublet program, is the only one of its kind in the country, according to Marshall. Through this program, Good Shepherd Housing works with landlords to rent apartments or townhouses at reduced rates, and then sublets them to families who need them. The agency assumes the risk of the rental, but passes the cost savings on to their clients.

"Shirley has done an enormous amount for Good Shepherd Housing and Family Services and leaves us in a great position to move on to the next level. Along with earning the respect of the staff, board, volunteers and community, she has made sure that the organization is financially secure and that our programs to help the working poor are solid. Shirley will be greatly missed," said Karen Jupiter, director of development.

MARSHALL SAID THAT it was going to be hard to leave, both professionally and personally.

"Professionally things are happening and I hate to leave. Affordable housing is finally getting the spotlight it deserves."

Marshall believes that she has played a part in this newfound focus. There are other reasons that this has come to the forefront. It helped that Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerald Connelly included affordable housing as one of his top five platform issues.

"I think after a lot of time, pressure on the issue built up and the logjam finally broke. They kept trying to call it something else, but the leadership finally said that it is affordable housing that we need and we need to put money and political will behind it," said Marshall. "We haven't seen the actual results yet, but we hope it is coming. The business community is stepping up to the plate and recognizing that it [affordable housing] is needed because workers need to be close to their jobs."

Personally, Marshall will miss the staff, volunteers and board members. It's hard to leave; we were very close."

While Marshall plans to keep in touch with her soon-to-be former co-workers, it will not be easy, at least for the next two years. Marshall will be joining her husband in Afghanistan, where he has taken a two-year job with an international project.

After Marshall leaves, the external pressures will continue; the pressure to find money, to find buildings and to find low-income rentals. Whereas, when the organization first started, there were plenty of low-income units; it has now gotten harder and harder to find affordable housing in Fairfax County.

"There has been a big need since the summer of 2001. That was when business took a dip; 9/11 speeded up the process. What we've seen is a population who has never recovered. They were the first to be hit and the last to recover," said Marshall, who is proud of the fact that if you come in to Good Shepherd Housing for help, you receive it.

"I'm hoping that the next director can keep the process moving," said Marshall. "What I really hope is that when I leave the new director will take [Good Shepherd Housing] to the next level."