A New PATH to the Future: Next Steps for our CEO, Joel John Roberts

Joel John Roberts, CEO of People Assisting the Homeless (PATH) released the following statement:

“25 years ago, the PATH Board of Directors hired me as a young, energetic, new Executive Director, in hopes of steering their small, West Los Angeles homeless agency towards the future. Back then, we served Los Angeles’ Westside with a dedicated dozen staff, a 32-bed transitional housing facility and employment center, and an annual budget of $500,000.

I often joke with our Board members that they hired the wrong person. I was the least experienced of the finalists. But for some reason they saw great hope for PATH’s future in their new hire.

25 years later, the PATH family of agencies — PATH, PATH Ventures, and PATH Partners — has become a statewide homeless services and housing development agency serving nearly 20% of California’s homeless population in 150 cities, with an amazing, committed team of 1,000 people (when all positions are filled). Each year, PATH invests nearly $160 million of resources toward ending homelessness, and in the past decade, with its development partners, has raised an additional half billion dollars of capital funding for supportive housing developments.

You would think with such a vast amount of resources invested in ending homelessness, the tragic human toll of homelessness in our state would have been reduced significantly. Sadly, that has not been the case. In fact, with last year’s struggle to address COVID, a growing movement to seriously deal with racial inequity and how it has contributed toward homelessness, and a yearning for new ways of developing housing, we are at a crossroads in our state’s journey to solve its most significant social issue in a generation.

If our future is a society where no one is sleeping on our streets, then the arrival of this crossroads means taking a new path, a new direction. And just like the PATH Board peeked into the future 25 years ago, today I see new hope in PATH’s coming years.

Every day, I see PATH’s future in the eyes and hard work of our team members, a majority represent the next generation. They yearn to be social change agents in a broken society that they inherited. They have voiced their desire for PATH to look at racial equity and homelessness, to position PATH as a public policy advocate for ending homelessness, and an agency that equips the next generation of social change agents. Their generation are the new nonprofit leaders, a generation that embraces equity, diversity, and inclusion, and that will break traditional norms of addressing poverty.

When I was a young graduate student, I remember sitting in a leadership course and hearing the professor tell the budding leaders in our class, “Success is not in how you begin your career, success is found in how you end your career.”

This past year, I’ve been thinking a lot about these words. Part of my commitment toward steering PATH into the future is to give the next generation of leaders the opportunity to lead. And that means opening filled positions, even at the top, for a new generation.

After leading PATH for 25 years, I have asked the PATH Board to transition my role as PATH CEO to our current Deputy CEO, Jennifer Hark Dietz, starting in January 2022.

For eight years, Jennifer has been part of the staff leadership team that has grown PATH tenfold, led PATH‘s efforts to prevent our homeless population from succumbing to COVID, is the driving force in guiding PATH to address racial and gender equity, and represents the next generation of nonprofit leaders. (We will share more about Jennifer’s experience and vision in the near future.)

This role change does not mean I am retiring from PATH.

On the contrary, although I am stepping back from being the lead staff team member of PATH’s family of agencies, I will continue to be part of strengthening PATH’s mission by continuing to lead PATH Ventures, our housing development agency, and PATH Partners, our new initiatives entity. PATH Ventures has grown to be a statewide supportive housing developer with hands-on experience with the people who move into our new homes. This year, PATH Ventures has doubled the number of housing developments it operates or will be operating. And our plan is that PATH Partners will become an exciting new incubator for social venture enterprises.

Through PATH Ventures and PATH Partners, my hope is to help shape a better future by creating innovative housing solutions, building up a strong financial foundation for PATH, developing new ways to fund social change through social ventures, promoting leadership development, and mentoring smaller (or new) agencies.

Although many communities are struggling with homelessness, and don’t see a positive end in sight, I see a bright future. Like our Board members 25 years ago, I see great hope. And it is found in a new generation of leaders.

Thank you for being a part of PATH’s journey to end homelessness. Your support of PATH and me has been so important to me, personally, during these past 25 years.”

Gratefully yours,
Joel John Roberts, CEO
PATH, PATH Ventures, & PATH Partners


About PATH
Founded in 1984, PATH is committed to ending homelessness for individuals, families, and communities in California. We do this by building affordable supportive housing and providing homeless services in more than 150 cities across the state. Our services support nearly 20 percent of the state’s population experiencing homelessness. Since 2013, PATH has helped more than 12,800 people move into permanent homes. More information at www.epath.org 

To connect with Joel, please contact Trisha Davis at (213) 422-7047 or at TrishaD@epath.org.