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Bridging the For-Profit and the Nonprofit Worlds to End Veteran Homelessness

Bridging the For-Profit and the Nonprofit Worlds to End Veteran Homelessness
A businessman’s perspective on serving those who served their country

After 17 years as CEO of a successful, multimillion-dollar specialty chemical and pharmaceutical company, Jamie Schleck exited his business and faced the daunting question: What next?

The West Point graduate and former Army officer knew he wanted to focus on national veterans’ issues. By coincidence, he caught an episode of “60 Minutes” that featured a West Point classmate, who was working with an organization called Community Solutions to help end veteran homelessness.

That cemented his next move.

“When I learned about Community Solutions’ approach, I was immediately hooked,” Schleck says. The organization uses quality improvement science and data analytics to optimize resources and improve outcomes — all skills in Schleck’s wheelhouse. “I felt I had skills and resources that would prove useful,” he says. So, he jumped in with both feet: as a donor, then as an adviser and then as COO and CFO.

Community Solutions partners with stakeholders to address inefficiencies and roadblocks in local housing systems, including the veterans’ care system and to secure new resources. To beef up his effectiveness in addressing potential stakeholders, Schleck enrolled in the one-year Vistage Executive Leadership Program in collaboration with Stanford Graduate School of Business. The coursework on storytelling skills, in particular, has paid off.

“It’s all about telling the right story to potential stakeholders to highlight an issue that might seem small but really has a big impact,” Schleck says. For example, he describes nearly 300 homeless veterans in Denver who have vouchers for housing. For some of them, the only barrier to accessing the housing is a $25 landlord application fee. “When you tell the story like that, it moves influencers to action,” he says. “They can waive the fee, pay the fee or educate the landlords to do whatever it takes to fix this right now.”

His recent efforts with Community Solutions focus on enlisting the help of the corporate sector, an area where Schleck feels he could be an effective bridge. “I have been in both for-profit and nonprofit worlds, and I think I understand what makes each side tick,” he says.

His team identified one company in particular with headquarters in four major U.S. cities. “They want to stake a claim for ending veteran homelessness in their hometowns. And with our help, they will,” Schleck says.

“I have been in both for-profit and nonprofit worlds, and I think I understand what makes each side tick.

Jamie Schleck | Vistage member since 2006

Further sponsorship will make seismic inroads to ending homelessness in close to 100 communities across the United States and Canada. Community Solutions is already well on its way: Seven of 77 targeted communities have ended veteran homelessness, and another three have ended chronic homelessness.

For these successes, Schleck eagerly lauds Community Solutions as well as the local organizations that work hands-on to end homelessness and the conditions that create it. He considers himself part of a greater effort. “I may have added some value with my uncommon experiences and skills, but I have learned far more from my colleagues than they have learned from me.”

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