James Alexander
Program Director, Southeast Healthcare

How did you first get involved with The Open Shelter and how long have you been on the board of directors?

My first job when I moved to Columbus in 1998 was with another homeless service provider, and as part of onboarding, we toured shelters to learn from what others are doing. I will not forget the knowledge, care, and concern Kent Beittel, the founder of The Open Shelter, expressed for the Shelter’s guests. Years later in 2019, Kent asked if I would join the board, and there was no hesitation. It has and continues to be one of the best decisions I have ever made.

How does The Open Shelter bring value to the Columbus community?

When the most vulnerable need assistance, the first place they turn to is The Open Shelter because it has a reputation of treating people with dignity and respect regardless of class, race, living in a homeless camp, living in supportive housing, a long-term resident of Columbus or just moving to the city. The Open Shelter provides a variety of support, like food, assistance with birth certificates, state identification, clothing, bus passes, payeeship and collaboration with other community providers. So many people housed and unhoused desperately depend on The Open Shelter, including families and single women and men. Without The Open Shelter there will be so many people on the street unable to get help and a meal.

What is your favorite part of serving on the board?

One of the best parts of being a board member is the ability to have the “work continue” after the death of Kent and Mary, his wife. If I could only give a small part of myself to carry on the legacy of Mary and Kent, I will be doing a good job. It is also a privilege to work alongside some caring and devoted board members who understand the need for The Open Shelter and the gap being filled by the work of the staff.

Is there anything about your time on the board you would like to share? Most cherished moments, greatest accomplishments, something you are looking forward to?

There are many opportunities in life, however, nothing compares to the opportunity to be of service to people in need. I had the opportunity to listen and learn from both Mary and Kent. Kent’s advocacy work speaks for itself with his direct and honest assessment of the state of homelessness in Columbus. The work on the board has allowed me to try in some small way to carry that forward and fill in the space left behind by Kent and Mary. The other reward I received and was honored to do so was the Mary Beittel Lifetime Achievement Award. It reminds me the “work continues”. There is a space for everyone to do their part to make a difference in a homeless person’s life and uplift the most vulnerable in our community by working together, not giving up, and recognizing the “work continues”. I look forward to expanding board membership to include younger professionals with a heart and dedication to make a difference in the lives of the most vulnerable and cherish each moment.