Tough job

Torres Shelter’s departed director hopes for personal, Chico change

Brad Montgomery says working at the Torres Community Shelter is rewarding, but it also takes an emotional toll.

Brad Montgomery says working at the Torres Community Shelter is rewarding, but it also takes an emotional toll.

CN&R file photo

Brad Montgomery moved to Chico from Milwaukee in 2008 with the goal of leading a less-complicated life. After raising two children and logging 17 years in the nonprofit sector, he planned to work part-time as a consultant and focus on finding himself.

But within a month of his arrival, the Great Recession hit, and with it the realization he’d need full-time employment. That coincided with an opening for the executive director position at the Torres Community Shelter, a job Montgomery took in 2009 and held until this week. His last day was Tuesday (July 11).

“I was a father before I was 18, so I never had time as an adult that I wasn’t feeling responsible for someone else,” Montgomery told the CN&R during an interview at the shelter last week. “But professionally, I’ve been going in the opposite direction. We’ve had about 950 guests in the past year.”

As the shelter’s executive director, Montgomery has been the person most responsible for the nightly safety of the shelter’s guests. He also oversaw staffing, fundraising and the implementation of programming aimed at helping guests overcome barriers and find permanent housing.

“All [of our guests] are at various levels of the process, they’re all in crisis and they’re all relying on you to ensure they’re safe,” he said of the ongoing challenge of supporting up to 135 people each night.

That mission is also complicated by the controversial nature of homelessness and its related issues, which Montgomery said leads to constantly shifting public sentiment and political discourse.

“It’s somewhat depressing that our community is still discussing whether or not this kind of work is worth it,” Montgomery said. “Anybody who’s ever spent any amount of time at the shelter and sees people’s lives change absolutely knows it is.”

When asked what accomplishments he’s most proud of, Montgomery mentioned last year’s roll-out of a “come as you are” program to allow guests to stay if they don’t meet the main facility’s sobriety requirement: “We’re still helping people move forward and it’s still a safe place,” he said. “It doesn’t eliminate the need for a real detox center in the community, but it’s a baby step that proves we need more.”

Montgomery said he has no immediate work plans, and that he’s taking some time to focus on his private life.

“I think in order to do this job well you have to let it consume almost every aspect of your life,” he said. “I hear people talk about trying to find balance, and I’ve just never been able to do that with this job. Right now the ship is headed in the right direction, there’s a great staff, and it’s time for me to think about doing something that’s not quite so consuming.”

Until a replacement is found, Kristina Carter will serve as interim director. Carter is a member of the shelter’s board of directors, president of the Chico Area Interfaith Council and a professor in Chico State’s Health and Community Services Department. She previously ran a nonprofit care facility for adults with developmental disabilities in Southern California. Carter is taking the job pro bono.

“Money is always an issue at nonprofits,” Carter said. “This is my service to Chico and I’m happy to do it.”

Carter said about 50 people have applied for the position and that interviews are underway, but the board plans to take time to find an ideal replacement.

“Brad did a great job, and getting someone that great doesn’t happen overnight,” she said. “The board really appreciates his years of service. He’s given a lot to a noble and worthy cause, and we certainly understand his need for respite.”