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Meet Dana Bean of Union Station Homeless Services in Pasadena

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dana Bean.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Dana. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I didn’t set out to work in nonprofit fund development, primarily because I didn’t know it was a career option. I think like many fundraisers, I stumbled upon it!

I was involved with nonprofits and community-based work through college, volunteering at UCLA’s Bruin Corps, mentoring kids at a theater program, and helping out on the phones at the campus crisis center. I loved volunteering for causes I cared about but never thought it would or even could lead to a career.

After graduating, I took a marketing job at a botanical cosmetics company. I thought the travel would be exciting and that I’d feel purposeful using my writing and design skills. However, I learned quickly that I couldn’t summon a passion for writing about candle scents or new shampoo lines. I was unmotivated and thought I was perhaps being lazy. Thankfully, my mom called me to the mat. She advised, “You’re not lazy – you’re just not happy. This is the wrong fit. You’re life is just starting. Time to try the next thing.”

I left and took a job running after-school programs for a local non-profit, and started applying to teaching programs. I adored working with kids directly, but I also felt a strong pull to help promote the incredible work we were doing. Within a year I was writing and designing brochures, flyers and website content, drafting grant proposals and press releases, and planning events. That was over 15 years ago.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
As a first gen-kid, I thought the US offered true opportunity and mobility, but soon witnessed deep inequities. I’ve had friends and family tell me I was being overly idealistic, simple and perhaps doe-eyed in my career choices. Some people told me that I’d see how the world works and grow out of wanting to change it. Others who didn’t understand the incredible role that nonprofits could have in their communities told me that my skills would be better used at a “real job.”

I’ve remained in the nonprofit sector because I wanted my work to have an impact. I want to live in a community where every person has access to a good education, basic healthcare, and safe housing. That’s a baseline. That’s essential for a healthy society. It’s a privalege every day knowing that in some small way, my work is helping people access the housing and services they need for a better life.

It can feel overwhelming – there is so much work to do, especially in Los Angeles. I’ve been working in the housing justice field for almost 14 years, now. Everyone I talk to agrees that we are in the midst of a true housing crisis in Los Angeles and that homelessness is one of their primary community concerns. Our community members are facing stagnant wages, an escalating cost of living, and a dire lack of affordable housing; far too many people are being pushed out of their homes and into the streets. I met a senior citizen recently who worked as a high school teacher his entire life, but after suffering a stroke he lost his job and his housing and ended up living in his car. I met a family who became homeless after they couldn’t afford their rent increase – even thought both parents are working, they can’t afford to get back into this rental market without assistance.

I knew early on I wanted to be of service, but I never aspired to be a manager or a leader. I found myself increasingly thrust into leadership positions. It has been a fabulous growth challenge, learning and defining what type of leader I want to be.

Union Station Homeless Services – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I serve as the Senior Director of Development and Communications for Union Station Homeless Services, the largest provider of services for people experiencing homelessness in the San Gabriel Valley. Last year alone, our incredible staff helped 902 people end their homelessness. Our work does not end when we help an adult or family find housing. Our staff and volunteers continue to provide supportive services for them long after they have a key to their own apartment. One year later, 97% of them are still housed! That’s what sets us apart.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Success means feeling purposeful and engaged in all aspects of my life. I want my work to matter, but I need to be inspired outside of work, as well. When I don’t have a good work/life balance, I feel like I’m flailing and unpinned. I work hard to find balance! We all have to find ways to “refill the well,” otherwise there is no source of inspiration to pull from. I have amazing family and friends. I love to travel, hike, snorkel, make ceramics and paint. All of those things restore and recharge me. Success is so much more than career or financial acheivement. It’s about finding your own balance.

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Image Credit:

Pasadena Weekly, Best of Pasadena

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