Doug Gary, Departing Co-Founder and Co-Director of DISH, Built a Legacy as a Relentless Voice for Housing for Everyone

Doug Gary, a long time partner and friend of Tides, is departing DISH (Delivering Innovation in Supportive Housing) after co-founding the organization 15 years ago. He leaves his co-director, Lauren Hall, to lead an amazing staff of more than 70 building managers, desk clerks, janitors, and caring service providers. DISH is a critical fixture in our San Francisco community, housing and supporting over 500 formerly homeless individuals in a city with a huge housing crisis. Their work is intense; they’re on the ground supporting people who have serious needs, including COVID-related issues. Doug has always been hands-on, engaging and uplifting tenants and staff—a true servant leader and ally for racial equity.

DISH is a fiscally sponsored project at Tides Center, and I’ve had the pleasure of being its Tides advisor for several years. DISH is an exemplary partner of Tides’ mission, vision, and approach, and it’s been a dedicated partner, working alongside Tides through any situation—no matter how difficult—always landing with a stronger partnership and with stronger programs. DISH and Doug have helped Tides push the envelope through openness, respect, and honesty about the way we think about our work and how we partner with others. I will miss working with Doug, though I am excited for what comes next for him and DISH.

I had the opportunity to ask Doug to share his reflections during his time at DISH, its accomplishments and what lies ahead. 

Doug Gary, Co-Founder and Co-Director of DISH

Share a bit about yourself and how you arrived to work in housing and homelessness. Was there a turning point?

I started my work life in the arts and found the call to more direct and immediate social justice work too great. I sort of fell into social service work from there, and it ignited me. To me, DISH is about joining the work to make the world better through the perhaps unlikely vehicle of property management in supportive housing. It’s a powerful way to increase the well-being of fellow humans who have been under-resourced, discarded, and almost forgotten by too many for too long. We need to see each other fully and integrate our stories into our individual and collective healing. I am deeply moved by the necessity of racial equity and economic justice today and every day, and it’s a huge privilege to work towards those every day.

What are you most proud of that DISH has accomplished over the years?

At DISH we believe everyone deserves a home. So providing a real sense of home, welcome, support, and caring are what impress me most about our work, our team, and the tenants we serve. We advance racial justice and anti-poverty work in very tangible ways—for the tenants we serve and our amazing DISH team— and that’s a great source of inspiration for me and so many others.

What will happen with DISH once you leave? Who will lead the organization, and what critical work is ahead?

Lauren Hall and I co-founded and co-directed DISH for its first nearly 15 years. It’s been an amazing ride, and DISH will now be woman-led and led by the better director at long last! My stepping aside is also happening simultaneous to some critical promotions and other changes, and DISH is in a fantastic position to deepen its impact. We’re hard at work to increase food access and community connection for DISH tenants and wage equity for DISH staff, while ensuring we deliver great service every day. If you’re not yet part of the DISH & Lauren Hall fan clubs, please join me!

“People want to see you shine, so get them on your team. And have fun and laugh.” (Photo © DISH)

What has it been like partnering with Tides as a fiscal sponsor?

Tides has been a solid gold anchor for DISH! It’s been such a great partnership, including when we together navigated choppy waters. DISH is honored to be part of the Tides family and so very grateful to the deep bench of expertise and love that makes up the Tides team. Working with Tides HR, finance, legal, the senior team, and everyone at Tides has kept DISH going and growing. For many years DISH has had the privilege of you as our Tides lead and magician. You have been a tireless advocate and advisor for making DISH stronger, clearer, more effective, more fun, and better funded. Personally, we’ve had giggles and tears together many times, and I’m so lucky to count you as a friend. Thank you, Kathy, for being so wise, loving, and magical!

What words of advice do you have for young leaders starting their careers in housing? 

Trust yourself. You deserve to be here. What you are considering saying out loud probably needs to be heard. Disagreement and disrespect are very different things, so take the risk to make an idea or plan better with your input. It seems to me that those of us who’ve been doing the work for a while have an obligation to amplify your voice and your power. When you encounter leaders who inspire you, I encourage you to reach out and bring them into your network. People want to see you shine, so get them on your team. And have fun and laugh.

“I’d love for people to see homelessness as a symptom of our country’s harmful public policy and budgeting priorities.” (Photo © DISH)

If you could wave a wand to change a million mindsets, what might that be? What changes do you hope to see in the near future?

I’d love for people to see homelessness as a symptom of our country’s harmful public policy and budgeting priorities. If we really want to end homelessness—and we CAN—we need to face the brutal history and current realities of racism, misogyny, anti-immigrant, and anti-LGBTQ efforts, unrelenting attacks on people living in poverty, and multi-generational trauma for too many. When we fully invest in righting those wrongs, largely using the same money currently invested in ineffective systems, homelessness all but disappears. As Arundhati Roy wrote, “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”

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