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Incoming Chicago House CEO, board chair speak about the future
by Matt Simonette
2019-07-24

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Both Michael Herman, the incoming CEO of Chicago House, and Ryan Garrison, that organization's new board chair, say that Chicago House that "has their heart."

Herman is taking Chicago House's reins over from Scott Ammarell, who announced in March that he would be departing. Herman had previously done work with the organization but was, until recently, vice president of development for Kohl Children's Museum, where he oversaw a $15-million development campaign as well as a significant expansion of services.

"That was great training, because Chicago House is expanding and growing," said Herman. "Using the skills I acquired in my five years at the museum will be fantastic as we look at how we are growing as an organization, and bringing in the capital funds that we need to do that."

When the CEO position opened, he added, "It wasn't an opportunity that I was going to pass up. It was core to my commitment of serving communities of poverty, working with housing and working with an LGBTQ community. It really fit all may passions in terms of what I wanted to be doing. It had a huge part of my heart, so it was very easy to go back to a place that I loved."

Garrison is heading into his fifth year on the board; he is taking over the board chair position from attorney/activist Ray Koenig.

"I was very fortunate to serve on the board of an LGBTQ nonprofit in southwest Michigan in St. Joseph called the OutCenter," he said. "I've been involved with fundraising since a young age."

He added, "When I moved to Chicago, I wanted to get involved [with Chicago House]. … I started attending Chicago House events. I'm incredibly passionate about housing, which is core to all the vital services that LGBTQ nonprofits offer throughout the city."

Herman said that growth needs to be a focus for Chicago House officials.

"Obviously, Chicago House has been around for nearly 35 years and is a staple of the community, but we think there are infinite possibilities in terms of meeting the needs of population, especially in the area of housing," he explained.

That means looking beyond the Chicago city limits, Herman said, adding, "Just because we're called Chicago House doesn't mean we can't go outside the city—that's where there's a lot of need, and we think that we're better positioned to provide that."

Garrison said, "Howard Brown [Health] does healthcare amazingly well. Equality Illinois does policy. I think Chicago House does housing exceptionally well, so I think finding additional synergies where possible is going to be a goal for the board.

Chicago House has also been part of the coalition of advocacies and agencies that launched the Getting to Zero initiative driving to eventually eliminate all in new HIV transmissions in the state. Both Herman and Garrison said supporters can expect that commitment to continue under their watch.

Herman added that participating in a statewide initiative like Getting to Zero aligns with the idea of expanding Chicago House's focus throughout the region.

Garrison said, "It's very difficult to be adherent to HIV medication or PrEP if you don't have stable housing. You also are unlikely to attend doctor's appointments if you don't have stable housing. So a large part of what we're contributing to that [Getting to Zero] movement is intrinsic to who we are."


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