Rob Sherwood has the Floor

PCHTF Board Members talk about Affordable Housing

Rob Sherwood has the Floor

Growing up the son of parents who came from poverty planted a seed early on regarding the importance and elusiveness of safe, stable and affordable housing. A trip to an American Idol tryout in St. Louis reinforced my commitment to what our community can do to plan for and provide housing options for all.

My parents were raised in rural Iowa areas near Sigourney and Oskaloosa. There was both personal poverty and community poverty – as in no grocery stores, gas stations, or funding to sustain safe, stable housing. During my life these communities have continued to struggle and degrade.

Perhaps that is why as a newly hired accountant at KPMG I listened to the United Way campaign leaders with a perspective and personal understanding that moved me to action. At age 24 I started providing pro bono accounting, consulting services to non profits. It exposed me to many different types of agencies and gave me my first opportunity to serve on a board.

My job required I travel to many large cities. There are images from those travels I still carry with me and I use to stay inspired and committed to serving in the quest for providing safe, stable and affordable housing. In New York I was walking with my coworkers and watched as a homeless man tore open a trash bag and pulled out part of sandwich and ate it. In Washington, DC I saw a woman in a small park next our nation’s capitol trying to wash clothes in two plastic bags of dirty water. The juxtaposition of this park filled with those in need to the White House and our country’s leader left an indelible imprint on my mind.

My 15 year-old daughter also has an image that will likely stay with her the rest of her life. I took her to St. Louis to audition for American Idol. (That’s a whole other story!) We arrived the day before to figure out the route for where she needed to be the next morning. As we were walking back to the hotel a big storm was brewing and lightning was starting to fill the sky. We hustled past a park where families with kids were lying on blankets and doorways of buildings were filling with people who had all their belongings around them. My daughter asked what they were doing. I explained that is where they were likely staying the night because they didn’t have shelter. When we came out of our hotel at 4 AM to make our way to the audition, she saw the wet and huddled still there.

In Polk County, we too have our own challenges of providing affordable housing and it’s a challenge we are hitting head-on with smart and assertive measures.  Good research, collective planning, private and public funding and appropriate allocation of our shared, finite  resources will make it possible for us to do things that other regions  cannot or will not do. It’s why I serve as a board member for PCHTF, an organization which is a leader in this cause.

Rob Sherwood, Treasurer PCHTF Board

Chief Financial Officer — Vice President Treasurer and Secretary, Nationwide Advantage Mortgage Company (NAMC)