Kathryne Auerback

My day job is executive director at Movin’ Out, Inc.

We’re a nonprofit whose mission is to provide community-integrated, affordable housing for people with disabilities.

This means regular housing in regular neighborhoods, not any sort of licensed facility, like a group home. We don’t work on projects that segregate or congregate people in any way.

We were founded by a group of parents of adult children with primarily intellectual and developmental disabilities. Expectations at that time, just one generation ago, were that people with disabilities didn’t live in housing like everyone else does; they were largely institutionalized or in group homes.

These families created our organization to help others, which also meant driving social change. A huge component of this is the concept of self-determination, which means exactly what it sounds like: the belief that people with disabilities should be able to make decisions about their daily lives, just like everyone else.

But community-integrated housing only works if there’s a whole system in place to make it work, for example, there have to be supportive services in place. We don’t provide those directly. Because of our belief in the importance of self-determination, we feel it’s very important to keep housing and supportive services separate—our job is to make sure those services are available in the communities where we develop housing.

Since Movin’ Out was founded, we’ve helped over 1700 families purchase and maintain their own homes and helped create over 1100 units of rental housing. We’re a Wisconsin-wide organization but headquartered in Madison. Quite a few of our projects are in southern Wisconsin.

I learned about Movin’ Out when I was working at Edgewood College. I helped design, launch and teach a program that’s now called the Social Innovation and Sustainability Leadership graduate program. It takes a broad view of sustainability—it’s not only about leading environmental change but includes social and economic justice too.

I read about a project Movin’ Out had developed in Stoughton, Elven Sted. It incorporated green building technologies, mixed income, and supportive units for people with disabilities, and they had worked with one of the residents in these units to help her launch a social enterprise, “Tiger Lily Seeds.” It was a beautiful, real life model of what we were talking about in theory in the classroom.

I invited the executive director at the time, Howard Mandeville, to speak to our students and got to know the organization better. When he and a subsequent director retired, they asked me to apply for the position. I’d never worked directly in housing or services for people with disabilities, but with lots of experience centered around the health and well-being of people and communities, I decided to apply.

We have an amazing team and an amazing board—and a third of our board members are clients, people with disabilities. It’s really important that their voices are centered in our efforts.

My most memorable caffeine was in Arequipa, Peru. When I was at Edgewood, I took students there to work with local communities on sustainable development projects. We would spend each day working at high altitude, doing hard physical and emotional work. We ended each day with a coffee back in the city. One day, we discovered The Chaqchao Chocolate Factory. It was in the beautiful, historic city center on the second floor of this amazing building with a balcony overlooking the brick streets. It was wonderful chocolate and the best coffee I’ve ever had. When you’re exhausted and you find a place that’s comfortable and delicious, it really sticks in your mind.

My current caffeine of choice is black coffee. Even when I have the opportunity for something fancy, I’m a black coffee girl. I’m currently buying all of my coffee online from EVP.

My favorite place for caffeine is  Crescendo at Hilldale. It’s close to where I live and it’s where I met my partner.  

The people I’d love to share a cup of caffeine with are two amazing women I follow on social media: Ally Henny and Heather Cox Richardson.

Ally is a writer and speaker who addresses race and racial healing and conciliation. Heather is a political historian and a professor at Boston College. Especially on the subject of the election, she’s been just an incredible, grounding resource.

I turn to them and see that there’s sanity in the world. They light the way.

World problem that could be solved with the right amount of caffeine: the affordable housing crisis. I don’t want to minimize the issue by saying we could solve it with a cup of coffee, but we DO know the solution: to provide people with affordable housing. It’s not a matter of not knowing the solution; it’s a matter of priorities and where we as a society decide to focus our attention. We tend to create obstacles to solutions that could otherwise be quite simple.