SAVE Inc. has an important mission: Serving the housing needs of people living with health and mental health challenges in Kansas City. SAVE provides housing not only in its own properties, but also through voucher programs. With vouchers, tenants can choose a rental apartment as long as the rent does not exceed the HUD allocation and the home meets SAVE Inc. standards.
“We’re just thrilled to have been around for 30 years and looking forward to 30 more,” said Blaine Proctor, chief executive officer of SAVE. “We’ll be here until there’s no more need.”
Proctor replaced former CEO Zori Rodriguez in 2014.
“I was the board chair, and when we lost Zori, they asked me to fill in as an interim while they did a search,” Proctor said. “After being here for six or eight weeks, I had an encounter with one of our residents that was sort of an epiphany for me. At that point, I knew that this is why I was put on this earth, and I threw my hat in the ring for this job and got it.”
SAVE Inc. is one of the four Kansas City AIDS services providers that benefit from the fundraising work of AIDS Walk. The others are the Good Samaritan Project, KC Care Clinic and Hope Care Center. Proctor said that the mission of SAVE Inc. has evolved into helping not only those individuals and families living with HIV/AIDS, but also with mental illness and substance abuse.
Proctor said, “A lot of people didn’t understand when we added the mental illness and substance abuse to our mission. But it really was just what we were doing for years. Because when you’re dealing with homeless people, mental illness and substance abuse, and either HIV/AIDS or the risk thereof … those three things intersect. If you have a mental illness diagnosis, chances are pretty good that you are not concerned about what you’re doing tonight to find a place to sleep. There’s a good chance you’re putting yourself at risk for an STI [sexually transmitted infection]. So expanding our mission was not walking away from any group at all, but this is what we’ve been doing for years and adapting to the reality of today.”
Before becoming CEO at SAVE, Proctor had worked as director of marketing at Hotel Phillips for eight years.
“I had left Hotel Phillips and was planning to take a year sabbatical, he said. “It was almost a year by the time I finally I got this job.”
Proctor said he served on the SAVE Inc. board for six years and was a volunteer for about two years before that. He was involved with Corroboree, SAVE’s former fundraising event.
“That’s how I was bought into the organization. I was on the planning committee for Corroboree,” he said.
“We had gotten feedback that Corroboree had run its course, as most big events do.”
He spoke about the event’s final year, 2010, when they moved it from its longtime location at the Kansas City Zoo to the City Market Park.
It got mixed reviews, he said. “And so we took a year off to decide what was best.”
“We knew we wanted and needed a signature event,” Proctor said. A group of supporters was brainstorming one night, and the name “HomeComing” came up.
“HomeComing was perfect,” Proctor said. “It would have an autumn date. We thought, ‘What happens in the fall?’ and we thought ‘homecoming,’ and it ties in with what we do.”
Proctor said he doesn’t come from a professional social services background.
“I have a long history of volunteering. I’m originally from Omaha, Nebraska, and I volunteered in the Buddy program at the Nebraska AIDS Project. My brother and I were raised to give back. And so I’ve always been extremely involved in social services through volunteering.”
SAVE celebrated the opening of its new Silverleaf administration building in September 2015.
“I spent the first year of this job raising money for it and overseeing the project.” Proctor said. “We’re really excited about some of the new things that we’re going to embark on. We just got funding from HUD [the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development] for a bonus program that comes through the Kansas City continuum of care that will provide housing for 10 HIV-positive youth, which is a population that is not really being addressed in Kansas City.
“Many statistics show the HIV diagnosis is growing the fastest in the youth population, and homeless youth is a huge focus for HUD. Once these kids are diagnosed with HIV, they typically fall out of care the easiest. So we’re excited to be offering housing and services for that population.”
Proctor said that initially, SAVE will offer housing vouchers, but they hope to secure approval in November for a 50-unit building on land the agency owns.
“It’s the largest building that we will have ever built,” Proctor said. “There will be a set-aside in that building for HIV-positive youth. At that point, we’ll also be providing housing and on-site services for them.”
Proctor said the clients of SAVE Inc. also include many transgender people. “We have a number of transgender people who live in our units, and they feel very safe.”
Ron White and his partner, John Mazzer, are honorary chairs of this year’s HomeComing, which will be Nov. 4. Michael Hopkins and Courtney Seibert Edwards are co-chairs.
White and Mazzer have been together for seven years.
Mazzer said, “I’m just here to support Ron and support the cause. It’s wonderful what they do. When you have a place to lay your head at night, it allows you to have hope, and I think it’s wonderful.
White has been on the board for seven years as finance committee chair and has been treasurer of SAVE for six of those years. His business is American Inns the four-state Midwest hotel chain.
“It’s a family business, mother, brother and myself,” he said. “So it’s been my entire life, 30 years.”
Because it’s a family-owned business, he said, he has some flexibility for involvement with SAVE Inc. American Inns is also a SAVE donor.
White credits the success of HomeComing to event organizer Chadwick Brooks and Mindy Householder, SAVE’s director of development & communications. Having her in that position with the assistance of Brooks, he said, “has made a great difference. Last year is when we saw a huge difference in sponsorships and individual donations. We doubled from what we had done the year before.”
He said that the SAVE Inc. staff is still very involved in the success of the event, even with the responsibilities of their jobs.
White has gone beyond his volunteer work for SAVE by personally writing checks to the agency.
“I got involved with SAVE through the ‘No Place Like Home’ luncheon,” he said. “Kathleen Kunkler was the speaker at it and was very moving. I filled out the pledge card while I was at the luncheon and then became involved. It’s been a real privilege.”
White said, “Like myself, growing up in the suburbs, you don’t realize what homelessness is. A lot of times you think when you see people standing along the streets with signs, ‘just get a job,’ but it’s not that simple. There are so many people that are not capable of getting a job and holding one down. And a lot of that goes back to the fact that they don’t have a home. When they fill out an application, what do they put down for an address? What do they put down for a phone number? They don’t have those credentials.”
White said he is currently “maxed out” of his term on the SAVE Inc. board, but he may continue.
“The board has to vote to extend my term, and this would be my second extension. It’s kind of hard to find people who want to be treasurer,” he said with a laugh.
“He’s a lifer,” said Proctor.
‘Homecoming 2016: Urban Jungle’
What: Food, drink, live music and more.
When: 8 p.m. to midnight Friday, Nov. 4
Where: Studio Dan Meiners, 2500 West Pennway, Kansas City, Mo.