(24 Total References)
Bucks County Housing Group, Inc. - About Us
Bucks County Housing Group began as a grass-roots initiative in the late 1970's when community members, led by Santo Gairo, successfully lobbied Bucks County government to support the establishment of a homeless shelter in the county. Since its formal beginning in 1980, Santo Gairo has served as a visionary leader.Mr. Gairo was, and remains, a tireless, passionate and committed advocate for the client families Housing Group serves.As Executive Director, Mr. Gairo is the driving force of the organization and has overseen the successful growth of the organization.
With a budget of $29,000 in 1980 to the present day $2.7 million budget, Mr. Gairo
has creatively engaged funders at the federal, state, county and private levels.Mr. Gairo
intends to retire from day-to-day oversight of Housing Group
in October of 2007.Mr. Gairo earned a BS Degree from Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science in 1966 and received a Masters Degree from The School of Social Work at the University of Pennsylvania in 1972.Mr. Gairo
has been a resident of Bucks County for 40 years.
Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania - Board of Directors
Santo Gairo, Bucks County Housing Group
2003 NOVA Award
Top row: Santo Gairo, Executive Director of Bucks County Housing Group; Fran Stengle, Executive Director VITA; Ann O'Shea, VP Mission & Ministry at St. Mary; Jill Simon, CRNP, Clinical Coordinator Bensalem Ministries; Marge Powers, Executive Director Bucks County Catholic Social Services; and Greg Wozniak, President and CEO, St. Mary Medical Center.
Coalition for Low Income Community Development (CLICD)
Santo Gairo, Bucks County Housing Group
Santo Gairo, the executive director of the Bucks County Housing Group (BCHG) in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, describes himself as an idealist, a dreamer, and something of a radical, a housing advocate who could be just as happy living life as a poet.
claims that his
major weakness is follow-up, not always being able to implement his
made a very conscious decision to go after CDBG
as a central source of funding for the group.
One of his
reasons was that he
simply wanted to get the problem out in the open.
says, "We felt that homelessness was a public problem and should be dealt with using public money.
We wanted to create the expectation in the mind of public officials that they were responsible for dealing with this."
It was a tough sell.
Many felt that there was no need for homeless programs in Bucks County.
Public perception was that homelessness was largely an urban, black problem.
In response to Gairo's
repeated attempts to convince people otherwise, state legislators tried to divide and conquer along city/suburb lines, assuring people that homelessness was a problem that Philadelphia would have to deal with, not Bucks County.
used a variety of tactics to prove that there really was a need for the county to deal with the problem of homelessness.
began referring homeless people to the county government, sending them into government buildings to ask for help.
brought homeless people to County Commisioners' meetings, intentionally picking people who would play against the commonly held stereotypes.
For example, he
brought homeless white children to one of these hearings.
says that he
was quite straightforward with the children and their parents about what he
was doing, telling them that he
was using them to prove that homelessness was not simply an "urban, black" problem, but a problem for everyone.
backed up these dramatic and emotional gestures with solid facts, as well.
provided county administrators with statistical evidence that homelessness was, in fact, a county problem.
Two things about Santo Gairo's
approach to proving need are critical to note.
used a mixture of emotional and factual tactics.
went after the heads and the hearts of the people whose minds he
was trying to change. (For a brilliant example of this approach, see the Slide Show in Asheville sidebar on page 17.) Second, he
always focused on the issue at hand.
avoided simply trying to sell his
says that the question must always be framed as, "How is this issue going to be resolved_" not, "How much money am I going to get_" In this same vein, you'll notice that, even though the Blackland CDC
in the previous chapter is a community group, not an advocacy organization, it focused on larger social issues than simply building up its own neighborhood.
says, "It is with CDBG
funds that this agency got its start, offering us the chance to educate, challenge, criticize, cajole, beat-up, support, etc." In the next chapter we'll see what far-reaching effects Gairo's decision to pursue CDBG funding had on the entire county government.
San Rafael, California
If Santo Gairo's
selling job was tough, Susan Molloy's was almost impossible.
This seemed like a promising avenue and Molloy began referring people to the local center in much the same way that Santo Gairo
referred homeless people to the Bucks County government.
Santo Gairo of Bucks County Housing Group agrees.
Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania
Bucks County Housing Group, Wrightstown