Andrea Davis builds houses out of people.
The executive director of Homeword has overseen the addition of more than 500 new homes in the community, assisting military veterans, senior citizens and low-income families. She said the crucial resources aren’t lumber and nails but relationships and contacts.
“The best thing I have is the people I work with, both in the organization and out in the community,” Davis said. “We’re often shining a light on a challenging subject, helping the public understand why the work is important to every person in the community. Having passion for the work helps people connect to it.”
Davis joined Homeword in 2001, and then stepped out for five years to serve on the Missoula Housing Authority before returning as executive director in 2008. On the side, she’s serving on Neighborworks Montana’s board as well as the Homeless taskforce promoting affordable housing projects.
“Actually, ‘affordable’ defines this work too narrowly,” Homeword board member Kate Sutherland said of Davis. “These projects make it possible for those who are working for low incomes or living on fixed incomes to have a good quality of life in a home that is safe, healthy and that they are proud to live in.”
Those quality-of-life issues also demand Davis’ attention. She helped Garden City Harvest develop a neighborhood farm for low income residents featuring a community garden, an orchard of fruit trees and a kids’ garden. As a Mountain Line board member, she supported the bus service’s StandUp4Transportation campaign and received Missoula’s 2015 Commuter of the Year award.
Davis grew up in the Flathead Valley and graduated from the University of Montana.
Davis said developing affordable housing requires making up methods as one goes along without a playbook.
“We are learning all the time, frankly often from our mistakes,” she said. “It is challenging in an exciting way. No day is the same. You have an opportunity to put things into effect and there are opportunities to be creative and think big. That’s one thing each of us feels at this organization. There is no ‘business as usual.’”