Board Member Spotlight: Amanda Koonjbeharry
Tell us about your background and why you care about expanding housing opportunities.
My professional background has been rooted in social and racial justice and has included work related to ending poverty, ensuring housing stability, reducing shame and stigma surrounding mental illness, and eradicating domestic violence, sexual violence and human trafficking. During my time as an Employment Counselor I worked with many families who were experiencing homelessness or significant housing insecurity. I witnessed families go through the “spend-down” in an effort to enter the shelter system, families navigate transitional housing programs, and families who were fighting to afford a place that they could call home. I once worked in an elementary school where two sisters lost their home in the middle of the school year, and I watched as they struggled to understand what was happening and the fear of not knowing what their family was going to do next. As the past Director of Hennepin County’s anti-sex trafficking program, I saw how critical shelter and housing were for young people exiting “the life” and how often times housing insecurity and homelessness were significant risk factors to one’s potential risk of exploitation.
Housing is not a luxury; it is a basic human right and a fundamental need that every human being has. That is why I am so passionate about expanding housing opportunities for everyone.
Why were you interested in serving on the Family Housing Fund board?
I was interested in serving on Family Housing Funds board because of their innovative and varied strategies to creating greater access to affordable housing in the region, and because of their leadership in the housing policy space.
What housing aspirations do you have for the region?
My aspiration for the region is simple: that every person has access to multiple choices of safe and affordable housing.
What is one area where you think people generally fail to think big enough – and what is your vision for change?
I think people tend to limit their thinking around how they can or should co-create with community to solve social issues. I often see individuals and systems look at the folks they serve with a deficit mindset and within the context of that person’s trauma instead of seeing the resilience, resourcefulness, and assets that person or community brings to the table because of their lived experience. If individuals and systems shifted their thinking, I envision a future where co-creation with community, as an equal partner, can happen and one where sustainable solutions are being created by those most impacted.
What do you do for fun?
I enjoy spending time with my niece, going on long walks around my neighborhood, spending time with friends and family. I also enjoy taking up dance classes (salsa, Zumba, and classical Indian dancing) and spending as much time in or near water!