By Mark Adam
Every morning, Eric Guzman ’12 gets a knock on his office window at Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless (IPH) on Sheridan Avenue in downtown Albany. A fourth-grader named Quayshawn is standing there and they talk briefly through the window.
“I hustle to work every day because I don’t want to miss him,” Guzman says.
After their conversation, Quayshawn leaves for school wearing the backpack filled with school supplies that he received from the IPH summer youth program, and Guzman goes back to work as the marketing manager at the shelter. He had interned there as a senior management major and had done so well that the agency created a job for him after he graduated last May. What sealed the deal was Guzman’s coordination of IPH’s signature event, the annual “A Taste of Albany,” which raised a record $100,000 for the homeless shelter.
“I’m allowed to make the position what I want. And I’m having fun with it,” he said.
With 15 full-time employees operating the emergency shelter on Sheridan Ave., the Drop-In Center on South Swan Street and the Sheridan Hollow Housing apartments across the street from his office, Guzman is the entire marketing department. He created IPH’s first strategic marketing plan, develops the newsletter, designs marketing materials, manages the website, coordinates fundraising events, takes photos and works with community partners.
Contrary to stereotypes about homeless shelters, IPH is a clean, welcoming facility with 30 beds on the second floor, two living rooms, a small cafeteria, a kitchen and laundry room. It is available to men and women over the age of 18 who have registered with Homeless and Travelers Aid Society (HATAS). According to Guzman, the average stay at the shelter is 24 days, but guests are welcome to remain as long as they are making progress with their goals. The shelter’s program includes life skills training such as building a resume, learning how to live on a budget and eating healthy. There are also daily chores and a curfew.
To Guzman, this is the perfect job.
“I was a management major, but I’ve fallen for this marketing thing,” said Guzman, who is researching master’s programs in communications. He received valuable experience on campus as an intern in the Strategic Communications and Integrated Marketing Office during his senior year, which led him to where he is today.
Across the street from Guzman’s office, construction workers are gutting a dilapidated structure and will replace it with two new apartment buildings, part of Sheridan Hollow Housing’s efforts to help the homeless get back on their feet. In November, IPH was named Nonprofit of the Year by the Albany Business Review.
“We’re growing,” Guzman said. “We’re a little agency, but we’re doing big things.”