Emily O’Connor

From grant writing and public speaking to dealing with finances and program development, Lydia Place’s executive director Emily O’Connor does it all.

“I do a little bit of everything,” O’Connor laughs. And “everything” doesn’t just stop at the workplace. In addition to an all-consuming job, O’Connor is a mother of a six-year-old daughter and a three-and-a-half-year-old son.

Before working at Lydia Place, which provides housing and support to the homeless, O’Connor was the executive director for Skagit Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Services.

With a desire to get involved in the Whatcom County community, O’Connor was intrigued when she heard that Lydia Place was hiring an executive director. She was hired five years ago when the organization’s budget was only $400,000.

When O’Connor first started at Lydia Place, her job wasn’t the only new beginning. She was a new mother with a one-year-old daughter. O’Connor doesn’t hide how challenging it is to balance time between her work and being a mom. It’s difficult for women to have both a family and a career.

“There is no way this is easy,” O’Connor says. “It’s really darn hard.”

Still, O’Connor’s impact at Lydia Place has been substantial. Under her leadership, the budget has more than tripled, to $1.3 million.

For nearly three decades, Lydia Place has grown along with the community. It started with a group of local women helping to provide housing for homeless families and individuals. With its significant growth, the organization has kept to its original—and simple—mission: to help end homelessness.

Housing isn’t the only thing Lydia Place offers. It also provides parenting support, Lifeskills and Family Connection classes, behavioral health counseling, community resource referrals, and education and advocacy services.

O’Connor believes one way to prevent homelessness is to focus on children. In many cases, children who experience homelessness become homeless adults, so disrupting that cycle is key to prevent future generations from falling into the same trap.

Currently, the non-profit is tackling the massive issue of homelessness by waging battles on many fronts. Education and support are critical. Lydia Place provides multiple programs in family services, parent support, community re-housing, campus support, and community engagement. It also hosts multiple events throughout the year to raise money and has a helpful partner in thrift store Wise Buys.

When asked about the future of Lydia Place, O’Connor said she hopes it can one day go out of business altogether—meaning it will have accomplished its mission to end homelessness. A more realistic goal is to continue growing as a nonprofit and keep providing resources to help the homeless get back on their feet. With the multi-talented O’Connor hitting her stride, Lydia Place continues to move forward.

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"O'Connor believes one way to prevent homelessness is to focus on children. "