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Jay Wagner

Program Officer, Housing

Inspiration: I believe that the community – in the fullest sense: a place and all its creatures – is the smallest unit of health, and that to speak of the health of an isolated individual is a contradiction in terms.” — Wendell Berry, Health is Membership

What working in this community means to me: “Working in community is listening, elevating lived experience, and honoring diverse perspectives and approaches. My work in this community is about partnering to build efficient, equitable tools and strategies that support communities to sustainably thrive.

Jay is a Program Officer on the holistic grantmaking team, where he focuses on driving innovative and equitable strategies for responding to homelessness and housing instability in our community. In this role, Jay partners with organizations across the metro who are leading vital work toward the vision of homelessness being rare, brief, and non-recurring.

Prior to joining the team at United Way, Jay worked in the direct service sector of the homeless response and prevention field for 20 years. Jay’s experience in the field started as a recipient of services and led to a variety of roles, including provision of shelter, street outreach, and case management services. Over the course of the last 10 years, Jay has had the privilege of providing leadership to programs and community coalitions representing diverse approaches to ending homelessness, emphasizing the centering of lived experience and culturally responsive evidence-based practices. He received a Bachelors in Sociology from Grand Valley State University.

Jay and his wife live in the north metro, where they cultivate over 1500 square feet of vegetable gardens, tend a small flock of chickens, tap trees for maple syrup, and make their own bread. They enjoy spending time outdoors, reading, playing games, cooking, and planning their next vacation to Michigan’s upper peninsula.