In Episode 76 of the Charity Charge Show, Stephen talks with Karen Lee, CEO of Pioneer Human Services, one of the nation’s largest nonprofit social-enterprise organizations in the United States. Pioneer provides career paths and living wage jobs for a population many disregard. They believe every person has value and potential and their work is centered on helping them realize both.
Under Karen’s leadership, Pioneer successfully operates several revenue-generating businesses that provide living wage jobs to mission-related employees and help fund its mission of empowering people who have been involved in the legal system to build healthy, productive lives. Headquartered in Seattle, Pioneer serves over 10,000 people a year through its diversion, treatment, housing and job training programs. Karen is a graduate of the University of Washington School of Law and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
On how Pioneer gets “to the root of why people don’t behave the way society expects”:
At Pioneer today, we’re in 30 locations and around 80 million in revenue, but we also have all these services and apartment buildings that go along with the work that we do. One of our services is what we call jail diversion. So instead of sending someone to jail for a very low-level misdemeanor related to drug use or public intoxication, we have what’s called diversion centers. We have a number of those where we really work with folks to get them to treatment. We have a number of substance use disorder treatment and mental health facilities around the state of Washington, which are residential up to 60 days. We have apartment buildings where people can live after treatment. Then we have job training and case management services so that people can enter the labor market. Finally, we have employment opportunities. So, if you think about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the very bottom is safety and stability, and the very top is self-actualization. Pioneer offers services at every one of those need levels so that people can get what they need so that they can move forward with their life journey.
On the podcast, Karen spoke about Eugene “Smitty” Smith, a Pioneer employee and resident recently granted clemency after 47 years. He is pictured below with Karen.