One year after graduating from Puget Sound, Ben Reuler ’99 walked into a rundown pay-by-the-week motel just outside Portland, Ore., where he would jump-start his career.
As a home visitor for behavioral health nonprofit LifeWorks NW, his mission was to secure safe and affordable housing, work, and food for families who were holed up there, fleeing domestic violence or struggling with addiction and poverty.
It was a heavy job for a new college grad, and Ben found that while the organizations he worked with were well intentioned, navigating the resources they offered—from emergency dental services to housing and domestic violence funds—was frustrating. Resource guides were outdated, phone directories were absurd, and the systems put in place to assess need were convoluted. “There was too much red tape,” he says, recalling a time he worked with the Portland Police Department to secure school supplies for some children he was working with. “It was like 10 steps to figure out who to talk to, and how to get approved, and schedule it. The access barriers seemed crazy.” After five years, it was time to move on, but Ben vowed that he would find better ways for families to access the programs they needed to make progress—addiction treatment, housing, education, employment, and financial literacy education.