Director of Development and Communications, Homeward
Social Worker, Virginia Supportive Housing
Kim Lammi and Paul Eaton met through a mutual friend. “She said I needed to meet one of her classmates who gives good hugs,” Lammi says. They married a few years later.
With that in mind, it’s not surprising to know that Eaton and Lammi are the kind of couple that would leave a wedding early to go help someone in need — an 84-year-old man that Eaton worked with at Virginia Supportive Housing.
“We heard he was on the streets, picked him up at the bus station and put him in a hotel for a few days,” Eaton says.
In their shared mission to combat homelessness, Eaton and Lammi represent two sides of a coin — one-on-one attention to people in need, and large-scale organizational and policy change. Both laud each other’s strengths in their respective fields.
“Paul is really good at interpersonal relationships,” Lammi says, “having clients be responsive to him.”
It’s deeply personal to her as well. “Twice a year we survey everyone experiencing homelessness,” Lammi says of her work at Homeward. “We found a pregnant woman in her car, two homeless vets in the woods. It made it feel so real and pressing and urgent.”
Eaton recently started working toward his master’s degree in social work at Virginia Commonwealth University, going part-time at his job. Both of them stay active in the local version of Zero: 2016, a collaborative campaign to end homelessness.
“It’s incredible the feeling you get putting someone in housing who hasn’t had a place to stay for years or decades,” Eaton says. “A client who recently passed away, when he got into hospice care, said, ‘I have a place, I don’t have to die on the streets.’”
Lammi and Eaton spend free time serving such organizations as Comfort Zone Camp for grieving children, and Big Brothers, Big Sisters. There, Lammi grew close to an 11-year-old she mentored for four years, showing her a world beyond her block. Eaton, who slimmed down from 340 pounds eight years ago, is active in nonprofits that help overweight youth without access to services or living in a food desert.
But social work and homelessness issues are what drive their partnership.
“We give all the credit in the world to our dog, Humphrey, who was also homeless,” Eaton says. “I promised him I’d mention him in the article.”