Light a Fire 2022: Extraordinary Executive Director

At Path Home, Brandi Tuck Is Anything but Shy

A college spring break service project turned into a career of bringing a trauma-informed approach to homelessness services.

By Conner Reed December 30, 2022

When Brandi Tuck first set foot in a homeless shelter, she was on spring break. Through a college service program, she helped restore transitional units and cook meals at an Atlanta women’s shelter, and nearly dropped out in order to continue. “My friends were like, ‘No, of course you’re going back to school,’” the 39-year-old recalls. “And I said, ‘OK, but if I go back to school, I’m going to do something about this one day.’ And now here I am.”

For the past 15 years, Tuck has been executive director of Path Home (renamed from Portland Homeless Family Solutions), which provides resources to unhoused families with children in hopes of finding them permanent residences. A key to success? “Her lack of shyness in telling an elder statesman her mind about what it takes to really make the system work,” says Phyllis Leonard, who sits on Path Home’s board.

Tuck launched one of the city’s first rapid rehousing programs in 2012, which now serves about 350 families per year (89 percent of whom are still in their homes), and in 2017 she successfully headed construction of Path Home’s family shelter on SE 92nd and Woodstock. Next up is a slate of affordable housing units on the same campus, slated to break ground in 2025.

After nearly two decades in the field, Tuck’s message is bracingly simple: “There is a solution to homelessness. It’s housing,” she says. “There are 6,000 available apartments in Portland on right now, they’re just not affordable.... Meanwhile, we’re also spending tens of millions of dollars on shelters and camps and hygiene stations. If we could repurpose those dollars and buy down rents on these 6,000 apartments, we could move people directly from the streets into housing. But we’re not prioritizing our dollars right.” As Leonard sees it, Tuck is the right person to be setting those priorities. “She’s a true, bright individual who’s devoted her intelligence and her compassionate self to this realm,” Leonard says. “She’s remarkable.”


Portland Monthly solicits nominations for the Light a Fire awards, our annual nonprofit honors, every summer and makes selections with the help of a panel of volunteer advisers from the local nonprofit community.