Community and Social Justice Have Marked Amy Schectman’s Work
Amy Schectman: Nothing is worth doing unless it’s pursuing social justice.
Throughout her career, Amy Schectman has worked to advance social justice, economic development, and housing, interests which have merged in her role as president and CEO of 2Life Communities, a Brighton-based nonprofit that provides housing for seniors where the market falls short.
This is her story.
My love for urban planning and community development began when I interned for the Baltimore City Council and various community groups while attending Johns Hopkins University. I wrote my thesis on understanding and evaluating the efficacy of different ways of organizing community input.
After college, I headed to Washington, D.C., working for a progressive economic policy think tank called the National Center for Economic Alternatives. I enjoyed the work and after a point felt like I needed some more professional education. I took the LSATs and thought about becoming a lawyer because that just seemed to be the expected “next step.”
But most people I saw coming out of law school went into corporate law, profit-making stuff that I knew would not make me happy. I have always known that my career path would be focused on purpose-driven work, community development, and social justice.
As part of my law school application process, I learned about a joint program between Harvard Law School and MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning. The more I learned about the MIT program, the more excited I became. I had found something that combined rigorous intellectual pursuit – the nerdy stuff I love – with direct service to make the world a better place. I withdrew all my law school applications and went to MIT.
After graduation, I spent four years working in the Dukakis administration as director of capital planning and operations for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Working in the administration was an unbelievable experience; I went to work every day surrounded by people committed to using government as a vehicle for helping people and saw the power and scope government can have when working at its best.
Building off of that experience, I continued to work to address the gaps where the market fails people, particularly when it comes to housing. I was the economic development director for the Town of Brookline and then director of public housing and rental assistance for the Commonwealth. For the past 12 years, I have had the privilege to serve as president and CEO of 2Life Communities, a nonprofit housing organization founded in 1965.
2Life provides quality housing for seniors so they can live lives of purpose, meaning, and connection in a supportive environment. Throughout my time at the organization, I’ve drawn on my policy and management experience while never losing sight of how our work impacts people.
Some of the toughest conversations I have in my current role are with family members of seniors who make too much money to qualify for our affordable housing but not enough to afford costly private market options. This spring, we’ve begun taking reservations for Opus Newton, a new project abutting 2Life’s Coleman House next to the Greater Boston Jewish Community Center, to help fill holes in the current market which has left many middle-income seniors abandoned.
Opus keeps costs manageable in a number of different ways. It has a requirement for volunteerism, offers access to the many cultural centers in the Greater Boston area and delivers home care in small increments rather than the minimum three- or four-hour shifts in private homes.
There is no easy solution to closing the market gaps that exist in housing. While Opus will help many seniors in the middle, we continue aggressively developing and supporting new subsidized housing and finding ways to make it better for our residents.
Putting my experiences to work in an effort to close the accessibility gap for all seniors to have the opportunity to age in community represents what my working life has been all about – giving real people real opportunities to live a much higher quality of life and helping our society see the beautiful contributions older people make in this world.
After nearly four decades working in government and nonprofits, I know I made the right choice to always do work that has meaning to me. Throughout my career, I’ve learned a simple message from my mentors and tried to pass it along to those I work with every day: in our line of work, nothing is worth doing unless it’s pursuing social justice.