The Interfaith Community Shelter at Pete’s Place announced Monday that George Lyon will take over as the new executive director, replacing Joe Jordan-Berenis, who announced his retirement last month after seven years with the organization.
As the executive director of Samaritan House in Las Vegas, N.M., for four years, Lyon helped transform the facility from a seasonal shelter for the homeless to a year-round hub offering social services, rehabilitation and emergency food.
“Clearly, one of my most significant contributions to Samaritan House was the creation of a department of support and outreach services, which is much like what Pete’s Place does now, with a navigator program to connect guests with resources around the city,” Lyon said. “We can do the feeding and the housing and also go a step further.”
Lyon, 61, grew up in Las Cruces and El Paso and worked for the Red Cross in Juárez, Mexico, and Texas in the 1970s and 1980s. He has a pair of master’s degrees and is on the board of directors of the New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness.
Before starting as executive director at Samaritan House, he was teaching at New Mexico Highlands University and volunteering.
“George’s impressive work as a service leader in Northern New Mexico, along with his dedication, creativity and passion for the mission have earned him the trust of the board and staff,” Interfaith board Chairwoman Julie Murray said in a news release. “He joins the Shelter at a time when we, our partner providers and the City of Santa Fe are reimagining how we offer services to those experiencing homelessness.”
Samaritan House contracted with Santa Fe-based Food Depot last year to provide 33,000 meals during twice-weekly distributions. Lyon said the facility, which includes a thrift store, could house around 20 people at a time with a staff of a similar size to that at Pete’s Place and around 360 volunteers.
Pete’s Place has around 2,000 volunteers.
Before the pandemic, the shelter on Cerrillos Road could house 123 people, and during past winters, it typically sheltered between 100 and 120 each night. Due to social-distancing requirements during the coronavirus pandemic, however, overnight capacity has been limited to 30 people.
The Santa Fe City Council approved a new four-year lease agreement with the nonprofit Interfaith Community Shelter for the city-owned facility in October.
“I’m a financial conservative,” Lyon said. “I’m all about making sure the precious money we do receives in donations is spent the right way.”