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After five years as president and CEO of Haven for Hope, San Antonio’s largest homeless shelter, Kenny Wilson announced Friday that he’ll be taking some much-needed time off.

Effective immediately, Wilson will work part-time as Haven’s chief of strategic relations while Chief Operating Officer Molly Biglari will serve as interim president and CEO. 

Haven for Hope’s board has approved a national search for a permanent president and CEO, and Biglari has indicated she will apply for the position.

“Kenny’s leadership has been outstanding these last five years,” said Bill Greehey, Haven for Hope’s founder and chairman of its board of directors, in a news release. “Even through the incredible challenges of the last year, Kenny’s leadership has helped Haven for Hope remain organizationally and financially strong with highly motivated staff and partners. And we are very fortunate that he will continue to add great value to Haven for Hope in his new role.”

Greehey noted Wilson’s deep commitment and passion for Haven’s mission to transform the lives of people experiencing homelessness.

That passion is seen almost daily on the 22-acre downtown campus. Wilson can often be found there late at night and early in the morning. During the recent winter storms, he slept there for a week alongside hundreds of staff members, clients, and others seeking shelter from the snow and ice.

Haven for Hope residents line up for the annual Christmas dinner on the nonprofit’s campus in December 2020. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Wilson packed up food, clothing, and other necessities to sleep at his office, Wilson told the San Antonio Report.

“My wife said, ‘It looks like you’re packing for summer camp,'” he recalled. “It was, except it was winter. … It’s a wonderful team of people, and they all pitched in and the residents were so understanding. We did well, it was challenging, [and] I never want to do it again, but we made it.”

After a successful banking career that saw him rise to become president of Bank of America in San Antonio, Wilson joined Haven for Hope as its CEO in April 2016.

His new job was nothing like he expected, Wilson said. “It’s bigger and more complicated than I thought.”

Beyond Haven itself, which has an annual budget of roughly $25 million, he said, “the whole issue of homelessness itself is complex” and involves vast economic and social systems.

“For the five years that I’ve done this [I regularly] send a text to my wife that says, ‘I’m not smart enough to do this job.’ It’s very hard, it’s very complicated, but very rewarding,” he said.

When the pandemic hit last year, Haven’s courtyard reached capacity, with 700 people experiencing homelessness using Haven’s resources and sleeping outdoors in close quarters.

The courtyard and the City-leased, 300-room hotel downtown are in addition to housing Haven provides at what it calls its transformational campus, which provides temporary housing and support services through more than 100 nonprofit partners.

Despite the pandemic, Haven is in excellent financial condition and has maintained a strong, motivated board and staff, Wilson said. “I know that Haven will not skip a beat in this transition and I am proud and happy to be a part of it.”

Haven for Hope Chief Operating Officer Molly Biglari. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Biglari was promoted to chief operating officer in December 2020.

“I can’t imagine anyone that I’d rather hire to do that job [over] Molly,” Wilson said. “And in a few months, she’s just proven herself. … I’m leaving the structure with high satisfaction and full confidence.”

As chief of strategic relations, Wilson will be overseeing major donations and assisting with public policy matters. He will have his own office offsite and report to the board chair.

“I have a hard time putting Haven in my rearview mirror,” Wilson said. “There’s never been a better time nor will there ever be a better time for me to leave and pull new leadership in. Financially, we’ve been tested beyond measure. We passed and the leadership team is in place.”

Iris Dimmick

Iris Dimmick

Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick covers public policy pertaining to social issues, ranging from affordable housing and economic disparity to policing reform and workforce development. Contact her at iris@sareport.org