As head of the nonprofit organization that operates the Santa Clarita Valley’s only emergency winter shelter since 1995, Tim Davis has worked tirelessly and selflessly on behalf of people in need in our community for more than a decade and a half.
It’s no overstatement to say that without his steady leadership and guidance the past decade and a half, what’s now known as the Bridge to Home shelter — which helped nearly 300 people aka clients (including families) during the 2011-2012 season — would not likely exist.
That’s why Davis is Mercedes-Benz of Valencia’s latest Santa Clarita Unsung Hero.A Valencia resident since 1989, the Bridge to Home executive director is actually on his third career. Before that, he was an executive with top-level defense contractors for 16 years, which followed 21 years as a commissioned officer in the Air Force, from which he retired as a lieutenant colonel.
Air Force Kid
“I was born in the Air Force,” said Davis, still a licensed pilot, in a Jan. 25 on-air interview with AM 1220 KHTS’s Jason Endicott. “My father was an Air Force career man. I was born at a major Air Force base, and it was just kind of a natural thing when I graduated college (Capital University). Did 21 years of good work with a lot of really nice, capable, confident people.”
In those two decades, Davis was stationed in far-flung locales and held responsible positions as Flight Commander and Squadron Commander, and was the HQ USAF manager for numerous upgrade and retrofit command and control equipment programs valued at more than $2 billion.
“But there comes a time when you turn around and see things looming in front of your life,” said Davis, who met and married his wife, Laurel, 45 years ago. “(With) three daughters to send to college, you need a little stability, a little more income. So I retired and came here to Santa Clarita back in 1989.”
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The genesis of Davis’s work on behalf of the homeless can be traced at least as far back as his early years in the Air Force.
“I was stationed in Hawaii, a terrible duty,” he said. “Somebody has to do it, right? A gentleman came to our church and talked to us about a program to help homeless people in Waikiki, and soon the church got involved. I got here in Santa Clarita in ’89, and again, through the church, St. Stephen’s Episcopal, we were looking at how to help the homeless here. Now here we are.
Genesis of SCV Shelter
“In 1995, we formed the Santa Clarita Community Development Corporation (now known as Bridge to Home)…and I was elected president,” Davis said. “Did that for eight or nine years. When I retired (from his defense contractor career), the corporation asked if I would take over as their executive director, so I’ve been doing that since 2006.”
As the ‘90s drew to a close, Davis also went to grad school to earn a Master’s in Divinity from the University of the South.
“That’s been a lifelong thing for me,” he said. “I’ve been always interested in it and had some kind of a calling, perhaps, in theology and the divinity. So, just a number of things came together and I was able to complete that back in 1999.”
Davis said his divinity studies inform just about everything he does. “Especially when you get into a situation, particularly in the shelter — and we do have difficult clients, that’s fact — (when) you can step back and say, ‘We’re here to do a certain thing, and we know it’s the right thing.’ And we understand our clients. That doesn’t mean that sometimes we don’t have to discipline them. But it sets a whole tone to your life and where you’re going.”
Ground Control to Lt. Col. Tim
As Endicott quipped, “You can take the man out of the Air Force, but you can’t take the Air Force out of the man.” Davis still loves to fly, and keeps his private single-engine Piper parked at the community airport in Santa Paula (left and above left).
“It’s one of those really relaxing, rewarding, almost spiritual things,” he said. “When you fly, you have to think about flying. You don’t think about this or that or the other thing, or the rough spot you had here or there. You think about what you’re doing. An old saw in flying is you never allow the airplane to go where your mind (hadn’t already been) five minutes earlier. So you’re always looking ahead, you’re always thinking ahead, and you haven’t got time for distractions. All those other things that are making your life kind of tense, well, they go away for a couple of hours while you’re up in the air.”
If God is his co-pilot, Davis’s chief navigator is his wife Laurel, who often joins him on local and occasionally longer flights. Along with three grown daughters, the couple now has four grandchildren to visit in various parts of the country. She’s also on the shelter’s board.
“Laurel’s a special person,” Davis said. “She, like myself, has had an interest in helping others for all of her life, and back in 1995 she decided she wanted to become a licensed marriage family therapist. She’s accomplished that, has a practice here in town, and with a combination of a strong spiritual life and the education and the experience she has, she’s able to help a lot of people.”
Bridge to the Future
As to the future of Bridge to Home and the SCV emergency winter shelter — now located on Drayton Street in Newhall, across Railroad Avenue from the Saugus Café — Davis and the shelter’s board and staff have a clear long-term vision, but the short term is not yet in focus.
“We decided several years ago we really wanted to develop a permanent location and a year-round program for the shelter,” he said. “We have these real-life things like a recession, (which) makes it very hard to raise the funds and make good progress. So, we have a program with the city and the county, we’ve been at Drayton now, this is our third winter. We’re talking to the city, county and a number of people about extending there for another two or three years while the economy’s recovering. We can get our plans going, get the fundraising happening, find a piece of land to buy or rent or to build or modify, so that we can put together a shelter. It’ll be there permanently and year-round.”
Clients and staff made holiday decorations for the shelter last Christmas.
Davis would like to see a year-round shelter happen before he retires and passes the Bridge to Home leadership role to the next executive director.
“One of my biggest goals professionally is to train and mentor my replacement, and we’re starting off on that,” he said. “But for the organization, now that we’ve been stable for a few years, not looking for a place to be every year — and hopefully we can continue (at Drayton) for a couple more years till we get permanent — we’re developing all kinds of new programs. We’ve put together a free dental clinic and an affordable subsidized housing program this year. We’re working on expanded medical programs for low-income homeless people and veterans. So, those are the things we’ll continue inventing and developing for Santa Clarita.
“And of course, the really big thing (will be) when we can find that location, that piece of land, and get into it and get it developed and get our year-round program up and running,” Davis said.
Find out more about the Bridge to Home shelter and its programs at www.btohome.com.
Watch Tim Davis’s complete interview with AM-1220 KHTS afternoon drive air personality Jason Endicott on Friday, Jan. 25, 2013, and learn more about this Santa Clarita Unsung Hero’s good deeds. You can also download the audio podcast.
Mercedes-Benz of Valencia is proud to be part of the Santa Clarita Valley, not only giving you the superior customer service you deserve, but also giving back to our community by supporting our schools, sports teams, Sheriff’s Station and nonprofit organizations. Now, Mercedes-Benz of Valencia and KHTS have teamed up to present “Santa Clarita’s Unsung Heroes,” spotlighting local residents who make a difference in our valley. With new contributions also comes a new Mercedes management team. Visit Mercedes-Benz of Valencia today.
Photos: Stephen K. Peeples except top head shot, courtesy Bridge to Home.