Chief Executive Officer and Board Member
Board Member since 2006
Frostburg University, Political Science and History, B.A.
University of Maryland, History, M.A.
Member, Association of Fundraising Professionals
Phi Alpha Theta International History Council
Behind The Door:
Bill Simpson is the founding Chief Executive Officer of Open Door America.
Bill has 36 years of policy, programming, and management experience in the business, government and nonprofit sectors. His wide-ranging career includes national security affairs, minority business enterprises (SBA MBE), public relations, human services’ fundraising, foster care and family services, and nonprofit organizational development.
Since 2004, Bill has been at the forefront of anti-poverty initiatives and advocacy in the mid-Atlantic region. He is widely recognized as one of the topic’s most innovative thinkers and persuasive communicators. Bill is an ardent practitioner of “solutions-focused” client services, leading Open Door America to adopt intensive, long-term “family systems” remedies over quick fixes and specious success metrics.
Bill’s insistence on “poverty solutions that work” derives from his initial foray into Baltimore City human services -- a much-praised 2004-2005 after-school program in the deeply-impoverished neighborhood of Sharp-Leadenhall near M&T Bank “Ravens” Stadium. Despite plaudits from many sources including the Mayor’s Office and the Board of Education, Bill concluded from this paradigm-shifting experience that the only “children’s program” that could actually alter the harsh landscape of inner city poverty was a “living-wage job for mom and dad.” Having seen up close the incredible economic hardship and social dysfunction faced by so many Baltimore City elementary school children, Bill’s driving ambition quickly became the creation of a viable alternative to vacuous workforce development programs, inadequate congregational outreaches, punitive public assistance programs, dead-end minimum wage jobs, and any other social prescription that did not take into full account the preeminent need for economic empowerment of young parents trapped in poverty.
In 2009, drawing upon three years of well-received, albeit very perplexing street-level engagement in one of East Baltimore’s poorest and most violent neighborhoods, Bill convened a diverse panel of civic leaders and topical experts in criminal justice, workforce development, business creation, education, counseling, and family ministry to chart a new course for the fledgling organization, then known as Open Door Baltimore.
Over a 10-month-period, the panel researched and analyzed key aspects of inner city family systems, crime and recidivism, causes and effects of low educational achievement, the impact of violence on communities, potential solutions to low-wage employment and chronic unemployment, and the damaging effects of the social welfare system.
Under Bill’s resolute leadership, the organization agreed to construct a sustainable response to the intergenerational poverty passed down from parent to child, and, exponentially exacerbated by socioeconomic forces largely external to the Open Door neighborhoods. Understanding these forces became the starting point for grasping the true enormity of the challenges faced by clients and families:
- The wholesale offshoring of working-class jobs over previous decades;
- The onerous effects of the much-hailed, but poorly-understood welfare reform law of 1996; and,
- The corner-to-prison-and-back-to-the-corner “conveyor belt” fostered by the nation’s 40-year “war on drugs”.
Out of this process emerged the “Individual Life Plan (ILP)” ©, an evaluative and prescriptive tool for staff and mentors to interpret and respond to client issues. With ILP in hand, the organization established three nonnegotiable components for long-term success:
- Complementary partnerships with “living-wage” employers and financial donors;
- Major improvements in client screening to create the best possible match with living-wage employers; and,
- High-quality training and mentoring to kindle the economic empowerment and upward mobility of clients.
From 2006 to the present, Open Door Baltimore / Open Door America has been a direct reflection of Bill’s uncompromising view that intergenerational poverty is a national shame, that the dramatic growth of poverty and near-poverty threatens the nation’s long-term health and viability, and that ultimately, it is up to organizations like Open Door America to tell the truth and lead the charge.
In his free time, Bill listens to Jackson Browne, Keith Urban, and the Beatles, reads history and social commentary, fumes about politics, takes guitar lessons, rides his bike, keeps in touch with treasured friends from Allegany High School in Cumberland, Maryland, and roots for his beloved Baltimore Orioles and Baltimore Ravens. He has also been known to frequent his favorite beach whenever he can -- Siesta Key Beach in Sarasota, Florida. Since May 2015, grandson Miles has supplanted all of the above as Bill's favorite topic.
To contact Bill, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
From Our Blog
2018 Poverty and the Urgency of Prisoner Reentry and Life Restoration
Since 2005 Open Door America has worked to unlock the secret codes of intergenerational poverty in America’s inner cities. Now in year thirteen, our story has greater meaning and urgency than ever before. Having come on line just nine years after metamorphic welfare reform in 1996, we were an immediate beneficiary of the raised social awareness generated by the faith-based initiative movement of the early 2000's. By the end of our first decade, however, a sharp decline in nationwide community development investment, especially in the key area of federal housing, shifted our thinking away from traditional block-by-block redevelopment strategies to individualized programming targeting heads of households, young fathers, and in particular, ex-offenders and current offenders who hold sway in the poorest neighborhoods. Today, 22 years into the nation’s endless rancorous debate over poverty and government spending, we operate in a political and cultural environment where the very existence of entrenched poverty is now openly and counter-factually questioned in Washington. We believe the lessons learned from our improbable survivor's journey and the promising potential of our current efforts to retrieve first-time offenders and restore vetted recidivists are essential to this discussion and critical to America's social and economic future.