Patrice Nelson, the executive director of Urban Ministries of Durham, announced Monday that she will retire next year.
The organization, which operates a homeless shelter, soup kitchen, food pantry and other services for the needy, has launched a search for a successor.
Nelson, 61, has led the nonprofit organization since 2009, taking over during an economic downturn in which demand for services increased while donations slowed.
“I am stepping down because I am tired,” said Nelson of Durham.
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After traveling back and forth to Maryland to help take care of her mother, who has health problems, and her father, who died in May, Nelson said she needs some space and more time to spend with her family, including her two children and three grandchildren, and do other things.
Her legacy, she said, is reducing the amount of time clients stayed at Urban Ministries.
Nelson said she worked to transform Urban Ministries from a place where people live to a place that helps people set a new path for their futures. That change included using the word “journey” a lot, Nelson said, hiring more professional case managers and requiring each person that comes to the organization to establish an exit plan within the first week.
From 2011 to 2014, the average length of stay was reduced from 271 days to 75 days for families, 146 days to 55 days for single men and 121 days to 54 days for women.
Nelson came to Urban Ministries of Durham after serving as deputy director of a Philadelphia-area nonprofit that helps women experiencing domestic violence.
Urban Ministries, located on Liberty Street in downtown Durham, shelters about 900 homeless people each year, finding homes for 237 of them in the past 12 months.
The organization also operates a Community Cafe, which serves about a quarter-million meals annually to those in the shelter and others.
Its food pantry and clothing closet distribute donated groceries and used clothing to about 480 poor families in Durham each month.