In Memoriam: Ilene Weinreb, Affordable Housing Hero
November 23, 2020
It is with profound sadness I share with you the passing of Ilene Weinreb, Eden’s former board chair and a member of our board for more than 30 years. Ilene was a community leader, an affordable housing hero, and Hayward’s first elected female mayor. Ilene dedicated her career and her adult life to service.
As Mayor, Ilene Weinreb played a pivotal role in Eden’s founding. In the 1970’s, the City of Hayward wanted to promote the development of affordable housing for families and had federal funding to support a community-based nonprofit that the City could create or, if they chose, adopt an existing entity. At the time, Eden was a respected group of volunteers but didn’t have any staff. Mayor Weinreb embraced Eden’s vision for everyone to have access to a safe, decent, affordable home, and suggested the City contract with Eden instead of creating a new nonprofit. It was through this partnership that Eden would establish its footing to become the nonprofit affordable housing organization we are today.
On a personal note, I am truly grateful to Ilene for her mentorship. She chaired Eden’s board when I became Executive Director in 2001, and she met with me weekly to help me navigate life in the “deep end” of my first years in the top executive role. She was a huge champion of our work and her family told me that her work with Eden was one of the things she was most proud of.
As Ilene noted, “Affordable housing is something that doesn’t happen automatically, you’ve got to make it happen.” Thanks to her tremendous leadership, Eden has made home happen for thousands of low-income Californians.
In addition to her support for Eden, Ilene’s many accomplishments included helping start Alameda County’s telephone 211 social service-referral service. She advocated for accessible mental health care and services for incarcerated mothers, and served for years on the County’s public hospital consortium board. Eden’s Weinreb Place in Hayward was named in her honor. She will be greatly missed but her legacy lives on in the great work that all of us do at Eden. She is featured in our founding story video and in it uses one of my favorite lines – Eden doesn’t build and sell housing, we build it and keep it.
At the request of Ilene’s family, donations may be made in her honor to Eden’s Tenant Relief Fund.
May she rest in peace.
Eden Housing President