Eden Updates

Q&A with Dominique (Dom) Cohen, Eden Housing’s Vice President of Resident Services

June 20, 2024

At Eden, our accomplished team is the foundation of our success, and we are excited to showcase their expertise with our stakeholders. We recently sat down with Dominique (Dom) Cohen, who joined us in April to spearhead our Resident Services program, to find out more about her background, her passion for the affordable housing space and why Eden was such a great fit with her personal and professional goals.

Tell us about your career and what led you to work in the affordable housing industry.

In 1994 I went to work for the Council on Aging, a small nonprofit located in Santa Clara County that had been awarded funds for the state of California to work with individuals experiencing homelessness. The program, called Linkages, was aimed at those who had a source of income yet couldn’t find a place to live because of the limited housing stock. My role was to help them identify suitable options, and since I wasn’t familiar with affordable housing at that time, I became engaged with housing providers, such as the Housing Consortium of the East Bay and others.

Along the way I became acquainted with MidPen Housing where I was able to place some individuals, and I subsequently went to work for them and stayed 22 years, developing a variety of programs and services, including an age-in-place model for seniors. I also spearheaded a full permanent supportive housing program to address the needs of individuals coming out of homelessness who were dealing with mental illness and chronic health conditions.

I never envisioned staying there so long because my master’s degree is in counseling, and I assumed I would become a private therapist. But I found it so rewarding to help people make immediate, positive changes to their lives, that I stayed.

In addition, I now see how an incident I experienced as a child led me to this path. When I was young, we went to visit my mother’s brother at the construction site where he was working. We encountered a homeless individual who was sleeping on the site, and one of my uncle’s colleagues was harshly demanding he get off the property. I was so upset and disturbed by how poorly the man had been treated that it left an indelible mark in my mind. I believe this is why I find this work so meaningful, and why I find so much value around providing support services under a housing platform that allows people to make the type of change that will be transformative for generations to come.

After all, as we recognize based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, housing is the foundation for other elements of a successful life; you can’t think about your next steps or a job when you’re sleeping under a bridge. Safe housing provides a sense of security and is the launching pad for all the other aspirational aspects in people’s lives.

What are some of your favorite career highlights?

One of my most notable achievements was partnering with the Stanford Prevention Research Center (SPRC) for a study on seniors’ activity level. We discovered seniors are more willing to engage in activity under the right platform; in other words, the environment needs to be designed for their specific needs. While this research was conducted more than 13 years ago, we are seeing these conclusions continue to be confirmed today.

As a result, we began building senior projects that were designed for the needs of aging populations. For example, we included walking trails with frequent resting places and water stations where residents could hydrate themselves. And it worked, with 80% of that population engaging in physical activity.

What led you to join Eden Housing and what are you looking forward to in your new role?

The housing industry is a small community with lots of crossover so I was familiar with the organization and its CEO, Linda Mandolini. In particular, I had always admired how Eden has an assortment of services to meet the varied needs of the community, such as afterschool programs, extended learner programs, family self-sufficiency programming and other options.

I was intrigued to learn more about this different model where we’re innovating with new things to appeal to different populations at different times.

In addition, with the smaller size of Eden’s team, there’s a lot of opportunity for growth and change. I’m excited about working with the team to develop the right programming for the wide variety of populations we serve.

What do you like to do during your spare time?

I love to engage in DIY home improvement projects and have taught myself from YouTube videos. I’ve remodeled all three of my bathrooms myself—taking them down to the studs and putting them back together from the plumbing to the tile, which I find very therapeutic. It’s something I learned from my mother, who was never afraid to take a risk. One time she updated our old wood cabinetry with an antique finish, and her work was so impressive she got requests from friends and family to do theirs. Another time she found a cast-off couch and reupholstered it so it was like new.

I am fortunate to be joined in my DIY ventures by my daughter who is the love of my life – we were meant for one another. Although she has some developmental disabilities, I involve her as much as I can, and she takes on all the challenges and is right there with me, passing tile or stirring mortar. My goal is to put her on a path to independence and so I am planting the seeds every day, which I know will pay off in the long term.