Daniel Roby, B.A. '04
Working at a coffee shop is hardly the ideal first job out of college, especially for someone with a speech communication degree from Baylor. For Daniel Roby, however, it was a conduit to his true calling and a testament to his commitment to serve others.
Roby moved to Portland, Oregon, shortly after graduation to help start a church with Antioch Ministries. He soon realized his true calling was to serve people with significant needs.
“That began with playing hacky sack with homeless youth before and after work,” Roby says. “I didn’t know anyone in Portland, and I was trying to get my feet wet. Those relationships I developed with homeless youth ended up paying me back a hundredfold.”
Before long, Roby was the director for homeless outreach at a local drop-in center. Later, he was chaplain and community outreach specialist for Portland Rescue Mission.
Eventually, Roby’s steps led back to Texas. He and his wife Lesley, B.S. ’04, met at Dallas’ Lake Highlands High School, and they disagree as to who followed whom to Baylor. With a desire to raise their children closer to family, Roby knew their time in Portland was coming to a close. In 2015, he was named CEO of Austin Street Center in Dallas.
The city’s largest low-barrier shelter, Austin Street Center provides safe shelter for and meets the basic needs of the most vulnerable. The center, which opened in 1983, serves men age 45 and older and women age 18 and older, and each person is provided a safe place to sleep, showers, clothing and meals. Employment and education resources, mental health services, transportation and more are provided in a commitment to help clients transition from homelessness to independence.
“Austin Street Center has remarkable people who come to work and volunteer here,” Roby says. “I’m privileged to be a part of the amazing things that are happening.”
Studies estimate 4,500 people in Dallas are homeless and more than 25,000 people statewide. In Roby’s first year, Austin Street Center helped 80 people transition out of homelessness. The expectation is to eclipse 400 successful endeavors this year.
As CEO, Roby has doubled the center’s number of case managers, initiated diversion and aftercare programs and embraced the “housing first” model of shelter management. Under Roby’s leadership, Austin Street Center has executed a $15 million capital campaign to support the construction of a 60,000 square-foot emergency shelter and day service center slated to open in 2022.
Roby was appointed to the City of Dallas Commission on Homelessness, and he serves on the executive council of the Continuum of Care. The Center for Nonprofit Management named Roby its 2017 Nonprofit CEO of the Year.
Society’s less fortunate members have long been heavy on Roby’s heart. He interned with Mission Waco while at Baylor and credits lessons learned from Jimmy Dorrell for much of what he’s implemented in his career.
“During that time, I learned what it means to invest in others and to be invested in,” Roby says. “I learned what it means to gather with a group of people, to be accountable and hold other people accountable. And, I learned what it means to pursue something greater than ourselves. All that was vested during my Baylor experience, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”