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HSD Employee Spotlight—Shawn Neal

Shawn Neal is the Grants & Contracts Supervisor in the Mayor’s Office on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (MODSVA), a unit of Seattle Human Services’ Safe and Thriving Communities (STC) division. They have worked at Seattle Human Services for seven years.

What is your role at Seattle Human Services? 

I am currently the Grants and Contracts Supervisor for the Mayor’s Office on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (MODVSA) team. I am also one of the co-founders of the current LGBTQ+ Affinity Group in HSD.   

Shawn Neal in front of a pyramid

What made you want to work in human services? 

I worked in the nonprofit world for 11 years doing HIV Prevention and Case Management.  I wanted to continue my work providing services to the community but in a different role. My guiding principle is we should use our time to continue to work towards helping others and towards a better world.   

How has your job changed in recent years? 

I started off in Aging and Disability Services (ADS) as a Case Manager.  I then went to HSI as a Grants and Contracts Specialist before moving over to MODVSA.  I am glad that I have had the opportunity to be a part of some amazing teams in each of these divisions and to see how they approach our work in different ways.           

What do you love about your job? 

I love our team!  We have many colleagues who are passionate about ending gender-based violence in Seattle and have been doing this work for most of their lives.  I love our partner agencies who are doing some tough and amazing work in their communities supporting survivors and drawing attention to this often hidden epidemic.  Gender based violence work is strongly rooted in community led movements and it is inspiring to share spaces with survivors who have fought for decades to get supportive policies in place and hold institutions accountable in what we should be doing to support survivors.       

How do you contribute to HSD’s overarching goals related to racial equity? 

At the end of 2022 and beginning of 2023, I worked with other HSD staff to create an LGBTQ+ affinity group that would be a safe space for folks to find one another as well as hold space to have real conversations concerning the intersection of race, gender identity, and sexual orientation.  We wanted a space where we can talk about how we navigate through our work holding multiple identities but frequently are being seen for only one, how to ensure LGBTQ+ folk are considered when decisions are being made and talk openly about our families and lives in a safe and supportive environment.                 

Shawn Neal in front of the window at Seattle Municipal Tower

What motivates you or keeps you going? 

The passion of my colleagues, the perseverance of agencies for the work they do even as they try and navigate shifting priorities and the belief that our work is impactful to individuals and communities that we serve.      

What’s one piece of advice for HSD newcomers or recent graduates in your field?   

While working towards my MSW, I learned that it takes people inside and outside institutions to make changes.  The adage that the wheels of bureaucracy turn slowly is true and sometimes frustrating, but there are opportunities in HSD to be able to have a seat at the table and have your voice heard.  It’s our job to make sure the wheels are pointing in the right direction, and they are continuing to move towards doing the right thing for all people in our city.