There are folks who see homelessness as a lifestyle. I don’t. I see it as a condition that is devastating not only to the person who experiences it but to their families, as well as to the community.
To be sure, there are individuals who deliberately have chosen to be homeless. However, for the most part, homelessness is something that comes about in a person’s life because of a number of different circumstances happening in combination. As a result, it is difficult to prevent homelessness from occurring altogether.
I have always, and continue to maintain the belief that homelessness can afflict anyone. And, that is how I view homelessness: an affliction, which like many other afflictions can have devastating and long lasting effects.
It seems that I’m not the only one who believes that homelessness can happen to anyone.
Richard Schaden, founder of the Quizno’s restaurant chain, was recently quoted as saying,
"What it tells you is that anybody can end up there. With a volatile economy it can happen pretty quickly."
As it happens, while Mr. Schaden hasn’t experienced homelessness himself, there are at least two members of his family who have. One had medical issues that caused their homelessness. The other had lost their job and was too ashamed to let the family know and ask for help, and subsequently became homeless.
As a result, finding a way to end homelessness is important to Mr. Schaden and his wife Cheryl, who just his past week, announced their starting of a "business-minded" group that will help raise money for cities fighting homelessness.
The vision of the project, called, America’s Road Home , will be to create a "chain of businesses" in cities that have adopted a 10 year plan to end homelessness with the goal of creating a "… steady stream of money to support those efforts."
Mr. Schaden views fighting homelessness as an investment and was quoted saying,
"Rather than just writing a check, we’re creating a business around each one of these investments."
For their approach at fighting homelessness, the Schaden’s were presented with the "Home for Every American" award by the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness.
Mr. Philip Mangano, the council’s Executive Director, who presented the Schaden’s with the award, said,
"This award recognizes individuals making innovative and noteworthy contributions in the fight against homelessness…"
I think that Mr. Schaden and his wife are onto something. I even like the name: America’s Road Home. It creates the potential for alleviating the suffering of millions of American’s who find themselves without a place to call home.
However, it’s going to take so much more than just big business to win this nation’s battle against homelessness.
It’s going to take our elected leaders, at every level of government, having willingness to open their eyes to the realities of homelessness. They must stop creating legislation that penalizes the homeless. They must enact meaningful legislation that provides genuine and remedial solutions – not temporary fixes.
But we, the average everyday person, cannot just sit back on our haunches and wait for government and big business to do everything. We have to shoulder our part of the burden as well. Let’s face it; we’re all in this together. Homelessness affects each and every one of us – whether directly or indirectly.
I think that one reason more of us don’t become involved with trying to end homelessness is because we’re not sure what we, as individuals, can do to make a difference. We may want to help; we’re just not sure how to go about it. Or, we may feel that our personal efforts may seem too small; too insignificant to make a difference.
I received an email from a friend yesterday. She mentioned that she and some friends were putting together "care packages" to give to the homeless. She said that is was "… Nothing on a big scale but just a small way to help a few…"
My response to her was that when it comes to "small ways" of helping, I’ve discovered that there are no small gifts when they come from a heart filled with compassion.
It seems to me that it is up to government and businesses, in concert, to formulate and implement the long term solutions for finding ways to end homelessness.
In the meanwhile, it’s up to the rest of us to perform the "small" day to day kindnesses that can make homelessness less harsh for those who have to experience it.
One last thing…
Here’s a resolution called the America’s Road Home Statement of Principles and Action .
Currently there are 250 Mayors, Commissioners, County Executives, City and/or County Supervisors and so on, who are signatories to the resolution.
By becoming signatories, these individuals have honor bound themselves to adhere to
"… to end chronic homelessness in our communities in partnership with the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM), and the National Association of Counties (NACo) to end the disgrace"
Sadly, no one from my county of San Luis Obispo (SLO) has signed on yet.