Weekly Links for Resources and Solutions for the Homeless (Ideas to Use for Your Community): 5/30/11

1.  Bringing Values into Vision by Jeff Cornwall:

Another example of integrating values and vision is a new business called Mattress Works.

This startup, founded by a group of Belmont students, exists to provide employment opportunities for the homeless and to divert waste from landfills through deconstructing and recycling used mattresses.

“We developed Mattress Works out of our passion to encourage environmental sustainability and create social change in the community,” said co-founder Emily Hollingsworth.

Mattress Works has secured used mattress suppliers and scrap buyers for two trial runs. It has processed about 160 mattresses between the two pilot operations. This served as proof of concept, which allowed it to test the viability of the business model and identify any weak spots.

After working out some kinks, the founders are moving forward with Mattresses Unlimited as their first supplier, and they are negotiating a contract with a second supplier.

“Our end goal is to transfer the ownership of the venture to a homeless man who has been trained as part of the Mattress Works team, embodying our belief in the power of entrepreneurship to facilitate change in the lives of others,” Hollingsworth said.

For a growing number of entrepreneurs, starting a business is more than just a vehicle to making money. Entrepreneurship is a path to pursue their values through the vision they create for a business.

It is tough to truly understand the plight of the homeless if you’ve always had a place to live. For many of us, attempting to look at the world through the eyes of the homeless would be a big step outside of our comfort zone.

For Sam Slovick, a filmmaker and writer who has been chronicling the lives of Los Angeles’ homeless, interacting with the down-and-out has never been difficult. As a teenage runaway he had a drug abuse problem and was once evicted from his apartment on Skid Row for not paying rent. He developed a street sensibility that now allows him to relate to the people he meets on the street.

“It’s second nature to me; I’m just going in as myself,” says Slovick. “My success has been because of my intentions — I went in with an intention that was true and pure, just about giving a voice to the voiceless.”

In doing so, Slovick has made a name for himself as a journalist for the homeless, writing and filming the stories of those who rarely have the opportunity to speak out for themselves. Slovick has developed a transmedia series for LA Weekly, called “Pavement“, that uses text, photos and videos to bring attention to underserved communities throughout the city. He has also done a piece about homelessness in L.A. for GOOD Magazine, called “Welcome to Los Angeles,” as well as a five-part documentary series called “On Skid Row.”

With his background, access to ignored populations and journalism skills (he once worked as a celebrity journalist, interviewing stars like Robert Downey Jr.), Slovick realized he could bring attention to the homeless in a way that not many others could.

“I began to understand what I had to offer as a journalist,” Slovick said.

He made it his career and mission to air the stories of the people he meets on the street — to bring attention to their lives, their situations and, above all, their humanity.

What can you do to help?

Slovick says there are “a million things anybody can do about homelessness”:

• Read a story about homelessness, and tell your friends to; afterward, discuss it.
• Blog about homelessness.
• Write a letter to your congressman, mayor or county board of supervisors telling them that you want to know what they’re doing to help; ask them to do more.
• Go to wherever it is that homeless people are living in your city and and talk to them — go with respect and humility, and know that it is their choice whether they want to share their story.
• Sit with somebody who’s homeless.
• If you pass a homeless person on the street, look them in the eye and say hello; acknowledge that they’re a human being.
• Cultivate your own compassion for others.
• Volunteer at a place like School on Wheels — which tutors homeless kids — or any of the enlightened philanthropies that are doing good work.
• Participate in an Urban Immersion Service Project with Central City Community Outreach, or find an equivalent in your area.
• Expand your consciousness to include homeless people.

Photo credit.

One comment

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