Weekly Links for Resources and Solutions for the Homeless: 6/07/11

1.   Flip Million Dollar Venture Capital Investments Into Homeless Housing by Joel John Roberts:

“In the world of homelessness, we know that there are two significant barriers that prevent this country from seriously ending the sad fact that hundreds of thousands of Americans live in extreme poverty on our streets.”

“The first is political policies and cowardly political will that allows Americans to become homeless upon discharge from the armed services, foster care programs, health care systems and incarceration.”

“The second is the lack of radically large financial investment in supportive housing.”

“So when I read articles where venture capital investors are pumping millions of dollars into an idea, my own entrepreneurial ideas of social change kick in.
For example, the traditional mode of fundraising by this country’s nonprofit charity groups is basically a sophisticated form of begging. We put our hands out by sending out direct mail pieces, newsletters and now Tweets and Facebook messages, asking generous Americans to give.”

“But why don’t we turn charity groups into social businesses that happen to reinvest all of their profits back into their business? Then we can ask Americans to invest in our product — and in the homeless world, our product is housing.”

“There are 121,000 chronically homeless Americanswho have been living on our streets for years with some form of disability or chronic illness. We see them every day by the freeway off-ramp or on the street corner of a business retail neighborhood, with their hands out and their heads down.”

“The low-end cost to build affordable housing in California is around $250,000per unit. That means this country needs $30 billion to house every chronically homeless American.”

2.  My  First Night Homeless: A True Story by Mark Horvath:

“If you’ve never been homeless, it’s tough to describe that first night sleeping on the street. The fear and disillusionment are almost paralyzing. You just go through the motions, but at the same time you’re beating yourself up for being in this situation. It is very surreal because no one ever thinks they will become homeless. No one.”

“I’ll never forget my first night. All of a sudden and without warning, I found myself homeless in Koreatown near downtown Los Angeles. I was sober, but I had no money, no place to go and no one I could call for help. I was officially homeless.”

“This was all new to me. I had no homeless training. I had no clue how I was going to survive. Just six months earlier I had a well-paying job in the television industry, overseeing syndicated programs like Wheel of Fortune. But now, I was the one who had suddenly landed on bankrupt. The irony was painful.”

“I decided to walk from Koreatown to North Hollywood, mainly because I knew the neighborhood and was comfortable with the area. I walked 11 or so miles to the valley. By the time I arrived, it was beginning to get dark, so I started to think about where I was going to sleep. I decided to try a park close to my old house where I used to play my conga drum on hot summer days. But when I arrived, I noticed gang members hanging around in the dark, so I moved on to another location.”

“I continued walking to park after park. I just didn’t feel safe in any of them. My feet were becoming swollen; I was emotionally and physically exhausted. I knew that the worst crimes in the city — muggings, beatings, shootings — happened at night to people living outdoors. I knew that when you sleep outside, you are vulnerable to just about everything. I was scared. Probably more scared then I have been or ever will be.”

“I think it was around 3 a.m. when I finally found a park near a small shopping mall in North Hollywood. It was empty, and the first place where I felt safe enough to lay down. Exhaustion quickly set in and I closed my eyes. I don’t remember how much time had passed — maybe 20 minutes — when, suddenly, all the water sprinklers went off. I just laid there in disbelief, soaking. It’s impossible to describe the mixture of fear, anger, vulnerability and, well, homelessness I felt as I lay there.”

“Today, it’s easier for me to laugh at that bit of misfortune with the sprinklers. But the deep memories of pain and loneliness from that night will always be with me.”

3.  Working to End Homelessness in Durham, NC by Mary McGuigan:

“Circles of Support is a program designed to empower homeless families with the skills to find employment, housing and improve their overall quality of life. This program was launched in August 2010 as part of our programming to help homeless families.”

“A Circle of Support can be a civic group, faith-based small group or a close-knit group of friends. The goal is to match support circles with transitioning families helping to keep them in their homes.”

“Tasha Melvin, Volunteer Coordinator for the Genesis Home, facilitates the program. “This program is extremely important because often times our homeless families enter homelessness because they lack support. When they leave from a shelter to their own housing they still don’t have support so they are more likely to return to homelessness. That’s why I like the concept of this program so much,” Melvin said.”

“Support Circles will provide direct support to the household they are matched with.  Support Circle members will meet with the household member(s) and assist them in setting and meeting attainable goals.  Some activities include:

  • Budgeting and finance
  • Healthy eating habits
  • Tutoring members enrolled in school
  • Helping adults with job applications, résumés, and cover letters
  • Providing transportation
  • Helping member(s) access community resources
  • Assisting with child care

“The funds will be directed to our budget of $21,000 annually to administer this program. Teh annual goal is to match 10 families with ten support circles. Training session and materials for volunteers, a salary for a part-time administrator of the program and direct financial support to the families are all built into the budget.”

Photo credit.

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