I eat, sleep and breathe thinking about how we can solve homelessness. I am not sure when it happened, but at some point early in my career I became obsessed by a belief that by providing opportunities through work, support, and creative housing models, homeless people would not need to be homeless anymore.
What drives me is a core belief that we – as a society – can end homelessness one person at time. This core belief is curious as I have never been homeless and have always had the privilege of financial resources, a good education, and supportive family. I am grateful, though, to have it and hope to share – even infect others with this passion. Yet that is hard to do without a face to face conversation or without being able to show others what works, until now.
Thanks to the wonderful work of the Denver Foundation we now have a platform and playbook to change public will around homelessness – Close to Home .
The Denver Foundation has set out on a bold and important mission – to take on homelessness like our country took on educating us on the negative health impacts of tobacco or creating freedom for gay marriage. To create a tipping point where we – as a society – do not accept homelessness as OK and commit to building communities where all people can access a roof over their head.
The Close to Home campaign, launched in early November, has given us, all citizens of Colorado, a language, a common purpose, a chance to get involved. Their data on who is homeless is rooted in fact and messages are rooted in reality. They are providing a unified platform for us to be educated, to engage with our policy makers to improve affordable housing options and services, and, mostly, to care.
We need to care that we have homeless people in our community. If we don’t care, how can we ever tackle the challenges of affordable housing, an underfunded mental health system, the dangers of substance abuse, and persistent realities of chronic unemployment and under-employment that continue to perpetuate cycles of homelessness? First we CARE, then we ACT.
Whether we like it or not being without a home is a mainstream issue. We all know friends, colleagues, acquaintances who are at risk or currently homeless whether we know it or not. We need to provide them with opportunities, with support. We need to offer them access to a housing market that works for all. We need to care. We need to shine the light on them and tell their stories. We need to create a public will that does not tolerate the harsh fact that we have people living on our streets.
I have been in countless meetings and discussions with service partners, friends, and skeptics all who lament the lack of facts and public education about homelessness. The Close to Home campaign is giving us the tools to have this discussion, to take action.
So if you believe that no one should endure homelessness and affordable, decent housing is something we all should be able to access – click here and take the pledge.
Isabel McDevitt – Executive Director Bridge House