the circle game

ECR asked: what CAN we do that will have a more long lasting or permanent effect? What do you, as someone who works trying to eradicate homelessness, wish that others in your community would do to help realize that goal? She's asked me questions before, and I tend to obey. In fact, the last time I got myself another wife out of the deal. And from that union the Just Posts were born.

I am still struggling with an answer to her current question. For a lot of reasons including I have no idea what the answer is. But thankfully, she also asked me what I wished for. Wishing feels easier.

Truly, if I could wish for anything, I would wish that everyone who wanted a home had one. That one in five children did not live in poverty in the US. I wish that local governments truly accepted the responsibilities given to them. To govern their community with all members in mind. And then I wish those cats leaned on the state, who in turn leaned on the feds. That from the bottom up we are building viable communities.

If wishes were fishes I'd dive in and never swim back.

But it's about money, isn't it. There's not a lot of money in homelessness. There is not a lot of capital gains to be had. Profit margins will sour. Redistributing wealth in a way that makes it more equitable for all doesn't seem like a lot of fun for the guys at the top.

So what can we do? It goes back to the bottom. If your community wants to build more ELI (extremely low income) housing, support it. Push for ELI over VLI or EL. The rents for the other two types doesn't come near affordability for the truly impoverished. Ask your city housing departments what plans they have for developing or expanding affordable housing. Attend city council meetings and ask them to do the right thing. Some mayors already have the right idea. Denver's mayor rocks it. He's an example for the rest of the country and his model is replicable and it's working. Other cities can adopt it. Some already are.

Support local charities. Ones that advocate for homeless rights or are building affordable housing. Take your kids and volunteer; allow them to come to know people who have no place to sleep and watch how it touches them. I promise it will. I already see it in M, the nights she's come to a shelter with me, she gets it, even in her two year old brain, she gets it. And it's nice for others to sometimes have kids around. Kids that aren't pulled away or gripped tighter as they pass by. Kids that can smile and laugh with them. Never do I take M to a shelter without folks offering her a small gift, a cookie, a picture from a magazine. It's consistently humbling; the generosity and kindness I've had the honor of witnessing.

I often try to imagine what it would feel like to consistently present as a homeless person. While we are all judged on our physical appearances to one degree or another, I can't quite fathom having everyone's first view of me as dirty, scary, avoidable, lazy, crazy, sad. I can't help but think it would only take me a few days before I saw myself that way too. And how that might change the way I interact in the world, and the cycle continues.

Be the change you want to see in the world. Stand up for the rights of others in front of others. Show that it can be done with consensus and not animosity. Visualize a community that cares for it's inhabitants. It may not seem like a lot, but all of that goodwill adds up. Peace starts with one. Inside of me, inside of you, and it multiples and spreads.

It isn't hopeless and it doesn't have to be this way. Change starts with us, and it starts with our children.

ECR, this may sound like a lot of platitudes. But I think taking on an entire government is a lot to ask of most of us. So I wanted to offer something more tangible, whether politically or soulfully, that our community can do to get involved.

As always, I welcome your thoughts.