How I Learned to Care for the Homeless
At the end of 2013 I made the stupidest mistake of my life. I wrote an arrogant post on Facebook shunning the drug dealers, mentally ill, prostitutes, and the homeless people on Market Street in San Francisco. I was insensitive, made over-reaching generalizations, and didn’t do justice to a homeless system that a lot of good people have devoted their lives to.
The experience turned my world upside down as I struggled with the shame that comes with letting down thousands of friends, family, and my startup peers. From that humble place I spent the last year educating myself on homelessness, social issues, and everything in between. Along the way I challenged a lot of my fundamental viewpoints and came out the other side a different man than where I started.
In my own research into the causes of homelessness, I learned that homelessness is not a choice. I read about the struggles. I came across data that showed over 50% of the homeless were living a normal functional life within the past year. I learned that homelessness is something that can happen to almost anyone among the 60% of the population who lives paycheck to paycheck. I learned that the homeless community was not so far from you or me.
Through volunteering with the Downtown Streets Team, I saw a side of the homeless community trying to do whatever it takes to fight their way off the streets. Here I found friendly, kind, respectful, everyday people, eager for work, supportive of each other, filled with love and hope. They helped show me the community side of the homeless community. And here, around these humble people who were willing to clean the streets at 6am for basic needs vouchers, I realized that this is the only opportunity available. I quickly learned there isn’t nearly enough job opportunities, housing options, or government funding to protect people from sliding to rock bottom. That’s why it’s up to us to create it.
I spent many angry, sleepless nights feeling victimized by the media for making me out to be a monster. Eventually, I realized I had to give up feeling like a victim and to take responsibility for everything that had happened to me. I realized that I had to make amends if I wanted to move forward. I had to find a way to give back. That’s what led me to spend hundreds of hours learning about homelessness and volunteering with community organizations, and gradually the anger and bitterness disappeared. In its place, I found hope that the city could work together to make housing the homeless a reality.
That’s why I’m partnering with experts in their respective field to organize a citywide town hall, where we’ll showcase new initiatives to help the homeless that our community can rally around.
Join me on March 11th for the Town Hall to #EndHomelessness. Join me in believing it’s possible to provide housing and services to 100% of our homeless and to help those of us who have fallen on hard times get back on their feet.
Bukowski once said, “As long as you have a cube, you can make something happen with your life, but without those four walls and a roof, you’re just gonna end up as nothing.” That’s what I fight for now. The chance for everyone to have their cube. The chance for everyone to be something.