Now Is The Time

Ending hunger, homelessness, and the cycle of heels.

In the United States more than 633,000 people experience homelessness every night.  48.9 million Americans are at risk of hunger - including one in five kids. Nearly 50 million Americans are living in poverty.  Hunger, homelessness, and poverty are devastating for individuals and our communities. This is unacceptable, unjust, and illogical.

We know that effective, commonsense policies like SNAP and EITC lift people out of poverty. We know that Rapid Rehousing and Housing First models reduce homelessness. We know that innovative philanthropic endeavors like Collective Impact and Social Impact Bonds can transform the way government, nonprofits, and local communities work together to tackle our toughest challenges. We know we can band together and create change.

Now Is The Time to get this done.

This site will feature a collection of personal reflections, original ideas, and smart thinking from around the country and the globe on the issues of hunger, homelessness, and poverty.  We'll check in with thought leaders and discuss ways we can create change. We will also highlight ways to leverage two of my favorite things - National Service and the philanthropic sector. 

Why don’t we have the courage, bravery, and audacity to end homelessness?

Six years ago I received the awful news that we lost my mom. Her body and soul could no longer keep up with the devastating impacts of chronic homelessness. Her will to live was compromised by the lack of hope and help. Her legacy cut short. Her dreams unfilled.

I think of my mom often, but lately I have been thinking a lot about how brave she was. We often talk about bravery when someone fights an illness or persists through a life struggle. But think about the bravery it takes to wake up every day – on a bench, a street corner, behind a church, in a stranger’s house, in a shelter, or on a bus.

The courage it takes to get through that first night without a roof over head. To work through the pain, abonnement, and exhaust of homelessness.

The audacity it takes to continue on – when most people won’t look at you and those who do shake their head with judgment, pity, and disgust.

The bravery it takes to enter yet another rehab facility. To will yourself to go through the steps again and again, knowing that when you leave you don’t have a home to return to

To courage to share your story – your life - with another case manager or social worker.

The audacity to help a friend, who needs even more than you.

The bravery it takes to beg for help when you’ve spent your whole life giving to and providing for others.

The courage it takes to smile when you see a rainbow or any glimpse of hope.

The bravery to say no – even when others don’t understand. To say no to an unsafe shelter, an unhealthy partner, or help that comes with unwelcome strings.

The audacity needed to still dream – about a house, a family, a future. My mom used to dream a lot about have a goldfish. Boy do I wish I could give her that goldfish!

My mom was one of the half million people who experience homelessness on any given night. She was privileged to be white and despite awful conditions not have to deal with the racism that so many others experiencing homelessness deal with. Think about that. While most of us curl up in our bed, more than 500,000 people are homeless in America tonight. She was pretty special and I’m darn sure that many others share her courage, audacity and bravery. How else would they go on?

But I’m not so sure that those of us who want to help share that courage. That audacity. Or that bravery. As neighbors, voters, social service workers, advocates, philanthropists and civic leaders, we have failed to give these very brave people the rest and respite they need.

I’ve been working on ending homelessness for more than a decade (shutout to those who have done so for many more) and you often I hear:


-          That can’t work.

-          We tried that before and it didn’t work. Or did it?

-          That’s too expensive.

-          Let’s assemble a task force, work group, advisory committee, or steering committee. Better yet maybe an innovation group who can create an app for that!!!

-          Can’t they just be more accountable?

-          What does the consultant say?

-          Who will pay for that?

-          Not In my Backyard.

-          Yes In My Backyard…..except for that shelter, supportive housing building or safe injection site.

-          Why don’t they just go home?

-          It’s their (anyone but me) responsibility to pay for it.

-          Can’t we just put them on a cruise ship? An island? Or anywhere but here? (NO!)

Ending homelessness isn’t rocket science. It’s about providing people with housing and the income (earned or unearned) they need to keep that housing and access to other resources they need to thrive. This is America – of course we can do that for our neighbors. If my mom - and hundreds of thousands like her - could mobilize the courage, audacity, and bravery to survive on the streets to New Haven, CT for many years, why can’t we be braver in our approach to homelessness?

Why do we allow a local neighbors in LA to block housing from moving forward? Why do we allow Seattle to get bogged down in the “Seattle is Dying” narrative rather than build more housing and shelter now or debate whether we need more resources (WE DO!)? Why do we allow our Presidential candidates to not prioritize this issue? We do we allow the NIMBY advocates to define this issue?

Let’s be braver. Let’s have the audacity to say that we need to invest in housing solutions at the scale of the problem. Let’s have the the courage to call out those who disagree.

Let’s bring our neighbors, our families, our moms and dads and kiddos inside.

The Fight Goes On

Homelessness was not her choice.

Or her destiny.

She loved deeply.

And was loved more than she ever knew.

Her future shattered by mental illness and poverty.

Or maybe a family that let her down.

She coped with alcohol and tears.

And found comfort in what little she controlled.

Her opportunities faded.

Or her struggle got too big.

She had no job.

And no place to go.

Her home became a storage locker. The church. The Emergency Room.

Or wherever she felt safe.

She saw the judging eyes of long lost friends and neighbors.

And tried to hold her head up high.

Her frequent calls were screams for help.

Or tearful tales of setbacks and obstacles.

Housing was her only hope.

And seemed so out of reach.

She found no shelter on that hot July day.

Or maybe no more hope.

Her homelessness ended in hopelessness.

And broke hearts along the way.

We didn’t get to say goodbye

Or share one final hug.

There were no final words.

And no more memories to share.

She didn’t pass in peace.

Or in the comfort of her home.

Her dignity was gone.

And her dreams put to sleep.

Her future died with her that night.  

But her fight was passed on.

It’s been five years since homelessness took my mom from us. In that five years we’ve seen huge shifts in the policies and politics of homelessness.

Today we have a federal administration that believes we’ve solved poverty. We haven't. We face a national  affordable-housing crisis. We continue to treat people experiencing homelessness as criminals. And the racism that helped elect Donald Trump is causing too many people of color to end up on our streets. 

Housing should be a basic human right. But it is not - yet!

Ending homelessness is possible. Housing Ends Homelessness. 

To honor my mom. I encourage you to take one of these actions.

Vote: 2018 will be one of the most important elections of our lifetime. If we are going to change the way we address homelessness and poverty, we need to elected leaders who have the courage to invest in solutions at the scale of the problem.

Donate: National Alliance to End Homelessness, Columbus House, Solid Ground, National Low Income Housing Coalition, and United Way of king County are a few of my favorites. 

Speak Up: Bust myths about homelessness with facts. Tell your friends, Social Media followers, and family members that everyone deserves a safe, decent, affordable place to call home. 

Support Journalists: Seattle is lucky to have incredible journalists covering homelessness right now. We need more of this. 

Advocate for Housing. While income inequality, racism, discrimination against LGBTQ + communities, domestic violence, substance abuse, and mental health are drivers of homelessness - housing is at the center of the problem and solution.