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. 

Dear Mom - I’m Sorry Homelessness Is So Cruel

Dear Mom,

It has been four years since they found you on the beach in West haven, CT. Without a pulse. Without a breath. Four years since that awful day when the trauma of chronic homelessness finally took its toll. I miss you more with each passing day as you are absent from the milestones, celebrations, and mishaps of life.

I miss the sweet sound of your voice saying I love you.

I miss your desire to help others and stand up for justice - even when you had nothing.  

I miss you asking about my day, my travels, and when the heck we would get married. Don’t worry, you haven’t missed that.

I miss your thirst for reading and news.

I miss sending you care packages with your favorite items. Face cream and hair dryers were important even when you didn't have a safe place to sleep.

I miss the excitement you shared when you thought about moving from the streets into your own place – the meticulous details of how you would set up the apartment, the comforter you would choose, the fish bowl you would get. Simple things that make a house a home. Simple things you take for granted when you are housed.

I miss the love you had for dad - even during the worst of times. I wish you were here to care for him during his latest cancer battle. You would be proud of him.

And I miss your hope that we could go back to the way things once were.

But we can’t go back. And as much as I miss you – I don’t miss the life you were living. Homelessness is cruel, lonely,  humiliating, painful, and exhausting. It was for you and for us.

I don’t miss the daily arguments about where you would sleep.  An emergency shelter, a hotel, a laundry mat, or outside the church in our hometown. No one should make these choices.

I don’t miss worrying that you would be arrested when you would stay in dads storage locker – that one that you set up to look like home.

I don’t miss the tears and pain of you being harassed, hurt, or arrested.  

I don’t miss the ferocious displays of anger, jealousy, and resentment brought on by your mental illness and substance abuse.

I don’t miss the agony we felt every time you went missing for days or weeks at a time.

Most of all I don’t miss the fear of you dying alone on the streets…because that has already happened.

I’ve been traveling the last few weeks and to honor your passing I visited St. Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast. I lit candles - and didn’t even burn the place down. I marveled in the beauty of the Church and the history it has of  welcoming people with open doors. You would have loved it. I'm sorry that you couldn't see it and for so much more. 

I sorry that I didn’t recognize how much your childhood impacted your adult decisions and behaviors. Adverse Childhood Experiences shape lives and you are a prime example.

I am so sorry that you didn’t live long enough to see Connecticut open more Housing First units and reduce homelessness – that is what you needed and what you deserved.

I am so sorry that you don’t have the opportunity to go home. To a place where you could learn, care, and grow old.

I am so sorry that you aren’t here to share your story and most of all that your story didn’t turn out differently. The story that homelessness can happen to anyone. That mental illness is not something to be ashamed of. That substance abuse is a disease not simply a choice. And most of all that the solution to homelessness is housing.

My promise to you is that I will keep fighting. I will keep fighting for the moms and dads and kids and veterans who experience homelessness. I will keep fighting against our current administration (you would be so angry with Trump) to protect and grow affordable housing. I will keep fighting Mom - because you always fought for me and homelessness is a battle that noone should face.

Love you more. Miss you always.



Counting Vehicles. Waiting For Homes.

This morning I saw Seattle in a completely new way. Guided by a kind gentleman who lives in his RV and an amazing Road To Housing outreach worker, we drove through the streets of Seattle to count the number of people living in vehicles. Last year over 1,600 were counted.. The growing number of tents and unsheltered individuals sleeping in doorways provide a visible reminder of our homelessness and housing crisis,. But people staying in vehicles often blend into our busy streets and go unnoticed - unless you live or work (or have an awesome guide) in the area where they are parked. My guides not only knew where to look, they could name the people living in many.

The journey was part of the annual Point in Time Count of people experiencing homelessness. The annual event, newly branded Count Us In, provides an important snapshot of the most vulnerable people in our community. The count is one of several data points that help inform our policies and strategies to prevent and end homelessness.

Like many, my guide became homeless because of our housing crisis. He paid very low rent in a good neighborhood,  where the neighbors liked him and his beloved cat.  Then his landlord passed and his family sold the property. This could happen to any of us.  If you are middle class, you move somewhere else. If you are poor but have family and friends, maybe you borrow money or stay on someone's couch.  If you are poor and lack supports - you often fall into homelessness.  And once you become homeless, it can really hard to get out.

Homelessness takes away a lot. Your basic right to a roof over head, your dignity,  and too often your hope. Having a vehicle to stay in gives you a place for respite. It's warmer than a tent, more private than a shelter, and gives you some control over when and where you sleep. And while you wait to access affordable housing - by saving money, accessing a subsidy or winning the housing lottery - keeping that vehicle can be important and complicated.  As we navigated the dark streets of Seattle,  I learned about the challenges people living in their vehicles - everything from where to toss your trash to where to legally park. It's clear that we can and should do more to help folks living in their vehicles.

The Seattle Times recently published an editorial urging for Real Solutions For Vehicle Campers. I agree. Ending homelessness will require bolder strategies and substantially more affordable housing, but while we work toward that let's make it easier for people to park safely.