About two weeks ago, this article ran in the San Francisco Chronicle exposing the fact that there are over 2000 homeless public school children living in San Francisco. San Francisco residents were shocked; though people working in social services and nonprofits were not all that surprised as they know the numbers all too well. Following the article, the local NPR affiliate, KQED did this radio show about the issue.
I was driving in the car listening to the KQED program and my eyes filled with tears. I've posed this question before, but I continue to wonder, how can a country like ours, with our wealth, allow children and families (or anyone for that matter) to be homeless? Imagine waking up as a 10 year old in a shelter? What would your day be like? Would you be able to concentrate and excel in school? Of course not. It is unfathomable.
I called Steve from the car and said, "Something has to be done...this is disgraceful..." Steve, always the practical one, said, "This is isn't something we can solve over the phone (to which I laughed, as I sometimes think just that!)...we can help individual families with shelter by giving to a nonprofit but this requires bigger societal change." We talked about it more that night and Steve said, "Wouldn't it be nice if a really large donor stepped forward and did something that would not just be a band-aid but would have a long term impact."
Well, believe it or not, that is exactly what happened!
Action and Generosity
After reading the Chronicle article about homeless children, San Francisco residents Marc and Lynne Benioff donated $1.5M to provide shelter and long term solutions for homeless school children and their families.
As set forth in the article, the Benioffs worked with Mayor Lee's office and joined forces to address this problem. I admire and respect this approach and think it is the smartest way to bring about real change on this issue--and many large scale social issues. Many problems require nonprofits, the government and individuals to work together--homelessness is just such an issue as there are so many facets to it.
I find this act of giving particularly inspirational for a number of reasons. First, no matter how much money one has, a donation of $1.5M is a lot of money and enormously generous. Secondly, quick action was taken by the Benioffs; they didn't waste time--they contacted the Mayor's office, came up with a plan, challenged the City to act swiftly and achieved results. Lastly, it sets an example for all of us. Action and generosity achieve change. We might not be able to donate $1.5M but it does make us ask ourselves, "What can I do," and then inspires us to do it.
Is this the end of homeless children in San Francisco forever? Of course not. But what it is and what both the news coverage of the issue and the Benioff donation accomplishes is three-fold: (1) it has educated and informed people of the issue; (2) it has given scores of children a place to call home--the most important outcome; and (3) it shows all of us that change can be made and that we each have the power to bring about change in our way.
I'll keep you posted on this issue and I plan to begin looking into homeless children in other cities and will report back on that in the future.
Thank you for reading! And I hope you are enjoying this holiday season!