The Future of Philanthropy
The biggest challenge surrounding homelessness is the absence of empathy and the unconscious level of dehumanization and dis-empowerment that occurs. Homelessness is an issue more prevalent than we are willing to recognize and yet it remains unaddressed by the media and popular discussion. Most people are not willing to walk a mile in someone elses shoes; especially of those who cannot even afford them.
What we often fail to recognize is the fact that those who sleep on the streets are not there by choice. No one wants to be begging on the side of the road; no one wants to spend their lives on the street instead of in an office; no one wants to sleep out in the cold instead of a warm bed. We are too quick to judge and assume that it is drugs, alcohol or crime that has banished these people to their situation. We don’t give them the benefit of the doubt and we don’t understand that they are products of their circumstances. We don’t afford them the chance to be people just like us.
The biggest step one can take towards helping is to realize that there is a need for help and to realize that the “problem” that needs solving is not a problem – but a human being who deserves dignity.
Homelessness is a challenge that all communities face and it affects all communities. Therefore it is everyone’s responsibility to address this issue. . The value of a blanket, clothes, food or even a smile is often overlooked. It is impractical to assume everyone can offer those on the streets a home or place to stay. However, it is basic humanity to assume we can do what is possible, no matter how small the gesture or gift, to help those facing poverty and homelessness.
The easiest way to make a difference is to start small. Instead of throwing away produce or food items you know you won’t use, bring them in the car and hand them to someone who can use it. If you over catered, bring a plate of food to someone who doesn’t have the luxury of a full meal every day. Too often we focus on the bigger aspects of aid and relief and, caught up in politics and plans, end up failing to help. Mother Theresa managed to help thousands with the philosophy that, “If you cannot feed 100 people, then just feed one.”
Once we are doing everything possible on an individual level, we can start on the bigger picture. Homelessness and poverty are not caused because there is not enough space or resources but rather that they are unequally distributed. Our focus should be on moving these resources from where they are abundant to where there are insufficient. As students, it is difficult for us to focus on houses as that would require us to be considered a legal adult; however, we can focus on obtaining basic resources for those living on the streets. I also believe that we can use advancing technology to do this. I think the most accessible and effective way to distribute goods is through an App.
This App could be designed in a manner similar to Uber: with a pick-up and drop off destination. However, instead of people, the vehicles would transport resources. Restaurants, supermarkets as well as individuals could go on the app and state what they have that they can donate. This will then be seen by drivers who can collect the goods and get them to where they need to be. These trips could be sponsored by travelers who can choose to donate a certain amount when they pay for their ride. This app would make it easy for people to get resources (such as excess food, blankets, clothes etc.) to the people who need them instead of being thrown away. This app is a simple design, has the ability to reach thousands of people, reduces waste and helps with the easy distribution of goods making it simple for people to help those who are homeless.
Homelessness is not a category of people, but rather a situation that can be changed. Awareness of the problem is the biggest step towards helping. Ensuring that you are doing what you can, from a ‘hands on’ level, before you try tackle the entire concept of being homeless, enables you to remain distant from the politics of the situation and guarantees that you will make a difference. If the App could become a reality, that would be wonderful! However, what is important is that we are constantly discussing and working towards the goal of eradicating homelessness and poverty by assisting those in the situation from whichever level we are capable of.