On any given night there are between 500,000 and 600,000 people experiencing homelessness in the United States. That’s about the population of Wyoming! In Tulsa, where I live, there were 1,063 homeless individuals counted in the 2022 Point-In-Time (PIT) Count. The 2023 count was finished in late January and the number will be higher.
Those numbers feel overwhelming because they are overwhelming! This is a real problem.
However, I believe we can make a real difference to end long-term homelessness. While people will continue to become homeless, they do not need to stay that way.
I am aware this is a lofty goal but that does not mean it cannot be done. I am proposing a different approach, and need your help!
I believe crowdsourcing is the approach that can lead to new insights and discoveries that may otherwise have been missed. By connecting the brightest minds throughout the world, we can and will generate the most valuable and impactful solutions to ending homelessness.
Instead of supporting homeless initiatives on a macro level, I want to do it on a micro level. I want to motivate people to help support “Bob” or “Mary”. Using crowdsourcing as a foundation, I want to drive the public to focus on specific individuals in need within their community, then take the responsibility to work with local agencies to get those individuals whatever they need to be secure again.
Simply put, “What does Bob need?”, “How can we get Mary started on a new life?”
Take that list (it will be long!) and figure out how to make sure Bob and Mary get whatever they need. We are not taking the place of agencies and Social Workers or Case Managers — most of whom are understaffed and underfunded — we are going to help them!
Many people already donate their time and money to worthy causes. That’s great! But what if you knew the person you helped? What if the nameless/faceless donation was tied to an actual human? A person who would benefit directly from your efforts.
To make this happen, I have created a plan. The first step is to learn. I am currently researching best practices from around the world — homelessness is not limited to the U.S. In 2023 virtual meetings have become the norm. This makes it easy to attend meetings from around the country, several on the same day. This is a terrific way to get different perspectives and learn different strategies.
We need to understand what works and what does not work. What has been tried before? What are local initiatives that we can support? How can we bring new insights and discoveries to fix a problem that has gone on far too long?
Second, use what we learn (along with what we know already works) and inspire syndicates of individuals and organizations to focus their energies on helping specific homeless individuals. Whatever it takes! Show this approach works and then duplicate the effort. In Tulsa’s case, 1,062 more times.
One of the organizations I am studying is Family Promise, an organization that started out as a local program 30 years ago in Union County, New Jersey and has grown into a nationwide network of over 200,000 volunteers. Another great program is the BeHeard Movement here in Tulsa. It is a wonderful non-profit that provides showers, haircuts, and laundry services and is now working on permanent supportive housing.
I am confident there are many programs out there that are working and having positive outcomes. Do you know of a great program in your city that we should know about and share with others? Please, fill out the form below.
If you want to get involved, please submit your idea below.
The goal is to end homelessness. With your help, I know we can!