Miles remaining in challenge: 63.39
With one gift, you can nourish a child and fuel an adventure. Our circle of champions for kids is matching all gifts dollar-for-dollar. Your generous gift today will have double the impact in the life of a child. https://t.co/6pcFomoopq pic.twitter.com/4yJ4d4SB6T
— Second Harvest Food Bank (@nwncfoodbank) June 22, 2018
Finally, we reached another milestone: less than 100 miles left for me to make the 367 challenge goal!
Miles remaining in challenge: 93.5
LGBT people are disproportionately food insecure — meaning a larger percentage of this group doesn’t have enough money to feed their family or themselves, relative to the general population. #feedingchangehttps://t.co/rY5cgdQ109 pic.twitter.com/00tbcs1eaA
— Second Harvest Food Bank (@nwncfoodbank) June 19, 2018
Miles remaining in challenge: 100.56
When you finish your work day or work week what do you do with your free time? Do you spend it doing for free something you get paid for at work? Probably not, so you might wonder why someone whose full time job is working for a nonprofit organization would spend any of his precious personal time volunteering for other nonprofits. Well, in my case there are multiple reasons, like what purpose that nonprofit serves or what constituency it is helping, but one of the more selfish reasons is that it helps me identify areas in which I can improve at the day job.
A perfect example of what I’m talking about is a role I’m filling this year for a national trade association with which my organization is affiliated. I knew going in that it would be time consuming, but now that I’m halfway through the year I can tell you that I didn’t realize the half of it. There have been far more conference calls, emails, webinars and face-to-face meetings than I dreamed were possible. There have been unanticipated issues that have required extra meetings and consultations. And, of course, there have been “people being people” issues that have required a lot of attention and more than a little finessing. In other words, your average volunteer role in a trade association.
So how is this helping with my day-job performance? It’s reminding me what our volunteer leaders go through with our organization, and it’s making apparent the things I can do to make their lives easier. Here’s just a small sample:
Much like a chef benefits from sampling other chefs’ cooking, those of us who work for volunteer led organizations can learn a lot by volunteering for other organizations. I’ve truly benefited from being the volunteer who works with staff and observing how they do things, taking notes on things they do that I don’t – and should – and noting things I wish they would do, or not do.
Here’s an interesting learning point: I’m hesitant to share with them the things I wish they would do, or not do, because I don’t want to seem like I’m telling them how to do their jobs. Yet, I’d very much appreciate my own volunteers giving me that same feedback and now I worry that they won’t/don’t for the very same reason. Thus, probably my biggest takeaway is that I need to actively solicit their feedback.
As for my fellow volunteers/members I can say without hesitation what my most significant takeaway is: no matter what I do, or how I do it, someone is going to disagree with me or dislike what I’m doing. That feedback loop is a constant and it can wear you out, so it behooves me to remember that my volunteer leaders are experiencing the exact same thing.
Note to self: increase my budget for “counseling” sessions at local watering holes.
At the day job I work for a trade association that represents the apartment industry, thus the companies I work with are on the front lines of our nation’s housing situation. You may not be aware of it, but we do indeed have a housing situation that can be best summed up as this: we have too many people who don’t make enough money to pay for the housing that’s available, and/or we don’t have enough housing units that are affordable for people at the bottom of the income scale. Even worse, we have a LOT of people who, thanks to any number of life events, lose their housing and thus end up living in flop houses, cars, tents or under a bridge.
Because apartment owners and managers provide over a third of the housing in the U.S, and a majority of the rental housing, they are often looked to for a solution to the problem of affordability and homelessness. It would be great if they could snap their fingers and solve the problem, but due to the complexity of the issue (static income, increases in the costs of everything from health care to food, lack of housing inventory in general, etc.) this is not something housing providers can solve on their own. That’s not to say that people in the industry aren’t trying, and a perfect example is a woman named Lori Trainer who has been working for years down in Florida to address homelessness in her community. (Here’s a link to a video about some of her work, and I’ll embed it below as well). She just wrote an article for Multifamily Insiders titled The Story Behind the Sign that helps put homelessness in perspective. Here’s an excerpt:
We’ve all seen the homeless person with the sign on the side of the road and when we do, many people think these thoughts. What the people offering these judgments don’t realize is that the overwhelming majority of people don’t “choose” to be homeless. In fact, nearly 50% of the homeless in America are working. Why are they homeless then? Well, that is the “564,788 person question” (the number of homeless on the street each night according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness).
The causes of homelessness range from sad to tragic. Job loss, foreclosures, divorce and natural disasters such as the tragedies we are seeing in the Midwest and in Canada are a few examples. These storm victims certainly didn’t choose to be homeless or do anything wrong but they are indeed homeless now. If their insurance isn’t perfect, takes a year to work out the details or worse yet, doesn’t pay, what do those families do? They have lost everything; their homes, belongings and jobs. They are now homeless…
Another very prevalent and sad demographic in the homeless arena are families. Approximately 206,268 were identified in the last count. Divorce, domestic violence, death, single parents and low wage workers are all in this category. Children are resilient but often suffer irreparable damage when forced to live in vehicles, shelters or motels for weeks or months on end. 60 Minutes did a great job highlighting this epidemic:https://youtu.be/L2hzRPLVSm4 (Be sure to have tissues handy!)
Then Lori goes on to point out that there are many, many more people who are just a misstep away from becoming homeless themselves.
Many people think it could never happen to them. But the truth is that one out of three people are two paychecks away from being homeless. There are 12 million renters pay more than 50% of their annual income for housing and 37 million people living in poverty in America. Simple fact, a minimum wage worker cannot support a household and pay rent. There is a critical shortage of affordable housing in the US and, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition; approximately 200,000 units are destroyed annually. That combined with the “aging out” tax credit population and the mile long waiting lists for section 8 vouchers, we have the perfect storm.
One of the initiatives we are working on at the national level in the industry is to identify the programs that industry groups are participating in at the local level around the country. For instance, my employer is working with Partners Ending Homelessness to help match their clients with available apartment units in Guilford County. What we’ve found is that like many things in life, the concept is simple but the implementation is complex. Still, we’ve seen progress and we will continue working because this is an issue that will be with us for the foreseeable future.
That’s just one initiative in one community, but that’s the kind of effort we’re going to need in every community around the country to address homelessness, because quite frankly this is not an issue that can be solved from Washington. What our national leadership CAN do is address the big picture issues that underlie homelessness, including:
Another chief culprit is an under-performing, and some would say under-valued, education system, but that’s not just a Washington issue so let’s not throw it entirely on them. The point is that homelessness is the most severe symptom of an ailing nation. If we are truly measured by how we treat the least of us, then as a nation and a community we have a lot we need to do to heal ourselves.
Here’s the video about the effort in Florida that Lori’s been a big part of: