No Way Down?

no elevator
Originally uploaded by Tatiana Cardeal

Rob Campbell has a great post that has generated a lot of discussion about the plight of homeless people and the potential that we have to actually DO something about it. There are a lot of good ideas and actionable programs surfacing in the comment section — even some links through to social programs that are already achieving great outcomes.

But which way and in which direction should we go?
As I have said before and will say again … it is not that we have a dearth of ideas. Ideas are easy — solutions are hard. Outcomes are difficult to deliver. Consensus is almost impossible to achieve. And sometimes people simply do not want help or want to change.

One program that I loved recently was Choir of Hard Knocks. Johnathon Welch who is the driving force behind the choir turned good intentions into actions, and good ideas into a tangible event that really transformed lives. Perhaps there are lessons to be learned from the Choir and the approaches taken.
Don’t forget to join the debate over at Rob’s site!

13 thoughts on “No Way Down?

  1. Thank you for your support on this as well as your publicity – interesting things are moving ahead, but until we make something happen … anything as long as it is positive for someone … I will be a pesky little shit and push and push and push.

  2. Gavin,
    I hope I can say this in a way that doesn’t come off as insensitive or arrogant.
    In the U.S., we cannot solve the plight of the poorest among us as long as we look to government as the answer. I remember growing up in the dark days of the ’50s, when Blacks suffered every indignity imagined. That said, in many ways the poor among them were better off then. Why?
    In the broadest of generalities: African-Americans coveted the family, they embraced the church, they practiced personal responsibility, they acted in the most dignified ways and they demonstrated great courage. Without those attributes, I doubt the Civil Rights Movement could or would have happened.
    I use African-Americans as an example only. The great majority of poor in the U.S. are not African-Americans. My point in the example is that our culture of people need to solve poverty problems, and it starts with the poor themselves. Government programs in the U.S. more often than not cause backlash and are terribly ineffective.

  3. Lewis … thanks for your perspective. And in many ways, I agree. Solutions can’t really be imposed from the outside — but need to be generated from a genuine desire for change. Sometimes our situations will not get better until we, personally, start to make the changes that will allow us to find and commit to options.

  4. Lewis, with all due respect, that is the biggest load of bullshit I think I have ever heard. And I grew up in Thatcher’s Britain so that’s saying something.
    To suggest that solving the problem starts with the homeless and that they need to “sort themselves out first” is cold and shows a remarkable lack of insight.

  5. Lewis, quite frankly your attitude makes me feel ill.
    Of course you are entitled to your opinion but the insinuation that the poor either [1] have themsleves to blame or [2] have to take action to get themselves out of it is outrageous – though symbolic of a US culture which believes if you ‘work hard you will prosper’.
    The problem is whilst that might of true 20 years ago [and even then I’d question it], it’s certainly not the case now … as you and millions more like you will unfortunately discover as Asia’s power and ingenuity starts encroaching on America’s core business and strengths.

  6. Sorry Lewis but thats completely wrong. Most homeless people have gone through hell to end up where they do. You dont live in an alleyway unless you fucking well have to.
    The indignity and ignorance of people can destroy their confidence and self-believe. Yet even then there are many factors that prevent those who are strong enough to have ambition from getting back on their feet:
    Lack of an address for employment
    Lack of clean clothes
    Lack of access to dental care
    Im sure you dont mean any harm, but please think more before you talk that way about people who suffer indignity and ignorance everyday. You wouldnt have said to Martin Luther King that the black population of America were the ones who should be responsible for getting rid of racism… that would have been ludicrous.

  7. Lewis, honestly, do you think somebody actually enjoys being poor, living on the street, having to beg for money in order to get some food? I have worked closely together with a magazine of the homeless here in Hamburg, Germany. If you carefully listen to their stories, sure there are points in their life when they took the wrong decision. But most of them just had bad luck. And from their stories I knew that even you can end up on the street in the glimpse of years. Just because things go wrong. And all of those people at the magazine would have done everything to get a small part of their old lifes back. A small flat. Enough money to buy some food. Clean clothes. Things that bring you back into society. Because for society you simply do not exist as long as you don’t have a place to stay or a job. And some of the men working for this magazine were the proudest men I’ve ever met in my life. We have a quite good social system here in Germany. That means people can live quite good without working. But these men did not want any pittance from the government. They fought their way back into society by working really hard for this magazine. They got on the streets by bad decision and bad luck. But, please, don’t tell me they have to sort things out before we can help them. Because all of them would work harder than you and me can imagine to get back into the thing we call “normal life”.

  8. Dear Gavin,
    I’m afraid your comment does in fact come across as astoundingly insensitive and ignorant. Shockingly so to be honest.
    The viewpoint you express, which I find analogous to that most conservative republicans in the US, speaks to me of a genuine lack of understanding, willingness to understand the real issues, as well as empathy towards the poor. And it scares me.
    Look, I regard myself as a dinosaur in many ways in terms of having conservative values, which the industry I work in, advertising, makes me acutely aware of, but this discussion shouldn’t be conditioned to the objective of arriving at a single, pure, platonic truth as regards which (one) direction to take to solve this issue. The battle simply can’t be won on one front alone.
    The solution starts with an attitude; the attitude to reach out to the poor in whatever way we can as individuals in the belief that every little contribution helps. If this spirit is lost amongst us and all the good Samaritans would lie down to die, hope in this world would die with them.
    To say that “our culture of people need to solve poverty problems, and it starts with the poor themselves” is fluffy and delusional. This starts with you and me Gavin, not the poor themselves. We have a huge responsibility here, one we cannot hide from. So what are we going to do about it? What are you going to do about it?
    (I sincerely hope that I’ve completely misunderstood your point.)

  9. a proud stars and stripes american baby boomer who was once in the forces and now works as a business consultant with an inability to be humble.
    you might mean well, but let me tell you anything you say about the homeless or the poor comes across as insensitive and arrogant.
    go and spend a day really talking to the people you probably drive past in your 9 litre hummer then tell me its all their own fault.
    this is why america has little respect in the world, but then you probably dont care as theyre all 3rd world imbeciles.

  10. Well clearly Lewis has just been given a broader view of the world than that which is often found in quite a few areas of the U.S.
    But really this mindset pretty much all boils down to money. The States is a marvelous country with much to admire but in general its worst blind spot (which by its very nature is blind) is that so many assume money is the center of the wealth creation model. Christian religions that worship wealth in the States are in robust yet a quick check of some basic commandments such as love thy neighbour debunks that sentiment pretty quickly judging by your comments.
    Now making money is fine and dandy but a quick litmus test shows that happiness is not commensurate with the nation’s wealth (therapists do extremely well and Nigerians score higher on the happiness index), obesity is epidemic (eating is popular I guess) and the prison population is above 2 million: The US currently incarcerates more people than any other country in the world.
    The reason why U.S. culture encourages a view of people in poverty is not because they haven’t made the American dream. Its because the flip side of the equation which is pathologically taboo, is that as I’ve outlined briefly. There’s also an American nightmare.
    One last point Lewis. American government has never been bigger than at present. Its vast. And if that’s not as you say “the answer”, then would you remind me what would be the question again? Someones pockets are getting lined and it sure isn’t the needy.

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