April 23, 2010

Finding Our Way Home

Yesterday marked the launch of a 1000 day communitywide initiative to solve family homelessness for kids and communities. Elected officials, CEO's, Pastors and civic leaders from all over nothern San Diego County came together to kick off the Finding our Way Home campaign.

Here is the written version of Chris Megison's presentation:

My Fellow Believers of Change – To each of you that have come today because you believe that solving family homelessness for kids and communities is real…I say to you that the impacts of homelessness on our children have finally met its match. I know this to be true, because today is the first day that the impacts of homelessness on our kids have met YOU!

Today marks day one of FINDING OUR WAY HOME, a 1000 day commitment by people in one community in America who have said: Enough is enough – we will not stand for the children in this community, in my community, to be without a place to call home any longer.

Finding Our Way Home is a grassroots initiative about all of us, working together around a winnable plan, finding our way back to the place that we need to be as a community.

People helping people BY moving families in crisis, our neighbors and ourselves around a vision, a model and a plan to solve this thing called family homelessness. We will do this together, one family, one community at a time.

You are part of this important effort because you realize that, yes indeed, we have lost our way.

In 2010 the impacts of homelessness will now impinge on 1.5 million American children. This means that 1 in 50 kids will lose their home. For most of these kids, homelessness will be a short episode, but for hundreds of thousands of children the impacts of homelessness will be harsh. They will bounce around from sleeping in a car, to getting a motel voucher, to bedding down at an emergency shelter. All the while their moms will desperately try to keep their kids safe.

How many children, you ask…will homelessness seek out and find from our North County community? Based on the reports of 1 in 50, there will be over 12,000 of our kids who will experience losing their home. Most will be episodic or temporary homelessness, recovering within a short time, but for about 1600 children, yes…for one thousand, six hundred of our innocent children…homelessness will be severe. These are the kids that the Finding Our Way Home initiative will reach out and save.

Meantime the impacts of family homelessness bear down hard on communities across the country…as we know; right here in San Diego is no exception. It is expensive to manage the symptoms of homelessness through a “containment” approach. Emergency rooms, crisis intervention, CPS intercession’s, the excessive burdens placed on our law enforcement and justice system and the plethora of entitlement programs reacting to the emergency needs are very costly and largely ineffective towards activating long term permanent solutions. We need a solution.

Hundreds of thousands of families and over one million kids have lost their way.

Hundreds of communities have lost their way as they struggle to deal with this crisis.

But here in the community known as North San Diego County today, for hundreds of families and for our community we are saying that it is time. IT IS TIME TO FIND OUR WAY HOME. Now. It’s time right now to square off against the impacts of homelessness on our kids and communities. And, as you can see in this room those impacts have met some very serious people from all over the North County and from all the different sectors of this community.

Because solving something as tough as family homelessness should not be the job of just the government, the church, or the nonprofits. It takes all sectors of the community: business, civic, church and faith, government, education and individuals working together around a winnable plan to SOLVE family homelessness. People helping people. Not any one sector being expected to solve this thing, but people working together with other people around a plan. Not the government. Not the church. Not the nonprofit. But people in all those sectors, using whatever resources are available, to help solve this thing. Not control it. Not manage the symptoms of it. Not ignore it.

For the purposes of this initiative, the word solve will mean: developing access to permanent solutions. It doesn’t mean giving away free housing. It doesn’t mean cheap housing in and of itself. It doesn’t mean throwing shelter beds and soup bowls at the problem. It means equipping the family with the skills, knowledge and resources needed to defeat this thing called homelessness. Not for a week or a few months, but permanently. Yeah that is a BHAG…a Big. Hairy, Audacious, Goal.

But for us, for the people in this room right now, for the hundreds more who have accepted the call to action, for the dozens of parents working hard every day getting up, suiting up and showing up for their kids, for the 128 of children here now…and for those not here who are waiting for us to help them Find Their Way Home, we simply cannot and will not fail. The term “failure is not an option” was termed by a Marine. I learned that as a Marine and I live by that today. And I am proud to be in this room right now with other men and woman who feel the same way, who live by that same creed.

Folks, we are here to lock arms and hearts around a simple yet powerful call to action to help hundreds of children find their way back home and in doing so, we will all find our way as well.

I think that we have it in us; I believe that you have it in you, to be an American community to say that the impacts of homelessness on our children have been defeated. Maybe we will be the trail blazers for the rest of the country and we will be the first.

But what I do know for sure is that we are going to rebuild hundreds of futures for families and save a lot of little lives. I am so proud of each one of you for stepping up today for our kids and our community. Thank you for standing up to the impacts of homelessness on our children.

April 5, 2010

Seven Families Defeat Homelessness - at Packed Graduation Ceremony

On April 1st of this year I attended an exceptional evening of joy and encouragement, the memory of which will be with me for many days to come.

Hosted by North County Solutions for Change, the event was held at the Lifeway Church in Vista and was the celebration of the graduation of 7 homeless families and their 13 children who had successfully completed their commitment to be self supporting and had just moved on to a home or apartment of their own. The meeting area was packed with people who have played a part in the success of those who would testify. As part of the agenda, each head of the 7 households told their stories, recalling their difficulties before being accepted into the Solutions family, their determination, hard work (sometimes 2 or 3 jobs by the adult) and their appreciation of the support by staff, volunteers and other Solutions residents. Between tears, pride and caring for others were expressed with regularity and many who witnessed this outpouring were in awe of those who spoke. Most of the graduates had come from the depths of despair to a new day of independence and self-confidence. The conclusion of this ceremony was marked by most of the attendees forming a series of circles within other circles becoming a “group hug” and reciting the Lords Prayer.

But I could not help reflecting that the day before many of the temporary winter shelters for the homeless in North County were closed until the next “winter” cycle begins the following November. Where would the homeless go – how would they survive? How would the children enroll in school without having a real address when living in a park or a van and would they be counted in the census? The support by the cities, businesses, caring individuals and faith based organizations has been remarkable and all those who gave funding and volunteer care for the homeless are to be commended. However I have an awareness that this national problem may only continue to grow, particularly if there is not a significant upturn in the economy.

Solutions for Change was founded on the premise that providing shelter was only the first step and that children should have first call on the security of a place to call home. Our mission has not changed and over the 10 years of its existence over 1700 souls have worked their way out of homelessness to being in a place of their own.

Perhaps the model of Solutions for Change could be made available to those who will not settle for half the answer. As Chris Megison is fond of saying – “Give a man a fish and he will eat today. Give a man a fishing pole, teach him how to use it, throw in a tackle box...and he will eat forever”

Gene Ford
Solutions for Change

Finding Our Way Home, an initiative to solve family homelessness will be launched on April 22nd! April 22nd will mark day 1 of this 1,000 Day Initiative led by Solutions for Change. Leaders from all sectors of the community here in San Diego have joined together in order to put forth this initiative which will change our communities and futures for our children. The 1,000 day goal will be to equip 200 homeless families with the skills, knowledge and resources they need to fight their way back… to a home, to a community and to dignity.

We invite you to come a long with us on this 1,000 day initiative in order to witness the incredible transformations which will change futures for our children - for today, tomorrow and forever!