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.

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