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September 23, 2021 43 mins

Reframing our language is an important step to understanding the root cause of social issues in our world today. Homelessness doesn't always mean someone lacks a community, nor does having a home mean someone feels safe. The unhoused include people who have fled their own homes like refugees or people who cannot afford to keep a house. Housing status isn't the only way many would describe their identity, nor does it provide an accurate view of their well-being. It is more complicated, and we must avoid generalizing and oversimplifying. Instead, we must focus on housing stability and why so many Americans live on the edge, one medical bill, one utility bill, or one argument away from becoming unhoused. 

 

For this episode of Force Multiplier, Baratunde is joined in conversation by two guests, Darice Ingram and Matt Rosen. As a program assistant at California State University, East Bay Darice focuses on wellbeing both inside and outside the classroom. Through her work, she provides at-risk students with warm meals, temporary housing assistance, emergency funds, and more, supporting them on their path to graduation. Matt Rosen is the chief program officer for Habitat for Humanity, San Francisco. Matt underscores the importance of looking beyond housing as a commodity and focusing more on building and sustaining communities that our children will enjoy living in. And finally, we hear from Mike King, President, and CEO of Volunteers of America. Mike has seen firsthand the struggles of America's unhoused. Understanding that this life circumstance could happen to anyone and that we should treat everyone with a level of respect and dignity is where we must begin as we look to support those in our communities.

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:04):
Welcome to Force Multiplier, a new podcast about leveling up
the impact we can have in the world through our relationships.
I'm Barretting day Thurston and in collaboration with I Heart
Radio and Salesforce dot Org, i sit with leaders from
across the public, private and nonprofit world who are forging
partnerships to tackle some of the toughest challenges facing us today.

(00:27):
Welcome back to Force Multiplier. You are the force that multiplies.
I think I'm gonna keep saying that until somebody tells
me to stop. Today we're talking about housing stability. I'm
consciously not using the term homelessness or homeless people because
the lack of a place to reside doesn't always mean

(00:48):
someone lacks a community. In many cases, they feel quite
at home despite not having a house. Also, their housing
status isn't the sole way many would describe themselves in
terms of cap during their identity. Terms like the homeless
generalize and simplify at the same time. Instead, you're more
likely to hear in this episode about people experiencing homelessness

(01:12):
or unhoused people. As a way to lend a bit
more respect to human beings who lack access to stable housing,
The unhoused may also include refugees who have been forced
to flee their own home. That instability is a growing issue,
so many in the United States are living on the edge,
just one medical bill, one utility bill, one argument away

(01:36):
from becoming unhoused, and that precarious nous is about more
than just residential units. As with our previous episodes on health, equity, nutrition, insecurity,
and the skills gap, this topic is interconnected with a
host of issues including mental health, jobs, housing policy, domestic abuse, racism,

(01:57):
and more. In this episode, we're doing something different. We've
got three guests with three unique perspectives. Our first two
guests joined me in conversation at the same time from
the Bay Area, which I will always honor by calling
the Ya Area. It's a region filled with contradictions, including

(02:19):
extraordinary wealth and extraordinarily unaffordable housing options. So if we
can make progress in the Bay we can make progress
anywhere in the USA. Theres Ingram is program assistant at
California State University, East Bay and with the focus on
the well being of a student both inside and outside
the classroom, her work provides at risk students with warm meals,

(02:43):
temporary housing assistants, emergency funds and more, supporting them on
their path to graduation. Matt Rosen is the chief program
officer for Habitat for Humanity San Francisco. You may think
they just build houses, but as Matt shares, they also
built part otnerships, equity, stability, and legacy. Derese and Matt

(03:04):
have recently been part of a cross sector collaboration designed
to address the challenge of housing stability in the Bay Area.
Later in the episode, we hear from Mike King, President
and CEO of Volunteers of America, an organization you may
know little about, the one that deserves to be part
of every conversation. With a presence in over four communities nationwide,

(03:27):
supporting close to one point five million Americans, Volunteers of
America provides a lifeline to so many families facing eviction, vetch,
struggling with mental illness, and people re entering society after
being incarcerated. Let's get to it. What's up, y'all? Thank

(03:53):
you for being here. I would love each of you,
starting with Therese, to introduce yourself. I am ingroom with kelstices,
base basic needs and coach leadership and consulting to Hey,
everybody My name is Matt Rosen. I'm Chief Program Officer
at Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco. I'm really happy

(04:15):
that you're both here. So Matt, let's start with you.
We've all heard of Habitat for Humanity. You build houses
for people who need houses. It's like the most basic
and essential function. And some of our listeners may have
even volunteered in putting some of these houses together in
their local communities. But there's more to the organization. Can

(04:37):
you share more about the organ who it serves, and
more importantly, how do you serve the people in need?
So Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco focuses on creating
affordable homeownership opportunities. So what's unique about our work that's
different from many other affordable housing developers is that we're

(04:58):
creating opportunities for people to own their own homes, which
was something we're really proud of. We're an affiliate, which
means that we focus on a region which is probably
the highest cost region in the whole country, San Mateo County,
San Francisco, and Marin County. There's an incredible need for

(05:18):
affordable homeownership across the spectrum for extremely low income folks,
for folks that we're trying to serve, and we're part
of this continuum of housing, but also being able to
create housing opportunities that allow folks to build equity where
people can not only have a safe and secure place
to live, where they're guaranteed a place to live, but

(05:41):
also where every dollar that they put into their mortgage
is a dollar that they're going to get back, which
they can help create a sense of legacy and stability.
We all know there's an enormous racial wealth gap in
this country, and that wealth is so critical to allowing
people to stay in or step into the middle class.

(06:04):
We're really excited to be able to continue to contribute
to affordable home ownership in one of the highest cost regions,
particularly in neighborhoods which have been traditionally excluded, particularly communities
of color, which is an area that we do a
lot of work in. Matt hit me with the breakdown
quickly of how habits At in San Francisco creates this

(06:25):
pathway to affordable home ownership and equity. It really takes
a village to build our housing. Because we've got our staff,
our construction team are volunteers and the homeowners themselves were
all coming together to build our homes and we're really
proud of that. Thank you. Deres. You're up here in
the US, we have an increasing number of people who

(06:48):
are finding it difficult to have a house, but also
find that it's important to be a part of a community.
That houselessness alone isn't necessarily the only challenge. There's this
based human desire to be part of community as well,
and paired with housing that allows us to flourish. At
cal State East Bay, you have this holistic view of

(07:09):
the student inside, the class and out, and I want
you to connect the dots between the university's Basic Needs
initiative and your Pioneers for Hope program and how it
ties into this conversation about unhoused folks. Yes. Absolutely. Unfortunately,
students as they're making the transition to come to college

(07:29):
feel that it's so important to be in college that
they'll make sacrifices to be there because they understand the
importance of having an incredible education. Cal State East Bay
as a lot of first generation students who understand why
it's important to take the education lead and to continue
their education to either come out of poverty, to advance

(07:53):
family and to build legacy, and in that being a
first generation student, they may not have enough financial aid
or enough finances to make all of those dots connect.
So that means that they may take the initiative to
stay in school even when they're unhoused. So at cow
State Eastpect we have a commitment to our students to

(08:15):
help them meet their basic needs while they're getting to
the graduation finish line. So that means that we I
don't want to say normalized, but we really want to
make students feel comfortable and know that sometimes there are
gaps in finding housing, and there are gaps in having
enough food, and there may be gaps in clothing and

(08:36):
recognizing that we live in the Bay Area or housing
is tremendously expensive. We've created systems and programs that engage
a students in being involved in basic needs. For instance,
at orientation, we talk about basic needs and that there
may be a gap and you may have a need
for food or you may be temporarily unhoused for myriad

(09:00):
of reasons. We normalize having the conversations, we normalize connecting
with mental health, and we normalize bringing the whole student
to cal State East Bay. So you come with your
family as a backup and support. Maybe you're coming as
a foster youth and you may not have that same
family structure. We normalize you belong here at cal State

(09:22):
East Bay, and if there is a gap, let's work
together to help feel that need and connect you to
programs resources both on campus, off campus, and throughout the community.
I love that you're removing the stigma associated with not
having your basic needs met. And we have so many
stereotypes about unhoused people, and you just flip that the

(09:43):
idea that people would sacrifice their housing to pursue their education.
It says a lot about us as a society that
that's a choice people have to make. Yes. I think
it says a lot about us that the educational institution
is stepping in to fill some of these gaps and
not some other part of our society. I d so
thank you, and I'm sorry that you're in this position

(10:04):
to have to try to help in this way for
something so very basic. I feel an honor inner privilege
to be able to connect and to be trusted. There's
a lot of conversation happening in all kinds of media,
social mainstream everything in between about lack of housing, housing, unaffordability,
housing instability. What do we each of you think we're

(10:27):
getting wrong in that conversation? Well, for me, I feel
like we see sort of housing as a commodity, and
I think we need to treat housing as a right.
We need to do whatever we can to ensure that
we are investing in housing. Housing is part of the
way that we invest in our young people, we invest

(10:49):
in our health, we invest in our future. Is really
a part of how we sustain our communities and how
do we build and strengthen the kind of units that
we want our children to have for our folks to
live in. And the more that we think about it
like that and reframe it, I think the more likely
will have the kinds of range of affordable housing options

(11:11):
that we need in our communities. And to read obviously
same question to you, what are we getting wrong in
this conversation? Many conversations we're having a us versus them
versus and altogether, so I think taking some ownership and
responsibility for each and every one of us to create
and build both the sense of community and how will

(11:33):
that impact both the housing So being able to cast
off and say it's someone else's issue or someone else's problem,
whether that be government or whomever you want to blame,
allows you to escape your own personal responsibility to degrade
the community. And if you start looking at it that

(11:53):
I have a responsibility to create community thereby creating housing opportunity,
And what can I do in my sphere of influence
to impact that will allow us to take ownership, understand
our own personal power and authority, and do something with
that in our spirit influence. Y'all are both in the

(12:15):
Bay Area the area what's up? And Matt, You've been
working in nonprofits for a long time, You've been associated
with Habitat for Humanity for a long time. And this problem,
this rise of people who have unstable housing or no
access to housing at all, it's continued, It's gotten worse,
it's gotten less affordable. What's changed from your point of

(12:39):
view over these years to make the problem worse. It's
such a complicated question. It's such an important question and
one that I think we're continuing to learn more about.
For be Uh, this area has become more and more wealthy,
and the gap between the rich and the poor has
grown so dramatically that the opportunity has really accelerated the

(13:05):
cost of housing, and we've brought in a lot of jobs,
but we've failed to create housing for people who are
often cleading our houses, cooking our food, driving our buses.
We stopped investing in social housing many many years ago,
and the amount of money that's available for affordable housing

(13:28):
has dropped year after year after year. That wasn't always
the case. There was a time when we did, but
also at that time, only white folks had the access
to social housing. And since then, we've made it very
difficult for communities, particularly communities of color, to get access
to affordable housing. And then in this country and in

(13:50):
this region in particular, we've made it even more difficult
through exclusionary zoning and a whole range of efforts that
have kept people out of communities where we've got good jobs,
excellent schools, and so there is an enormous challenge and
lots of different strategies that we're going to have to

(14:11):
continue to push in order to level this playing field
and make sure that moderate and low income folks have
this opportunity. In terms of the strategies that we use
to combat the rise of on house people have we
gotten better any of them. I think we have, and
I think it's taken the in some ways, the COVID

(14:32):
crisis to get us there. I think there's a buch
deeper recognition about the crisis and the crisis not just
affecting the most extremely low income folks, but also people
who are working families who can't afford here. I mean,
it's frustrating that we've had to get to this point,
but I think that there is a lot more attention.

(14:52):
There's a lot more focus. I've seeing that attention at
the state levels. At the local levels, there's a lot
of pressure on local governments to change their zoning laws
to open up their communities to low income people, and
there's a lot more visibility around that. Those are for
mere reasons to feel hopeful that we are starting to

(15:13):
see some changes, but we have a long way to go.
I grew up in d C myself, and I can
remember the arguments in the eighties over extending the metrorail
by communities that didn't have it and didn't want it
because it would bring those people, those people couldn't afford cars,
undesirables into the neighborhood, and we collectively pay a price

(15:33):
for that lack of investment and instead of living in
that environment to day. In so many places across the country,
I've read thereas that if we threw twenty billion dollars
at this problem, we could largely resolve the challenge of
unhoused people in the US. And one of the elements
of that solution is something called permanent supportive housing, where

(15:54):
you're pairing housing with case management and supportive services. Have
used seeing firsthand how this model can help the most
vulnerable folks in our communities. Absolutely, that is part of
the process that we use for unhoused students. As part
of that work, our students work with a care team,

(16:15):
and that care team includes case managers, it includes mental
health professionals, it includes every one of the deans of
our departments on campus as well. There's other supportive services
on campus just to make sure a student who is
unhoused has the support that they need, both academically, emotionally physically.

(16:39):
So we take care of the physical temporary issue to
get you a safe space, and in that housing, that
safe space has everything that you need from food to
walking in with toiletries, with blankets. It's set up as
a home so you can just take a breath when
you walk in. There's meals available for you, there's meals

(17:02):
for you to cook, and then there's case managers that
are assigned to help you walk through the process to
understand that this may not just be a temporary thing
or there were steps that we're in play that got
you to this place. We're gonna work together to help
you move from this just bumping the road to get

(17:25):
you to permanent housing. With the academic peace, we actually
include the deans because if you're going through some challenges
and you're trying to do finals, you're trying to do homework,
you're trying to handle all of these other things as
well as advocate for yourself, then that makes it difficult.
So having the deans there to say we're working with

(17:46):
the student, but not retraumatize the student to have to
tell their story over and over and over again. That
the deans are here just to say, Okay, this student
is going to need some extra time and will let
you know how much time that is. So creating that
care team across the campus, up and down from administrators

(18:09):
to everyone else around the campus to just help keep
you on track with your goals and to understand that
this is just a bump in the road. I think
it's a model that is working tremendously. It's also allowing
our students to learn about advocacy. So through this process,
they're working with our local Hayward government, they have a

(18:29):
tiny Holmes project, they're advocating at the state level, they're
advocating at the national level, and they're much more aware
of not only what's going on, but their voice and
demanding that their voice be heard. So yes, sparitunity absolutely,
the supportive peace to me is the key is the model,

(18:49):
and it shouldn't just before emergency situations. I want to
get each of you to define what's a home there?
What is a home? Consider stuff? It varies. A home
consists where you feel safe, and I think the definition
is a little bit different for everyone. So if you've

(19:12):
been consistently unhoused, home sometimes for you can feel just
a temporary space that isn't necessarily safe. So with our students,
sometimes when we provide this respite safe, this is the
first time they've seen a home in this caliber. Many
of our students are surprised about the level of care

(19:36):
that we've taken into decorating, into providing welcoming messages inside
of the space, to provide a warm blankets and decor
that says you're welcome here, and it's not hey, you
have to be here a certain amount of time and
you have to leave. And the fact that you have
the ability to create your own safe space, so we

(19:57):
provide opportunities to put your own art on the wall
to make a space that feel safe. Yeah, a sense
of belonging and a sense of ownership absolutely, Matt. What's
what's your definition of a home in additioned to all
these beautiful ways that you've described it there, So I
think it's a place where you can dream. It's a

(20:18):
place where you can envision a world for yourself and
for your family, where you've got the security and the
stability to take risks to grow and be yourself. And
it's about the community that you create. This work that
you're both involved in sounds like it's way too much

(20:39):
for one institution or one type of entity. Who do
you think the key parties are in actually providing stability
and affordable housing. You have to have help from both
community and government right now to build both infrastructure, an
opportunity for afe and available housing. Matt mentioned some of

(21:03):
the barriers that we've seen. There has to be a
partnership with government, education, community developers. But the first commitment
is be willing to look at the barriers that were
either erected or that are being sustained for the benefit
of a few, and be willing to look at those

(21:24):
and then tear them down. Tear down that wall. But
when you're tearing down walls, you start talking about collaboration
and derese and Matt had the chance to do just that.
In February, Salesforce dot org announced its inaugural Impact Labs challenge.
Impact Labs is a program designed to co create technology

(21:46):
solutions that help address some of the toughest social issues
we're facing. That collaboration involves nonprofits, educational institutions, Salesforce partners,
and employee volunteers. The initial cohort focused on how they
could use technology to reduce friction for people experiencing homelessness
and strengthen the work of the service providers and organizations

(22:08):
who support them. Both case workers and unhoused people deal
with repetitive data collection, antiquated systems of paperwork, frustrating separation,
of databases across county lines, and the painful expectation that
people have to constantly retell their traumas in order to
get and keep access to essential supportive services. With a

(22:30):
focus on the San Francisco Bay Area as a test case,
the hope was to create a scalable solution that could
be leveraged by nonprofits and communities all across the country.
They basically applied a lot of the thinking that goes
into making our online shopping experiences smoother and simpler, but
applied it to the much more consequential situation of a
lack of housing. The result with service match and open

(22:54):
source app that streamlines the process of finding, making and
following up on service referral, freeing up a case manager's
time for more meaningful client interaction. While the tangible output
is so important, I wanted to understand more about the
experience the reason that shared, so let's hear how it

(23:14):
really works. Matt. Let's start with you here. Why did
you decided to be a part of this collaboration. I
think I was mostly compelled because I wanted to get
a chance to meet people like Therese and all the
other incredible folks who are on the front lines addressing
affordability and homelessness, And so for me, that was why

(23:36):
I joined. What about you? Why did you join? I
saw it as an opportunity to really find some systemic
or technical tools to help impact an issue that we're
all very passionate about in a very real way. What's
the process y'all went through to arrive at this distinct
solution that ended up being called service Manage. It was

(23:58):
a lot of question and answer. Are us digging deep
about needs and pain points? I think out of pain
sometimes comes very great solutions. So we talked about our
pain points that we had in serving our communities and
what each one of us knew, and that all came

(24:19):
together in a way that provided a technical tool that
was accessible. Anything else stand out to you, Matt, about
the process of kind of identifying this and coming to
service Match as as possible solution. Sure, one of the
things we did was we got a chance to either
learn about or sort of relearn a concept cult design
thinking where we had a chance to really think about

(24:40):
the end user, what they needed, what they wanted. We
all got a chance to sort of think about how
that applied in our community, and then brought this all
together into a set of thoughts and ideas about what
was the sort of the most important, but what was
the most practical strategy that we could offer both as

(25:00):
sort of nonprofit folks on the affordable housing side and
tech people who could deliver the solution. We call this
show force multiplier. So mad I'll start with you. What's
been the force multiplier, that thing that provided more leverage,
level of distinction, and level of value from it that
made a bigger difference in this collaboration. Well, I do

(25:23):
think that it's this opportunity for folks who don't normally
come together in the same place. We're pushed together from
really different sort of universes. We sort of had to
bring our different approaches and insights and and that I
think is pretty cool chemistry that was really helpful. It
would be lovely if we had a chance to continue

(25:45):
to do that. We've got to keep creating those incubators
where folks who are really coming out this work from
very very different perspectives a chance to do that, because
I think there is amazing things that can happen that way.
The reason your work with CSU you and helping meet
these basic needs especially around housing stability. What's been the

(26:06):
force multiplier there? The commitment to collaboration as we came
into this inside of the start of COVID. Having that
opportunity also meant that we were able to do some
national work and pivot on a very national way that
I don't know I would have been able to happen
without that sort of collaboration and commitment. How did you

(26:29):
get started in public service? Thereas what was your road?
My mom and church? It wasn't an option in my household,
and so I didn't realize it had a name. I
just knew I needed to serve and volunteer, and I
fell in love with it. It's part of my life,
it's part of my passion. My job is to release

(26:51):
advocates and leaders and help them see their own personal brilliance. So, yes,
it was a childhood thing that I didn't realize was
happening an so it was an accident on purpose, big
and small at the same time. A lot of contradictions
wrapped up in Matt. What about you? How did you
find your way into work like this? I think I

(27:15):
always had a vision for service, but where I've ended
up now had a lot to do with the work
that I had a chance to do in Detroit, where
I worked for community economic development corporations doing both housing
and community building work and really getting a chance to
learn from folks on the ground who are trying to

(27:35):
repair homes, rebuild communities, and just got really inspired by
folks who were working at the grassroots with no resources
and no investment, pulling together communities, organizing them and it
just seems like the place to be. I think a

(27:55):
lot of folks tune into this show because they're inspired
by people both of you, and they want to invest,
they want to do more. They hopefully they want to
take ownership and build that community. If someone's listening to
this and they're all fired up and ready to go,
what advice do you have for them, Whether it's how
they approach their career path with their current role, who

(28:17):
want to more directly get involved in some service work
like this something related to this topic. I think that
folks need to look as closely in their neighborhood and
their communities as they can, and not just think about
the folks who are in your community, but maybe the
folks who aren't. How do you create space and opportunity
to welcome new people into your community. How do you

(28:38):
fight to build a community that you want and you envision.
There's so many opportunities for all of us to work
with our neighbors to make our connections. I think the
mutual aid networks that have emerged around COVID have been
it's always the most one of the most beautiful things.
It's sort of a shining example of what we can
all do with each other and for each other. And

(29:00):
so I think those are really great examples of us
collectively helping each other in our communities. And theres somebody's
out there wants to do more. Where are you pointing them?
I know a lot of times when you want to
get involved in something, you run gung hole, but really
do some internal work about the space that you are
or are not creating for those around you. Getting to

(29:21):
know your immediate neighbors, starting small, looking at your local government.
Can you get involved in your community economic development? Can
you get involved with helping your neighbors stay in their
housing and that could be just helping to help them
pay a bill or help them to connect with resources
in and around your community. Changing the inside to help

(29:45):
change the outside and acknowledging the humanity of our fellow
human beings. Thank you, Theres, thank you Matt. It's been
a real pleasure talking to both of you. Likewise, thank
you so much. Been a pleasure. Thank you. You're listening

(30:14):
to a podcast called Force Multiplier, Action meets Impact. Now
you've probably grown to expect ads inside your podcast, but
we're gonna do something a little bit different to walk
the walk. We're gonna take a quick break and hear
from one of the organizations featured in this episode. Be
right back. This is my house. My parents helped building. Now,

(30:37):
you don't get wet when it rains, I don't get
too hot or too cold inside, and I don't have
to worry when the winds blow. This is my house.
This is my house. This is my house. This is
my house, my house, my house. I can play with
my sister, I can play with my brother. I can

(30:57):
play with my mother, my father, my and my family,
my family. This is my house. This is my house.
I can study, I'll can be safe with my family.
This is my house. This is my house. This is
my house. This is my house, night house, Night House.

(31:17):
That's my house. Visit habitat dot org to find out
how you can help more families like mine have a safe,
decent place to call home. Hey you, it's Baritone Day,
host of the podcast you're listening to right Now. When
I was a kid, my mom told me to come
up with a system we could live under after democracy

(31:39):
had failed. Yeah, my mom was intent. I haven't finished
that assignment, but I did make a podcast. It's called
How Do Citizen? With Baritone Day. It reimagines citizen as
a verb and reminds us how to wield our collective power.
Find seasons one and two and whatever podcasts after using
right Now? In season three, All about Tech drops in October.

(32:02):
Learn more at how does Citizen dot Com. I can
tell you I've been thrown out of more neighborhood meetings
that I can count. Most of neighborhoods don't want affordable
housing being built down the street, and yet right now
they probably drive by affordable housing every day and don't
realize that's what it is. As President and CEO of

(32:27):
Volunteers of America, Mike King has seen firsthand the struggles
of America's unhoused people. With so many people living paycheck
to paycheck, the margin of error, as he describes it
is super thin. One illness, one bad case of the flu,
one missed rent check, and you can find yourself without
a roof over your head. Understanding that this life circumstance

(32:51):
could happen to anyone, and that we should treat everyone
with a level of respect and dignity is what Mike
cares about. Passionate well. Volunteers of America was literally formed
a hundred twenty five years ago, always to serve America's
most vulnerable. We were formed in there was an incredible
income gap in America at that time. Sounds familiar, doesn't

(33:13):
it to today? So therefore we were involved in serving
the homeless, dealing with housing, serving addition treatment, and literally
the first organization to ever do what's called prisoner re
entry programming, and that is working with folks coming out
of federal incarceration to help them re enter society and
is still today serving those same populations. Volunters of America

(33:35):
literally serves and touches the lives of one and a
half million people annually. And we do that not just
with volunteers. We do that with actually I call it
a sixteen thousand member family. We have sixteen thousand employees
in over four hundred communities nationwide. We love being in
the housing business and being in the affordable housing business

(33:58):
in Volunteers of America. Housing to Build means that you
can identify housing that truly you can afford without totally
making you pour to the point that you're going to
be challenged in providing food and clothing and everything else.
So it must be a reasonable percentage of your income.
It can't be of your income. But the reality is

(34:18):
that shortage of affordable housing creates more homelessness. So we
truly look at trying to support affordable, permanent supportive housing.
We literally house over twenty people every year, good dignified,
affordable housing that we would all be proud enough to
put our mothers in and be happy to go visit
her there and be proud that she was there. But

(34:38):
there is just this dramatic shortage throughout the nation. Most
of our properties have waiting lists. At the same time,
we actually operate numerous shelters in major cities and hear
all kinds of stories from people coming to us, and
many times it's just one illness away, one bad case
of the flu. If you're an hourly wage worker and

(34:59):
then you have to miss work and you don't have
paid days, and then you've you miss one rent check
and you fall behind, or any stating an illness of
a child where you've had to stay home and be
with that child. It's such a delicate balance because it's
not unusual in our country, as we know, for folks
to live paycheck to paycheck, and so the margin for

(35:22):
ERA is so thin. It is so thin that literally
people you would have never imagined would be in this
case can suddenly find themselves in that circumstance. So it's
not the kind of thing that we should ever look
down upon as we look at these folks, we could
all find ourselves in that circumstance. So we want to
make sure that everyone who is housed with us understands

(35:43):
that we always want them to retain their dignity, their respect,
and to be respected and treated in a dignified manner
by the folks that work with them. I continue that
with luneers of America, we couldn't do hardly anything without
a partner. We must have those partnerships. We're serving folks

(36:06):
that are in the safety net, if you will, and
maybe even below the safety net of services many times
we are we are partnering with federal agencies. Good example
of this would be the Veterans Administration with their voucher
programs in providing housing and then services to serve our
servicemen and women, and then give services in the area
of PTSD and moral injury. And then when what we

(36:27):
mentioned earlier around our work with the incarcerated, major major
partnerships with the federal Bureau of Prisons, where in most cases,
when you'll hear about someone in a community serving in
a federal halfway house, much of the time that's the
Volunteers of America facility that is contracting, if you will,

(36:49):
with the Bureau of Prisons to provide those re entry
services to allow that person coming out of incarceration to
reconnect with their family, reconnect with job opportunities, and start
to connect back a society in a successful way. And
at the same time, we have a wonderful relationship with
the Home Depot Foundation and the Home depailt Foundation actually
provides volunteers, and they are volunteers that are knowledgeable, Okay,

(37:12):
they know what they're doing. They are absolute contractors, if
you will, in their private time, and they are magnificent
they have been key in helping us reinforce housing properties
for veterans. They have been a major source of that
over the last seven eight nine years and they literally
saught us out and since then they have funneled millions
of dollars but frankly also millions of volunteer hours and

(37:35):
helping refurbish and expand the housing capacity for our veterans
and families with veterans in our properties nationwide and continue
to do it to this day. And so we don't
even try to do any of this alone, okay, I mean,
we can't even begin to do any of this alone.
It is truly a village for all of us and
we must embrace it. You know, technology is an opportunity

(38:04):
as the way I would define it. So right now
at Mooliteers of America we have a special Technology task Force.
We are studying that to really challenge ourselves and say
what do we need to do in the next three
or four years to be ready for the next decade.
And so really the force multiplier is to truly embrace
leveraging the collective force and bargaining power of our organization

(38:26):
through a common use of expanded technology, where we could communicate, design, embrace,
and engage all across the nation the kinds of resources
that it must take to be the game changer. But
to do that effectively, we must embrace technology, and we
must embrace the unknowns are unknowns about that technology so

(38:51):
that we can truly become that force within the housing
industry and within the industry of providing these wonderfully and
more equitable in ronaments for people to live in and
raise a family and thrive. It's gonna take that kind
of collective capacity. I would encourage people to absolutely get

(39:13):
involved with nonprofit organizations that are working in an area
that they have a dramatic interest in, because literally, by volunteering,
joining the board of directors, joining a committee or a
task force, I have witnessed many times in my career
someone who was on my board or on a committee
became my next great staff member and literally have a

(39:33):
whole new career in funal and also seeing how good
it makes them feel. Frankly, you can't put a price
tag on that, and so I'm always looking at my
board members and volunteers and what not. Of boy, wouldn't
it be great to have them doing this all the
time because there's just gifted, talented people, and I have
so many good friends and folks on staff who literally
came to us that way by being engaged as volunteers first.

(40:14):
So I am feeling a lot of things after these conversations.
On the one hand, I'm upset. I'm upset that so
many people's basic needs are not being met, and when
they are, it's by institutions which should literally be the
last resort, colleges, nonprofits. I just have to acknowledge my

(40:37):
disappointment and our system which places that burden so far
at the edge of society. On the other hand, I'm
feeling really grateful and impressed that people like Therese and
Matt and Might exists and are so committed. They share
so much in common with their different approaches, but what

(40:58):
they all land on is insisting on dignity agency ownership
for the people experiencing homelessness in different ways. They're taking
holistic approaches to this problem by offering these comprehensive sets
of services that go well beyond just a place to sleep.

(41:19):
They're offering people pride, ownership and belonging, something we all deserve,
and it's an important reminder all of us deserve that
because all of us could face housing instability in this society.
It's not just the extremely low income people, it's all

(41:39):
kinds of us who could end up in this situation.
Our guests today remind me that when we come together
with our different perspectives focused on the same problem, we
can emerge with different solutions, more effective ones. So please
do what they say, volunteer. Contribute your strengths to our

(42:02):
collective capacity. Start with your neighbors. Let's work together to
create stable, secure, and welcoming homes for all. Do you
want to dig in more on today's guests and the

(42:24):
work they're doing, or maybe you want to understand what
action you can take in your community. Either way, go
to Salesforce dot org slash force Multiplier. That's one word,
force multiplier. Force Multiplier is a production of I Heart
Radio and Salesforce dot Org. Hosted by me Barritton Day Thurston.
It's executive produced by Elizabeth Stewart, produced by Van Chian,

(42:46):
and engineered, edited and mixed by James Foster. Join us
next time for more stories of how we can change
the world, one relationship at a time. Listen to Force
Multiplier on the iHeart radio app, Apple podcast or wherever
you get your podcast. M
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