By Lisa Gustaveson
What difference can one person make?
Just ask the homeless child who calls the back seat of a car home. While Mom is frantically trying to find a shelter that has space for them, the nervous kindergartener knows she has a new backpack thanks to the Project Cool school supply drive. Your donation makes a big difference to her.
Or, when you roll down the window of your car and hand the homeless vet a few bucks to get something to eat? When you meet their eyes and smile, you might be giving them the strength they need to get through another day on the street.
As the Director of the Committee to End Homelessness in King County, Mark Putnam is responsible for the development and implementation of the community’s Strategic Plan. It’s a very difficult job, filled with meetings, policy research and negotiation.
I am honored to call Mark a friend, and even prouder to witness the value he places on relationships and simple acts of kindness. You see, it’s not easy (some would say impossible) to measure the impact of a kind gesture. That doesn’t stop Mark from acknowledging the importance of those gestures amongst official policy and strategies.
Read his heartfelt post below, and reflect on how your simple acts of kindness and generosity make a big difference to local efforts to end homelessness.
|By Mark Putnam, Director of the Committee to End Homelessness in King County
It takes all of us — and our friends, and our friends’ friends — to help the 10,000 or more people experiencing homelessness each day in King County.
This past week a few of my friends, and their friends, blew me away with their compassion and activism.
Helping people manage the heat. Last night, I got a call from an old high school friend. He’s currently living in his car, homeless as a result of health issues and significant health costs. He’s working full-time, but not able to rent in King County. He’s concerned about people living outside not having a place to dispose of garbage or human waste – and worried that they do not have enough water to survive the heat of summer. He’s been bringing gallon jugs of water to people living in tents by the stadiums in Sodo, doing what he can, even as he struggles to get by himself.
Getting landlords involved. Another old friend, Rebekah, has launched a program at her company, Zillow, to connect vulnerable renters with housing. The Community Pillar program works with landlords who are open to modifying their screening criteria to help people with potential rental barriers. These landlords will get a Community Pillar badge on their Zillow profile, and renters will be able to find them in the Zillow directory to view active rental listings.
Helping people who are living in their vehicles. A group of friends – Sinan, Graham, Rex, and Bill – and their vast networks of friends – rallied around a group of people living in their RVs in North Seattle. Rex from Homeless in Seattle organized a garbage cleanup. Subsequently, the RVs got notice from police that they needed to move their RVs or be impounded. These guys held informal meetings of RV residents, neighbors, Seattle Police, and local business owners to discuss and problem solve. Their grass-roots leadership has led to finding stable places for a few RV residents, but others still need places to go. Please do what you can to help.
To each of you – I feel honored to be your friend, and thank you for all you did this week, and will do next week, no doubt, to support our neighbors in need. We all have resources we can share – jugs of water, a website to recruit landlords, parking spots for people living in vehicles – but the most important thing we can share is our hearts.