LifeMoves CEO Aubrey Merriman reflects on World Homeless Day, observed internationally every year on October 10, and calls on our community to take action.
Last May, I had the opportunity to share my personal journey in front of nearly 800 people at Tipping Point Community’s benefit. I spoke about how I went from one of the poorest neighborhoods in Canada, battling the stigmas of poverty, to leading an organization with a mission to end homelessness in Silicon Valley. I described myself as an unapologetic hope-a-holic.
How did I do it? Spoiler alert – it was through the support of those around me and organizations like LifeMoves that allowed me to access opportunities that changed the trajectory of my life. Now, I have the privilege and the ability to create those opportunities for others and instill a sense of HOPE.
Today, on World Homeless Day, as I reflect on the growing crisis of homelessness in our communities, it’s easy to start to spiral into feeling hopeless. It’s estimated that there are over 11,800 people experiencing homelessness in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties with over 36,000 people experiencing homelessness across the Bay Area. Currently, for every person who returns to stable housing, 2-3 more fall into homelessness.
But without hope, there is no success. And without success there is no hope – so we must always celebrate the wins across the region. LifeMoves is one of many organizations and agencies involved in Santa Clara County’s Continuum of Care (CoC), dedicated to solving and preventing homelessness. In 2020, the county adopted the Community Plan to End Homelessness with the goal to move 20,000 people experiencing homelessness to housing by 2025. Through all the hard work of the CoC service providers and system partners, including LifeMoves, over 8,300 people have been housed since 2020. That’s 42% to our goal in only two years!
At LifeMoves, our success is driven by the hope that we can help each one of our clients return to stability and on the path to stable housing. And our hope is fueled by our vision of building thriving communities where every one of our neighbors has a home. It takes time and effort, but the solutions we are looking for – the successes we are in search of – the hope that drives us are closer than we think.
Our goal is to continue to spread that hope. We’re excited to embark on the journey to serve more clients each year with our Navigation Center in San Mateo County set to open by the end of the year and two new Homekey sites in Palo Alto and San Jose in development for 2023, as part of a portfolio of new
Being hopeless and complacent is easy. Hope takes resiliency, perseverance, and dedication. Although this is a special day where people around the world are bringing awareness around this issue, people are experiencing homelessness every day and the streets should not be a waiting room for a safe place to call home.
Preventing, alleviating, and eliminating homelessness requires a multidimensional approach. No one can do this alone. More affordable housing is the critical component of any supportive housing continuum and permanent supportive housing is key. Interim supportive housing solutions that bring people indoors quickly are important tools in the spectrum of housing. It’s not an either-or, it’s both, and MORE of both. LifeMoves is committed to being part of the collective solution – it will take all of us.
Today (and everyday), I challenge you to stand with LifeMoves and spread hope. Here are ways to get involved, both big and small, and create opportunities to change the trajectory of the lives of people experiencing homelessness in our community:
- Self-reflect: With homelessness so visible in our communities, many have become desensitized, and, in some cases, some have a visceral reaction to those experiencing homelessness on the streets. It is not a crime to be poor, nor is it a crime to experience homelessness. Take time to reflect on what your reactions and biases are and why you may have them. Hear firsthand from Joe, a former LifeMoves client, and his journey to becoming the father he wanted to be with the help of LifeMoves. You can also read more about other LifeMoves clients – do any of their stories surprise you or go against preconceptions you had about being unhoused?
- Have conversations: Gather your self-reflections and have conversations with others – your family, neighbors and coworkers – about what homelessness looks like in your community and the solutions that might work to help those in need. At LifeMoves, we’re continuing to share more about what has made our modular, supportive interim housing model work. We’re continuing to have conversations with cities, counties, partner organizations, and private entities to join us in our work as part of the solution.
- Volunteer: After having your conversations, take action by volunteering with LifeMoves or another service provider in your area. You can even mobilize your network and coordinate a group volunteer day. Volunteering allows you to make personal connections and both directly and indirectly help those in need in your community.
- Donate: Consider contributing what you can to LifeMoves to help end homelessness in Silicon Valley. Your donation helps LifeMoves support, shelter and serve nearly 1,600 people every day. You can also host a donation drive and schedule a drop-off or purchase these items through Amazon for the families and individuals we serve.
Whatever way you choose to take part in World Homeless Day, my hope is that it is a catalyst to you becoming an agent of change for our unhoused neighbors for the days to come. Thank you for sharing hope, taking action, and being part of the solution to ending homelessness.