Sept. 27, 2021

How to solve homelessness? Give people homes

How to solve homelessness? Give people homes

Sometimes the most complicated problems require the simplest solutions. If we want to help the nearly 600,000 Americans who will go to sleep homeless tonight, all we need to do is give them homes, right?


Honestly...yes. Homelessness is a massive, unfathomably tragic problem, but it’s one we designed ourselves (more on that in the episode). And if we designed the problem, we can design the solution (definitely more on that in the episode).


Today on Thinking Is Cool, I’m taking 40 minutes to begin better understanding the nuanced labyrinth of homelessness in America—how we got here, what we’re doing, and when this can become a problem of the past. I hope you’ll join me.


Because chances are, there’s a lot we’re all getting wrong about homelessness. Now’s the time to make it right.


Listen to today’s episode to start—together.


Some very important thank yous:

  1. To Adina Lichtman, founder of Knock Knock Give a Sock, for being the kind of person who’s quick to answer any call, both literal and metaphorical.
  2. To J.R., a neighbor and hopefully someday a friend, for being so forthcoming with his story of homelessness in New York City.
  3. To Fundrise, which is Thinking Is Cool’s Season 2 presenting sponsor.


And to you! For listening! And hopefully for sharing! You’re the best.


Follow me on Twitter and Instagram and hey while you’re here might as well sign up for my newsletter.


Hello everyone! Welcome to Thinking Is Cool, the show designed to make your next conversation better than your last...even if you sit back, sigh, and say “damn...can’t believe I’ve never thought about this before” during said conversation.


My name is Kinsey Grant and I’m a journalist, garden variety overthinker, and the host of this show. Regular Thinking Is Cool listeners might know that my singular ambition here on Thinking Is Cool is to inspire conversations that might not otherwise happen. To encourage people to join me on my own journey of attempting to view the world more thoughtfully.


As the name of this show might suggest, that ambition gives us a whole heck of a lot to think about. And today is no different—we’re going to take 30 minutes to consider why we’ve never been able to solve homelessness.


Big topic, big-brain approach. Let’s jump in after...two things:

  1. Thank you so much to this season’s presenting sponsor Fundrise for making this episode possible. I’ll tell you more about what Fundrise is cookin’ up in just a bit.
  2. Thank you to all of you—I’m halfway through my regular season programming and it’s bonkers to think how cool it is that I get to think about stuff for a living. It’s thanks to all of you listening, offering feedback, and sharing this show.


Now...nothing is off limits. Everything is on the table. Take it anywhere. And remember, thinking is cool and so are you.


*Fade out intro music*


You know the saying about teaching a man to fish? I’ve never been much for fishing, but I’m a huge fan of old adages, especially when they have to do with helping our fellow man. I can’t stop thinking about this fishing one as I get ready to talk about today’s topic.


Let me back up for a second: Today we’re going to think about something that I’m sure someone at some point in your life has told you is impossible. We’re going to consider what we can do to end homelessness. Because this is a problem that’s persisted chronically essentially since the dawn of’d think we would have a solution by now, right?


The reason we don’t is because it’s really hard to unlearn centuries worth of misplaced blame and unfair judgment, backwards expectations and systemic injustice. The reason no one has solved homelessness is because it’s a problem so big, the solutions are unfathomable in size.


I’m under no false impression that I, Kinsey Grant, a 26-year-old woman without a public policy degree, can suddenly solve homelessness. But I do know that I can start to change my behavior. I can recognize that the sharp sense of empathetic pain in my chest when I walk by someone who calls a stoop with a sleeping bag a home...probably means this is something worth exploring further. I can use my insatiable curiosity to question the status quo.


I can be more compassionate toward my neighbors experiencing homelessness. I can stop ignoring a problem just because it feels too big to solve. I can start thinking differently.


And that brings me back to fishing, kind of: Give your average housed person a volunteer opportunity and they’ll help for a day. Teach your average housed person how to completely rethink what it means to be homeless and they’ll help for a lifetime.


That’s what my effort is today. I’m guessing most of you, like me, have volunteered to help the homeless at some point in your life. For me, it was tutoring children who were at risk of homelessness back in high school and more recently attending a community dinner with homeless neighbors here in NYC.


But the truth of the matter is that those helping hands were offered a very long time ago. They perhaps constituted a couple of days of the last 26 years of my life...but for people experiencing homelessness, it’s rarely a days-at-a-time thing. I’ve filled my days with memories and books and trendy outfits and fancy dinners and plenty of new apartments that distract me from the devastating reality of homelessness in my city; my homeless neighbors have had no such respite from reality.


And that’s by design...our design. Homelessness is a solvable problem, if only the people in power were willing to really, actually solve it. And if they were? We’d see loads of progress in other social issues like school absenteeism, food insecurity, drug and alcohol abuse and addiction, unemployment—the list goes on. Homelessness is often at the center of those epidemics. Solve for homelessness, solve for a whole host of other things.


Allow homelessness to remain an unacknowledged problem we’ve all historically ignored because it makes us uncomfortable? Allow all those issues I just listed to flourish.


Now is the time to recommit ourselves to helping our fellow humans. Because after the 18 months we’ve collectively had...this problem is only getting worse. With the eviction moratorium ending and the imperfect distribution of federal relief funds remaining imperfect, the need for rethinking homelessness in America is growing more urgent with every passing day. time like the present to consider how we end homelessness. And, in case it sounds too good to be true, I get it. Important context incoming: We might not ever be able to ensure that everyone who wants a home has one, but we can do this, as set forth by the Interagency Council on Homelessness: “An end to homelessness means that every community will have a comprehensive response in place that ensures homelessness is prevented whenever possible, or if it can’t be prevented, it is a rare, brief, and one-time experience.”


Who wouldn’t want that to be reality? Who wouldn't want to extend the possibility to meet our basic human needs to all humans? It’s not partisan; it’s not up for discussion. It’s a truth universally acknowledged that ending homelessness is good.


All it all of us becoming a little more thoughtful toward our neighbors living in shelters, on the street, in their cars, in motels. We can affect change, and it starts by thinking. I mean, how hard is it for you and me to be a little more thoughtful toward your neighbors?


Do you really want to be the kind of person who ignores the plights of others because that’s easier than talking about them? I don’t think anyone who cares enough to listen to a show about thinking hard is that kind of person. Homelessness is a human problem with human solutions.


So let’s use our human brains to get to work.


*Roll transition music*


Prior to making this episode, my experience with homelessness, especially of the chronic variety, was fairly run of the mill. I’d read the sad New Yorker pieces, yes. I’ve for years lived in New York where homelessness is a fixture of everyday life, yes. I’ve identified that sinking feeling of not knowing what to say when someone experiencing homelessness asks for change on the subway, yes. But there was so much I didn’t know.


And it started with how I defined homelessness and what it looks like in my own mind. I want you to do the same—think about what homelessness looks like to you.




ADINA: Actually in New York City street homelessness, like the folks we see who are on the streets experiencing homelessness is actually only 5% of homelessness in New York City. Wow. 95% are living in shelters, living in cars, right. Living in motels, and to take that statistic further, and even further of all those families who are experiencing homelessness in New York city, 70% are families out of 60,000 people who are homeless, 25,000 are children. But if you ask the typical guy, what does someone who's homeless look like? It looks like. A guy with long straggly hair, a shopping car, maybe a cardboard sign. Uh, and so there really is a stereotype. About homelessness. That is so wildly inaccurate.


That was Adina Lichtman. Adina is the founder of Knock Knock, Give a Sock which she started during her sophomore year of college as an effort to humanize the homeless and bring housed and unhoused communities together. She’s the kind of person we should all strive to be—kind, empathetic, intelligent, understanding...the kind of person who restores faith. She’s quick to answer any call, both literal and metaphorical.


Adina’s probably right about the way you consider homelessness. She was right for me. But when we stop stereotyping “the homeless” and start thinking about them as people and neighbors, our perspectives shift.


And it’s high time they do: In January 2020, there were 580,466 people experiencing homelessness in America. 70% were individuals, but the rest were people living in families with children.


The number of families should be startling to you. I can’t imagine the challenge of raising a child homeless. No child deserves that—no one can argue that they do. And yet, the number of families experiencing homelessness has increased significantly from past years. About 30% of America’s homeless population were families last year; in 2013 that figure was 15%.


Another lesson I learned making this episode? Homelessness does care what you look like and where you’re from. It does discriminate. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, “Higher unemployment rates, lower incomes, less access to healthcare, and higher incarceration rates are some of the factors likely contributing to higher rates of homelessness among people of color.”


The higher rates in question:

  • Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders have the highest rate of homelessness (109 out of every 10,000 people).
  • Groups such as Native Americans (45 out of every 10,000) and Black or African Americans (52 out of every 10,000) also experience elevated rates. 
  • Importantly, these rates are much higher than the nation’s overall rate of homelessness (18 out of every 10,000).


Like discrimination based on race and background, the issue of homelessness is older than this country. Scholars believe that homelessness in America can be traced all the way back to colonial times. There’s evidence of “vagrants” being targeted by police as early as 1640.


Modern homelessness found its footing in the 70s and really never let go. No surprise, seeing as we’ve rarely done much to mitigate the negative effects of some of homelessness’s biggest causes: addiction, domestic violence, mental illness, lack of affordable healthcare, lack of public assistance, and lack of quality employment.


That’s the thing—it’s easy to characterize homelessness as a series of unfortunate events. Personal tragedies. Bad choices and worse luck. Maybe in a one-off case, yes...but the 500,000+ people who will go to bed without a home tonight are proof that this problem is more than just bad luck. It’s systemic.


So how did we get here? It’s a question I couldn’t stop asking myself after sifting through the disheartening statistics. I decided to turn to Google for more insight—how did this happen? 


The NYT answered the call: “The first law of real estate applies to homelessness, too: Location, location, location. The nation’s homeless population is concentrated in New York, the cities of coastal California and a few other islands of prosperity. Well-educated, well-paid professionals have flocked to those places, driving up housing prices. And crucially, those cities and their suburbs have made it virtually impossible to build enough affordable housing to keep up.”


By many measures, including the government’s, $600 is the most a family living at the poverty line can afford to pay in monthly rent while still having enough money for food, healthcare and other needs. I challenge you to find a $600/month apartment in your city. In mine, it’s nonexistent. No wonder: From 1990 to 2017, the number of housing units available below $600 shrank by 4 million. Not only are we failing to build more affordable housing, we’re actively taking it off the table.


In one of the world’s wealthiest countries, we are literally pricing hundreds of thousands of fellow Americans out of housing. We’re pricing them out of a home, a shelter, a basic human need.


The reason we have a society is to take care of each other, to help each other prosper. And there are half a million humans who we’ve failed to take care of. So far...but there’s always the opportunity of today.


*Roll transition music*


KINSEY: Do you think that homelessness is a problem that can be solved? Is this something that is solvable? 


ADINA: 100%.


Here’s how we do it. Or at least how we start.


Let’s start by recognizing what hasn’t worked. A problem this big, this’d think we could solve homelessness at this point, right? And that’s not to say that some incredibly bright minds haven’t tried. But to date, they haven’t succeeded.


We’ve set countrywide arbitrary goals to end homelessness for veterans by 2015, chronic homelessness by 2017, and homelessness for families with children and youth by 2020. Not to spoil the movie but...that didn’t happen.


It appears governments are more focused on treating symptoms than causes. From NYT in May 2020: “Annual spending on shelters has reached $12 billion a year, according to Dennis Culhane, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and an expert on homelessness. Rather than provide housing for the homeless, cities offer showers, day care centers and bag checks.”


Homelessness isn’t unsolvable, we’ve just been trying to solve it the wrong way. Consider this from Bloomberg CityLab.

  • “Cities across the country favor clearing out homeless encampments, even though researchers have shown that it’s expensive and wasteful, not to mention disruptive for people who lose their belongings and communities only to be shuffled from one tent city to another.”


We build villages of tiny homes designed for impermanence. We erect congregate shelters to siphon all of our homeless neighbors into one place. We relegate homeless members of our society to a subhuman existence because we don’t want the harsh reality—they’re harsh reality—in our line of sight. We do everything but the one thing that needs to be done.


And I’ll tell you what it is after a short break to hear from our friends at Fundrise.


*Roll mid 1 here*


If we want to end homelessness, all we have to do is give people homes. Put down your pitchforks and allow me to explain. Adina?


ADINA: Lack of affordable housing is the leading cause of homelessness. A lot of people think mental health, the lack of affordable housing is the number one cause of homelessness.


So let’s just give people houses, right? It’s a real approach, and it’s called Housing First. Logic goes as follows: You get someone into a stable, long-term housing situation without asking them to hold a job or get sober first. Once they’re settled into their new home, they get access to medical and addiction treatment, job training, social workers, etc. 


It makes a lot of sense, especially if you’ve ever been in a period that felt like a holding pattern (ahem...all of us this last year). It’s really hard for someone who’s homeless to hold a steady job while also meeting with social workers, applying for housing, shuffling from shelter to shelter. A home provides stability. A home provides the first step to true independence.


ADINA: So the answer to how to solve homelessness is housing. Um, there are shelters. Shelters are not the answer. Shelters are band-aids for the housing crisis. Yes. There could be a roof over your head, but it does not allow you to get out of the cycle of poverty and to get out of the cycle of homelessness. 


Housing started this homelessness crisis, and housing can end it, too. So how come widespread affordable housing doesn’t exist across this country? Let’s run through the reasons.


Reason 1: It costs a lot.


Yes, you’re right. It costs a lot to build structures and give people homes, especially in cities where property is already super pricey and developers are hungry to make money on their investments ASAP.


Now, there are federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits (aka government tax incentives to construct or rehabilitate affordable rental housing for low-income households). And they help certain developers build 100% affordable housing...but there aren’t enough of those credits to go around, leaving both developers and potential tenants to compete for them.


Reason 2: You.


NIMBY: not in my backyard. Think wind turbines and sewage treatment centers and sports stadiums—they sound good in theory but we don’t want them in our backyard. Affordable housing is perhaps the biggest of the NIMBY issues. We’re comfortable talking about what a tragedy it is that homeless populations are forced to live incomplete lives, flitting from temporary bed to temporary bed. But we’re not comfortable sharing a neighborhood with them. We want better affordable housing...just not in our backyards.


For these reasons (among others), a housing first approach isn’t easy. But it’s possible, and I’ll tell you why.


*Roll transition music*


Let’s talk first about the monumental expense of giving people houses. It’s a hefty bill to foot, yes, but...Adina told me this.


ADINA: It's actually more cost-effective because that when you're not giving someone at home, the city ends up paying tons of money every year for folks living in shelters for nights and the emergency. Because they don't have a place to go very often for paying for police coming around, getting people to move from here to there, we spent so much more government dollars, so many more government dollars on homelessness than if we actually invested in housing.


In 2016, according to The Atlantic, “Nationally, the average monthly cost of serving a family in an emergency shelter is $4,819. Providing them with a voucher for housing, on the other hand, is just $1,162.”


And believe it or not, we’re getting more and more used to spending what needs to be spent to get people into homes: “Through the CARES Act of 2020 and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, Congress invested billions of new dollars in programs that should impact the number of people and families in permanent housing. Most notably, they appropriated $4 billion for the Emergency Solutions Grant program, $5 billion for Emergency Housing Vouchers, and $5 billion for the HOME program (rental assistance, affordable housing development, and other services). Thus, permanent housing placements should be continuing on an upward trajectory in 2020, 2021, and possibly beyond.”


The ball is rolling, and that gives me some hope. We just have to keep the ball rolling. We need just a little more willingness to spend for good. 


And because, ya know, food for thought: In 2020 US military expenditure reached an estimated $778 billion, representing an increase of 4.4% over 2019. Per the NYT: “The nation’s homeless population could be housed for $10 billion a year — less than the price of one aircraft carrier.” Didn’t we just end a very long and very costly war? Think about what just a fraction of a fraction of that military budget could do.


We know Housing First works: Through housing-first, Utah reduced its chronically-homeless population 72% between 2005 and 2014. And in New York, supportive housing has been a big success, reducing the use of shelters, hospitals, psychiatric centers, and jails for an average net public savings of $10,100 per unit per year.


I’ll admit that it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, though. I was encouraged reading about housing first and smart spending, but it’s not as simple as giving people houses. In some ways, Housing First is a huge headache. For example, zoning.


There’s ample evidence that inclusionary zoning policies can create more affordable housing. And by inclusionary zoning, I mean rules requiring developers to build a certain number of affordable units in new construction.


The problem is that those lower-cost units have to be paid for somehow, and costs are often passed on to other tenants, which in turn hikes market-rate rent. Inclusionary zoning was made mandatory in some NYC neighborhoods last year, and developers are banging the complaint line to say it’s too hard to build affordable housing in a city like this one.


It makes me wonder if real estate prices are so far gone in NYC that we may never be able to rejigger the supply/demand curve in a way that’s more hospitable to low-income groups. 


There is a potential workaround, though. I found this in the NYT:


“The next step is simple but expensive. The federal government already provides housing vouchers to help some lower-income families. The families pay 30 percent of their monthly income toward rent; the government pays the rest. But instead of giving vouchers to every needy family, the government imposes an arbitrary cap on total spending. Three in four eligible families don’t get vouchers. The program costs about $19 billion a year. Vouchers for all eligible households would cost an additional $41 billion a year, the Congressional Budget Office estimated in 2015. Where to get the money? Well, the government annually provides more than $70 billion in tax breaks to homeowners, including a deduction for mortgage interest payments and a free pass on some capital gains from home sales. Let’s end homelessness instead of subsidizing mansions.”


We don’t need anything else—we just need to rework what we have. And that might mean the wealthy going without a few of the perks of being wealthy.


But it’s not just the government’s and not just the wealthy’s responsibility to end homelessness. We’re going to talk about why that is after a short break to hear from the very fine people at Pluto.


*Roll mid 2*


Before the break, I used one of my favorite words: responsibility. It’s a nuanced, complicated idea that looks different from every angle. But from the homelessness angle, responsibility looks a lot like cooperation.


Cooperation between local, state, and federal entities. Cooperation between tenants and developers and people experiencing homelessness. Cooperation between neighbors.


And above all else, cooperation for the sake of our humanity and our kindness. We have to move outside our own lived experiences to recognize that living on the street or in a shelter or in a car is no way to live.


Here’s some more of my conversation with Adina. 


KINSEY: There's also this kind of maybe bigger question that goes beyond just the personal, which is how do we. Encourage our elected officials to better understand what you're talking about in terms of upfront costs, instead of slapping a bandaid on a problem, every time it rears its head, what can we be doing to, um, communicate that to the people who are making decisions about affordable housing? 


ADINA: That's a great question. I always say, you know, for a lot of social issues, right? We see BLM protests, right? We have seen the pride parade year after year, make such big changes for folks who identify as LGBTQ, but when it comes to homelessness, right, we don't have those protests to go to. We don't have those, you know, there's, there's not as much of a movement, unfortunately, when it comes to homelessness, right. Or even when it comes to poverty. Uh, so it is important to pay attention to. Local politics near less officials, but actually can do this is fun. And bring this back to one of your podcasts actually listened to one of your podcasts the other day. And you were speaking about the idea of talking about issues when it comes to climate change, right. And kind of this idea that talking about issues and making people aware of it is one of those things that just leads to change. Like could you and I provide housing for someone. Probably not. And maybe we could pull all of our money together and, you know, be able to find some places for some folks to live, but the truth is in order to fix the problem and not put another band-aid on this problem is very similar to what you mentioned in that idea of talking about change, making people think about it.


You might not hold the pursestrings for that $10 billion it takes a year to house our homeless population. But you do have the ability to get loud. To stop ignoring this problem. To start practicing empathy. 


*Roll transition music*


I want you to think about your life. Think about the struggles you’ve faced, the hard days you’ve weathered, the heartbreak, the loss, the anxiety. Now think about what it might be like to live through all of that without a place to call your own. 


Some of you might know the feeling—as we talked about at the start, homelessness is a widespread problem that doesn’t always look the way we expect it to.


But if you haven’t experienced homelessness, think about this human issue in a human context. Think about how this is truly an issue that exists at the intersection of so many other systemic problems—racism, classism, ableism, wealth inequality.


Think about the way we’ve historically cast the homeless aside. Even the biggest social justice warriors are guilty of ignoring homelessness. It’s a lot easier to walk on by, head down and AirPods in, when a neighbor living on the street asks for spare change or a cup of coffee. It’s a lot easier to Tweet about ending systemic injustice than it is to look that injustice in the eyes. 




But what a shame it would be to waste this moment of cultural and social activation by failing to recognize that our neighbors on the street are just that—our neighbors. To recognize that they need our help and, in many ways, we’re in a position to offer it. And do more than just repost an infographic to our Instagram story.


Having a conversation doesn’t cost $10 billion a year. Having a conversation is free.


I wanted to do more than just tell you what we as people with homes can do. What we can talk about. How we can help. I wanted to do it myself. 


So I’ve changed my perspective. I’ve changed my perception. I’ve decided to stop ignoring a problem hoping it might go away. I am reaching out to my neighbors, asking to know them. Asking how I can support them. Asking what they think...because what they think matters more than anything I can tell you speaking into my expensive microphone in my overpriced apartment. They’re the ones living this life. They’re the ones with stories worth telling.


In the process of implementing these changes in my own life recently, I’ve tried to start making some new friends in my neighborhood. One of my new soon-to-be friends is called JR. He lives in downtown Manhattan, homeless and on the street. He asked only to be identified as JR and, while he was happy to share his story with me, he asked that I relay it myself to you.’s a voice memo I recorded after a conversation with my neighbor, JR.


KINSEY: Apologies in advance for the downtown Manhattan rush hour soundscape here, but I'm walking home and I just had a conversation with a new friend named Jr. That's how he chose to be identified. Uh, Jr. Is a man who is living on the streets right now. He's experiencing homelessness and he has been for about five years.


He has spent the last five years homeless and the last two years living on the street. And the reason he chose to live on the street is because Jr has a wife, a family, uh, and he said that the shelter system will not permit he and his wife to live together. They're not allowed to cohabitate together.


And apparently the shelter system does not respect, uh, in his words, the institution of marriage. So. He and his wife are living on the street downtown. Um, and they have been for quite some time in Jr's words, the biggest complaint that he has with the homeless experience in New York city is the fact that the shelter system is not designed to help people in his.


He said that he has often been the victim of some unfair allegations based on what he looks like, what he sounds like, where he's from. Um, and there is no due process in the shelter system. It's essentially your word against somebody. Else's, he's been the victim of theft and above all else. He just can't be with his wife.


And that's why he's on the streets. Um, when I asked him what people should do to help people in his position, what would be the most advantageous for him? He said, To fix the shelter system. And I think that given the research I've spent most of today doing the way that we fix the shelter system is by making it obsolete.


We design more permanent housing for people experiencing homelessness. We take the housing first approach and we allow people to flourish within a home. Um, because I can just imagine what it must be like to be in Jr's position on the street, having to ask people for help and to hope for human kindness, to get you by.


It's just unfathomable. It's, it's hard to believe that people have to exist in that kind of a position, but they do all the time and Jr is proof of that. And there's so much that we can be doing to help them that we're just not doing right now. And we know how to fix this. Jr knows how to fix this. It's time we do.


*Roll transition music*


Thinking is, as they say, cool. Even cooler? Allowing that thinking, that thoughtfulness, to change your behavior. 


Homelessness is a solvable problem. As former secretary of housing and urban development Ben Carson said in 2019 to Congress, “homelessness is not an intractable problem — we can end homelessness.”


In fact, we’ve shown quite an aptitude for solving homelessness on the small scale when we put our minds to use and get cooperative. Under the Obama administration, enormous progress was made in ending homelessness among veterans. 


In early 2020, the government reported that, after a decade of working to eradicate homelessness among veterans, it had something to show for itself. The number of homeless vets shrank by 50%, from about 75,000 in 2010 to about 37,000 at the end of 2019. Three states and several dozen cities had provided housing for their entire veteran populations.


Part of why it worked is because it worked together. The campaign was designed with the support of some 800 city mayors and county executives. And it took place across White House administrations.


We have renewed hope for cooperation to end homelessness that sprang forth last week, in fact. The Biden administration announced its “House America” plan, asking leaders of city, county, state, and tribal governments across the U.S. to make a public pledge to reduce homelessness.


The federal government will in turn offer guidance for meeting two goals: 1) provide permanent housing for people experiencing homelessness and 2) build new affordable units for those teetering on the edge of homelessness. House America aims to rehouse at least 100,000 people and add at least 20,000 affordable housing units.


And before you say “well where does old Joe think he’s gonna get the money,” I present you with this from CityLab: “Much of the resources for House America will come from the $350 billion in federal relief under the American Rescue Plan for state, local, territorial and tribal governments.”


So...a problem like homelessness might make you feel pretty hopeless. But the truth is that there is hope. Hope that we can effectively end homelessness this lifetime. It starts with thinking differently about our neighbors of all kinds.


Next time you’re walking down the street, consider what it must be like to call that street your home. Really think about it. Think about the hottest and coldest months of the year. Think about the feeling of having no option but to beg strangers for help. Think about how you’ve agonized over the horrors of renting an apartment that has an electric stove instead of a gas range...and now think about not having a kitchen to prepare food in at all. Strike up a conversation, and use Adina’s advice to get you started:


ADINA: A lot of people kind of want to go over to their neighbors in the street and are kind of like, I dunno, how, what do I say? What do I do? Um, anyone who feels timid about it, my first advice would be find someone with a cardboard sign. That's telling their story, uh, because so. It's more than just them telling their story. It's seeking human connection. Those are the people who are looking for contact. Uh, I always say, you know, be careful approaching anyone who's sleeping or may seem like they're intoxicated, um, or who may be talking to themselves and not fully present. But for the most part, all of our neighbors are looking to be approach, looking for human contact, human kindness, and connect. Introduce yourself, ask them what their name. You don't need to give a dollar to ask them what their name is and wish them a good day. And you'll continue to see them, hopefully if they live in your neighborhood and building that relationship and eventually to a place where you can find out what their story is.


Go outside your own experience to consider that of your neighbors who might not have a home. Ignoring the problem clearly hasn’t worked—it’s time to face it head on.


ADINA: it's just convincing enough people with enough power to put enough pressure on the right people to. Make change and to focus and say, you know, by 2023, we're going to eliminate homelessness in America. There's no reason why we shouldn't be able to


So let’s get to work. Talk to your neighbors on the street, but also talk to your friends and family who have lives similar to your own. Ask the group chat…

  • What do you think homelessness looks like? Has your perception of homelessness changed as you’ve gotten older?
  • Do you think we can solve homelessness in this lifetime? 
  • Why do you think people are so squeamish about homelessness? What makes this the kind of problem we feel ill-equipped or unwilling to talk about? How and what do you feel when you walk past someone experiencing homelessness?
  • When was the last time you spoke to someone experiencing homelessness?


And let me know what they say. As always, I’ll be waiting to think it through with you.


Thank you for listening. I’m Kinsey Grant, and remember...thinking is cool, and so are you. I’ll see you next week.