Why this social innovation makes a difference

13 07 2009

By: Jackie Go

This social innovation makes a difference to homelessness because of its ability to organize the resources in the community and involve the entire community. In a community where there is no permanent shelter, and the temporary shelter (the Cold Wet Weather Mat Program) runs only in the winter, there is a surplus of volunteers and concerned citizens who want to help the homeless all year round. By involving community members as volunteers who will provide support services, companionship and mentorship to the client, it helps dispel myths about homelessness and helps the client get re-integrated into a society where they are traditionally marginalized and disenfranchised. People who don’t have time to volunteer are also given the opportunity to give to the program as donors for the modest needs of the sponsored client, such as daily food, clothing, and furniture. Local businesses can also get involved by providing services to maintain the housing unit, such as painting, plumbing, and cleaning, all services which can add value to the housing unit. The large community support component can also be a motivating factor for the client, showing a person which has been largely isolated from society that the community does care for them and their well-being. By involving the entire community in sponsoring a homeless client, this program builds awareness and compassion for the homelessness issue, signaling its importance to politicians while also providing the community with a sense of pride in taking action on homelessness and watching a client go from homeless to self-sufficient in a period of 6-12 months.

The program also has potential to grow – if successful, the number of housing units to be funded by donation or to be bought by the investment giving circle can grow and more and more homeless clients can be helped out of homelessness. The program is also sustainable because it does not rely only on donations, but through the investment giving circle, provides people with the opportunity to make an investment on an appreciating asset while also giving back to their community. If community support can lower the costs of the property through decreased property taxes, utilities costs, lower mortgage rates, and other incentives, the extra cash that can be generated can fund the costs of this idea as it grows. If it grows larger, we may be able to fund, or ask for the city for funding for an extra outreach worker to work with our clients specifically. This idea makes a difference in the perceptions of homelessness in the community and provides people who want to help the homeless with a variety of ways to get involved – by donating, investing, or giving their time through volunteering.

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