“The home is a human institution. All human institutions are open to improvement.” — Charlotte Perkins Gilman, 1903
Have you ever had to wonder where your next paycheck was coming from? Or worry about losing your home?
Many of us have not. And as such, we might not give too much thought to the millions of people who live their lives like this.
To many of us, they are all but invisible.
As we mentioned in the previous newsletter (“Other People’s Property”), President James Madison was homeless from 1814 until the end of his presidency. Well, not actually homeless. But he was without the White House. His is a high-profile case.
In January 2020, 580,466 Americans were homeless. Seventy percent of these are individuals, while the rest are families with children.
That’s nearly as many as we’ve lost to the pandemic, yet there doesn’t seem to be the same kind of national attention or crisis around the issue.
There are a number of factors behind homelessness, and it is a complex issue. Drugs and mental health are often cited, but are not always the cause. Financial distress (often brought on by healthcare costs), housing costs at more than 50 percent of income levels, underemployment and unemployment, disruptions in temporary housing, the pandemic itself—all of these can lead to homelessness.
During the pandemic, the Centers for Disease control issued an order directing landlords to hold off on evicting tenants, but the Supreme Court just ended the eviction moratorium.
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).
It wouldn’t take too much for some of these very public billionaires to offer some assistance in this space—particularly since so many of them run companies that are directly or indirectly responsible for the astronomic real estate prices in Silicon Valley.
I’m not even suggesting it’s one mogul’s responsibility. Maybe they could pool their money.
Putting $20 billion toward building houses for homeless people could go a long way in helping them establish themselves. We have a former U.S. president who has dedicated decades of his post-presidency to building houses for Habitat for Humanity. Surely some billionaires can step up.
By the way, this isn’t a matter of not putting money toward other initiatives, whether it’s space tourism, infrastructure, etc. It’s a matter of understanding that life is not a zero-sum game.
How often do we find that life is a story of abundance rather than scarcity?
In difficult times, if you act in miserly way, the world returns that upon you. But if you act as if there is a possibility of abundance, the world responds accordingly.
Just ask Ebenzeer Scrooge, who found his life turned around not because of a dream, but because of the way people responded to his change of heart.
There’s more to making a home than building a house, though.
Whether you’re establishing a new home for your family or creating a culture at a company you founded or just joined, it comes down to concentrating on the relationships in those units.
I first met Mark Horvath while I was working at Ford Motor Company. Mark, who had been homeless himself, started a new initiative called Invisible People, where he used his skills as a videographer to document the lives of the thousands of people he met as he traveled the country.
Mark’s goal was to make these people — who are all but invisible to so many of us — visible. To bring their stories to life.
Through his outreach to corporate partners like Hanes, which supplied thousands of pairs of socks, and Ford, which gave Mark the use of a vehicle to travel the country, Mark began his long slog of homeless advocacy, and he continues still.
“Work is love made visible.” — Kahlil Gibran, 1923
As they build and maintain cultures within their teams, leaders should give thought to what they’re focused on — what kinds of projects, priorities, and actions are given the most visibility?
When leaders emphasize what is important to them, by default, they deemphasize the things that aren’t important to them. As a result, the neglected things become invisible.
“One who is frivolous all day will never establish a household.” — Ptahotep, c. 2400 BC
In Ancient Rome, some citizens wished to become invisible. But it was those who cast invisibility spells who were viewed with suspicion. (JSTOR Daily)
How Sherlock Holmes’s home went from a fictional setting to a reality for readers. For people like me, it’s a full-fledged community. (Lapham’s Quarterly)
Throughout time, there are examples of leaders in history and characters in fiction who were non-zero-sum figures. We can learn something from them still. (Steven Pressfield)
“Hospitality consists in a little fire, a little food, and an immense quiet.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1856
It has been increasingly difficult to determine where work stops and home life begins (does it even?). Here are 10 things to do to make sure you leave the office when you work from home.
During the pandemic, many people have been tuning in to The Great British Bakeoff. One of the reason it exists is because of coal-fired ovens. (Jezebel)
Seeing the same four walls every day can drive you a little stir-crazy. Here are ways to fight staleness while working from home. (The Art of Manliness)
Recommended Reading / Listening
“Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” — William Morris, 1882
🎧 On Episode 747 of The School of Greatness, Lewis Howes welcomes Lisa Nichols to talk about The Abundance Mindset. It’s about letting go of the belief systems that held you back.
📚 If life is a game, how do you play it? The answer will have a huge impact on your choices, your satisfaction, and how you achieve success. In Finite and Infinite Games, James Carse, the Director of Religious Studies at New York University, explores the difference between approaching life as a game with an end, or a game that goes on forever. According to Carse, playing to win isn’t nearly as satisfying as playing to keep the game going.
Thanks, and I’ll see you on the internet.
The State of Homelessness: 2021 Edition, National Alliance to End Homelessness
Scott, thank you so much for writing this. When I returned home to Seattle last year, I was shocked at the amount of homelessness we have here in one of the wealthiest cities in America—and how little anyone seems to care to the extent that the problem could be alleviated in any humane way. “Sweeps” of homeless camps are our “preferred” way of dealing with the issue. This doesn’t help. And it literally forces the homeless out of the improvised shelter they have, destroying what few possessions they might own, and forcing them to relocate to somewhere else—until they get swept off again. It angers me immensely and embarrasses me no end. The Seattle I grew up in—the largely blue collar middle and lower-middle class Seattle—would never have acted this way. We have Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Costco, Starbucks, Boeing, and many other large and incredibly profitable businesses here. $20 billlion? Just for our one city? It could be raised in a week from 10 people—or a year with very reasonable business and property taxation. And we probably only need $1-$2 billion at most. Meanwhile, housing prices went up 20% last year during the pandemic. (Amazon profits up 19%. Median household income—median not mean!—is over $100K a year. “Poverty Level” to qualify for so-called low incone housing is $64K a year but “low-income” apartments are $3500-a-month units for $2200 a month. And the sad ironies don’t end there.) I wish more Seattlites and local thought leaders were leading on this like you are here! Once again, you’re doing great work. Not “just” a great blog. Great work!!!—Steve