Thursday, April 27, 2006

A copy of a follow-up letter I wrote to some colleagues from PricewaterhouseCoopers in Orange County, CA asking them for money.

Just last Friday we hosted “Project Homeless Connect,” an event bringing together, in the spirit of homeless outreach projects in San Francisco, over 40 agencies to provide one-stop services to the homeless in downtown Oakland. About a half dozen of us in my organization were instrumental in getting the thing off the ground—I was, in fact, having flashbacks to my PwC days with outrageous deadlines set for strict parameters of deliverables. The difference, however, in the final product was profound: the sense of trembling pride that I had delivering those “Blue Backs” to Advantage Sales and Marketing in late Fall 2005 was replaced with a burgeoning heart.

Let me tell you about Will Rice.

As you may know per the packet I sent to you guys, I run the Homeless Court Program. This is a program to help minor offenders clear their record for such criminal activities as sleeping in the park, urinating in public, or vagrancy (defined as “walking around without a place to live”) which often prohibit our folks from obtaining employment and its incumbent niceties, e.g. shelter. I first met Will because he heard of the Homeless Court program. But being completely strung out on crack-cocaine, totally without shelter, smelly, and mentally unstable I knew he needed much help before he would be ready for the program. I did my best to perform an intake and suggested some ways he could improve his life, hoping at the very most that I could use Homeless Court as an excuse for him to get off the streets. Eventually he made his way over to St. Mary’s Center, a place across the street from here that helps the elderly homeless to receive shelter and what we call “case management” in the business—that is, someone who helps other people who couldn’t otherwise do it on their own generate an income stream and obtain housing of some sort. Just last night I ran into Will when my roommates and I volunteered at St. Mary’s Center in the evening. As my roommate put it, Will is “a walking miracle.” As an employee at St. Mary’s Center, my roommate told me of his initials nights at their temporary winter relief shelter. “He used to shit his pants because he wanted crack so bad,” were her follow-up words. But you should have seen him last night: alert, energetic, helping out with the dinner. I was dumbfounded and when he asked me why I kept looking at him, I blurted out, “you just look so much better.”

I’m telling you this to give you an idea of the kind of work we do. In terms of specifics, this story has little to do with the Champion Workforce—the place your money will be going. In terms of generalities though, it has everything to do with it. In short, change takes time. Will Rice is still not qualified for my Homeless Court Program (he needs permanent housing). His case manager thinks he still uses crack on occasion. But he is seeing a therapist, he is taking his medication for bi-polar disorder, he is temporarily off the streets, he is emerging as a functional human being. And he happens to be a charming, energetic, gregarious type of guy as evidenced by his penchant for interviewing with news reporters during their coverage of the aforementioned Project Homeless Connect

This is what we do and this is what your money will do: it will be there at the exact moment somebody is ready for help.


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