Over the past few years, I’ve become more serious about finding a solution to end the homelessness epidemic sweeping our nation. Years of donations and direct giving have yielded little results. It’s discouraging and overwhelming. The number of people living on the streets continues to climb everyday. The tent cities popping up across my hometown of Los Angeles have become impossible to ignore. So it’s time for some radical change. Enter local organizations like Pen & Napkin and A Sense of Home Org – both of whom I was introduced to by my friends at Lamps Plus.
WATCH LORI DENNIS on the TED X SANTA BARBARA STAGE HERE:
Local organizations like these have discovered the secret weapon to ending homelessness: furniture. Now I know that sounds crazy, even as a designer, I didn’t quite believe it at first. Most people who have been homeless at one point in their lives become homeless again, but the recidivism rate drops to 1% when you furnish the homes of those transitioning out of homelessness. That’s what we’re all about!
Three Major Takeaways from A Comfortable Solution to the Homeless Epidemic:
Furnishings = Pride in Ownership
If you’ve never gone without, it can be difficult to recognize the significance of a desk to do your homework at or a bed with plush pillows to call your own. We underestimate the ways in which these tiny conveniences — nay, neccessities — we take for granted set us up for success in every aspect of our lives. It starts with the material object, but its effects are mental. With these objects comes a pride in ownership that is worth fighting for.
Segmenting the Homeless Population = Long Term Results
When discussing homelessness and solutions to the epidemic, we so often talk past one another. By not segmenting homeless people into more granular demographics, we do a disservice and that leads to overwhelm. Starting with the reasons someone may become homeless (drugs dependence, escaping an abusive relationship, etc) we begin to recognize different situations call for different solutions. Organizations like those I discuss in my Ted Talk are finding solutions to the more ‘down-on-their-luck’ families, rather than the severely mentally handicapped or drug-addicted. We don’t have all the solutions – and we’re not trying to have them ALL. We’re working on this one, baby steps at a time.
Ending Homelessness Starts at the Local Level and with YOU
Another thing that needs segmenting is geographic. I want to encourage you to think locally. For me, that means focusing on the homeless population that fits the above description, in Los Angeles, that why I’ve partnered with A Sense of Home and Pen & Napkin to do this work. And if you’re in the Los Angeles area, they’re worth checking out! But there are plenty of organizations similar across the country a google away that you can get involved with. Donate your furniture and home goods, and most importantly – donate your time. Roll up your sleeves because we have some couches that need moving up apartment stairs! Now, let’s get to work.