People and programs which work with communities to develop, focus, produce and replicate solutions to the social, infrastructure, and health challenges that face local communities worldwide are playing a critical role in finally addressing pressing community-level challenges. Many compelling issues have been recognized, and solutions successfully implemented, by social entrepreneurs and nonprofit organizations and volunteers working within at-risk communities, and with the homeless who live alongside “established” communities.
Around the world, expert and developing Social Innovators and volunteers, who are parts of each community, can add fresh understanding and practical approaches which can greatly inform and enhance the effectiveness and sustainability of community solutions. Vehicles for funding, mentorship, and inclusion, nonprofit, funding, tech/sponsorship organizations can all benefit from increased impact, and elevated outcomes, when collaborating transparently with community-based participants, working directly on approaches and achievements in areas critical to those communities.
Homelessness affects all strata of society, from attendant health issues, youth-inclusion vs. alienation issues, economic opportunity vs. privation issues, safety/crime/representation issues, and most areas of sustainable infrastructure, whether through services, or use of the existing structures and “amenities” of the community and larger regional and national societies. Homelessness is not restricted to, or defined by, culture, economic origin, ability or achievement level, language, or age. Homelessness crosses boundaries of education, prior opportunity, and the exigencies of crisis, conflict, and corruption.
The escalation, deprivation, and isolation of the homeless are becoming increasingly visible reminders of the dysfunctions of societal “bridges” which had been the sole remedies of “care” for those outside the intersection of society and economic/corporate sustainability. Those at or beyond the periphery of social inclusion, the homeless, must still be recognized as part of our shared responsibility, as a human society, to address the needs, as sufficiently as possible, of all, regardless of previous perceptions of boundaries, proprieties, or protocols.
Opportunities have always existed to address the sometimes glaringly obvious inadequacies and deficiencies of social remedies; with the advent of informed, digitally-connected, and globally-linked individual and community Social Innovators, unparalleled opportunities to address the needs and challenges of homelessness, to address the soundless and sightless isolation of poverty, powerlessness, and debilitating marginalization which paralyze those caught in the webs of homelessness.
More than sharing recognition of homelessness, beyond sharing responsibility for individual, community, and societal efforts to mitigate, if not prevent, the causes and effects of homelessness, the time is right to move beyond vicarious, blanket solutions which have masqueraded as the “best possible” redress for the ills of homelessness and societal dysfunction. It is time to recognize the shared value available to each of us, to all of us, in investing in a sustainable future, where the inclusion of all members of a community becomes a focus, and not an eventuality.
Given the infinite variability of life, choice, chance, and caprice, it is likely that no panacea for the chimera of homelessness can exist. But our increased connectivity has highlighted the huge potential for accommodation of the specific needs of the homeless in a “community.” Concomitantly, increased globalization, while emphasizing our interdependence, has also increased our ability to approach the challenges from the flexible and responsive wellspring of community-based Innovators and Volunteers, especially when transparently augmented and supported by intermediaries (nonprofits, foundations, ngo and governmental organizations, health organizations, corporate and technological sponsors, educators and mentors).
Social Innovators , working with efforts like the “Its time for community challenge” (http://itstimeforcomunitychallenge.blogspot.com/2011/03/its-fun-easy-and-free.html?spref=fb) celebrate our shared purpose, to alleviate the horrors of homelessness, to address the root causes and effects, and to provide sustainable, expandable solutions to homelessness.
More than a social cost, social innovation becomes an investment. More than a necessity, addressing the problems of homelessness becomes an opportunity. And more than a responsibility, the systematic evaluation, effort and effectiveness to produce transformative results, and transparent evaluation, replication, and continuation of programs presenting a major change/improvement in life and life outcomes for homeless individuals and communities becomes a shared value. Shared value, which can ultimately enhance our shared, interlinked future.