READER’S QUESTION: What sense that makes! The part about helping the homeless really made me understand. We’re helping the homeless maintain the homeless lifestyle! But, what is the alternative? Dropping the programs, having the people that manage them lose their jobs, and possibly creating more homeless? I’m glad I’m not in a position to figure it all out! Anyway, thanks for the info. Now I can add all that to thinking about all the problems in the world!
SJMB’S ANSWER: The short answer is to create a culture of accountability, responsibility and self-sufficiency, as has been done in many third world-nations with Microfinance initiatives.
People who don’t believe they can surmount a problem (such as being homeless or financially destitute) often think that way because they have never been told they can, or, they have never been taught how to do so. The first step, then, is to enable them with tools which will allow them to do so and then set them free to use them. Once those tools are shared with them, you create a culture of social accountability which obligates them to make their own progress or suffer the loss of support on which they have come to depend. It’s a “pushing out of the nest”.
Once people start doing “well” for themselves (“well” being a relative term here- what’s “well” for me may be a mansion, but, for someone who was recently homeless, “well” may mean simply having a warm bed and two meals a day), they gain confidence to maintain that status and progress beyond it. And, it creates an infectious culture in which people who have “overcome” now truly believe it’s possible and they share that experience with others and help them to do the same. People who have overcome some obstacle and are existing at a certain level of social strata are always stronger than people at the same social strata who have not overcome an obstacle to achieve that strata (Brown’s Law).
Creating the culture of accountability, responsibility and self-sufficiency is a form of leveraging “social currency”. That is to say, it’s not the money alone which pushes the project forward- it’s the ambition, the confidence, the tools, the education, the self-worth, the obligation to society, etc. which serve as the progressive driving force. Those things, therefore, take on a more important value within the project than money alone and are thus more effective in solving the problem (as opposed to merely managing) than merely “throwing money at it to make it ‘go away’.” It’s not going away unless and until the consciousness which drives the acceptance of the issue as a social “norm” (rather than a social “ill”) is pragmatically changed.