Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Why We Hate The Poor, Part III


On Monday and Tuesday, respectively, I wrote Part I and Part II of this piece. This third installment, I suppose should really be titled "Why We Don't Hate The Poor," but for continuity's sake, I'll stick with the above caption. Loyal readers (who are much appreciated) have read my former pieces on social entrepreneurship and its growing role in creating innovative approaches to age-old problems. (For those who haven't, read here, here and here). These organizations, and the written pieces I've found them through have actually caused me to continue my optimism despite parts 1 & 2 of this piece.

It's always sobering to read that 50 million homeless or near-homeless people live in your country. It isn't like I didn't know they existed- I see them every day all around the city- but to consider that 50 million is roughly the size of Chicago, Los Angeles and Manhattan times three really puts things into perspective.

However, not all is lost. The internet alone has created great new opportunities for philanthropists and volunteers to get involved in issues they care about and make an immediate impact. Sites like The Hunger Site and Free Rice have sprung up to allow quick and easy solutions for people looking to make a difference. In addition to these sites, locally based organizations have also become more and more prevalent, using new and innovative approaches to tackle problems like homeless and hunger. This, of course, is on top of the tried-and-true methods that really have helped thousands of hungry and homeless people throughout the years like food banks, soup kitchens, homeless shelters and religious charities.

Even corporations and corporate players have gotten into the mix. Whether a corporation donates money, time and resources to a charitable endeavor for PR purposes, in response to consumers' growing demands for corporate social responsibility or just to be good corporate citizens is beside the point. More and more, we see major corporate institutions sponsoring philanthropic outreach and if they get good press for it, they've earned it. On top of corporate actions is the work being done by billionaires like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. While tycoons have often been generous in the past (Carnegie, Rockefeller), the current group is not only giving millions away, but also devoting so much of their time to the effort.

Yes, homelessness is a problem. It's a major problem. It won't be solved nearly fast enough for the millions living through it today and tomorrow. However, our society arcs toward progress and, as has been proven in technological and social achievements in the past, we eventually solve whatever issues to which we devote our efforts. But it's not going to happen easily and it won't happen without hard work. A gentle prod toward your state, city or federal governmental representative probably wouldn't hurt either.

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