MAYORS AND ELECTED OFFICIALS
Personal involvement by the top elected officials in the community
The problem of homelessness cannot be solved in any community without the commitment and hands-on involvement of the key leaders within that community, especially mayors and other top elected officials who drive the community’s agenda. Homelessness is a problem that has defied a solution for decades. So without the cooperation and wholehearted endorsement of those who control a community’s purse strings and policies, progress in the fight against homelessness is not possible.
Mayors and key government officials control the allocation of a community’s tangible and intangible resources. Mayors and key government officials set the agendas for the cities that they lead. Mayors and key government officials define the dialogue within their respective communities and shape the policies that dictate the direction their communities will take in the future. Therefore, without the participation of the top elected officials in a community and without their visible and enthusiastic support, limited progress will be made in a community’s efforts to stem the tide of homelessness.
A strong and expansive engagement by leaders within the business community
Business leaders play a different role in their communities than elected officials or service providers, so they must play a different role in any local campaign to end homelessness. Business leaders are the civic “trailblazers” who drive everything meaningful that happens in the cities and towns where they live. They are the people who are “objective” when it comes to community endeavors.
Because business leaders are not running for political office and because they are not managing the nonprofit organizations that serve the needs of the homeless, they stand in a unique position to be the catalysts that can propel social change forward at the local level, and they stand in a unique position from which they can demand accountability from those who have been entrusted to solve homelessness locally. Business leaders are not seeking votes and they are not seeking contributions, so these men and women are guided simply by their interest in the betterment of their communities, and consequently they are prone to support strategies that promise to generate real results and sustain those results and build upon them. Therefore, real change on homelessness rarely takes hold in a community unless the business leaders there are involved in that change.
The harnessing of the moral voice of faith leaders
Faith leaders are known for creating and leading organizations that are committed to helping the homeless. These organizations feed, clothe, and encourage the homeless every day. But faith leaders also have the potential to be some of the most powerful protagonists for change in any community, because these men and women possess both the ability and the moral standing to call a community out of its state of complacency on any social issue.
Although the role of faith in America is changing right before our eyes, almost three-fourths of the American people still identify themselves as “religious.” Faith, therefore, remains one of the most powerful driving forces in American culture and should be offered a seat at the table whenever grassroots change is being sought.
In addition, homelessness is one of those few problems on which a working consensus is possible. Although Democrats and Republicans, for instance, may not agree on the best methods for combatting the problem, both parties can agree that homelessness is a problem and that we should work together to solve it. Similarly, the various faiths that dot the American landscape may disagree on most things theological. But all of them can come together around the issue of homelessness, because all of them have some strong things to say about the poor.
So faith leaders, once educated on the subject of homelessness, can be some of the most powerful voices for social change because faith leaders can speak directly to the moral implications of not responding to human need. Faith leaders can figuratively stand on a street corner or on a soapbox and summon a community to moral action.