Homelessness Causes: Drug Addiction and a Lack of Purpose
Jewel Kilchner is a famous musician who has touched the lives of millions with her craft. As a teenager, Jewel lost her job and her apartment and ended up living in her car. She was homeless and almost died in a parking lot from kidney failure. Had generous people not helped, the world would not have benefited from her music and art.
Jewel turned her life around by remembering her worth as a human being and she immortalized the process in a song called Hands, which is often cited as her most famous song.
Our society has many programs intended to help the poor and homeless. In the 1950’s and 60’s it declined to the point where researchers thought that homelessness might disappear. In 1964 President Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty, rolling out new initiatives and legislation and bolstering the minimum wage. But after 50 years the poverty rate has changed very little, and homlessness is still a large problem.
Ari Zoldan is another person who believes in the value of all people. He thinks the homeless are in desperate need of a reminder of their value, and he believes we can work miracles by reminding people everywhere of their intrinsic worth as human beings.
What Impact Can One Person Have?
Ari learned the importance of networking and communication in his life’s journey to becoming the CEO of Quantum Media and a well-known personality in the tech space on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC. He has been giving to the homeless for years, but recently he started getting to know the people on the street, too. He was struck by their loneliness and desperation for human connection.
When he met people like Philipe and William, their lack of connections made him wonder how important friendship and social groups are in solving the problem of homelessness.
The United States has many services available for the homeless. There are shelters and soup kitchens and welfare programs that offer food stamps and housing assistance, but why aren’t these services used more often?
Thousands pass by the homeless every day … and virtually no-one stops to have a conversation.Ari Zoldan
Ari’s experiences with people on the street have shown him that many of them have mental illness or drug abuse issues, and this is the area he has chosen for his focus.
In the past, the police would treat drug addicts like criminals, putting them in jail where they would be exposed to unsafe environments and further traumatization. A cultural shift in recognizing addiction as an illness has resulted in more people sent to rehabilitation centers where they are safe and given assistance in getting clean, rather than incarcerated for a victimless crime.
Finding hope is difficult when you don’t believe in yourself. Ari tells us that everyday people can help by simply taking a moment to say hi and asking for a name. If you start seeing the homeless as people who have names and stories and lives then you’ll be more likely to talk to them, and once you make that connection and talk to someone who is struggling with an addiction or an illness, you are more likely to see their value. If you can find value, then Ari believes that it might light a spark inside of them and help them find hope, empowerment to get back on their feet, and personal happiness.
The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Why Do People End Up on the Street?
78% of full-time workers say they live paycheck to paycheck, and this means they could be one crisis away from homelessness.
Ari believes that many of the people on the street did not have an adequate support system, had a blowout of some kind, and spiraled into a state from which few people are able to recover. Once you hit that spiral you can lose your job, your home, and your friends and end up on the street. Once there, it’s no wonder you might lose faith in yourself and become resigned to hopelessness, and this might help explain why poverty has been so persistent in spite of government programs and the minimum wage.
A Hand Up, Not a Hand Out
Most businesses have a little room for someone who needs help and can bring value. Ari believes that it’s possible to shift towards a more voluntary culture, where local businesses can provide jobs and support to homeless people, either through the private sector, or in partnership with government agencies.
Ari reports some of the formerly homeless people he has met have turned things like collecting and recycling cans into occupations and used the resulting money and purpose to get off the streets. Even if it’s just emptying wastebaskets, a job can give a person enough purpose and money to make a difference. And if businesses find jobs for the homeless who are living on their doorsteps, then they won’t just be helping out people in need and cleaning up the streets, they will get real value in return.
This aspect of Ari’s viewpoint is similar to that of Larry Sharpe, who believes personal empowerment driven by a sense of ownership can be an effective tool to fight poverty and homelessness. Though Ari’s views are mostly left of center, this is a place where he has common ground, even with people much further to the right of the economic spectrum, like Mike Norton, who believes in personal empowerment and its effect on his own life.
Having a Why
According to Ari, getting a sense of purpose back in your life can make all the difference. If you have a mental illness or drug addiction you can quickly lose all sense of purpose in your life as you struggle to stay alive. Treatment programs may help you manage the instigating condition, but until you recover your hope and purpose, you will have no direction and will be severely handicapped in your attempts to return to a normal life.
He knows the ‘why’ for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any ‘how’.Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
How to Make a Real Difference
How do we make the ladder a little shorter? Ari Zoldan believes that if we reach out to the people in our own communities we can make a connection with them and that connection can become infectious, leading to more connections, greater empowerment, and a restoration of personal networks and eventual reintegration with society.
How many people truly get a second chance?Ari Zoldan
Your actions don’t have to be big. You can start by asking someone their name and then taking it a step further with a friendly conversation. If you want to help Ari, watch the full interview and share it with your friends. Subscribe to the PolitiPeeps YouTube Channel, and also to our website to receive a notification when the third interview of this series is released.