Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Why America Fails the Homeless

When my wife and I got to Washington D.C., I did not have a job. My job-hunt became 24 hour employment. I sent out dozens of resumes and talked to everyone (yes, I continued to do The Amigo Project). Finally, through my college network I was able to secure an interview. After meeting in a new suit with my potential employer, I was hired as an intern for no pay.

I am excited an lucky to have found work that will increase my opportunities for graduate school and future employment. This experience taught me the importance of presenting the best representation of myself that I can both on paper and in person.

But as I walk in the blistering summer DC heat to and from my new job, I see forgotten men and women in shadows. They reek, are grimy, and look like they are waiting to die. They pack their lives in shopping carts and move from one corner to the next, holding cups or hats for spare change. I decided to talk to them, and find out why they are homeless. These conversations surprised me and changed the way I view poverty.

I've found two things:

1. The majority of people are NOT homeless because they are lazy.

2. Many of them have special skills and previous work experience, and would happily take a job if given the opportunity.

So the problem is not the people; rather, it is their relationship to the modern job market's infrstructure that makes them uncompetative. Now, I agree there are several other factors for some, such as drug addiction or alcoholism. But the lack of computer skills and availability, combined with the lack of a permanent residence, significantly hurt their chances of finding employment. This is something we can change, and therefore something we should focus on.

That is why I have decided to create a database of homeless people. I will talk to the homeless and help them create resumes and profiles, which I will then post under categories based on job skills. My goal is to give each of these people the same competative advantages in the job market that others have, and maybe one day the database could be used to united the homeless with job opportunities that match their skills.

Either way, it is important to interview and build each a profile, as a reminder that society has not forgotten them.