yet this fundamental aspect of our nature can be easily distorted when we interpret it through a lens of "importance", which we've come to define as having widespread and measurable results in the true reality of a situation. so it is with cities and individuals who declare we've somehow reduced chronic homelessness or even the broader group of homelessness itself.
we tend to equate purposeful with big. we ten to equate purposeful and big with public. we equate big, purposeful and public with doing one, big, highly recognizable thing that helps enlarge our effort, our organization and helps a large group of people. people that can be counted, of course, so we can prove that our efforts have led to a large impact and prove that our success is genuine. hence the headlines and reports that cities have reduced dramatically the number of chronically homeless people or the much larger group consisting of families with children. this is the fallacy and complete untruth of the one big thing.
I've witnessed the diminishing effects on some very gifted, extraordinary people who are advocates for the homeless. I've witnessed the effect that these declarations and statements have had on the homeless themselves. the advocates feel they are falling short of a very noble goal, even as they continue their efforts to aid and assist the homeless. the homeless feel they've been misled due to the fact that they see and live within the very circumstances that these declarations say are getting better and being reduced. they see the truth and become very distrustful to the point of almost having disdain for agencies and advocates who knowingly attempt to deceive the public in general.
let me tell you a secret. we're not reducing chronic homelessness. we're not reducing homelessness. we are falling short of our potential to make a real dent in the homeless population. even the people who are purposefully misleading you, admit the overall homeless population has not been reduced by their programs. by definition it is impossible to eliminate or reduce chronic homelessness unless you significantly reduce the overall homeless population. the numbers and statistics put forth in their claim to have greatly reduced chronic homelessness....it's all smoke and mirrors. our potential to reduce homelessness on all levels has always been there and it is becoming larger and more potent with social media and other outlets of exposure to the homeless population in America. but we'll never live up to the potential until we stop fooling ourselves and we become very bluntly honest about the true and total problem and our lack of success thru the years.
we have the talent, the vision and the desire. we just don't have the will to admit that we've been following the wrong programs and trodding down the wrong path. we don't have the courage to admit we've been wrong for the past few decades and need to reboot our entire system of homeless advocacy and housing programs. we keep trying to define our accomplishments and our talent on ....well...failure. unless we can identify and admit that failure and accept it within us, we'll continue to be static in our successes. we've become a victim of our own "one big thing" philosophy.
there is something we can do to put a halt to the destructive trap we've fallen into with the "one big thing" philosophy. it's more forgiving, more generous and more expansive. it's the presence of mind to recognize that our most impactful, uplifting and sustainable contributions flow directly from honest and truthful actions. it comes from the presence of mind to stop, evaluate and admit when something is not working instead of continuing to expend much needed resources and manpower into something that is draining our entire system. when we are grounded, centered and truly open minded, we do our best work, this does not include accepting dictates from a central federal government to continue to follow their lead even if the results are negligible. this does not include spending hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars on programs that are giving very small results then expounding the virtues and successes of those programs, all the while knowing within ourselves that it's just not true.
this doesn't mean we end our vision and hope for reducing or ending homelessness. it means we just need to stop looking for the "one big thing" every few years. it means we need to develop programs for our own cities and our own communities that work for us. it means we need a singular vision in our own city to reduce homelessness. we're not failing by failing. we're only failing if we call that failure a success, which is exactly what state homeless advocacies and agencies are in today. we're calling failures successes.
there is no such thing as a small effort in fighting homelessness. every effort has an impact. every person involved in advocacy, outreach or street ministry has an impact. the type of impact we have is a direct result of how honest we are with the homeless, with the public in general and with ourselves. every effort matters. every statement matters. every truth, or untruth matters. they both have far reaching effects whether or not we realize it. we need to become conscious of that fact.
there is always something more. there is always something better. any program can always be improved. the thing to understand here is that calling a failure a success does not mean it is. we need to go to the next level of fighting homelessness and include honesty and a relentless pursuit of programs that work efficiently. we need to resist the tendency to embrace programs that are unsustainable or unworkable. now more than ever we need to resist the tendency for headline grabbing or declaring false victory. it does an immense amount of harm to the overall effort. we need to start noticing what we're doing and the true results of that action.
we can significantly reduce homelessness. I know that. but only if the equation involves total honesty and the truth. the next big thing could very well be a lot of small things. or maybe just one small thing.
see you around town