Back in my college days, I was shocked to learn that an estimated 250,000 Americans had no place live. This insight came largely through announcement of the McKinney-Vento Act; the first federal legislation ever enacted to specifically address homelessness (and sponsored by Minnesota’s Bruce Vento). Until then, I had simply presumed a country as great as ours would naturally take care of those in need.
Forty years later, the number of homeless citizens in the United States has more than doubled to over 560,000.1 Almost 37% are part of families. About 8% are veterans. An equal number are abandoned children. And about 7,500 of them are Minnesotans.
Last night, the low temperature in the Twin Cities reached 20 below zero – not counting wind chill – and hundreds of our neighbors spent those dark hours crouched in dumpsters or wedged into the crotch of highway overpasses to stay alive.
How can this be? How can we still be talking about this issue? How can we ever rest comfortably before every citizen has found their place – or at least a safe place to rest their head?
As a real estate professional, I am particularly embarrassed by our national epidemic of homelessness. And, while I respect the efforts many legislators to address this issue, I also realize it’s not enough. The people and organizations who work tirelessly to help the homeless still lack the resources and attention they need to fully serve their constituents. Perhaps because the homeless rarely vote.
So, beginning today, I’ll be donating $500 from every client home sale or purchase to local non-profit organizations that focus specifically on helping the homeless. No limits. No expiration date. No catch.
I know I’m just one guy and my contribution may never add up to more than a couple dozen donations a year – but it’s a start. And that’s the whole idea.
To those who might say this is just a marketing ploy, I say you’re missing the point. Marketing is all about differentiating yourself from everyone else; this is about driving a stake in the ground, declaring your intentions and challenging everyone else to do the same.
I’m inviting my fellow agents to join the cause and imagine what we could accomplish. If every agent in Minnesota made a similar contribution from only one transaction each year we would still raise millions of dollars to end local homelessness. Millions.
So, if you or your friends are thinking about buying or selling a home, I hope you’ll give me a chance to earn your business. I can certainly give you plenty of other reasons why it’s a great idea. If, on the other hand, you already have an agent, I hope you’ll ask them to contribute part of their commission to the homeless services organization of your choice.
Together, we can make a meaningful difference in the lives of neighbors who desperately need us – and become true “agents of change.”
1Annual Report: The State of Homelessness in America 2016, National Alliance to End Homelessness http://www.endhomelessness.org/library/entry/SOH2016