On this day of reflection, we honor the timeless values Martin Luther King Jr. upheld: courage, dignity, pursuit of justice, and speaking truth to power. These values are important to us at HandUp, and fuel the work we do to address systemic racism and homelessness in our home city of San Francisco.
On October 17th, 2016, HandUp partnered with the San Francisco Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing (DHSH) and local nonprofits to organize a town hall addressing racism and homelessness. The event was packed with over 800 attendees and included an amazing line-up of speakers including Carolyn Tyler of ABC7, Dr. Ken Hardy of the Eikenberg Institute for Relationships, and more (see photos below and watch the full event video). As we celebrate Dr. King today, we remember the important messages our speakers had to share.
Full Event Video:
The hard truth is that people of color are significantly more likely to experience homelessness than the general U.S. population. As Jeff Olivet from the Center for Social Innovation pointed out, “Homelessness is driven by structural and institutional racism in this country. The proportion of African Americans experiencing homelessness is about three times that of the general population.”
Though it is heavy and hard work, as we see the truth we are also reminded of Dr. King’s unwavering optimism in the face of struggle. Joe Wilson of the nonprofit Hospitality House encouraged us to find hope by taking action, “If we want to change this, we have to expose ourselves to new experiences. I hope that everyone in the room recognizes that we all have a responsibility to do something. We have a responsibility to see people on the streets as part of our village.”
As you go on with your MLK holiday, whether you’re out volunteering or at home cozied up with a book, take a moment to think about how you can help your village. Is there a local nonprofit you’ve been meaning to get involved with? Is there a local activist group you could donate to? Or is your goal simply to say hello to the next homeless neighbor you pass? What one thing you can do to change the way we think about racism and homelessness?
Whatever you decide to do, please share it with us online. Use the hashtag #HandUpMLK to tell us what you’re doing for your community. You can also see our online discussion on Neighborland where we have aggregated comments from participants at the event.