In Berkeley, I was honored to have been asked to participate in a planning meeting for the next days rally to be held in Oakland. The topics were affordable housing and General Assistance benefits.
Those were things I knew nothing about other than by experience. I can tell you that in Oregon if you are single, you do not qualify for benefits. You have to have a child. There in California, the benefits have been there for a short amount of time but were minimal. They started off being about $380 then were cut back to roughly $220 or thereabouts.
The planning committee sitting around the table was made up of 6 women and 7 women. They were clean cut, well dressed, healthy looking men and women. The intelligence in that room was enough to make Einstein duck for cover. But what amazed me was not the intelligence, nor the dedication to this project, nor the fact that they were all impeccably groomed, nor the spirituality that exuded from them all. What took me by surprise was that each and every one of them had at some point, not too long ago been homeless.
They had all fallen on hard times. Some by some form of addiction, some by lack of employment, one because of disability. As we talked and shared and got to know one another I must honestly say that I will be thrilled if any of them decide to keep in touch and would be honored to call each and every one of them friend.
All of them are members of an organization called BOSS. Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency. The Boss is more than a name. It's more than a referral program, It is an educational program; an action plan that empowers not enables. BOSS rebuilds lives; gives hope to those who haven't dared to do so for a long time. BOSS works together as a team with the homeless, poverty stricken, and disabled, to give them a better life.
At BOSS, you are not looked upon as 'the poor homeless person.' As they say on their website..."We celebrate people's strength in surviving under difficult conditions." BOSS believes that housing for every person is a human right. Acting upon those beliefs, BOSS acts as an advocate by empowering those in need to speak up for themselves. To strengthen whole communities to be just that...a community. Lastly, they teach individuals to get involved in their own civil rights.
BOSS also assists those wishing to turn their lives around by connecting them with Adult education classes, job search and placement, money management strategies and even job creation when appropriate.
BOSS also advocates for health as well. This mean BOSS not only offers medical referrals but helps to empower each person that walks through their doors to make healthy choices for his or her life.
I cannot tell you exactly how many people were at this rally we participated in. I can tell you that more than 75% of them were homeless.
Look carefully at the pictures above. See all those Navy t-shirts? Graduates from BOSS. Look at the faces. Do they look homeless to you? They look the same to me. Confident, healthy people, living life to the best of their abilities and getting healthier every day.
So who's the BOSS? Everyone!