It was such an honor to be named a White House Champion of Change on July 12 for my work with homeless children and youth. After working with runaway and homeless youth for 40 years, 29 years of which have been in Santa Clara County, it is great to have such recognition.
I’m now working on ways to use this honor to further the work in our area to end youth and family homelessness by 2020. President Obama developed the Opening Doors federal strategic plan to end homelessness in 2010. In that plan, Obama set a date for ending youth and family homelessness by 2020—most local communities have signed on to do their part to bring this plan to fruition. Earlier this year, I began a campaign to end youth and family homelessness in our own community. Currently, we have been focusing on bringing thought leaders together to develop a collaborative plan of action. Soon we will begin the actual planning process.
It is easy to be cynical about these plans to “end poverty” or “end homelessness,” but sometimes it feels good to think big. By targeting some key problems, I am confident we can make a significant impact on homelessness in our community. It is a tough job—one that many have an opinion on—but without a plan or a starting point, the homeless problem in our community will continue to grow. That’s not something I’m willing to sit by and watch happen.
Sparky Harlan, Executive Director/CEO at Bill Wilson Center, is a nationally recognized advocate for youth in foster care and in the juvenile justice system, as well as homeless and runaway youth.