Thinking Big to End Homelessness

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.

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.

3 Comments

  1. > It is easy to be cynical about these plans to “end poverty” or “end homelessness,” but sometimes it feels good to think big.

    Not only is it easy to be a cynic, it looks like the cynics have been right, too.

    And, I might add, sometimes it even feels good to be a cynic.

  2. Hi Sparky,

    Congrats, you deserve it.

    After many years in the nonprofit sector, it’s great to finally see another group bold enough to step out of the status quo to ending generational family homelessness.  Since early 2012, My Project Youth Connect (mypyc!) has established unstoppable momentum with a local Silicon Valley “Opening Doors 2020” advocacy campaign for homeless families. Our momentum could not have been foreseen without the efforts of hundreds of supporters, and through the ongoing coordination of dozens of community roundtables, workshops, and presentations. And most importantly, our public official support from the City of San Jose, Assemblymembers, Senators, and our Congressman.

    At our recent “Northern California Family Homelessness Policy Forum,” we partnered with the Federal Washington D.C. United states Interagency Council on Homelessness. They concluded with one of our goals and stated loud and clear, “in order to be successful in eradicating homelessness in cities across the nation, cities need to have a comprehensive plan that includes ALL homeless populations,” stated Matthew Doherty of the USICH.

    Last year there were over 200,000 K12 homeless students identified in California school districts. We must invest in our human capital by advancing family integration into these homeless plans for adequate and equitable resource allocation to stop generational homelessness. 

    I wish to take this opportunity to send a SPECIAL THANK YOU to the USICH, Councilmember’s Kansen Chu, Ash Kalra, Xavier Campos, Sam Liccardo, Assemblymembers Paul Fong, Bob Weickowski, Jim Beall, Nora Campos, Senator Corbett, and Congressman Mike Honda for their support at our events. Also, I want thank the hundreds of city, county, nonprofits, and community advocates that have participated with us, including our private sponsors that are committed to helping http://www.mypyc.com reach our goals by 2013.

    “Opening Doors 2020” has arrived and we appreciate your alignment.

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