Connect with Your Community!

November 28, 2015

It is only by God’s grace that I have not experienced homelessness. I am also red-faced to admit that when I encounter a homeless person, some level of apprehension stirs in me. Both my daughters are adopted. They are full blood sisters and were two and three years old when they first filled our hearts. Shortly after adoption we became aware of a blood brother, but lost track of him as their birth mother moved out of the area and off the grid. A couple of years ago, miraculously, my youngest daughter made contact with him. It has been another joy to include him along with his wife and son to our family. Of his tragic background, one area that haunts me is that he was homeless for over 10-years, until he was able to get help.

I have come to realize that in helping the homeless we often do not realize their backgrounds. While some end up on the streets through personal choices, many do not. Like my adopted son and his family, their homelessness was the result of the poor choices of others. As such I believe it is essential that we, who have the fortune of housing, to help those who do not.

Years ago a wise individual taught me the lesson of long-term investments. And while we often think financially, there are other investments I believe carry a stronger and long term affect. I am thinking in terms of our personal involvement of time in others. We cannot undervalue or underestimate the return of investment (ROI) of changing someone’s life. It is often like the ripple effect of a pond. One life changes, and that person changes another, and that person changes another…

So how do I help the homeless? For me, the best impact I can give is utilizing what I am good at. I am in the commercial building design and construction industry and so I volunteer my time and experience to Service Providers who operate shelters for the homeless, specifically as they expand or renovate their facilities. And while this is very rewarding, I am really pumped when I get a chance to interact with those who live in these wonderful facilities, learn their stories and spend time with them.

How might you help? While giving financially is always needed, the best long term effect I can think of is when you invest your time. Volunteer for something you like doing and that you are good at. Reach out to a homeless organization or an organization like HomeAid San Diego and just offer yourself. There are lots of need and opportunities.

Maybe I will run into you at one of these homeless shelters painting, cleaning, framing, serving in kitchens or just visiting with the residents.


Ron Sutliff

HomeAid San Diego Board of Directors

Principal, Cushman & Wakefield