Monday, November 15, 2010

Press Release: Helping the Homeless


For Immediate Release November 15, 2010 Sacramento, California


The homeless issue is a Parkway issue as the Lower Reach of the Parkway—Discovery Park to Cal Expo—has been the de jure tent city for the homeless for years.

As the cold of winter invigorates the urgency of public policy strategies to alleviate the suffering of those who are homeless, we do well as a community to remember that the primary and most effective help is often a balanced combination of giving aid and inspiring those aided to begin the internal work of personal transformation that will elevate them beyond the need for aid.

Providing services without inspiring internal change generally leads to a tragic continuation of the problem

In this regard, we might note the words from the seminal book, To Empower People: From State to Civil Society, by Peter Berger & Richard John Neuhaus, who wrote:

“Time and again, I found that indigenous community leaders have substantial long-term impact because they have been able to affect not only the behavior of those they serve but also the internal base of values that determines behavior. In tackling the most critical problems that confront low-income communities, they have made distinctions—as most top-down programs do not—between poverty that is caused by factors outside an individual’s control (for example, lay-offs or extended illness) and that which results from the life choices an individual makes (drug-addiction and out-of-wedlock births, for instance). They recognize that, with regard to poverty that results from an individual’s choice, an internal change is prerequisite for any external programs or aid to have lasting and substantial effect.

“Grass-roots activists who live within the same zip code as the people they serve have a unique capacity to inspire this kind of transformation. In many cases they have suffered—and have overcome—the same problems that they are guiding others to battle. They are often living examples of achievement against the odds, and they provide models of the values and principles that they espouse. Hundreds of testimonies from effective grass-roots leaders have shown that their foundation of faith has enabled them to see potential for transformation and revitalization where professionals have limited their goals to custodianship.

“Furthermore, surveys have shown that a base of local support is a more natural and more approachable resource than professional services that are “parachuted in” to the communities. When queried, hundreds of low-income people responded that if they confronted a crisis they would turn first to family members, friends, local churches, and other organizations that are indigenous to their communities for help. Only as a last resort would they choose to turn to a professional service provider.

“In spite of this reality, we continue to use a service delivery system that relies on what is the last choice of those who are in need.”

Berger, P. L. & Neuhaus, R.J. (1996). To Empower People: From State to Civil Society. (2nd Ed.) Washington D.C. The AEI Press. (pp. 106-107)

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and remember that empowerment is more truly compassionate than pity.

Organizational Leadership
American River Parkway Preservation Society
Sacramento, California
November 15, 2010

Contact Information

David H. Lukenbill, Senior Policy Director
American River Parkway Preservation Society
2267 University Avenue, Sacramento, CA 95825
P: 916-486-3856 E:
W: B: