Today’s blog post comes to us from one of the Alliance’s board members, Robert D. Stillman.
Robert D. Stillman is president of a consulting company, Milbridge Capital Management, LLC. He is the former Chairman of The Global Fund for Children, current Chairman of the Executive Committee of Small Enterprise Assistance Funds, and he is on the Advisory Board of Jubilee Jobs, Inc. Mr. Stillman joined the Alliance’s board in 2000 and has been a tireless advocate for ending homelessness ever since. In the brief interview below, he shares his experiences as an advocate, Alliance volunteer, and donor.
How did you become involved with the Alliance and efforts to end homelessness?
I came of age at the end of World War II, when times were good, and to most of us, homelessness was confined to a few persons “down on their luck.” Over the years, however, there was increasing evidence of a widespread problem – people sleeping on church steps or over heating grates or in cardboard shelters. Currently, there are around 650,000 homeless people in America on any given night and over the course of the year nearly 1.6 million will experience homelessness – in the greatest and richest country in the world!
When I came to DC in the 1990s, a friend invited me to attend the Annual Awards Ceremony of the National Alliance to End Homelessness. The honorees ranged from Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry’s to Senator Kit Bond from Missouri – a wide spectrum of political and cultural persuasions, united in their concern about the problem of homelessness and all focused on ways to end it. It was clear that all had great respect for the work of the Alliance. The Ten Year Plan developed by the Alliance was described by Nan Roman, who described the commitment of major U.S. cities to follow this effort in their communities, and its impact was confirmed by representatives from the public sector, non-profits, and individuals. Here was an organization intent on doing something to end this blight!
I came away so moved by the potential and passion of the Alliance that I made my first significant contribution, and later was invited to join the Board.
Do you think ending homelessness is possible? Why?
Yes, I believe that homelessness can be ended. For several years prior to the current recession, rates of homelessness were dropping throughout the country, and supportive housing and other facilities were meeting the needs of more of the chronic homeless population. The commitments of federal, state, and local governments to the Ten Year Plan advocated by the Alliance have put a spotlight on this problem and continuing pressure toward its elimination. Homelessness has increased in the current economy but even with tighter budgets, allocations to these programs have not been significantly reduced. Once the economy strengthens, there is every reason to believe the homeless statistics will resume their downward trend.
Why do you financially support the National Alliance to End Homelessness?
I contribute to the Alliance because it is an efficient and effective way to impact the problem of homelessness. An individual homeless person may not know of the Alliance, but his or her opportunities for regaining a home and renewing a normal life is directly affected by its work. Public and private institutions rely on the Alliance for information, recommendations, inspiration, and passion to end homelessness for all. Through its influence on federal, state and local governments, the Alliance is a major force in targeting resources in this area, encouraging policies that have the greatest chance for success at the most reasonable cost.
If you could tell donors one thing about the Alliance what would it be?
I would tell donors that a contribution to the Alliance will have a greater impact on reducing and ending homelessness than any other place they might put their money. The work of the Alliance is magnified a hundred-fold by the agencies that look to it for guidance. Its reputation for nonpartisan, knowledgeable, honest, and thoughtful recommendations guarantees it will be heard by those in a position to allocate resources to achieve the goal of ending homelessness forever.