I Broke My Heart in San Francisco

I’m writing this on the flight home from San Francisco—a beautiful but blighted city. A quick survey of photos of the City by the Bay, as Tony Bennett sang, will demonstrate it’s amazing views, architecture, bridges, water and so on. A truly gorgeous place.

Yet, at the same time, the squalor on the streets and the overwhelming number of homeless people is beyond depressing. It’s heartbreaking. Literally, within steps of any building (in this case my hotel and every restaurant we went to) are dozens of disheveled individuals. They sleep on the street.They sleep in tiny tents, on concrete, in cardboard boxes, on stoops, with no shelter, no heat, and apparently little to no food. Most look malnourished, washed out, strung out. They have blank stares and the look of the mentally ill or of substance abuse. These are people. Human beings. Living like animals.

I will avoid the temptation to call out the policies of blind politicians that have helped to make San Francisco “homeless central.” It might make me feel better but it won’t help. Blame never helps.

Instead, I want to ask the question: what can be done? Not just in San Francisco but in cities all across America. What can be done?

Clearly, government isn’t the answer. This has been demonstrated repeatedly.

So what about corporate America? What can our company do? What can your company do? I’ve heard of companies utilizing unused real estate as shelters or food banks. I’ve heard of hospitals and healthcare companies offering mobile clinics? Or giving employees time (not PTO) to volunteer at existing ministries that focus on these sad people?

I won’t prescribe. I will only implore that we all take a hard look and, using the creativity we all have, think of ways to help and then implement them. This is Business as Mission.

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