Month: October 2016

LinkedIn Interns Say ‘Hi’ and Raise 10,000 to End Homelessness

In late March 2016, Downtown Streets Team launched its work experience model for unhoused community members in San Francisco, a city that we know and love for its diverse, creative, and charmingly gritty culture. Three months after our launch, we were thrilled to have the attention of the largest employment oriented social networking company in the world, LinkedIn.

Working with LinkedIn’s Interns for Good was a no-brainer for us. In fact, we’re humbled to admit that Downtown Streets Team attempted to make our own employment-oriented social networking site a few years back. Yeah, that failed. Not just because we’re social workers making a poor attempt at engineering, but because access to technology has drastically improved for the unhoused community enough to make LinkedIn a viable resource for folks living on the streets. There couldn’t be a more exciting time to launch our non-profit in one of the most innovative and tech-savvy cities in the world.

San Franciscans know life isn’t golden for everyone in the City. Everyday we’re faced with over 8,000 people experiencing homelessness, and while the problem at large is so visible, the individuals themselves seem to blend together. It takes a conscious effort to remind ourselves the folks we see struggling are people, not just “the homeless,” and that everyone has a different path that led them to the street.

In consultations with our Team Members, we asked them what the most distressing aspect of homelessness is. Their responses were not as you might expect, the lack of adequate shelter, food or a sense of safety. We were told that the most difficult part of homelessness is the lack of acknowledgement from other people. This led to San Francisco Downtown Streets Team’s Just Say Hi campaign.

LinkedIn’s Interns for a Cause took our concept and ran with it. They demonstrated an impassioned and thorough understanding of our goal to end social hesitation around acknowledging homeless community members. People want to help end homelessness, but they don’t know how. Everyone can start by simply saying hi. The interns did exactly they: they saw our Team Members (homeless community members) cleaning the street, and asked who they were.

From that first interaction, the interns designed a program where coworkers could send a simple hello to a fellow employee accompanied with a message and a treat in return for making a donation. More than 300 employees participated, raising $2,755 for us! This program was a proof of concept for us: when asked to be thoughtful and reach out to someone, employees were inclined to take action and make a connection. Once someone received a Just Say Hi message, they were inspired to send one themselves. It was even worth a donation on their part. You can’t put a price on human connection, and this program proved that positivity breeds positivity. This is something we’ve seen in our work as well: when you start treating someone with dignity, they will rise to the occasion. The interns’ Just Say Hi message program proved positive attention yields real results.

With continued organized efforts, the LinkedIn interns in partnership with the LinkedIn for Good team raised over $10,000 for our San Francisco Team. Given the success of the campaign, we hope to replicate it across our organization.

With this funding, we can grow our Team and provide more services to more people. Our San Francisco Team is the fastest growing of the seven branches DST has established across the Bay Area. In the past six months, we have helped 22 individuals find permanent employment, and another 16 find temporary employment. For many of our folks, this was a huge step. Having not worked for years, many Team Members at first don’t have confidence they could return to work. However, after a weekend gig cleaning up after Outside Lands and San Francisco Pride, they realized they do have what it takes to get a job, and began putting out applications and setting-up a LinkedIn profile.

When the LinkedIn Interns saw our Team and reached out to just say hi, we had no idea where it would lead. Here we are, together taking steps towards ending homelessness one person, one human connection and one job at a time.

VOL IX – Gregory Mills, San Francisco Graduate



Hi, I’m Gregory Mills…

Can we do it like Paul Harvey? I just think it sounds more dramatic…

February 23 1977, I joined the Airforce with a six month old child. I was looking for something better career-wise, instead of being a janitor, my pride was too strong. I started as a mechanic, worked there for 18 years. Met some great friends. One of my friends there was Jaqueline’s Bouvier Kennedy’s cousins. We got stationed in Denver together, and we ate all of the hamburgers in the city. I lived in Korea for three years, great shopping if you get a chance. It was okay, but I was a family man. I was sitting there, thinking about how I was missing home. I was trying to do my time, I was counting every day, ready to go back home.

I met my best friend in the world, he was from Harlem. He brought this creativity out of me. I was kinda closed in, and he was kinda awkward, but we were goofing around and we started writing on people’s door. We had fun at night, we would go downtown to party, drink, laugh, and right before we would go in the base he would tap me on the shoulder and said “ I gotta go” and this man would disappear into the darkness.

I made a lot of friends, I wish I kept in contact. Sometimes I happen to see one or two of them in the Tenderloin. Keep in mind this is not a place I wanted to end up, but then you get the feeling, “Okay, I’m not the only one to get down this road.” 

I retired early from the Airforce, I felt I was the missing entity in my Black family. There was a need for a Black male to keep some control in the community. So I moved back to SF, in Visitation Valley. When I got home, I represented this authority that my wife and kid did not want anymore… it caused a lot of problems.

One day my son tried to kill me. I had a 25th year anniversary Mustang. My son stole my car. I tried to discipline him. And then he stole it again.

I went back home to my mother’s house; it was like God intervened and put me back in my mom’s presence. I would listen to her stories, learn different things I did not know about her. Learn some cooking skills. At times, I questioned whether she loved me, but of course, she always did.

I remember the day I left for Korea, she said, “You want me to come to the airport with you?” Then it hit me. She started crying, and I thought, “I’ve never been this far away from you in my life.” I’ve been called a mama’s boy by so many girlfriends. She was everything to me. I learned a long time ago what loneliness is — and I know what being alone is, and it’s not the same.

My mother was my anchor. When my mom passed away, I started to feel like a ship without an anchor. It’s easy to burry your feelings in drugs. I think I was trying to kill myself. I started smoking crack. I was kinda like a soft smoker, I never stole from nobody. I was smoking but I was confused. I did not know what I was doing. One day, it seemed like I was on the verge of dying and I promised God I would not do it no more.

I ran into this lady who saw something in me, and helped me out. She would not allow anyone in my circle, so I couldn’t get out of it.

I worked for the Internal Revenue Service at the time. I did make it to work everyday, for eight hours a day. I was about to be hired for a permanent job, but then they brought up that I was ex-military and that I had a lot of guns, and they got paranoid. They did a warrant check and they found a firearm in my briefcase and some marijuana. It was a registered gun and I did not want to leave it at home at home, cause my niece was staying there. I got arrested for the night. I spent the night in jail, and when I went in front of the judge, he saw I was a good man, and he released me.

I had a two-year probation and had to stay in a special house. I was also supposed to stay away from drugs, and they put me in this area where I had to pass hundreds of people taking drugs on a daily basis. That was an everyday battle. All of the evil, I ended up right in the midst of it. Crack dealers everywhere. No matter how hard you try, you are always going to remember that drug, cause it can pull you right back into it.

But I managed to stay off. I got off probation. I don’t have any problem with the police. But I have a problem when they just call me, “Hey come here…” because I’m Black. With my military background, it feels unfair. I put my ass on the line, and the cops just have their jobs and act like they are heroes. I even had to file a complaint against an officer who harassed me. I’m a veteran, I don’t appreciate being talked to like that.

Calvin is one of my oldest friends. I saw him one day on the street, he was hustling, and he told me about the Downtown Streets team. I looked into it, did the process, signed up. Then I got accepted to the Team. I had to clean up stuff, picking up needles, trash, next to people who are using needles. It was hard. 

Fortunately, through the Street Team, there are three other guys that I’m friends with. We support each other, look after each other. All of this is due to DST. I’m a great person, but I don’t always let it show. Me and these guys are so close. One of the guys just got a permanent job, and we were so happy for him. I’m not his father, but to see his smile, it’s priceless.

Then the need to work came, for my pride, to feel busy, and to make ends meet. A father does not like to see his family fall apart. My daughter started having medical problems, and that’s what put me back to work. She is like me, but she is tougher, smarter, harder, but she is me. Sometimes you don’t like to fail in front of yourself. My daughter does not want to see me fail. I was working for this car company. Now I live in a brand new senior building, an old Coca Cola factory. I have a glow to me now because I’m not homeless anymore.





SanJoseInside – Op-Ed: Vote ‘Yes’ on A for Affordable Housing

This op-ed piece was originally published by; written by Eileen Richardson/September 13, 2016

Measure A would authorize Santa Clara County to spend $950 million on affordable housing for the homeless and other vulnerable residents. (Photo via Facebook)

Measure A would authorize Santa Clara County to spend $950 million on affordable housing for the homeless and other vulnerable residents. (Photo via Facebook)

This November, Santa Clara County voters will have the opportunity to make history by voting “yes” on Measure A for Affordable Housing, a $950 million affordable housing bond that will create thousands of new affordable homes for hardworking families and vulnerable communities across Santa Clara County.

We all see on a daily basis that Santa Clara County’s housing crisis is real. The Bay Area is home to some of the wealthiest and most expensive places to live in the world, all while thousands of people are homeless and many thousands more live below the poverty line on the verge of homelessness.

This affects all of us. We’re worried about our friends, family, and community members being able to find an affordable place to live. And we’re deeply concerned about helping those who have already lost housing find a way to get back on their feet and gain access to a safe, healthy, affordable place to call home. Read more…