+
True
State Farm

Chris Richardson and his mom, Eileen, are close.

We’re talking the kind of close that most single moms and their children understand.

And, for Chris and his mom, this bond has only been strengthened by a shared mission to end homelessness.


His mom was always very driven — she climbed the corporate ladder, becoming a successful venture capitalist, then CEO of Napster and another high-tech startup. But it was while Chris was away at college that she decided to tackle a social issue: homelessness.

In 2004, Eileen popped her head into a food closet in Palo Alto, California, hoping to do just that. And it didn't take her long to take giving back to the next level, leading her to launch the Downtown Streets Team.

The nonprofit isn't your average "give 'em food and a place to stay for the night then send 'em on their way" kind of initiative.

In exchange for community volunteer work, Downtown Streets Team offers homeless people food and housing as well as job skills training.

[rebelmouse-image 19474100 dam="1" original_size="750x497" caption="Photo from The Family Album Project." expand=1]Photo from The Family Album Project.

It’s a simple exchange that began in Palo Alto 13 years ago and has spread to communities across California, including San Jose, Sunnyvale, San Rafael, San Francisco, Hayward, and Novato.

The most recent launch is in Santa Cruz, and Eileen's son Chrisis leading the way as the chief program officer.

"[Homelessness] is an issue we can't ignore," Chris emphasizes.And while he didn't always think he'd end up working with his mom, it didn't take him long to follow in her footsteps and join her nonprofit full-time to help give back.

[rebelmouse-image 19474101 dam="1" original_size="750x500" caption="Photo from The Family Album Project." expand=1]Photo from The Family Album Project.

The need is certainly great: 66% of California's homeless population live without shelter, and 34% stay in emergency shelters, transitional housing programs, or safe havens.

Downtown Streets Team is committed to shrinking those numbers — and it's also giving homeless people the opportunity to get involved in their communities.

"We give the homeless a platform to give back," Chris explains.

What begins with community service often results in reliable employment. Through this organization, about 20 team members per month go on to take jobs that earn an average of $12.59 per hour. Of those placed, 75% have remained employed after the first three months.

[rebelmouse-image 19474102 dam="1" original_size="750x536" caption="Photo from The Family Album Project." expand=1]Photo from The Family Album Project.

After about six months with the organization, most team members begin working with a staff member who helps them figure out their employment goals.

"Some people are ready to look for work after being with us shortly and some take months to be motivated," says Greg Pensinger, project manager of Downtown Streets Team. "We let them go at their own pace because we want them to succeed."

Greg and Chris take to heart connecting team members with gigs they want to commit to.

And the results are impressive. Not only does Downtown Streets Team give homeless people a chance to better their communities, it also gives them the tools to build a brighter, more sustainable future for themselves and their families.

"When we first meet team members, they are in survival mode. Our goal is to get them to self-sufficiency by offering them housing and employment," says Greg.

But their efforts don’t stop there. Chris and Greg advocate off the streets too.

[rebelmouse-image 19474103 dam="1" original_size="750x563" caption="Chris & Eileen Richardson. Photo from The Family Album Project." expand=1]Chris & Eileen Richardson. Photo from The Family Album Project.

They arrange for team members to share their stories with city staff, church groups, police, and schools in an attempt to challenge stereotypes.

Makes sense. For an issue that so many feel disconnected from, offering a human face and story helps drive the message home and allows people who have experienced homelessness to speak for themselves.

Listening to a person's journey, hearing them out, and connecting with their story can make a world of difference.

"We know that there is more to solving homelessness than just going out there and giving people jobs," says Chris. "We have to get people to understand the homeless. We have to change perceptions."

His mom must be proud.

via Chewy

Adorable Dexter and his new chew toy. Thanks Chewy Claus.

True

Every holiday season, millions of kids send letters asking for everything from a new bike to a pony. Some even make altruistic requests such as peace on Earth or helping struggling families around the holidays.

But wouldn’t the holiday season be even more magical if our pets had their wishes granted, too? That’s why Chewy Claus is stepping up to spread holiday cheer to America’s pets.

Does your dog dream of a month’s supply of treats or chew toys? Would your cat love a new tree complete with a stylish condo? How about giving your betta fish some fresh decor that’ll really tie its tank together?

Or do your pets need something more than mere creature comforts such as life-saving surgery?

Keep ReadingShow less
Celebrity

U.S. Soccer star expertly handles an Iranian reporter’s loaded questions about race.

Tyler Adams’s response proves exactly why he’s the captain of the US soccer team.

Tyler Adams expertly handles Iranian reporter's question

Reporters are supposed to ask the right questions to get to the truth but sometimes it seems sports reporters ask questions to throw you off your game. There's no doubt that this Iranian reporter who was questioning Tyler Adams, the US soccer team captain at the press conference during the World Cup had an agenda that didn't involve getting to the truth.

It's not clear if the questions were designed to throw the young player off of his game or if the goal was embarrassment. It really is hard to tell, but Adams handled the unexpectedly harsh encounter with intelligence and poise when some may have found it justified for him to get angry.

Keep ReadingShow less
Identity

'Blind Poet' turned the loss of his vision into an opportunity to build a community on Facebook

At his most vulnerable moment, he found the gift of self-expression.

via Meta Community Voices

Dave Steele aka "The Blind Poet."

True

Dave Steele was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa (RP) in 2014 and told that he would slowly lose his vision until he was completely blind. Imagine the pain and stress of knowing that every day your sense of sight will slowly diminish until you fall into darkness.

Steele was not only losing his sight, but after his diagnosis, he felt he lost his purpose.

The diagnosis came with an added gut punch: Each of his four children also has a 50% chance of having RP. Steele lost his job, his family couldn’t afford the rent on their home and the waiting list for government benefits was nine months. "I was feeling more guilty about the pressure I was putting on my family and that, in turn, was affecting my vision loss as well and I became more anxious and more isolated because of it,” he told Henshaws InSights.

As his troubles mounted, Steele found solace in talking to others coping with sight loss through Facebook community groups. “That was a real massive, massive help to me,” he told Henshaws InSights.

Keep ReadingShow less

This article originally appeared on 07.22.21


As if a Canada goose named Arnold isn't endearing enough, his partner who came looking for him when he was injured is warming hearts and having us root for this sweet feathered couple.

Cape Wildlife Center in Barnstable, Massachusetts shared the story on its Facebook page, in what they called "a first" for their animal hospital.


Keep ReadingShow less
Joy

10 things that made us smile this week

This week's list includes some adorable animals, some delightful dancing, and a beautiful example of human connection.

Upworthy's weekly roundup of joy.

It's officially December—can you believe it? That means 2022 is almost a wrap, which is wild. I mean, wasn't it just 2020?!?

For many people, December is the season of joy and giving and holiday gatherings, but it can also be a lonely or stressful time for some of our fellow humans. Family isn't a source of comfort for everyone, unfortunately, and challenges with relationships or finances can make for a difficult December. As we reflect on the past year and prepare for the new one, let's all commit to treating one another with an extra dose of kindness.

Let's also remember to celebrate small joys as the days get colder and shorter, like the coziness of a cup of hot cocoa, the sweetness of a child's laughter or the companionship of our furry friends. It's often a large collection of little things that add up to a good life, and thankfully, small joys are cheap and plentiful.

Keep ReadingShow less