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Community & Behavioral Health | Recovery | Social Change


Changing the Conversation

Jeff Olivet

Jeff Olivet
Jeff Olivet is the CEO at the Center for Social Innovation. He is a national leader on homelessness, poverty, affordable housing, behavioral health, public health, and HIV. He has been a street outreach worker, case manager, housing director, coalition builder, writer, teacher, and activist. Jeff is a recognized expert in bringing innovative technologies and solutions to complex social problems.
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Recent Posts

Say a Prayer for Massachusetts

8:42 p.m. January 26th. Cambridge, Mass.

As I write, New England is hunkering down for what the TV meteorologists are saying will be an historic storm. A swath of the east coast from Philadelphia to Boston is bracing 2-3 feet of snow in a 24-hour period. The predicted storm has already caused the cancellation of hundreds of flights--including several for our own staff. The governor of Massachusetts has declared a state of emergency, banning drivers from the roads, closing the state, and predicting hundreds of thousands will be without electricity.

Too Many Candles

Cambridge, Massachusetts. December 21, 2014. The first day of winter. The longest night of the year.

Last Friday I participated in the annual Homeless Memorial Service at the Church on the Hill in Boston. Prayers were said, songs sung, silences held, and names read. To be exact, we read 98 names—the names of people who died in Boston over the past year while experiencing homelessness. In addition to those 98 names, the audience added a dozen more in the silent space between readings. For each name, we lit a candle.

Not One Child. Not One Night.

December 2014. This is the time of year when newspapers and television programs pay attention to homelessness again. Unfortunately, homelessness doesn’t begin at Thanksgiving and end at New Years. For all too many men, women, children, and youth, homelessness is a painful, traumatic daily reality. America’s Youngest Outcasts, a state report card on child homelessness from the National Center on Family Homelessness, recently reported that 2.5 million children in America experienced homelessness over the past year. That shocking number, 2.5 million, means that 1 out of every 30 American children have been homeless in the last year. 2.5 million is roughly the size of the greater Kansas City metro area, or the population of Birmingham, Cleveland, Portland, and Albuquerque…combined. Imagine that: a city of 2.5 million people filled with children experiencing homelessness. It is hard to comprehend.

ANNOUNCING Threads: Changing the Conversation

Homelessness is devastating. First, it is a painful, often terrifying, traumatic experience for people who become homeless and for those who love them. Second, homelessness is an overwhelming social problem—one that weakens us as a nation and lays bare the underlying injustices that erode our country’s foundation. Homelessness does not represent a type of person or a set of bad decisions by an individual. Instead, it reflects the crossroads of all that is broken in our society: poverty; lack of affordable housing; unemployment; jobs that don’t pay livable wages; poor health care access; inadequate services for mental health, substance use, and trauma; an educational system that allows too many young people to slip through the cracks; fragmented families and dangerous neighborhoods; violence and victimization; racism; and social exclusion.