Over half a million Americans experience homelessness on any given day, according to statistics released in January, 2016. Some find ways to rise up to success, like Chris Gardner, whose story was told in the movie "The Pursuit of Happyness," starring Will Smith.
In Charlottesville, Virginia, people who are experiencing homelessness are successfully learning skills and receiving valuable support in building their businesses in The Homeless Entrepreneur--The Suitcase to Briefcase Program.
Becky Blanton, author of The Homeless Entrepreneur: How to Start a Business When You're Homeless, Poor or Just Plain Broke (How to Be Homeless) founded the 501(c)3 organization, The Homeless Entrepreneur.
Then with David Durovy, Becky co-founded The Suitcase to Briefcase Program, a pilot project which gives "motivated people who are experiencing homelessness or at risk for becoming homeless, unemployed or underemployed" a chance to start their own businesses. It offers an opportunity to "get off of the streets, out of the shelters and out of their vehicles." And perhaps the greatest benefit is that it changes "the way the public thinks of homeless people" as well as the way homeless people think of themselves.
"The homeless are just as capable as the housed."
Blanton and Durovy note that "not every homeless person wants a handout" -- many just need "a hand up" to get back on their feet.
Becky is an editor and journalist, ghostwriter and photographer who found herself homeless for 18 months, but bounced back. A TED Global presenter she inspires others through sharing her story.
David Durovy has been involved with entrepreneurship, small business and spiritual studies most of his life and is currently involved with three non-profit organizations in helping others to help themselves. He and Becky co-founded The Homeless Entrepreneur: Suitcase to Briefcase program.
Meryl Ann Butler: Thanks for visiting with OpEdNews, Becky and David. Your program is wonderful. As we see our government becoming less involved with assisting Americans, it is exciting to see our citizens stepping up to the plate to address some of the problems we face. And your program is a stunning example of that. I really enjoyed sitting in on the portion of your course that showed how to "rewire" the brain for entrepreneurial activities, that's information that can be beneficial for anyone, and was a wonderful topic to include. Please tell us, what inspired you two to develop this program together?
Becky Blanton: David inspired me! He was my instructor for a 16-week Community Investment Collaborative (CIC) Entrepreneur Training. I showed him my book at the end of the course and we started a conversation about homeless people, and his interests and past experiences. the plan was for us to work as group leaders at CIC class together, but that fell through, and so we thought, "Why not teach the homeless how to start a business?" The timing was right and it all came together and we just jumped right in.
David Durovy: Becky inspired me! She was part of my work group when I volunteered as a leader during the entrepreneur. I had the privilege of getting to know her well during this course. Her knowledge, experiences and caring heart impressed me. She wrote The Homeless Entrepreneur during the last three weeks of the course and asked me to review it.
MAB: Wow, in three weeks! That sounds like an inspired project!
DD: Yes, I was very inspired by it and suggested she create a class based on her book for people who were experiencing homelessness and how to start their own businesses. And so it began...
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