Nonprofits  June 3, 2022

Nelson: How businesses can build community to fight homelessness

Take a look at Boulder — too many residents and employees are priced out, employers are having a hard time finding staff and small businesses can’t afford rent. If we, as a community, can’t come together to see where opportunities exist and create more, we won’t be able to narrow the growing housing gap. The local business community has a unique platform to build community and not be tolerant of the idea of homelessness.

At TGTHR, we aim to solve the issue of youth homelessness and address the fact that it is hard to find housing where it can’t be afforded. Let’s focus on affordable housing. Best Places states that Boulder is 30.1% more expensive than Denver, and more specifically, Boulder housing costs are 73.3% more expensive than those in the Denver metro area. According to Realtor.com, in April 2022, the median listing home price in Boulder was $1.1 million, trending up 22.6% year over year. These statistics point to both the fact that the average person living in Boulder is most likely naive to the adversity unhoused people face each day and that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to live affordably in our community.

As Boulder becomes more expensive, businesses can help fight homelessness and build community by acknowledging the need to pay all employees a living wage and advocating for policies that benefit the unhoused. Honest question: Do businesses see Boulderites, especially young adults, as workforce opportunities? Boulder has an opportunity to hire young people despite a lack of employment histories. This population is hardworking and eager to develop a work history and parlay that experience into a career. However, without the stability of housing, how do we expect unhoused young people to consistently show up to work? What better way to help build community — and give back locally — than by hiring community members in need of work and income.

Another way local businesses can fight homelessness is through volunteering at, donating to and supporting local housing programs and nonprofit organizations such as TGTHR. The quicker young people can get in touch with support and receive significant employment support and increase their earned income, the sooner they are able to exit homelessness. In order to work with business groups to create employment opportunities for those experiencing or exiting homelessness, we must foster a supportive community that empowers those experiencing homelessness to succeed. At the end of the day, the most important thing to focus on is community. How can we better stimulate our economy and benefit the community as a whole? Through leadership and action.

The final way that businesses can help build community is to have honest conversations surrounding homelessness, increasing awareness of those who are unhoused. We must understand that these people don’t want to be unhoused. More often than not, people who are homeless did not choose that life for themselves. Unhoused people are just like you and me, working their way through life. When we have a richer community and humanizing population, those going through a hard time in life can find positive life-changing inspiration. 

Building a community centered around humanity and compassion can help alleviate the unconscious biases we see in order to treat people with kindness and empathy. Bottom line, housing instability creates instability in every area of life. This can be avoided and prevented by addressing housing affordability, implementing compassionate hiring practices, paying a living wage, supporting forward-thinking organizations focused on ending homelessness and having genuine conversations that increase awareness, build empathy and also contemplate solutions to homelessness.

Chris Nelson is the CEO of TGTHR, a nonprofit business dedicated to ending youth homelessness. 

Related Content