Board Feature: Cliff Cadle
Cliff is one of our newer board members, having come on late last year. I finally had an opportunity to sit down with him and ask him about what motivates him to help bring change in our shared community. We talked about an encounter he had with a homeless family in downtown Chicago that changed his perspective on homelessness, and how it's important to help others think past stereotypes of homelessness wherever it's found.
"Before the pandemic, my family and I were in downtown Chicago, walking around the River North area. We stumbled across a family – a father and two sons – who were homeless. They were sitting outside of a grocery store. I said to my son, 'We need to help this family,' so we went inside and loaded up a cart with food.
When we came back out, they were gone. It was about dinner hour, and, while I didn’t know this at the time, the area clears out of homeless people around then. In fact, we couldn’t find a single person in the area to give the food to. We ended up at Navy Pier and found a group of men who could benefit from the groceries, since we didn’t need them and wanted them to go to good use.
That moment planted a seed in my mind.
There are a lot of stereotypes of 'homeless people.' There’s this idea that they might have a drug problem or struggle with mental illness, or that they’re always looking for handouts. And, yes, some people experiencing homelessness do struggle with drugs and mental illness. But the reasons for homelessness sometimes aren’t as obvious. People don’t always 'fit' into our ideas of homelessness. They might be a family who hit hard times, or even the person you’re standing next to in line at the bus stop or grocery store.
I want to help change that bias. If I had this bias, who else might, too? People experiencing homelessness are not lesser. I’m sure that there were other times in my life when I interacted with someone who was homeless, but I didn’t realize it because they didn’t fit the stereotype of what I thought homelessness was.
It’s not just about asking, 'What did that person do to get there?' I feel as though we’re in a position to respond by thinking about how we can transition people back into stable lives. I’m a financial advisor, so I see my role in that potentially being able to encourage establishing savings accounts for emergency funds and help with budgeting – helping with basic needs. That’s something I can do now as we work to change minds in our larger community. I think it’s important that as a board, we work to change the way people think about homelessness."
Transcribed and Arranged by Roxanne Gentry, Marketing Associate
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