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Addressing Homelessness and Poverty

Joe Roberts Opens Up About His Lived Experience of Homelessness

Joe Roberts
Joe Roberts

A Q&A with the Founder of The Push for Change Foundation and Inspirational Keynote Speaker


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What’s the advice you would give to anyone facing adversity?

We’re so much more than the challenges we experience in life. It takes me back to a story in 1989 where I was on a park bench when I was visibly homeless, and this man name Gus looked and me and he said, “there’s more to you than you can see.” It was the first time that someone spoke to my possibility. The word that comes to mind when I think of adversity, challenge or change, is possibility, what’s on the other side of that?

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What does the general public need to under-stand about people living without a home?

The first problem is that we label it as homelessness, its not homelessness. It’s mental health, it’s substance use disorder, it’s sexual abuse, it’s early childhood trauma, it’s generational poverty, it’s inclusion, it’s a 1000 different things. We need to be empathically curious, to ask questions about what happened before this happened? We need to move the needle on empathy. We need to see the human in all of this, because it’s when we do this we can begin to address it for the public health crisis that it is.

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If you could say one thing to the Canadian public about homelessness, what would it be?

Be careful of what you see in the press, because it’s often not as it seems. The media drives narratives, and the homeless don’t have a voice. Somebody else has created the talking points in the narrative. It may be unintentional, but they don’t have the true perspective of what is going on. Homelessness is used as a label to so many other complex things, you could say things like ‘it could be you’, or ‘you’re one paycheck from living on the streets’, but there is no one thing.

I believe that the solution is out there, and I believe that its waiting for dedicated, smart, impassioned people to step forward in possibility, and apply it.

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