Tackling homelessness with 3 simple questions

Lauren TaggartGuest post by Lauren Taggart, Sr. Vendor Manager at Amazon and a member of United Way’s 2016-2017 Emerging Leaders committee.


How can you help tackle big issues like homelessness? Start by asking yourself 3 questions.

The Seattle Public Library welcomed more than 50 Emerging Leaders recently to hear from Rebekah Bastian, Zillow’s VP of Product, on how her company works to alleviate issues of rising housing costs and homelessness.

When it comes to finding solutions to big issues like homelessness, Rebekah emphasized that “leadership can come from anywhere.” She encouraged attendees to ask themselves three simple questions to better understand how they can contribute to the causes that matter most to them.

1. What are you passionate about?
Take the time to think about what causes matter most to you and then make connections where you want to make a difference. Rebekah mentioned that she was able to get more involved in issues around homelessness and affordable housing by joining the Board of All Home, United Way’s Out of the Rain Impact Council and the Housing Levy Advisory Committee. Whatever the cause, she stressed the importance of ensuring that you “get just enough knowledge to be dangerous.”

2. What skills do you have to offer?
Everything from marketing or public relations experience to coding or web development can make a difference. Rebekah cited her ability to get things done as her biggest asset.

3. What resources do you have at your disposal?
Are there people you can rally? Is there software you can build? Do you have a physical space available? For Rebekah, Zillow’s hack week, which occurs 3 times a year and allows employees a day to work on the projects that matters most to them, proved to be the perfect resource.

She was able to bring together a team passionate about addressing the issue of homelessness to ultimately develop and then launch the Community Pillar program at Zillow. The program encourages land lords and property owners to relax their standards on applicants, ultimately making it easier for individuals who have low credit scores, limited employment history or a lack of references to find housing.

So how can you get engaged with a local issue? Start by asking yourself these three questions.

Then, take action! Sign up to volunteer in your community! (Psst… we have several upcoming volunteer opportunities through our Emerging Leaders program). Or start developing your own initiative. Or attend a non-profit fair like Zillow’s #SeaTech4Change, which pairs people in tech with non-profits who need their expertise.

However you decide to get involved, Rebekah encouraged us to “just try something.” After all, the only way to learn is to try. Are you up for the challenge?

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