BlackLine was founded on the principle that communities—and the people in them—matter. As a company, we live our values and give back to our communities by contributing to the efforts of charitable organizations and volunteering in partnership with them.
If you missed Part One of this series, at last year’s InTheBlack conference in Los Angeles, BlackLine Founder and CEO Therese Tucker interviewed two women who embody the power of giving back: Ann Sewill, Vice President of Health & Housing for the California Community Foundation (CCF) and Ana Guerrero, Chief of Staff to Mayor Eric Garcetti.
They discussed the growing problem of homelessness in Los Angeles and some of the measures being taken by local government to combat it.
Now, Therese focuses the conversation on what we can do as a community to get involved and help solve the issue of homelessness, whether that’s by volunteering with local charities or engaging in random acts of kindness.
Therese: What are some ways that Angelinos can help?
Ann Sewill: School on Wheels is based in Skid Row and provides services to children who are homeless, who live in shelters, or who live in cars with their families. We see this all over Los Angeles, and it goes back to Ana’s point about the homeless community that we don’t see. Volunteering for even an hour per week would make a huge difference in the life of a child.
There’s also an organization called Imagine LA, which matches volunteers with formerly homeless families. Again, it’s common for families and homeless individuals to fall back into homelessness, especially if you consider domestic violence as a factor. Most women experiencing homelessness have also experienced some form of domestic violence, and it’s statistically likely that women who have escaped domestic violence will return to those violent relationships.
Therese: These organizations sound like wonderful avenues for giving back.
Ann Sewill: Having a mentor, a friend, a coach, or a sounding board that helps you stay on the path toward being permanently housed is incredibly important. Volunteering with organizations like these two, which are focused on solving the problem of homelessness and dealing with the root causes that contribute to the epidemic—that’s a great way to invest in your city.
Therese: To add to this, whenever you hear about a permanent supportive housing project or a housing project being built in your neighborhood, I urge you to go to the meetings, support it, and talk about the need for it. Most of the people who attend these meetings are opposing it because they’re operating from fear. So, it’s important for your voice to be heard.
InTheBlack Attendee: Are there things that we can do to help homeless people when we see them on the street?
Ana Guerrero: I think it is so important to engage people that you see every day and talk to them.
There was a gentleman in my neighborhood who we’d always talk to and give a dollar. His name is Chris, and one day I found him working at my dry cleaners. It turns out that one of the other ladies who also gave him money had hired him. He ended up getting a section eight voucher, he got an apartment, and he celebrated his second birthday at AA.
It was amazing to watch this guy transform. And that was just from the daily interactions he had with people. So, even those small interactions are really, really important.
Therese: One of the tips that were shared at InTheBlack last year was to ask homeless people their name to acknowledge that they are human.
I had a funny situation last winter. It was raining, and I had an extra umbrella in my car. I drove past a man sitting in his wheelchair, and he seemed out of his head. I stopped, very cautiously approached his wheelchair, and handed him the umbrella.
I turned around to walk away and then I remembered the name thing, so I turned back and said, “Hi, who are you?” He looked at me in shock and said, “I’m Bob.” I said, “Hi Bob, how are you doing today?” And he said, “I’m doing well, thank you.”
This is a man who was raving a couple minutes before. I said, “Bob, I have a couple bucks. Would you like that?” He said, “Yes, thank you.” I handed him a $5 bill and walked away.
It was the most amazing interaction because I was a little scared. These are the prejudices we walk around with, and I was changed just by acknowledging that, here is a human being on the street in the rain, and his name is Bob. And he went from raving to being very polite and really very nice. I’ve been trying to do that ever since.
Ann Sewill: If I can add to that, there are a lot of homeless people out there who have dogs, but homeless shelters don’t accept dogs. Because of that, the homeless person will stay on the street.
I have an abundance of dog treats at home, so I put them in little Ziploc bags and keep them in my purse. If I come across someone who has a dog, I offer the treats to them. If they can’t afford food for themselves, they really can’t afford food for their pets. So that’s another good way to help.
Therese: Here’s the interesting thing about giving: the more you do it, the more you realize what an amazing privilege it is to give to charity.
So, I ask you to ask yourselves: what are you doing to help the people in your cities who are really struggling?
Join Us in Giving Back
You don’t typically get to listen into these types of conversations at your average accounting and finance conference.
However, BlackLine sees giving back as an integral part of conducting good business. That’s why every year at InTheBlack—in addition to hosting panels like this one—BlackLine works with local charities to provide a volunteering experience that brings together all conference attendees to serve the local community.
Join BlackLine employees, partners, clients, and prospects inLas Vegas from November 12-15 to experience InTheBlack and participate in our annual Giving Back Day.
This year, Habitat for Humanity will host our volunteering experience as we help build a house for a local family. It’s the perfect way to end a transformative conference, remind us of what’s most important, and foster a true sense of gratitude.