Cisco And The Move To End Homelessness In Silicon Valley

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The US Government has been relatively ineffective at ending some of the largest problems in the United States, and some tech companies are stepping up to fill the gap.  These efforts reflect an interest in improving the world we all live in not just cashing in on the latest tech craze or boom. One of the companies at the front of this effort is Cisco last week their Corporate Affairs SVP Tae Yoo was outspoken about how the company isn’t shying away from one of the most visible problems in the Silicon Valley.  That problem is Homelessness, and you don’t have to drive far to see people who are unable to afford a home in what is one of the most expensive places to live in in the world.  

Making A Difference In Silicon Valley

But Cisco can’t do it alone and to talk about this issue they had a panel with San Jose Mayer Sam Liccardo to talk about this problem which is pronounced.  Homelessness has been growing at an unsustainable rate of 42%, suggesting the booming US economy is increasingly leaving people behind and at risk to the toon of an estimated 35,000 people.  

What is particularly troubling, according to Mayer Liccardo that these people didn’t come to San Jose, they already lived there and their means were outstepped by costs that made them unable to afford a roof over their heads.  San Jose is strapped for cash, like most cities, and the Mayer is looking for more companies to step up and help because the city doesn’t have the resources to address this massive and rapidly growing flood of people that can’t afford to buy homes.  

Addressing Chronic Homelessness

Now being homeless creates a situation where it is nearly impossible to recover because, without a home, getting a shower, dressing well for an interview, and just getting enough sleep can be problematic and firms typically don’t hire homeless people.   Finally, living without a home drains people of motivation, denies them hope, and opens them up to abuse both from others and from a system that isn’t equipped to deal with them particularly if they have medical issues.   

Destination Home’s CEO was also at the event and spoke to the fact these people didn’t do anything wrong for the most part; they just ended up at the wrong end of an economic boom that caused costs to exceed their resources.   She referred to this as systematic inequality but that once a homeless person got home, they typically were much better able to get a job. To this point the booming market has created a lot of unfilled jobs, but the issue is not only don’t the homeless present well they lack the needed skills.  Claudine Sipili, from CityTeam pointed out that this skills gap between the unemployed homeless and the firms that have the openings is extreme and that firms also need to step up to train these people so they can find their way.  

The various speakers on stage encouraged firms and individuals to step up to address this problem and Cisco’s CEO Chuck Robbins has pledged $50M to help end homelessness Santa Clara County.   But it isn’t just the money it is the firm’s influence in bringing others to the table to drive change that is making a difference.  

One other example is Second Street Studios, a 135-unit permanent structure designed for homeless people with critical needs that were funded by government, non-profits, and local corporations.  Cisco and its employees donated supplies to fill the units to make them livable.  

Wrapping Up:

Cisco realized that there is more to success than just financial performance.  To help address local needs they have aggressively not only funded causes like helping the homeless, but they have also engaged their employees in social programs to help them grow as human beings.  The employees have, in turn, become advocates for the company and its Corporate Social Responsibility efforts, and this has improved employee morale and attracted critical skills to the firm.  In effect, Cisco is working to make Silicon Valley, where they live, a better place to live and, rather than complaining, they are through their Social Responsibility efforts, making a difference.  Other firms could learn from Cisco’s example, and where they all to step up we would all live in a better world.