The skyscrapers, the high-tech facilities, the fast-moving luxury cars and SUVs are symbols of the Research Triangle’s prominence as a center for technology and an increasingly tech-based economy. But problems remain unsolved, such as chronic unemployment, homelessness and jobs that don’t pay what has come to be called a “living wage.”

Some leaders are trying to bring more attention to the problems by spending a night on the street.

A total of 37 community leaders brought attention to the continuing scourge of homelessness by participating in a “sleep out” in Durham earlier this week.

One CEO, Joe Freddoso of MCNC, says his participation inspires him to try to do more to help. The Skinny learned about his participation through a posting on Facebook. He explains why he became involved – and what he hopes the “sleep out” accomplishes. 

“For a night, by choice, 37 people from around the Triangle – business leaders, non-profit leaders, policy leaders and others – chose homelessness to bring attention to poverty and homelessness in our community,” Freddoso said.

“Thank you to the United Way of the Greater Triangle for organizing the second annual CEO Sleep Out in Durham on Thursday.

“The issues surrounding poverty and homelessness are deep and complex. Despite the great work of front-line organizations, social service support and funding by government agencies, our poverty rates continue to rise with intense poverty becoming deeper in our region.

“What I learned is that we have safety nets (non-profit groups, government funding and other means) that can help when the situation calls for it. We have the Mother Teresa’s. What I was left wondering is how do we work together to understand the root causes that lead to homelessness or when a young family with several jobs is not making a living wage? This problem is much more pervasive than we can measure in our community.

“One example, not included in our homeless statistics are about 1000-2000 Wake County Schools children who do not have a home address but are transported from a location they designate to school each day. The data sets are not aggregated to capture all aspects of the population.

“My goal is to encourage the crowd at this event to be multiple times larger next year. My goal is also to contemplate ways to engage my network of friends and colleagues in providing needed skills to help move us to integrated solutions and better analytics and data mining that can help personalize the solutions to the client. I learned every story that leads to poverty or homelessness is different.

“While the services offered can be common, every individual needs a slightly different mix of these common services to address their situation. We need to arm case managers who work with these clients with as much data about the client as possible and data on the suites of solutions and available providers of those solutions. This client data matching to service providers doesn’t exist electronically today — but it can.

“To make progress, we need to increase the number of leaders focused on the issues of poverty and homelessness in our community.

“We need to increase the dialog and the focus. We need to expand the population of those who are aware and who care … this is a personal development goal for me.

Thank Mack Kounce and the team at Triangle United Way for providing this rich experience.

Frankly, this should be a personal development goal for all of us who have the ability to reach out and help those who need a hand up.