DEAR HARRIETTE: I have been living in New York City for two years, which has opened my eyes tremendously. The number of homeless people in the city is troubling, and I feel like I should do something about it.
I want to start a nonprofit organization to help get people off the street. I am aware that there are a couple out there already, but nothing has changed. I want to get started, but I don’t know how. I have discussed this idea with a few people, but they have shut me down, saying things like, “If they wanted to get off the street, they would have stayed off drugs.” People don't realize that is not always the case. Any tips on how I can get my nonprofit started? -- Advocating for the Homeless, Manhattan, New York
DEAR ADVOCATING FOR THE HOMELESS: There does seem to be a growing homeless population in New York City at the same time that the government boasts the lowest unemployment in generations. It’s hard to fathom this great divide. Yes, some homeless people are drug addicts, but many are people who lost their jobs, suffer from mental illness or otherwise are experiencing hard times.
Since you are new to the city, you may first want to volunteer at one or more of the nonprofits that focuses on the homeless. There are many. Ask lots of questions to learn about how the organizations run, how they receive funding and what challenges they face. Absorb as much knowledge as you can so that you will be ready to start your own organization successfully.