NCET Biz Tips: Making a meaningful impact

Grant Denton

Grant Denton

If you close your eyes and say the words, "homeless, addicted and, or mentally ill," what do you see? Well, whatever you see will be based on all your previous ideas and the experiences you’ve had with anyone of these.

• Do you see a guy that’s just down on his luck, and could use a “hand up, not a handout?” Just a job, or temporary assistance until he finds his way out of this predicament.

• A single mom who just got evicted from her apartment for failure to pay rent and who just lost her kids to the system because of a substance use disorder?

• Or a bearded man in several layers of clothes, maybe a vet pushing a shopping cart down the road full of aluminum cans crushed and ready to be recycled?

Maybe that’s what you see, or even someone holding a sign on the freeway offramp, sleeping in the park or on a bench or bus stop. Whatever you see, it’s very real, and I’m sure it doesn’t make you feel good.

We’re all good people. We’re empathetic and compassionate. Seeing others at, what very well could be, the worst part of their life, does something to us. We want to help, and we’re wired to help. It’s part of who we are.

“A true community is not just about being geographically close to someone or part of the same social web network. It’s about feeling connected and responsible for what happens. Humanity is our ultimate community, and everyone plays a crucial role.” – Yehuda Berg

 “No man can become rich without himself enriching others.” – Andrew Carnegie

Homelessness, addiction, and mental illness are not only increasing in our region, but all over the nation. Why is that? Could it be the psychological impact that COVID has had on the world? Is it lack of service providers and mental health agencies? Or little to no affordable housing? Maybe it’s all the above.

So, as a community, what do we do? What CAN we do? It seems overwhelming and you're right, there's a lot of work that needs to be done. But the good news is there ARE things that you can do right now. It starts with having a better understanding of the complexities that lead people into homelessness. We know that complex problems don’t have simple solutions. However, through educating ourselves and expanding our perspectives we can see that each one of us can play a critical role in changing the trajectory of people’s lives.

Homelessness is experienced differently by different people and falls into four different categories:

Transitional Homelessness
There is a popular misconception that homelessness is a chronic condition. While it’s true in some cases, in reality, the most common type of homelessness is transitional.
Transitional homelessness is “a state of homelessness that’s a result of a major life change or catastrophic event.” These life changes might be job loss, a health condition, divorce, domestic abuse, a substance use disorder, or personal or family crisis, among many others, resulting in people being in unhoused situations for less than a year.

Episodic Homelessness
People can also experience “episodic homelessness,” whether they are currently unhoused or experienced at least three periods of homelessness within the last 12 months. In contrast, those confronting the realities of “chronic homelessness” usually experience four periods within a calendar year without a home.

 Chronic Homelessness
A person experiencing chronic homelessness is defined as "an unaccompanied homeless individual with a disabling condition" who has been homeless for more than one year. It’s more common for people experiencing chronic homelessness to also deal with a certain disability, mental health condition, addiction, and other debilitating conditions that restrict their ability to escape homelessness.

Hidden Homelessness
The fourth type of homelessness is referred to as “hidden homelessness.”
Individuals who live with others temporarily without a permanent home are considered “hidden homeless,” as it is often most unnoticed. Since they lack access to housing support resources and cannot be identified, they are 'hidden' from national statistics on homelessness.
Learn about how you and your business can make a meaningful impact at NCET’s Biz Cafe on March 16 at the UNR Innevation Center. NCET is a member-supported nonprofit organization that produces educational and networking events to help people explore business and technology. Free tickets and more info at

Grant Denton is the executive director of the Karma Box Project (, a community initiative that allows people to give non-perishable food, hygiene products, toiletries, and other useful items to those in need.


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