Lunch & Lecture

By | character, confidence, homeless, homelessness, leadership, responsibility, success, tiger

Today was not my first street Intervention with this 35-year-old homeless man. 

He smiled and called me by name as I drove up. I had my air conditioning on. He was baking on the street corner on this 115 F+  afternoon. 

Since I still had a couple lunches left from a donor, I asked, “Would you like a sack lunch, cold water, and a lecture? He laughed, and then immediately grabbed his gear and began walking to meet me in the parking lot.

I remembered him from a street clan I had chatted with a few months ago. 3 of his compadres then attended that month’s Hero School. This young man did not, but instead went back to stay with his dad. 

Today, his 3 friends are working – and occasionally sharing with me what concerts they attend. This young man is not. Worse, he confessed he can’t work since his drug addiction has worsened.

I could care less about drugs and alcohol or addictions. I want to know “why” someone thinks this is the right substance to fill an inner void.

Most people also know I am not a good listener. Rather, I refuse to listen to struggling people’s stories, and for good reason. First, my goal is to prevent or free people from homelessness, and “telling a story” in the midst of a crisis is Habit 4. In fact, that’s precisely how and why they attract each other. 

I know this goes against what many have been taught. But think about it for a moment and you’ll see the wisdom.

In the old days, I refused to listen to the homeless or someone struggling out of pure arrogance. “Look, if you knew how you got into this mess and why, you wouldn’t be homeless.” I was an independent retired business founder so I’ll be the expert here. 

Yep. Arrogance with a Capital A.

Arrogant. And accurate. Funny that the old BS still exists that the best person to help the homeless or an addict is someone who’s been there. 

The former homeless dude or addict or former anything might be more relatable, but we’re not trying to make friends with homeless folks or addicts. We’re trying to free them from homelessness and addiction, and the best person for the job is someone who stayed free from both. Do we want the dropouts teaching dropouts how to graduate, or should we leave that to the graduates?

So when someone is homeless or in a downward spiral, I want to stop everything that is contributing to it. 

This is not the time for them to do any talking. This is the time for them to do all the listening – and not to friends – to experts who can help them chart a course out of the danger. We don’t need a map from them of the best way to the 7th Level of Hell. They need a map from people who’ve made it to the Promised Land.

I blame reality television for encouraging people to tell stories instead of seek wisdom or take action. We didn’t learn this from movie heroes. Can you imagine young John Conner in Terminator 2 trying to tell a story during a firefight? His Terminator reaches out and says, “Come with me of you want to live” and John starts talking about how hard foster care is. 

When danger is closing in on every side, and all your last decisions got you in even deeper doo doo, this is not the time for an emotional monologue. It’s time to shut-the-fu** up, listen and DO what Ahnold, I mean Your Terminator, says.

Having had this same conversation with at least 500 different men over the last 20 years, I know how this can turn out.

So I pushed a button to find out what inner conflict triggered the return to drugs to fill his inner void. What was it that tricked him into using an artificial void filler this time? As Nietzsche wrote, “happiness” for the man of “late cultures and broken lights” only comes by way of a “sedative.”

Suddenly this young man got very lucid and revealed, “My dad and me don’t see eye-to-eye.”

There it is.

“And why,” I countered. “after age 18, do you keep trying to?” 

Habitual pattern successfully interrupted.

“Look,” I continued, “Nearly every hero in the movies was an orphan. They didn’t have family so they sought out experts and became champions.”

“Really?” He asked.

“Yes,” and I continued with more Hero School, “Peter Parker, Luke Skywalker, Bruce Wayne…orphans. Happy Gilmore, his dad was killed by a hockey puck!” 

He laughed.

“And 25 prime ministers in Europe IN THE REAL WORLD were orphans, and you’re wondering why you’ve repeated history for 20 years?”

Then I told him what he’d needed to hear since he was 15. “It’s OK to grow up and be a man, on your own. You don’t need anyone else’s approval.”

Like a huge weight had been lifted from his back, his shoulders buoyed and it was apparent this was the problem all along. Maybe he wanted to play guitar and his dad wanted him in the union.

He simply needed permission from someone he deemed had the authority to say it was OK to build his own life.

While his outer life improved only slightly from the food and drink, his inner void was getting full. Without drugs. He also seemed confident he could be free to live from his passion instead of a life condemned, suppressing his treasure just to please an unpleasable family member.

With tears and a smile, he thanked me for the food, cold water… and especially the lecture. He left to share the additional food – and the lecture – with his street friends.

How many more young men are still struggling with two conflicting voices inside? 

Sometimes we just have to have the courage to grow up and live, to take the blame and end the inner war. Life is too valuable to live trying to please someone who is always going to disappoint us or be disappointed in us, or to continue trying to impress someone who isn’t even looking.



So Many Homeless

By | character, confidence, economy, heroism, homeless, homelessness, leadership, responsibility, tiger

The economy is thriving. From the stock markets to the June 2018 U.S. Jobs Report, economic data is “as good as it gets” (CNBC Jul 6, 2018[1]). In our own city, the leading economic indicator is the welcome return of the Nevada State Bird, with construction cranes swooping in and around the new Raiders Stadium, Resorts World, strip malls in Chinatown, and apartment buildings from Henderson to West Tropicana.

And yet, the 2018 economy doesn’t appear to have a place for everyone: there seem to be more homeless people in our city parks, behind shopping centers and on nearly every street corner than ever before.

Every day, locals and tourists alike see far too many people who remain disconnected from not just the economy, but from modern society and the requirements to be one of its members.

Today I would like to address homelessness from the local point of view, and offer something that you and I can do about it.

As Simon Sinek suggests, each of should “Start With Why?” when addressing any challenge. Have you ever asked yourself why the homeless is a problem for you, or why you want to help the homeless?   

One person’s why may come from compassion for humans – and all too often, their pets – when seeing them suffering in the heat. Another’s why could be “safety for my children” during a family trip to the park. Someone with the responsibility of a business or property may see the homeless as an additional risk, or a deterrent to sales and their livelihood. Some people just refuse to go to the same shopping centers, Starbuck’s or fast-food restaurants after the barrage of begging they experienced last time.

And every why is valid, whether yours is compassion, safety, livelihood or peace. Which leaves the question, “Is there something each of us can do that can help the homeless situation, and maybe lessens the problem, or at least that doesn’t contribute to it?” You and I both know people who thought they were helping someone and their good deed led to more dependency, more blame, and more clean-up. Your question is a good one.

In 20 years as an active philanthropist, educational program developer and today, as a homelessness prevention consultant, I’ve helped tens of thousands of adults and youth overcome homelessness, and one-on-one interventions are without question the most difficult. I’ve felt as overwhelmed as the next person by the sheer number of homeless people – and in all new areas of the city – and particularly by the many young people flooding the streets in the last few years. My heart aches, though the mission remains the same.

The best way I believe everyone can help is more an “awareness” strategy than a “tactical” one.

For anyone who’s tried to help someone languishing on a street corner, in a park or behind a shopping center, you have probably discovered that they are not just years or sometimes decades behind the economy…they are the same person they were those many years ago. It’s as if they are “lost in time”, like men and women from 1995 or 1985 who have awakened to discover it’s 2018, even if their exterior has shown the wear and tear of the missing years.

Subsequently, everything they think is based on a mindset that expects the world to be like it was, money to be as easy to make as it was, and you and I to be as we were. They often expect to be able to pick right back up where they left off or get that old job back. And when it doesn’t work out, they stop trying.

They need help catching up, and often, growing up, at a faster rate than the world is advancing.

You and I know we must advance every single day just to keep from falling behind to society’s requirements and its incredible speed of change.

You and I also know that we cannot change a homeless person’s mind or mindset – or growth them up – through a one-in-one interaction any more than you can change a teenager’s mind with a one-minute pep-talk. How did that work when you were a teen? When a parent or authority figure told your teenage self what you even knew you should do, you probably still caved to the opposite advice from your peer group of fellow teens.

I suggest, then, that the best way to help those stuck both in homelessness – and in a teenage-mindset – to break free and catch up is to deliver the information they need to all the teens at once. We must endeavor to get the homeless we see and the peers they trust in the same class, at the same time, with the same lessons we learned that helped us become the earners, learners and contributors we are today.

For the homeless you see around your city, regardless of your why, here are three awareness reminders:

  1. Remember that, in spite of their challenging exteriors, conversations and behaviors, they are human beings first.
  2. Remember that our goal is to help them break free from homelessness, not just feel better about their struggles. Whatever you do – or don’t do – should help either free them from their past or motivate them toward their future selves.
  3. Remember also that, more often than not, there is a teenager inside them that needs to grow up, and they won’t grow up unless we get their fellow lost boys and girls in the same classroom to receive the same educational experience together at the same time.


©2018 Tiger Todd

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Catman and Robin

By | character, confidence, heroism, leadership, responsibility, success, tiger


I spotted this sweet woman again outside of an Albertsons. The staff told me of this woman over the last couple of years, homeless living somewhere in the desert behind their shopping center, though I had been unable to find her, let alone engage her. Until today.

To engage her with the least amount of pressure, I walked over to her with a bus pass that I said I found. Often, those on the street don’t want to receive something from someone who’s not also in their position or tribe, sadly like scared animals sensing a trap.

She graciously accepted and I walked back to my car to continue with my tasks.

Then I decided to press my luck.

I walked back to her and miraculously, she let me sit down with her on the bench and we chatted, me asking questions to help her identify actually needs and obstacles.

Her name is Robin. I commented how lovely she was named for a bird, while I was named for a cat.

Formulating an initial obstacle diagnosis, and understanding more of her cultural background, I shared a Bible story they got her to do the hardest thing for wandering birds like Robin to do: make a decision. She’s been avoiding this one for at least three years, and ten years before that.

After one more trip to my car to grab a Hero School Screenplay Workbook, I drew her a map for the plan we put together.

It’s amazing how much easier plans are to make when we’re not, as the Prophet Elijah called it, “Halt between two opinions.”

Wednesday, Robin will meet Miss Caroline and together we will order her Birth Certificate so she can get her ID without dealing with certain family members. More importantly, she will finally be in charge her life and decision-making, including those decisions others made that stranded her here.

In her mind, from her past experience with agencies and charities, getting her birth certificate from Illinois was always impossible. It helped her to learn that I just got Birth Certificates for 23 other people just in the last few weeks. Our confidence was at an all-time high.

And with that, she’s ready for action, excited to get her Social Security card (on her own). When we meet Wednesday, we’ll attack the remaining obstacles between the last 13 years and one where she’s free, free to live the life she was meant for.

So we took this photo to remember the moment that change the future – and that will amend the past.

Honoring Adam West, we called ourselves “Catman and Robin”.

“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things (and thinking).” – The Apostle Paul