Remarks by Jean-Michel Giraud at the 2015 Friends & Neighbors Breakfast
Good morning. My name is Jean Michel Giraud and I’m the Executive Director of Friendship Place. It’s wonderful to see so many familiar and new faces. Thank you for choosing to spend your morning with us.
I’d like to recognize Senator Michael Brown. Thank you for joining us today.
The work of Friendship Place hits very close to home for me. Thirty years ago, my own brother was homeless, right here in DC, sleeping in abandoned buildings and panhandling Georgetown students. I remember the winter night he called my mother in France and asked for help. She said “yes.” That one word set him on the road to recovery and changed his life forever.
Today happens to be his birthday. Joyeux Anniversaire, Daniel!
My brother was lucky, because he had a family who could support him, both financially and emotionally. But many of our homeless neighbors do not. This is where Friendship Place comes in.
At Friendship Place we find ways to say “yes” to people who have nowhere else to turn. What does saying “yes” mean?
It means so many different things for us.
It means that if you keep getting turned down for jobs because you’ve got a criminal record, we’ll go out and find an employer who’s willing to give you a second chance.
It means that if you’ve been homeless for years because no other organization wanted to deal with someone with both addiction and mental health issues – with that level of challenges – we’ll get you a place to live, and then support your recovery.
It means that if you’re aging out of foster care and have experienced such trauma in your young life that you don’t trust anyone, we’ll stand by you. We’ll wait patiently as long as it takes for you to accept help.
It means that if a landlord turns your family down because of the time you got laid off and your husband had a stroke and you couldn’t pay the rent and got evicted, we’ll get on the phone with the next landlord and vouch for you and do whatever it takes to get your family housed – to get you a home.
It means that if your self-esteem has been so worn down by long-term unemployment that you doubt you have anything to offer an employer, we’ll help you identify your strengths and write a resume and learn how to interview successfully, again.
It means that if you’re 70 and your social security is enough to pay rent but not enough to get you into an apartment in the first place, we’ll cover all the costs of signing a lease.
It means that if you’re an Iraq War veteran living in a shelter while battling the demons of PTSD, we won’t leave you behind; we’ll find you a place to live…and walk you through the VA maze to get the help you need for long-term recovery.
You know…we’re so good at finding ways to say “yes” that word of mouth is traveling back to tent cities and shelters and soup kitchens and beyond: “If you want help, go to Friendship Place.”
This is why our drop-in Center on Wisconsin Avenue has welcomed 700 people in the first half of this fiscal year, more than we served during all of fiscal year 14.
And this is just one of our programs. We have special programs for veterans, for job seekers, for families, for youth and young adults. We offer bilingual services. We have housing programs for people who need long-term help to recover and rebuild, and for people who need just temporary assistance to get back on their feet.
All these programs – all our programs – are bursting at the seams.
This year, Friendship Place will have a lasting impact on the lives of 2,500 people. What they all have in common when they turn to us, is the desperate wish, the need, to hear the word “yes.”
But today, I’m not asking you to say “yes” to 2,500 people. I’m asking you to look in your heart and say “yes” to one person, or one family, with your financial support.
Because the only way to end homelessness is one person at a time.
Friendship Place has the solutions. All we need is your investment. Please say “yes.”