There’s something about shelter that reels me in and grounds me. I love our home. I’ve loved most of the homes I lived in. I love the concept of home. I love houses in general. And of course, I have money invested in a healthy portion of real estate.

Shelter may mean different things to different people, but at its core, shelter is a basic need for everyone. That’s why if I started a giving circle, I’d make sure it had something to do with housing.

The NPR segment that tipped me off about the concept of giving circles highlighted an organization called Pathways to Housing. In the segment, when the representative made her pitch to the giving circle, I learned that it doesn’t take a lot of money to make a difference:

She explains that Pathways works with the chronically homeless and mentally ill, first by getting them into housing. She says $2,000 might not seem like a lot of money, but it can set up two people in apartments, with furniture and supplies. She appears to win the group over with poignant stories of people whose lives have been turned around.

“I can’t tell who’s going to make it and who is not, but I think we have an obligation as a country to offer people the possibility of the dignity of housing,” she tells the group gathered in Malepati’s living room. There’s a silence, and then everyone breaks into applause.

I was impressed at what two thousand dollars could do. So I did a little more research on Pathways to Housing:

One of primary instigators was a New York psychologist named Sam Tsemberis. He is the founder and executive director of Pathways to Housing, a service provider that has housed and supports nearly 1,000 formerly homeless people in three cities.

It was Tsemberis — a tall, lean man with a resemblance to Billy Bob Thornton — who took the rapidly multiplying commandments of other housing programs and tossed them out. It was Tsemberis who, against traditional treatment approaches, tried giving the homeless what they said they wanted. And it was Tsemberis who devised one of the very first programs to succeed in housing the previously unreachable chronically homeless.

He called the program “Housing First.” The concept was revolutionary, simple and so obvious that it’s hard to explain why it hadn’t emerged sooner. The elegance of the Housing First model was that it had just two moving parts: Give the homeless a home. Provide them enough services so they can keep it. “Housing ends homelessness. Services keep people housed,” Tsemberis likes to say.

The article above came to this conclusion: “The solution for chronic homelessness turned out to be breathtakingly simple: housing.”

“When the economy tanks, people at the bottom feel it most acutely,” says behavioral scientist Koegel. “You don’t get much closer to the bottom than homelessness.”

I’ve been blogging about money for over four years… most of my thoughts have been around making and saving money. But in the last year, I’ve become more aware about how I might strike a healthier balance between financial security and hoarding wealth. I’m a bit of a hoarder.

But when it comes to saving (or hoarding!), what amount is finally enough? I was raised in a Christian home that believed in tithing: where you give 10% of your income to the church. As an adult, the ten percent rule has always seemed like a good target in theory, but in reality, my giving has always been an embarrassing low amount. Dare I admit this… but it’s typically in the 1 to 2 percent range.

I feel guilty. I’ve felt guilty. But the guilt hasn’t made me give more. It has just made me more aware of my hoarding. When does awareness finally translate into action?

It’s hard for me to part with my money, but the idea of a giving circle is something that speaks to me because it encourages participation in something that I deem meaningful (in my case, housing).

I have several friends that dig their homes and real estate as much as I do. Perhaps a giving circle is the motivation I need to finally get started.  So that’s my idea. I’ll let you know when I put this post into action. Hopefully, sooner than later.

Photo credit: stock.xchng.