My life has been a wild ride.
First of all, I understand poverty. I’ve been homeless. I’ve been hungry. I’ve gone bankrupt. I’ve had businesses fail. I’ve worked an entire year without making any money.
But I also understand how to launch out into uncharted territory, and do something new. In the mid 2010s, with less than $100 in my bank account and no credit, I made an offer on a $1.5 million property. I took on some partners, purchased the property for just over $1 million, created a development plan involving investors, loans, and TIF financing. We resold the property to a developer, and all five partners walked away with money in their pockets. (No, I didn’t get rich, but I learned a lot. One of the things I learned is this: You don’t do things on your own. You find people who are really, really good at what they do, you partner with them, learn from them, and respect their expertise.)
I’ve authored over two dozen books including Rethinking Our War on Poverty. I’ve also ghostwritten, edited, and/or published many more. I’ve had a resume writing service, a janitorial service, a book selling business. I’ve worked as a bus driver, a ministry leader, a recruiter, a prayer minister, an online instructor, a web developer, a parole and probation officer, a door-to-door salesman. I’ve worked on the early steps of developing two movies. I formed a 501(c)3 corporation, and an LLC. I’ve served on the board of two churches and two para-church ministries.
I met the love of my life, Kim, as a student in Chicago in the 1970s. We’ve been married since 1978, and she is my best friend. We have four children, two boys and two girls, who were all born in the 1990s. From youngest to oldest, there’s Sally who works as an EMT and is going to school to be a paramedic. There’s Alan who crafts beautiful jewelry from 99.9% pure silver. Hans traveled through Japan and held his own with the language. Liza graduated from a six-month film making institute and writes novels. My girls also both spent several months in Australia and Asia.
I’m profoundly grateful for my life. My experiences with poverty and welfare have NOT left me bitter, but rather bewildered. There’s almost nothing in “the system” as I have experienced it, that is designed to help people get out of poverty. Instead, the system seems to trap people in poverty. But I think that’s a problem we can solve.
My idea is very simple: Let’s work together to end poverty one family at a time. What works for the first family probably won’t work for the second, but that’s okay. People are not cattle; we are not meant to be herded into some one-size-fits-all solution to poverty. Instead, I believe as each individual is listened to, understood, and respected, unique solutions will emerge—solutions that will empower families to escape poverty forever.
I believe the cost of getting a family out of poverty is ultimately MUCH LESS than the cost of leaving them in poverty. I believe beautiful things happen when we work together. I believe every time a family finds their way out of poverty we all win.
That’s why we’re doing this. If this reality TV show helps just one family escape poverty forever, that’s a win for all of us. But I believe it will do much more. I believe it will put in motion a whole new paradigm for fighting poverty—a paradigm that finally allows us to win the war that was started over 50 years ago.