Open Letter To The Rich And Philanthropic

To whom it may concern,

I have a very simple idea for you. Cuts out the middleman. Goes right to the heart of the problem. Is cost effective in comparison to the alternative. Will affect real people with real struggles. 

The Idea

What is the quintessential idea of the American dream? It means many things too many people but, in my opinion, a key element is home ownership. The idea is to go to the poorest communities in America and start paying off mortgages. The poorest communities are filled with people struggling every day just to get the bills paid and put a meal on the table. What if you could go into those areas and pay off a hand full of peoples homes? The boost for a street or a neighborhood consisting of just a few blocks could be enormous. Family wealth, in many cases, is accumulated by the passing on of property. 

The Implementation

This is the hard part. Whoever does this would have to be a traveler like David Carradine in Kung Fu, going town to town finding people that need help. Anonymity is vital. There are plenty of worthy people out there but how do we go about finding them? I would start with local volunteers and churches in the poorest neighborhoods. This would be an imperfect process that would evolve as lessons were learned but I believe this could be done. The parameters could be anything you want. Single Moms? Combat veterans? In my opinion, the perfect candidate would have a job, own a home with a mortgage, and be active in their community. Of course, there could be some modifications and clarifications to add but this is as good a place to start as any. It may be wise to go so far as to hire private investigators to do background checks once a handful of candidates were chosen as a way to narrow the field. It may not be wise or helpful to pay off a gambling addicts home. 

The Cons

The obvious is paying off the wrong person’s mortgage. It would be a waste of resources to pay off a mortgage and then have the owner go out and borrow money against the house and gamble or drink it away. Invariably, this will more than likely happen at some point. It could end up being similar too what happens to many lottery winners. Within a decade they are broke again. This would be different because the subjects are at least given a perfunctory screening unlike lottery winners which are arbitrary.Exposure could be a problem. Once it got out who was doing it then it would make it impossible to operate quietly and efficiently. It is small scale and would take a long time, maybe decades, to really show a positive affect except for the individuals chosen. 

The Pros

In my opinion, there are too many to list but pointing out the obvious is necessary. First off, the money will be going to real people with real struggles. Second, you avoid giving money to an organization that spends more money on administrative costs than actually helping real people. For example, in Jackson, MS the average cost of a home is $75,000. 40% own homes between $53,000 and $105,000. In Detroit the average is $60,000. Hypothetically, one million dollars could pay off 20 homes in those two cities. A generational shift for 20 families. Hundreds, maybe thousands of lives could be changed and the money is going directly to the people that need it. 

The Promise

There is the need to extract a promise from the likely recipients. It would be one of those promises based on trust and anonymity. Anonymity is crucial and should be understood is best for all parties. The first part is that no one knows, beyond the proper authorities, that the transaction happened. It did not happen. The second, and most important, is that they help at least two people. They have to promise to make some significant difference in at least two people’s lives. It could be helping the little old lady next door with groceries or paying for their cousins books for college but helping someone else is part of the gig. It is an ongoing gig. The goal will be to create a ripple effect of good deeds. That is why one of the qualifications is to already be active in the community. 

This missive may not be as succinct as it should be but it does have the potential for a greater story. That story is to create a ripple effect and you get to be the pebble tossed into the lake.

Rick “Resume available upon request” Lucas