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Experts confront homelessness through DePaul’s College of Business

To carry on St. Vincent de Paul's core value of uplifting human dignity, the College of Business' mission committee created the Business Council on Homelessness to address the systemic issue of homelessness.
The Business Council on Homelessness has met virtually amid the pandemic to address issues of homelessness. (Image courtesy of Hannah Coyle)

One beloved story about St. Vincent de Paul concerns what some may know as his “cloak of simplicity." Whether meeting with rulers and royalty or the poor and the hungry, St. Vincent approached people with the same simplicity, often wearing the humblest of cloaks. He wore this simple cloak because he believed all people deserved the same dignity and respect, regardless of their life situation.

​This core value of the Vincentian legacy continues today in the mission committee of DePaul's College of Business and its approach to uplifting human dignity. To address the systemic issue of homelessness, the group created the Business Council on Homelessness.

Former dean of the Driehaus College of Business Misty Johanson charged this committee to collaborate with the George and Tanya Ruff Institute of Global Homelessness​.

“The goal was to find ways to align the institute's work with the expertise of faculty and staff in the College of Business," says Roger Lall, executive in residence and director of DePaul's MS in marketing program and co-chair of the BCH.

In addition to working with the institute, the council sought to engage Chicago's corporate sector to take advantage of available business minds and resources in confronting the issue of homelessness.

“The business community has an important role to play in solutions to homelessness," say Lydia Stazen, executive director of the IGH. “There is so much interest and eagerness to help. I believe their perspectives on healthcare, technology and leadership will positively affect homelessness in Chicago."

Of the 20 council members, 10 are DePaul faculty and staff. The other 10 are from the corporate sector, seven of whom are DePaul alumni. After the first council meeting in spring 2020, members drew a phased plan to gauge further progress.

“Phase one was about making an assessment," Lall says. “What is the state of homelessness in Chicago? What are the needs and what type of resources are available? What types of organizations and agencies are serving homeless people?"

After completing the initial data collection and analysis, the council moved to phase two, where it currently stands. The council established a mission statement to guide all prospective projects and endeavors:

To respect human dignity, we seek to empower homeless people in Chicagoland by ensuring the availability and accessibility of affordable housing, education, technology, community connections, and health care solutions, in collaboration with the business community, government agencies, and other community organizations. The Council shall be comprised of academics, business and civic leaders dedicated to the cause of eliminating homelessness.

In addition to the mission statement, the council identified five pillars of core work. These pillars then translated into five different committees within the BCH: affordable housing, education, health care, technology and community development. Regardless of committee assignment, each council member embraces the Vincentian spirit.

“This work is consistent with the Vincentian mission of taking care of the poor, lifting them up," Lall says. “It is what Vincent started in the 17th century. We are privileged to continue that work."