Interview with Andrew Funk of Homeless Entrepreneur

This is the first in a series of interviews with courageous activists and thinkers in the fight to end homelessness, one city at a time.

Dear friends and supporters, in the fighting trail against homelessness, some people shine for their passion and achievements in affecting change. Such is the case of Andrew Funk, an American living in Spain who is the CEO of Homeless Entrepreneur. His efforts to empower the homeless by working with them to find ways to become independent by tapping into their talents and also linking them with businesses looking to hire people makes much more sense than merely "shelving" people into living units. He is inspiring and Homeless in San Diego offers you a glimpse into Andrew's movement.

Who are you at the moment?

The same person I’ve always been, just more focused than ever. Every day is an opportunity to bring people together who care about speeding up the process of ending homelessness for and with homeless people who want to tell their story and work to become active citizens again.

Which parts of your past have influenced your present activities?

I entered the vicious cycle of homelessness willingly and unknowingly. What should have been the best moment of my life soon became the worst. A company I created raised 300,000€ and my first son was born. Six months later, all of the company money had been spent due to poor management of a business partner and my economic crisis led to a personal crisis at home. All I had was 35,000 contacts online, the desire to change my situation and my entrepreneurial spirit, which is what still fuels #HomelessEntrepreneur.

Who are your current adversaries in the fight against homelessness?

The biggest adversaries we have in the fight against homelessness are those who don’t believe ending homelessness is possible and those who create obstacles instead of opportunities for homeless people. Indifference and blindness are obstacles as well. Instead of focusing on how frustrating it can be to deal with adversaries, we work on converting them into partners who can help speed up the process of creating work and housing for and with homeless people.

Has it been necessary to incorporate a non-profit to raise awareness of your plight, or have you succeeded in assembling large groups of supporters without State regulations? 

For legal reasons, we had to create an NGO. If it wasn’t necessary, I wouldn’t have set one up. You can’t expect to innovate or improve a system from outside, so we are working within it while thinking outside of the cardboard box. 

Where does your funding come from?

Our main funding comes from the work we do with the #HomelessEntrepreneurs in our program. If we create and sell a product or service with them, we split the benefit 50%/50% while they are in the program and if we get them a part-time or full-time job, they donate 10% of what they make during the first 6 months to invest in a personal project of theirs or help others in our program.

When is your deadline for changes you advocate to take effect?

Our program to create work and housing for and with #Homeless lasts 1 year and the following year aims to create stability so they can maintain and improve their situation. It’s important to spread a sense of urgency because the quicker people get off the street, the better.

How has this fight given you spiritual growth?

This fight has made me a better person and a better father. I am constantly challenged to create new solutions in an unprecedented time and learn about issues I’ve never even contemplated. I grow with the association and everyone who participates in it, be it a homeless person or a volunteer.

Do you see yourself quitting?

Quitting is not an option and hasn’t ever crossed my mind. Quitting would be giving up on myself and every single person who has confided in our project. I didn’t give up on myself when I was homeless and neither did those around me. Some did, but Society as a whole didn’t, and my debt is happily paid every day I wake up at 6am to figure out how to make an even bigger impact one person at a time.

What is next?

The next step is always unpredictable. Our goal for 2018 is clear; end homelessness for 120 people in Spain, but how it’s going to happen exactly is unknown because we are still learning a lot about how homelessness affects society and how society can participate actively to end it. The only aspect I’m certain about is that the more we care, the sooner homelessness will cease to exist.

All images courtesy of © Andrew Funk and Homeless Entrepreneur