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About Ryan

Ryan Dowd started volunteering at a large homeless shelter outside Chicago when he was 13 years old.  He joined the staff in college and became Executive Director after law school when he was 26.

Spending his career at a shelter, Ryan has taken great joy in helping tens of thousands of individuals get out of homelessness.  He has gotten less joy out of breaking up hundreds of fights, having a knife pulled on him and stopping several shelter outbreaks (Tuberculosis, MRSA, Meningitis and Covid).

Ryan still works at the shelter but spends most of his time training libraries, police departments, nonprofits, hospitals and other organizations around the world.

Ryan is husband to an awesome wife (Krissie) and father to two amazing children (Cameron and Hailey).  He is a licensed attorney, has a Master’s of Public Administration and has been rereading his favorite book—Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac—for over two decades.

Ryan Dowd

It will take hope

We must have hope, but not the hope of naïve fools and untested daydreamers.  

The kind of hope that changes the world is born in experience; it has scars from battles won and battles lost.  It is weary and ragged, but unbroken.  Always unbroken.

It will take impatience

We must grow impatient with a status quo that accepts dehumanization as the inevitable consequence of modernity.

We will remake the world only when our souls can no longer bear to witness the unnecessary suffering of others.

It will take courage

We must have the courage to reject the cynicism that grips our world and whispers in our ears, “You don’t matter.”  

Such cynicism is worse than cowardice because it robs our generation—and future generations—of possibility.

It will take sacrifice

We must accept that the world will not be saved through our social media posts.

Real change requires the real sacrifices of real people willing to challenge very real systemic injustice and political inertia.

 

Dear Reader,

I started volunteering at the homeless shelter featured in this story—Hesed House in Aurora, Illinois—when I was thirteen years old.  I immediately knew it was a special place… even if my adolescent self could not yet explain why.

I was fortunate enough to join the staff during college and become Executive Director after law school.

Over the last few decades, I’ve spent many Christmas Eves at the shelter.

Just like Santa in the story, I cannot get used to seeing children living in a homeless shelter.  Obviously, no one of any age should experience homelessness.  The sight of children, though, cuts through our flimsy excuses for allowing homelessness to exist.

It is possible, by the way…

We CAN end homelessness.

Homelessness—as we understand it today—is a recent development.  It started in the 1980s.  If we created homelessness since I was born, I don’t think it is unreasonable to ask that we end it before I die.

We have all the tools we need to banish homelessness to the history books.

So, what’s stopping us?

What will it take to end homelessness?

  • It will take hope…  

We must have hope, but not the hope of naïve fools and untested daydreamers.  

The kind of hope that changes the world is born in experience; it has scars from battles won and battles lost.  It is weary and ragged, but unbroken.  Always unbroken.

  • It will take impatience…  

We must grow impatient with a status quo that accepts dehumanization as the inevitable consequence of modernity.

We will remake the world only when our souls can no longer bear to witness the unnecessary suffering of others.

  • It will take courage…  

We must have the courage to reject the cynicism that grips our world and whispers in our ears, “You don’t matter.”  

Such cynicism is worse than cowardice because it robs our generation—and future generations—of possibility.

  • It will take sacrifice…  

We must accept that the world will not be saved through our social media posts.

Real change requires the real sacrifices of real people willing to challenge very real systemic injustice and political inertia.

We will end homelessness, but only when we want to badly enough.

And when we do, I hope my own story ends similarly to this book:

My great-granddaughter climbs up on my lap and asks, “Gramp-Gramp, what was Hesed House?”

I rub my long white beard and say, “Hesed House was a homeless shelter.”

With total innocence she asks, “What’s a homeless shelter?”

“Well, dear,” I sigh, taking a deep breath, “there used to be people in our community who didn’t have a home to live in…  

…but that was before you were born.”

Humanity is worth the struggle…  We are worth the struggle…

Peace,

Ryan Dowd

Meet the team

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Krissie Dowd

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Krissie Dowd

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Krissie Dowd

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Krissie Dowd

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Krissie Dowd

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Krissie Dowd

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Amanda Lee

Founder

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Adam Cheise

Designer

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Mike Stuart

SEO

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