Businesses should help homeless in meaningful ways

A recent episode shows that the business community is stuck in a pattern of short-term thinking.

Regarding a recent article (“Coffee chain starts conversation about giving to needy,” Oct. 10) I think it is worthwhile to point out a few obvious truths. According to the article, workers were fired for giving food to hungry people that otherwise went unsold, which may mean it was to be discarded. Those actions were then criticized by the store owners and others in the business community as either not being effective or as enabling homelessness.

These messages strike me as short-sighted and uncaring. Homelessness is present in our society because we have systematically dismantled safety nets for the last few decades, denying both the poor and the mentally ill options that were once available — and what could possibly be more effective at relieving hungry and poor people from their immediate distress than by simply handing them food? Instead, some in the business community seem to expect us to respond to the tragedies of others by saying either, “First, I have to discuss with my boss opportunities to make a meaningful impact,” or “If I really cared, I’d find another way to maximize my impact, which does not include giving you something to eat.”

Should we condone employees giving away a store’s stock? Of course not, but this episode shows that the business community is stuck in a pattern of destructive short-term thinking. Perhaps those employees who were fired could have put their passions to work for the community under the banner of their employer, rather than be punished for their altruism. This episode could just as easily have been turned into a learning experience for all.

So long as the sole purpose of business is to make a fast buck, the divisions in society we see today will not be healed. We should be holding businesses, and ourselves, to a higher standard, to serve the common good for ourselves and future generations. Otherwise, we’ll get no more than we pay for.

— Greg Wessel