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Why Silicon Valley’s wealthy techies need to ‘stand up’ to homelessness now

Tipping Point Community CEO Daniel Lurie, whose nonprofit works with tech CEOs in the San Francisco Bay Area, says it’s not just right — it’s also good business.

Homelessness On The Rise In San Francisco Justin Sullivan / Getty

In San Francisco, extreme wealth and extreme poverty coexist; the tech-wealthy can and should be expected to do more to fix homelessness and inequality, Tipping Point Community CEO Daniel Lurie says.

“We live in an incredible moment in time and you cover it every day,” Lurie said on the latest episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher. “We have 600,000 people living below the federal poverty line and 1.3 million people too poor to meet their basic needs. We need people with means to stand up to get involved, and we need to tell the stories.”

Tipping Point Community, which Lurie named after the Malcolm Gladwell book “The Tipping Point,” believes that a small number of people can make a big dent in the problem. This week, the organization is announcing plans to work with the city of San Francisco to combat chronic homelessness, meaning the 1,700 to 2,000 people with mental health or drug addiction problems who haven’t had shelter for a year or more.

“If you talk about how many homeless there are on a given night, you can say anything from 8,000 to 10,000,” he said. “That’s why we’re focusing on the 1,700. One of those individuals can cost the city upwards of $100,000 a year. And if you house them, it only costs $20,000 a year.”

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Lurie praised the work of tech CEOs like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Salesforce’s Marc Benioff, but wants everyone — from tiny startups to huge multinationals — to do more.

“People can just get in the car and they can drive down the 101, they can go from here down to Silicon Valley and work at one of these great companies and not see it,” he said. “I understand that. But what we need to do is educate people and get people engaged.”

So, Swisher asked, how can companies create a sense of civic responsibility among their employees and executives?

“It has to come from the top because it’s going to come from the bottom,” Lurie said. “It’s so incredibly important to build it into the culture from Day One. First, you have to educate. Philanthropy is something that is learned, it’s not innate. Second, if the CEO doesn’t get it, and you and I both know CEOs that don’t get it, you have to explain to them why it’s good business.”

“Their employees want to work at a company they can feel proud about working for,” he added. “Retention is important to all of these companies; if you lose a talented individual to another company, for whatever reason, it’s expensive to replace that person. You want morale to be high. I think these companies are starting to hear that.”

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This article originally appeared on Recode.net.

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