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It is bonkers that the county at the heart of Silicon Valley has 7,400 homeless people. That’s right. The fabled plot of land from San Jose to Palo Alto connected by the 101 freeway and Interstate 280 has among the highest levels of wealth and smarts—and also, says tech giant Cisco Systems, the third-highest rate of chronic homelessness of any county in the country.
I didn’t know this. Anyone who has visited San Francisco, where I live, already knows the once beautiful city has descended into a hell hole of pathetic, disgusting conditions, a human tragedy, and as good an example of lack of political will as you’re likely to find anywhere. You can literally walk by a drug-addled, deeply ill person screaming at the top of their lungs on your way to a meeting at a multi-billion-dollar innovator like Uber and Twitter. I’ve done it many times.
The problem is just as bad down south, as city folks like me like to call “the Valley.” And Cisco, a decades-old company that may not be as sexy as San Francisco startups but has demonstrated it is built to last, is doing something about it. Monday it announced a $50-million grant to a San Jose organization called Destination: Home. The money will go toward building housing and, importantly, providing services to homeless people. Said Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins: “This is an investment in the place that has been so good to us as a company—the place where so many of us are fortunate not just to work, but to have a home.”
Robbins is passionate on the topic of corporations acting as a force for good in the world. Cisco (CSCO) focuses on helping communities far and wide since it does business far and wide. But it is particularly interested in its own backyard. More companies need to follow its lead.