Take Five!  Q & A with Brenda Combs

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Expert Q & A | June 30, 2008

Brenda Combs, M.Ed
Ambassador of Inspiration and Achievement at Grand Canyon University

What is the newest issue emerging in homelessness policy?
I am part of the Arizona chapter of the Valley of the Sun Campaign to End Poverty. Our first concern is to get people off the streets and secure affordable housing to create the kind of community we all want to live in.

What issue in homelessness policy should everyone be reminded of?
In my opinion, the real issue is that homelessness can happen to anyone. Often times, people believe homelessness is caused by drugs or alcoholism. Homelessness has also been viewed as something that happens to poor people or minority groups. Homelessness does not discriminate — it can affect both the poor and the middle class as well.

How did you start working in the field of homelessness (or housing)?
I was homeless and lived on the streets off and on for over 10 years. I was able to get myself out of that situation without outside help. I know exactly what it feels like to be starving, digging through trash for food, and unable to take a shower or brush my teeth for months at a time. I have first-hand knowledge of what life is like as a homeless person. My calling is to give back to those who are still homeless. I am the role model for the homeless by helping them help themselves so that they too can get out of that situation. I am living proof that you can go from being homeless to being a productive member of society.

Where do you draw your inspiration?
My love and compassion for other people is my inspiration. What I learned is this: people who are homeless are not throwaways. They are a vital part of society. I went from a homeless person, to a homeowner, to an educator. I am now entering a Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership program at Grand Canyon University. In addition, I was named the Ambassador of Inspiration & Achievement at Grand Canyon University — the school that granted me a full scholarship to complete my doctorate.

When I see homeless children on the streets, it breaks my heart and inspires me to campaign for them. I am their voice because they don’t have one. I have been in their shoes. Grand Canyon University is helping me to make my dreams and goals a reality by encouraging me to travel the country and share my story of hope and inspiration with others. I like to spend time at shelters sharing my story to let people know that if I can turn my life around and get off the streets, out of the shelters, and back into society, so can they.

Why do you think ending homelessness is possible?
I think ending homelessness is possible because we live in a great country where we have the ability to generate funding for affordable housing for people who are living on the streets. Everyone in our society/community needs to pull together. Ending homelessness is the right thing to do from every point of view. Education, community support, and affordable housing are the key essentials.

Read past Take Five! Expert Q & As.