A Gift of Hope

by Danielle Steel (Bantam Press) ISBN: 97805930682501R250

 

After the suicide of her teenage son and her marriage falling apart, Danielle Steel decided to distract herself from her own grief by helping others.

 

With a friend, she drove an anonymous van into San Francisco on an icy cold night before Christmas to hand out new jackets, sleeping bags, gloves and socks to the city’s homeless. She thought it would a one-time thing—but what she saw on the streets made her realise that—more than basic supplies and a warm jacket—these people needed to know someone cared for them. Soon after she had funded and organised a team dedicated volunteers to expand the outreach programme called Yo!Angels. It ran for eleven years.

 

As America’s third highest earning author, Steel could easily have chosen a flashy charity to support. Instead, she chose to work one-on-one with the most forgotten and neglected people, those we don’t want to acknowledge—much less care about. Her team handed out supplies without asking in return. She felt she had no right to ask any homeless person his story, as privacy was probably the last shred of dignity he had.

 

Steel also delivers some pragmatic insight into the homeless dilemma: Sometimes homeless people end up on the street not because they have nowhere else to go, but because there is no other place they fit in. “Homelessness is not just about not having a job or an apartment,” she writes. “Too often it is due to a disordered mind.” In part, she wrote this book as an act of advocacy—as a call for mental health reform, a plea for compassion.

 

As a South African living in a big city, this book rattles the conscience. If there are 20, 000 homeless people on the streets of San Francisco, how many need help—and hope—in a city like Johannesburg?

 

Anthony Ehlers

5/5

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