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Having hope

At yesterday’s Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless’ 2012 Awards Luncheon, Rabbi Alan Flam gave those gathered a brief lesson on the difference between optimism and hope.

Flam said the two are often confused, but entirely different.

Optimism, he explained, is the belief that the outcome of any situation will be sunny and happy. Hope, on the other hand, is the stance that, regardless if the outcome is good or dismal, things will be O.K.

So what is better? Optimists don’t necessarily thrive to make the outcome great; they just believe it will be so. Taken at face value, that’s a pretty passive, naïve stance.

Those who hope will take the good, the bad or the ugly, and make it the best it can be. That sounds more proactive.

Flam was of course talking about the optimism and hope within the framework of Rhode Island’s homelessness problem.

With short-term shelters filled to the bursting nightly, those in the affordable housing and homelessness fields agree that something needs to be done to remedy the current state of our state.

Rhode Island’s flag bears the word “Hope” of course, and so Flam knew where he was going with his speech.

“I believe hope will prevail,” he said.

The entirety of the event focused on the slogan, “The smallest state with the greatest opportunity.”

And it’s true. We are a tiny microcosm, but we have big problems. Regardless, why can’t we be the pioneers who get a handle on them and fix them first? A clever video presentation by Candlelight Productions said Rhode Island has been home to many firsts: first coffee syrup; first frozen lemonade; first jail sentence for a speeding ticket.

Those at the State House are looking to add a handful of other monumental firsts to that list.

Governor Chafee is the first governor to include an affordable housing bond in his budget. His budget proposes a $25 million bond that would be placed on the ballot for voter approval.

There’s also the Homeless Bill of Rights, which would ensure homeless receive the same rights as other citizens.

The Just Cause bill would prevent renters from being removed from homes that are foreclosed on, and other bills in the House and Senate call for $12.5 million in funds for the Neighborhood Opportunities Program as well as a $75 million housing bond.

With all of these bills on the table, it looks like Rhode Island is being less optimistic, and much more realistic.

No longer are we taking the passive approach to homelessness, thinking it will eventually disappear. Instead, we’re being proactive, and as Rabbi Flam sees it, hopeful.


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