Homeless Advocate Extraordinaire

There are 21,000 homeless students in Washington State and 1.3m nationwide.

Whenever I come across an article on homelessness, like a few days ago on the front page of the Huffington Post, I look for a reference to an inspiring high school friend of mine, Joel Roberts, who oversees the largest homeless organization in Los Angeles. The Huff Post article was titled, “Top Ten Advocates for the Homeless.” He has to be in there I thought to myself. Nah, oh wait, he wrote the piece. Cool.

When Joel was one, he was abandoned on a Hong Kong Street. Picked up by an American missionary, he was raised by a loving family in Long Beach, CA. We met early in high school and grew close through our participation in a church youth group.

At fifteen or sixteen, Joel was doing design work for an architectual firm. Driving around Long Beach in his nicer than normal car, he’d casually point to a tall building and matter of factly say, “I drew that.” He was always more interested in volunteering in Tijuana orphanages than architecture though. I helped him move into his Cal Poly San Louis Obispo dorm where he intended on studying architecture. Early in his SLO career he lost interest in architecture and committed instead to becoming a pastor.

After completing a Masters in Divinity, he became a successful pastor at a large mostly Asian American Church in Los Angeles. I think it was during this period that I introduced him to a woman who became his wife. The marriage, a dismal failure from the get-go, ended in divorce. Fortunately, he’s never held that against me. After a few years he left his church ministry to do what he’d always felt was his life purpose, help end homelessness.

Very proud to call him a friend. More than anyone I know, he’s living out the Beatitudes.

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