Puttin’ on your jammies for a cause

If you want to hang out in public in your pajamas, you have to shell out the big bucks. Call it dressing down to help others get a leg up.

Tonight, businesses willing to donate $10,000 to Denver’s Road Home initiative to end homelessness get to become part of the Pinstripe Pajama Club.

Greenberg Traurig LLP’s managing partner, Dave Palmer, has challenged other downtown businesses to contribute $10,000 as part of the fifth annual Denver’s Road Home PJ party, which takes place tonight from 5:30 to 10 p.m. at the Residence Inn Denver City Center, 1725 Champa St. Pinstripe members include Hogan & Hartson; and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. (See http://www.pjday.org/ for a full list of activities and sponsors.)

Due to budget cuts, Denver will reduce spending on homeless programs by $1 million in 2010. That’s a blow to programs touted to have reduced chronic homelessness by 36 percent over the past four years.

The city’s 10-year program aims to find housing and jobs for its homeless residents and help people on the margins from a life on the streets. It’s a valiant effort to solve a chronic problem exacerbated by the mental illness and substance abuse that typically plagues homeless populations. While economic conditions play a role in the number of people forced to camp in city parks and wander the streets, anyone who has reported on homelessness knows solving the problem requires far more than just finding housing and jobs.

While reporting about the homeless in the early ’90s, in Naples, Fla. – not generally a community people would associate with poverty – I encountered many chronically homeless people who had dropped out of society and had no interest in the 12-step substance abuse rehab program the local shelter offered to homeless people. After years of bitter feuding, the church group expanding their residential treatment center and the residents in the surrounding community who opposed the project discovered a common goal when both realized curbing hard-core homeless served their both their interests.

What drives people to homelessness is often less about the lack of a place to live but more importantly a lack of a meaningful life and sense of self-worth. It’s a complex problem that deserves the attention and support of business.

Last year, the pajama party, combined with other programs as part of PJ Day, raised $500,000. The goal for this year is $750,000.

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