You know Rick Steves from his popular PBS travel show, or maybe your parents own some of his euro guidebooks. This weed-loving nerdy dad learned a thing or two about affordable housing when he was slumming around Europe sleeping on trains and church steps in as a teenager.
“How else would a white, middle-class American kid gain a firsthand appreciation for the value of a safe and comfortable place to sleep?” Says Steves.
And yeah, his travels have also helped him appreciate European cultures which don’t lock people up for pot and he has donated many of his business profits to campaigns to legalize weed in Washington State and Oregon.
Fast forward about 50 years from his teen backpacking days, and the man has a successful travel empire based in the Pacific Northwest. He purchased an apartment complex which has been utilized as affordable housing for families on the brink of homelessness, and originally bought the housing as an investment for his retirement, but now doesn’t exactly need it – he is a baller now, a lovable philanthropist and could retire anywhere in the world and at the moment he is currently in Sicily and is hoping that his success will be a model for other wealthy people to live vicariously with what they physically provide to others.
The 24-unit apartment complex started to be used in 2005 as housing for single moms recovering from drug addiction ready to get custody of their children back. Steves thought it would be a good investment for his retirement that other people could benefit from as opposed to just having money gain interest in a bank account.
Steves also wasn’t trying to profit on the housing in the interim, “Rather than collecting rent, my “income” would be the joy of housing otherwise desperate people. I found this a creative, compassionate and more enlightened way to “invest” while retaining my long-term security,” says Steves. He teamed up with Rotary and YWCA to make the housing, Trinity Place happen.
Turns out, he didn’t need that security, and he officially donated the housing to the YWCA last week. The housing has helped 65 impoverished families including 25 children get back on their feet. While this one housing complex isn’t going to solve the homeless crisis, it may inspire the way other millionaires donate and invest their wealth and how social services can be allocated regionally.
Steves was likely going to donate this investment outright eventually, but he eluded to the current power structure as his motivation to inspire others with wealth and is “bracing for a new forced austerity under our government of billionaires.”
If anything, he is hoping to inspire others who are seeking a feel-good ROI.