Father and Son Help Homeless People One Meal at a Time

The pair now run Project Empathy to inspire others to help the homeless people in their neighborhoods.

Feb 8, 2020

Children are naturally curious about the world around them. They take in everything they see and ask a huge amount of questions about what they don’t understand. 

When Chase Hansen was only 4-years old, he first encountered homeless people for the time while shopping with his dad at an outdoor mall in Salt Lake City, Nevada. It’s no wonder that he had a lot of questions. 

"Chase looked at me and said, 'Dad, who are these people? Why don't they have a place to stay?'" John Hansen told My San Antonio News. "After I explained that they had run into hard times and were homeless, I knew that we were looking at an educational opportunity. My son wanted to help them."

Now, six years later, the pair spend their weekends taking homeless people out to lunch where over a meal of cheeseburgers, pizza, or tacos they start conversations with their new acquaintances. 

"I would ask them where they were from, what their hobbies were, stuff like that," said Chase, a fifth grader who lives with his mom during the school week. "And sometimes they'd share the story of how they became homeless."

But it started in a very different way. According to My San Antonio News, after the first conversation between father and son about homelessness, Hansen, who had just recently divorced and spent weekends with his son, decided to turn the encounter as a teachable moment.

The father and son convinced a local Jamba Juice store to donate more than 100 smoothies and the pair gave them out to homeless people in a park.

After that, they came up with an even better idea, said Chase. "I wanted a way to get to know people better," he said. "So, me and my dad decided to start taking some of the homeless people we'd met out to lunch.

"A lot of people walk right past homeless people and don't see the person," he said. "I know now that they're people just like us. They want to make a connection and not feel so alone in the world."

Hundreds of lunches later, they run a self-funded charity called Project Empathy to help inspire others to meet and to create relationships with the homeless people in their neighborhoods. The organization provides a list of resources that can help homeless people with housing, employment, and rehab facilities.

"I just want other people to know that they can do this in their own town," said Chase. "When you have lunch with a homeless person or just sit and talk to them, it helps to lift their life."

Hansen said that what started as a way to spend quality time with his son has turned into a passion for both of them. "Chase and I realized that the country needed an army of people to practice empathy, and that by doing something as simple as taking a homeless person to lunch, we could maybe inspire others to do the same," he said. "Any time you can help to give someone a voice, it's empowering."

And many of their lunch partners have turned into lasting friendships including one with Mike Campbell who became homeless after a divorce and wanted to stay close to his children. He moved into a tent. He experienced loneliness and despair until the Hansens came into his life.  They met on public transit.

"John struck up a conversation, and after we exchanged contact info, he reached out to me on Facebook to see how I was doing," said Campbell.

"We made a real connection, and soon he was inviting me to bring my sons to go bike-riding or fishing with him and Chase," he added. "Just to know that somebody cared made a huge difference." In a very short time, John and Chase Hansen have become his trusted friends.

The father and son super team know that they cannot change the social-economic conditions that lead to homelessness, but they can change the lives of homeless people even just for an hour lunch by treating them with dignity. Chase Hansen proves that you are never too young to make a positive change in the world.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE:
Toronto’s Winter Shelter Bus for the Homeless is Kindness on Wheels
This Bus Provides the Homeless With 2,000 Showers a Week
San Jose is Building Tiny Homes for the Homeless

BONNIE RIVA RAS, EDITOR & WRITER
Bonnie Riva Ras has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.