Chris Megison / photo by Charlie Neuman * U-T
*Background: Co-founder, with his wife, Tammy, of North County Solutions for Change, a Vista-based nonprofit group that helps homeless families get back on their feet. Megison also is a Marine veteran.
Question: You served for 11 years in the Marine Corps and have worked with the homeless for more than 20 years. Have your careers reflected your overall American experience?
Answer: As a Marine, you make a pledge. You are going to serve your country and be willing to die for it if need be. (Now) I’ve chosen a different war, I’m fighting a different battle. I’m pushing the impacts of homelessness back. These impacts are a tough, tough opponent. They are kicking down the doors of middle-class America and going into the bedrooms of kids and stealing kids right out of their homes. The kids are innocent. What are they going to do?
Q: You’re critical of some efforts, particularly those of the federal government, to help the poor and homeless. What specifically are your objections?
A: We’ve become expert symptom relievers. We keep feeding people and sheltering people and hugging people, and we expect that’s going to solve the problem, when in fact it’s only managing the symptoms.
Q: Then what needs to be done?
A: What we have to do is go deeper. If you can go deeper with a human being, then you can get to the source, which is multigenerational poverty. There’s a way to solve that. We’re solving it here all the time. It’s education, employment and health-related solutions all bundled into one.
Q: What comes to mind when you think about the United States?
A: We’re the greatest country in the world … (but) we’re losing our way. We’re experiencing, maybe for the first time ever, the crippling of our country.
Q: How are we losing our way?
A: Our country was built on this idea of shoulder-to-shoulder, people-to-people. That’s what made us a great country. We all would work together for the common good, serve for the sake of others. I do believe the people who run the government, they’re all trying to do the right thing. But there’s a thing called unintended consequences. What’s happening is we’re getting to a point where there’s not going to be enough people to pull the cart because so many people are in the cart.
Q: Are you disillusioned about the country?
A: I’m a patriot. I’m so excited about the resiliency of our country. I’m excited, but we’ve got to return to our roots. There has to be almost a revival for our country. It’s shoulder-to-shoulder, heart-to-heart, working for each other, fighting for each other, sacrificing for each other. We’re all more connected than ever, yet we’re all so disconnected.
Q: Who has influenced you?
A: Dr. Ben Carson (a 2016 presidential candidate) and his book “One Nation.” I had dinner with him and his wife last year. This is a guy who grew up right down the street from me in Detroit, and he grew up in deep poverty. His story moved me so deeply. … (He made) this decision, if my circumstances are going to change, I’m going to be the one to make it happen. He went on to become, in my mind and many people’s minds, one of the greatest neurosurgeons in the world.
Q: How does San Diego fit into your viewpoint of America?
A: San Diego is a gem. Like any gem, we have to treat it as precious … take care of the environment, protect our natural resources, keep building the community smart and take care of each other.
Q&A by Joe Tash, a freelance writer in Oceanside.