Rick Steves became a millionaire thanks to his European travel guides and series.
Yet, he doesn’t feel comfortable living large while many others live in poverty.
So, to help homeless women and children, he decided to buy an entire apartment complex. Steves gave away the $4-million complex called Trinity Place to the YWCA, and 24 people could be settled in the apartments. The complex has become a safe place for women, mainly single mothers, where they could receive guidance and settle their lives.
Namely, he bought the apartment complex back in 2005 and adapted it to be appropriate for poor families.
“Twenty years ago, I devised a scheme where I could put my retirement savings not into a bank to get interest, but into cheap apartments to house struggling neighbors,” Steves wrote on his blog. “Rather than collecting rent, my ‘income’ would be the joy of housing otherwise desperate people.”
He teamed up with the YWCA and the Rotary Club of Edmonds to renovate the apartments, receiving some extra assistance from the Gates Foundation and the local government. Then mothers and their kids could move in. From 2005 to 2016, the complex was pretty full. At first, Steves wanted the complex to be his ‘retirement egg nest,’ but until retirement, other people should use it. But, he officially gave the apartments to the YWCA in 2017. His next step was to inspire other people.
“Working with the YWCA and the Rotary Club of Edmonds, we publicized this creative way of putting a fortunate person’s retirement nest egg to work in a powerful way in hopes that others would be inspired to do the same in their communities,” he wrote.
Some of the mothers in the complex were separated from their children as a result of their unlucky circumstances, such as drug addictions. They made efforts to rebuild their lives. Trinity Place allowed homeless mothers to reunite with kids who have been placed in foster care.
Rick Steves takes part in other charity projects as well.
He sees the results of climate change everywhere, during his extensive travels, such as droughts in Ethiopia and snow melting in the Swiss Alps. Steves admits that the travel industry contributes to these problems, including the company that he owns.
Because of that, he donates $1 million annually to organizations that fight climate change. The name of the program is Climate Smart Commitment. In fact, he donates $30 per his customers; as experts claim, that sum of money could reduce a traveler’s impact on the environment. And because the company gets approximately 30,000 customers per year, that amounts to about $900,00, which is rounded up.
“It’s not an issue of can we afford it,” he said. “If we are in the travel business, we are contributing to the destruction of our environment.”
To date, the money goes to Project Concern International, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America World Hunger, and Bread for the World.
Even though the Trinity Place project began in 2005, it continues to help people until the present day. It’s touching to know that there are good people out there who want to make life easier for others. Rick Steves hopes other multi-millionaires would follow his example to help less fortunate people than themselves.
“Everyone says if you consume more, you’re happier,” Steves told in a video interview. “But that’s not the mark of a very thoughtful person.”
Alternatively, he decided to “invest” in assisting people and the community. And there is not another thing more valuable than improving people’s lives. Steves suggests people should “consume vicariously” to find happiness with their fortune. Meaning, the satisfaction of riches is really from helping others, not trying to consume more by oneself.
“The gap between rich and poor in our country continues to widen,” Steves noted in his blog post. “And I believe needs — such as affordable housing — will only increase as budget cuts are implemented. Organizations like the YWCA will need to pick up the slack. If our country truly wants to be great, we need creative thinking connected with our hearts. And it’s my hope that love and compassion can trump values of crass commercialism, greed, and ‘winners’ beating ‘losers.’”