Poverty and homelessness are Dan Green’s most important social concerns. His passion for these issues comes directly from his life. He has been homeless, as a youth and as an adult. He has been broke many times. He remembers having pancakes for every meal when he was a child.
Dan was raised in the slums of Minneapolis. His father was physically and emotionally abusive. When Dan was eight years old, his mother left his father and took her four kids on a Greyhound bus to Duluth. By the time he was seventeen, he was a troublemaker, and had already been in jail for grand theft auto. He signed up for the Navy, and by the time he was eighteen, he had finished basic training. He was immediately shipped to Vietnam on a US Navy destroyer. He saw much of the world while on the ship, including the Philippines, Japan, Singapore, Australia and many other countries in southeast Asia.
By the time he returned, Dan was a full-fledged alcoholic. He got into bar fights for fun, and never backed down from a fight. He was in many car accidents and had many run-ins with the law. He drank for about fifteen years, and has now been sober for 34 years.
Dan currently works for Center City Housing, which builds housing for the “hardest to house” including chronic alcoholics, homeless and transitional housing for women. He is also committed to working with youth, because he knows what happens to youth without direction. He has led a few mission trips with Peace Church and volunteers with Habitat for Humanity when he has time.
Dan also worked in construction for a number of years before working for the City of Duluth. He worked there for 23 years.
He likes to see things happen on a personal level, as opposed to donating to large organizations. For example, the other day he saw a homeless family at Miller Hill Mall, and he gave them $20. He likes to help people, and believes in being kind to everyone.
Dan considers himself to be more of a spiritual person than a religious one. He always tries to do the right thing, believing that things will work out if you do the right thing. His past has given him a different perspective on life and religion. He likes to say that “a person of religion goes to church because they’re afraid to go to hell. Spiritual people go to church because they’ve already been there.”
Dan has always been very independent. Most of what he has learned about life he learned on his own or by experience. However, he looks up to people like Pastor Kathy. He respects how open she is, and “doesn’t know how she does half of what she does.” We could say the same about Dan, who dedicates his talent and time to building justice—creating shelter and connections, sharing the kindness of his heart.
Interviewed by Hannah Feyen and Katherine Skwira-Brown (pictured above with Dan at last summer’s work camp in West Virginia)
Thank you to Pamela Mittlefehldt for editing Voices for Justice each month.