Career Began: 1968
Home Base: Berwyn, Pa.
Civic Affiliations: Project H.O.M.E., Siloam
When Erik Strid was a boy, he remembers his father disembarking from a Philadelphia commuter train after work wearing no socks. Asked why, his dad replied: “Someone needed them more than I did.”
The story is signature Zeke Strid, a man who has been an indefatigable advocate for Philadelphia’s homeless for 40 years. For the 65-year-old Strid, it’s not just about writing checks but delivering clothing, blankets, water — and hugs.
“The thing that would amaze you, if you came with me for a day, is the intelligence level of people on the street. They all have a story, some trigger in their life that put them in this position. When you sit down, you can’t fool them and when you walk away, you think: ‘Holy mackerel. I just had a good conversation.’ The only difference is that the person behind the teeth is dirty,” says Strid. “Everyone has a right to human dignity, a right not to sleep out in the cold, a right to have someone give them a hug. We give dogs more human contact. These are human beings. Can’t we just show them some human decency?”
It’s a question that has helped define this financial advisor’s life. His passion is so well known that clients and friends routinely leave clothing and blankets in Strid’s car or garage in anticipation of his next visit to the streets. In 2006, he organized a gala that raised $1.7 million for Project H.O.M.E. in a single night. Earlier this year, Strid was given the Heart of Siloam award for his work with an organization that serves street people who have AIDS.
Strid’s heart is so big, in fact, that he and his wife, Kris, have provided a home to 23 students from Villanova University over the years. Some simply couldn’t find on-campus housing. Others had more serious problems — substance abuse or academic and financial challenges. Most stayed a year; one student lived with the Strids for four.
“We have five kids of our own, nine grandchildren and two on the way,” says Strid, a former defensive tackle for Villanova who lives across the street from the campus. “What the hell is the difference? One more face at the party doesn’t change the stew.”