Project Empathy brings people together through meals
Boy Helps Homeless
Chase Hansen has dedicated the past six years of his life to lifting up people in Utah who are without a home. He founded the organization Project Empathy. He’s garnered support from the headquarters of Applebee’s restaurant. He recently appeared on the national television program Good Morning America to talk about his work. And, he’s only 10 years old.
The young boy was barely taller than the podium in the chambers at Taylorsville City Hall, where he spoke before the City Council about his cause. He’s articulate and purposeful, precocious and passionate.
“I am a kid who just likes to support the community,” he said. “With the homeless population in a pretty bad spot, I wanted to lift it up. We need to help them out. They’re our friends and our family.”
Chase explains that Project Empathy is an initiative that organizes one-to-one, sit-down meals with a homeless person and a non-homeless person. “They basically sit down and talk over the course of a meal for about 30 minutes to an hour.”
He and his dad, John Hansen, started Project Empathy to help people make a connection through meals. “We thought if 20 people sat down with 20 people and had one-on-one conversations, they can actually make a connection. They can find people they enjoy talking to, and keep talking. They can make a friend.
“When people become homeless, they often lose their circle of friends,” Chase added. “We thought we can give them new friends, and if they have friends, they’ll start believing in themselves. They’ll start moving on.”
His father was sick at home when Chase made his presentation to the City Council on Feb. 5 but tuned into the city’s live-stream of the meeting, commenting about how he couldn’t be prouder of this son. “He’s listening at home. Hi, dad,” Chase shouted out during the presentation. His mom Torrie, who attended the meeting with her son, said afterward that she’s simply amazed at all that he has been able to do.
“We found that when people become homeless, they lose all hope,” Chase told the City Council. “They say, ‘Well, I’m just another homeless person. The chances of me getting off the street are pretty low.’ And I’m like, ‘That’s not true.’
“People should have hope. They can do anything if they believe in themselves,” he said, commenting with a charming aside and reminder of his young age: “Those are the cartoon inspirational messages coming through.”
Project Empathy, Chase said, is all about human connection.
He wanted to speak to the Mayor and Council because “he kind of grew up” in Taylorsville, where his grandmother lives and he spends time with his cousins. He and his father also recently met with the manager of the Applebee’s restaurant in Taylorsville after learning during their Jan. 23 appearance on Good Morning America that the chain had donated 100 meals to help. “They were ready for the call of action,” Chase said, adding he hopes others will join, too.