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Archive for September, 2014

Speaking on Homelessness at Northern Virginia Mosque

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Awareness, Speakers' Bureau

Speaking on Homelessness at Northern Virginia Mosque – By Andrea Barron, NCH Volunteer

SpeakersSince 1999, the Faces of Homelessness Speakers Bureau has made over 3,000 presentations throughout the United States. It has held hundreds of events at synagogues, churches, public and private schools and universities, but never at a mosque. This was about to change. On September 13, Dana Woolfolk and Candi Darley became the first NCH speakers to visit a mosque.

Dana and Candi were invited to speak at Dar al-Hijrah in Falls Church, Virginia by Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, the mosque’s Outreach Director. September 13 was a special day in Virginia – it was designated as a “Day to Serve” by the mayor of Washington DC and the Governors of Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia. In Northern Virginia, volunteers from religious communities collected food donations for the food pantries at Dar al-Hijrah and the Annandale Christian Community for Action (ACCA).

MosqueCandi shared her experiences with “Day to Serve” volunteers at the mosque, and with the Latina women waiting to register for the food pantry.  Originally from Panama, Candi had not spoken publicly in Spanish for years. But she made such an impression on the Latina women, mostly from El Salvador, that some of them discussed inviting her to speak about homelessness at their churches.

Dana addressed over 150 Muslims, immediately following prayer services. He spoke movingly about how he had once been addicted to drugs and alcohol and lived on the streets for three years. But he overcame his addiction and now works as a therapist and Clinical Recovery Coach and has become one of the leading advocates on homelessness in Virginia.

“I was honored to be the first representative from the National Coalition for the Homeless at a mosque,” said Dana. Everyone at Dar al-Hijrah treated me like a brother and made me feel welcome. Imam Johari can be a strong ally for us to end homelessness in Northern Virginia.”

“The tenets of Islam underscore the importance of caring for the miskeen (poor in Arabic),” said Imam Johari. “So it is a fulfillment of our faith to care for the homeless and the hungry. Often times people do not see the face of what hunger and homelessness look like—Dana showed us that people who are now or used be homeless are just like us.”

The Imam said he hopes to work with the National Coalition on a “Day of Action about Homelessness” in January 2015, when Muslims celebrate the birth of the prophet Mohammed. Thanks to Candi and Dana, NCH is now on its way to building a relationship with the Muslim community of Northern Virginia.

How to Plan for Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Awareness, Poverty

Planning for National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week, An Organizer’s Perspective – By Deirdre Walsh, NCH Intern

Planning events for National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week can seem daunting. What will you do? Will the events be oriented towards service or education? How do you know that you are planning the right type of event? These are all common questions when starting the planning process, but the most important thing to remember is that you are not alone. Last year, over 750 high schools, colleges, community groups, and faith-based organizations nationwide hosted events including clothing drives, speaking engagements, educational films, and voluntarily nights without a home to understand the struggles related to the experience of homelessness. Now it is your turn to look at the impacts of poverty around you, educate yourself, and call your communities to action to help end hunger and homelessness!

The planning process must start off with two major elements. The first is a team to brainstorm and execute programs. Bring together individuals from different backgrounds who share an enthusiasm for helping to end poverty. Volunteers can be individuals who donate their time to their local soup kitchen, community leaders, and individuals who are or have experienced homelessness. Their commitment to the cause will be a part of everything you do and show others why they too should become involved. The second is a theme. It may be cliché, but the theme is everything! It helps you to clarify your goals and prevents your programming from becoming muddled. This year, the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) is encouraging groups to focus on youth homelessness, in honor of the launch of the National Campaign for Youth Shelter. With only 4,000 shelter beds for as many as 500,000 young people (16-24 years old), NCH recognizes that the time has come for us all to fight for more safe shelter for vulnerable youths in our communities. No matter what aspect of poverty you choose to highlight, a unifying theme is a way to bring your passions and ideas together to make your week a success!

National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week is dedicated to education and awareness about poverty-related issues within our local communities and across the nation. Poverty has many different causes and there are a variety of factors affecting those experiencing poverty and homelessness today. It is wise to think outside of the box and go beyond stereotypes to create awareness programs that are diverse, unique, and creative. An important element to planning an educational program is to know your audience. On a college campus, students embrace volunteerism and enjoy making toiletry kits, trail mix packs on-the-go, and sandwiches. Your local community group may want to organize a clothing drive or Oxfam Hunger Banquet while your faith-based organization can host a round table discussion to discuss poverty, its causes, and how it can be eliminated.

Engage your community! Some of the most prevalent needs may be around the corner. Rather than make assumptions, see what your local soup kitchen or community center needs. If you invite a speaker, invite someone who is local and can share experiences within the community. Engagement with local organizations and individuals has the potential to establish long-lasting relationships and service opportunities that can extend your efforts beyond H&H Week. The National Coalition for the Homeless can provide you with many more ideas for events and educational resources. Check out the 2014 manual to be inspired.

Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week brings people together from across the country to educate and promote change for some of the country’s most dire issues. You can be a part of this movement and help your community become a part of the solution. Planning your events is the first step to making hunger and homelessness a thing of the past. After you have planned your events, don’t forget to register them on the NCH website to become part of our national map and let participants in your area and across the country know what you are doing to celebrate Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week 2014!

National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week 2014

Guest Post: 40 Years of the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Advocacy, Awareness, Youth

40 Years of the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act by Frank McAlpin, Guest Blogger

This week marks the 40th anniversary of the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA), which has provided funding for services to youth experiencing homelessness across the nation. And 40 years after the initial legislation, the services that RHYA funds are needed now more than ever.

Youth become homeless for a number of reasons including: family violence and neglect, rejection due to sexual orientation or gender identity, the overwhelmed child welfare system and extreme poverty. These youth almost always have experienced unimaginable abuse and trauma, in their homes, their communities, and on the street. It is the RHYA-funded services and programs that help to rectify the deep injustices that homeless youth experience on a daily basis.

RHYA specifically funds three different programs for homeless youth: street outreach, which aims to transition youth off the streets; basic centers, which provides youth temporary shelter and services; and transitional living programs, which provides longer term housing and support to youth 16-21 years of age. In July of this year new federal legislation was introduced in Congress, the Runaway and Homeless Youth Trafficking and Prevention Act.

This new legislation would reauthorize the original RHYA and strengthen the law to better serve homeless youth today. The new law adds a nondiscrimination clause, which would ensure that all youth seeking services, including LGBTQ youth are treated fairly and with dignity by agencies receiving federal funding. This clause directly reflects the current homeless youth population, with almost 40 percent of homeless youth identifying as LGBTQ. In addition, the new law would require culturally competent and comprehensive care and services for all homeless youth, including LGBTQ youth and youth who have been survivors of human trafficking, violence and exploitation.

Over the past 40 years, there is no question that millions of youth have been impacted by RHYA. This one piece of legislation has been the cornerstone of homeless youth services for decades and has literally been a lifeline for an untold amount of youth experiencing homelessness. As a social worker working with homeless youth I have seen first hand the extraordinary work of the RHYA funded programs.

In working with youth experiencing homelessness, I have been witness to the beautiful transformation that happens when youth are transitioned off the street and into supportive housing programs. Programs in which youth can heal from trauma, learn basic life skills, obtain a job, pursue their education, repair relationships with their family and begin to fulfill their deepest passions. In short, RHYA and the agencies that receive the funding seek to restore dignity to youth experiencing homelessness. It aims to provide youth with the support and care necessary for them not just to survive but thrive.

The passage of the updated RHYA, Runaway and Homeless Youth Trafficking and Prevention Act by Congress is imperative for youth experiencing homelessness.  There is no better way to honor the 40th anniversary of RHYA and the over one million homeless youth today, then for the passage the Runaway and Homeless Youth Trafficking and Prevention Act. It ensures that homeless youth’s beauty, strength and potential are elevated and that they will be able to move out homelessness and fulfill their dreams.

 Frank McAlpin, social worker based in Hollywood

@frankmctalk

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