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Archive for November, 2014

Growing Crisis in D.C.

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Awareness, Families, Housing, Policy Advocacy, Prevention, Shelter

Growing Crisis Takes Over D.C. – Auburn Trotter, NCH Intern

When I moved to DC to intern with NCH, I knew that I would gain a new perspective on the housing policies in America, but never did I think that the nation’s capitol would be suffering from such a crisis. In January 2014, a Point-in-Time count showed that a total of 7,748 people experienced homelessness  in the District of Columbia. This number increased 12.9%  from the previous year’s count. While cities surrounding the metropolitan area have decreased their homeless populations, the District has not seen much change. In fact, D.C.’s homeless population continues to rise at an alarming rate.

It’s important to first recognize that there are city officials who have fought hard to push forward possible solutions to this issue. It wouldn’t be fair to say that our officials haven’t done anything to try and curb this issue. Legislation has been introduced and passed. Plans to transition families from shelters to permanent homes are being strategized. Our leaders have the will to address the issue but even with these efforts the problem has continued to spiral out of control. So the lingering question becomes, why does homelessness continue to exist at a crisis level in the nation’s capital? The answer is two simple words: affordable housing!

There are many reasons that people find themselves homeless, but the lack of affordable housing remains one of the leading causes. With rents rising all around the city, what are people left to do? Some would say “go live with friends or relatives,” but a majority of the time families do not have room to accommodate others in their living space. So the next natural answer would be to report to the Public Housing Authority (PHA) and seek assistance. Thanks to the 2013 sequester and budget cuts, this has become a dead-end option. With funds being cut by 5%, PHAs across the country encounter difficulties trying to serve those in need. In fact, DC’s housing authority closed its Section 8 voucher wait list, which contained 70,000 people at the time, in April of 2013 and has not re-opened since.

After being told “NO” on several instances, the next and last resort for many people is a shelter. Many of the residents at D.C. General emergency shelter, the area’s largest family shelter, will tell you that they are thankful for the shelter and for having a roof over their heads, but it is not a place where they want to be raising a family. Many have jobs where they work long hours, just to receive a poverty level income. City officials want them to apply for assistance programs where, after their time in the program has ended, they face a rent payment of $900-$1200 depending on the size of the apartment.

Homelessness and increasing rents are serious issues that need an urgent response.  Ultimately, the homeless crisis will continue to get worse unless the city invests in sustainable, affordable housing for its residents. A strong housing policy could significantly reduce the size of our current homeless population and prevent thousands of others from losing their homes. There is no reason that we cannot decrease homelessness in our city. But we must all take action.

#NHHAW – A Note from Jerry Jones

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Uncategorized

Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week has come to a close and it is an opportunity to reflect on the work that has been done and the work that still needs to be completed. This past week, over 450 high schools, universities, faith-based organizations and community groups worked together to host over a thousand events nationwide to bring awareness to the issues of hunger and homelessness. The enthusiasm to learn more about the causes of poverty and how it can be eradicated was inspiring, but the work is far from over.

The eradication of poverty is not a suggestion for the future of the United States, but rather a requirement. If we do not address the issues of affordable housing, equal employment opportunities and funding public assistance inequality will rage on creating a further divide between the rich and poor. The National Coalition for the Homeless is committed to addressing these needs and ensuring the rights and dignity of all those affected by homelessness and poverty.

A home is a right that all Americans, no matter their age should be guaranteed. The National Campaign for Youth Shelter seeks to increase the available shelter beds for the nearly 500,000 unaccompanied homeless youths throughout the country. Despite the staggering number of homeless youths, only 4,000 shelter beds are put aside for them. This harsh reality leads many young, homeless individuals to fend for themselves on the street. For the thousands of families and adults who are at risk of losing their homes or trying to get back on their feet, we must put money back into rental assistance programs and fight to make housing more affordable.

The issues of homelessness and poverty in America must become part of the national and local agendas. Stronger grassroots networks and organizing have the ability to eradicate poverty. Let’s make Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week a catalyst for action in every community. Mass homelessness and mass hunger is a reality in our country and it shouldn’t be. Call attention to and organize against local legislation that criminalizes homelessness, cuts funding for affordable housing and ensures that the issues of the poor and homeless are constituently neglected. Make Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week your community’s catalyst for change and join together to resolve to end poverty!

 

Many thanks,

Jerry Jones
Executive Director
National Coalition for the Homeless

#NHHAW – What Comes Next?

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Awareness

What’s next? Building Hunger and Homelessness Awareness beyond November – Deirdre Walsh

Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week brings together high schools, colleges, community groups, and faith-based organizations in the common cause to educate their communities about poverty in America. The issues of hunger and homelessness, however, are more than a week’s worth of problems for many Americans. Veterans return from war suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder with little support, which too often can lead them to life on the streets. LGBTQ youth are at risk of being rejected by their families and the general public and make up close to half of all unaccompanied homeless youths in America. Women in domestic violence situations are forced to choose between an abusive home or an unstable life without a home. Families are riddled with debt from the lack of housing assistance and affordable healthcare and must decide which bills to pay or buy food for dinner. Poverty has many different faces and the causes of homelessness are just as varied as the people who endure it. The issues of hunger and homelessness cannot be fully understood or addressed in one week. Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week is just the start of what you and your local community can do year round.

How can the actions you took this November be continued year round? There are so many great ways! Make volunteering at a local soup kitchen or shelter a part of your weekly or monthly routine by asking a friend to commit to it with you. Create a community forum or book club with regular meetings meetings focused on understanding the social issues relating to poverty. Challenge different organizations to try to out-do your events each month. Make a regular date to have dinner with someone who faces food insecurity. Whatever you are comfortable with, we hope you will commit to this cause and remain an active advocate for those living in poverty.

Addressing the goals of Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week can and should be more than a week’s affair, however, starting dialogue and open discussion in your community is the first step. When people are talking about the lack of affordable housing, the criminalization of homelessness, and the discrimination against LGBT homeless youths you know that they can see past the stereotypes and understand the realities homelessness. Over 3.5 million men, women and children will go without a place to sleep and even more will be unable to feed and sustain themselves. Students, community groups and local organizations can work year round to assist and provide needed resources and have the capabilities to engage local civic leaders and policy makers to remove obstacles for America’s poor. Hunger and Homelessness may be one week in November, but the lessons and programs started can be a year round initiative for all. Bring poverty, its hardships and its causes, to the forefront of social and political discussions to give everyone a home this year. Resolve to fight poverty!

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