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Archive for November, 2014

#NHHAW – Learning to Lobby

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Advocacy, Awareness

Learning How to Lobby – Jennifer Warner

You are one of 319,247,005 American citizens. That number grows by, on average, one person every 13 seconds. With such a large pool of people, it’s hard to believe that anything you do or say will affect the laws that govern us all. It seems unlikely that any legislator would listen to you and it is intimidating to consider asking them to. As daunting as it might seem, I have seen first-hand that the American political system is designed for each of us to be able to access and influence elected officials, if we take the right steps

Anything a person does to try to influence the actions of legislators is considered lobbying. You may have a negative connotation of this word; in fact, 61% of Americans hold an unfavorable opinion of lobbyists and 81% believe that lobbyists bribe legislators for votes. However, lobbying simply means advocating for policy decisions that you or your organization would like to see. One group I’ve gotten involved with, called SAVE for All, believes budget decisions should protect low-income and vulnerable people. To encourage this, SAVE members visit the staff of Senators and Representatives who sit on funding committees and have an open dialogue about community needs and funding possibilities. These conversations involve both education about the issue and the exchange of personal opinions. This is direct lobbying: a face-to-face exchange of information and opinion.

However, lobbying doesn’t necessarily mean in-person meetings with on Capitol Hill. You can communicate with your Congressperson wherever you are, through letters, email, and phone calls. To find out how to best contact your Senators and Representatives, look up their websites at www.senate.gov and www.house.gov. On their official websites, you can also find the location of their closest district office, which is their office in your local community. When contacting your elected officials, try to pick one or two specific issues that you care about. (For ideas, go to NCH’s “Campaigns” tab!) Research the topic thoroughly and clarify your own stance on the issue. When your write, call, or present to a staff person, be clear and concise with your argument. If you called or sent a letter, ask for a response from the Congressperson, and if you met with a staffer, send a follow up email thanking them for their time.

Your elected officials can only serve your interests if they know what those interests are, so communication is essential. Engaged citizens should tell their local Representatives and Senators what they want, as the primary job of those officials is to represent the interests of their own district or state. Your senators are there to represent each person in your state and your representative works for the 732,203 people in your immediate community. They are your voice among the 319,247,005 in this country—make sure that they are saying things you agree with.

#NHHAW – Solidarity through Experience

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Awareness, Poverty

Solidarity through Experience: Experiential Learning and its place in Homeless Advocacy – Deirdre Walsh

Tonight will likely be an uncomfortable and cold evening for some of the nation’s most influential business executives.  In 14 cities nationwide, Covenant House will host its fourth Executive Sleep Out. The annual fundraiser brings not only financial resources to those combatting youth homelessness, but also much needed attention to the issues of hunger and homelessness. Executives will join together on behalf of the thousands of people around the country who have no place to call home. This act of sacrifice and attention will raise funds and awareness in order to protect the most innocent and forgotten members of our society.

The National Coalition for Homeless will also call upon people to take the ‘Homeless Challenge or participate in ‘One Night Without a Home‘ events throughout the annual National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. Solidarity and understanding develops between participants and their peers without homes. These events then bring about greater public awareness and raise much needed funds for services and care for homeless individuals. Those who live in poverty and who do not have a home deserve the same treatment as the highest paid executives and everyone in between. By working together, both challenge participants and people experiencing homelessness can work to end homelessness.

Major fundraisers and awareness events such as Covenant House’s Sleep Outs and the National Coalition for the Homeless’ Homeless Challenge are part of a rising trend throughout the United States. Their goal is to spread awareness about poverty and its effects on the poorest of American citizens. Through these experimental learning events and projects, awareness for homelessness has a deeper meaning. Homelessness can be easily disregarded by the public if they have no understanding of the harsh realities and ordeals undergone by men, women, and children living on the streets. Sleep outs simulate just a small part of those experiences, but teach the participants that homelessness is more than statistics or stereotypes. Homelessness has many causes, many obstacles, and many faces.

With more and more experimental learning events and fundraisers, the question “do these programs actually work?” often comes to mind. The answer is YES! The place of simulated experiences in homeless advocacy is critical. They bridge the gap between the haves and have-nots by uniting people for one cause: to end homelessness. Statistics and facts about poverty are one-dimensional and easy to disregard. One evening on the streets cannot encompass the entirety of life without a home or financial insecurity, but it can help participants to see beyond the factual side of poverty and see the faces of hunger and homelessness. Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week is an opportunity for people around the country to join together and bring political and social attention to the impacts of mass poverty and homelessness. Sleep outs not only help finance the efforts of nonprofits such as Covenant House, but also bring people together in support of those who are usually forgotten. Solidarity between all Americans, no matter their financial or housing situations, will enable thousands more to resolve to fight poverty!

#NHHAW – Innovative Solutions to Old Problems

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Awareness

Innovative Ways to Address Hunger and Homelessness – Deirdre Walsh

It’s time to get creative with the methods of addressing people’s concerns while they experience homelessness and to find new roads to housing. Technologically-savvy individuals can be a powerful and important new group of supporters for anti-poverty organizations. Throughout the month of November, these individuals have been challenged to think outside of the box to create innovative system designs and develop products that can be implemented in shelters and housing programs.

On November 8-9, the Tech Garden in Syracuse, NY hosted a Hunger Hack. The weekend was dedicated to the development of new tech ideas and solutions, as well as raising awareness about the issues of hunger and homelessness. The Tech Garden hosted a panel discussion to ensure that participants understood the problem at hand and the challenges currently facing service providers in the field. They challenged participants to consider the following questions:

  • How to increase visibility and awareness about hunger and homelessness issues?
  • How to encourage collaboration among organizations working on hunger and homelessness issues?
  • How to better connect clients to available resources and help?
  • How to measure performance/impact?

Attendees had the opportunity to learn about hunger and homelessness, as well as the chance to brainstorm new ways tech groups can help hack hunger and homelessness. Ultimately, 25 participants representing the business, university, tech, and support services community worked with experts to develop ten fresh ideas. They range from mobile apps to employment programs for people experiencing homelessness. Check out the full event recap here.

The Hunger Hack was just one example of nationwide trend of incorporating outside groups in the brainstorming of ways to address hunger and homelessness. The Scattergood Foundation is currently sponsoring its 2015 Design Challenge dedicated to the creation of a low-cost, high-impact product that promotes resilience and improves trauma-informed care in a shelter environment. The challenge winner’s design will be implemented at Jane Addams Place, a shelter in West Philadelphia that creates a safe place for mothers and children after becoming homeless. To learn more, please visit the Design Challenge web page.

Innovative design projects and challenges such as the Hunger Hack and Design Challenge are great of examples of collaboration. Organizations of all specialties and skills can have a major impact on the lives of the hungry and homeless. If they can resolve to fight poverty so can all sectors of our society. The more people are aware of the challenges, the more innovative they can be to end those challenges. Join the movement to end hunger and homelessness today!

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