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#ThrowbackThursday

Written by admin on . Posted in Awareness, Blog, History

Do you still #TBT? Many of us have a short-term memory when it comes to policy, social media too perhaps, cause I haven’t seen a #ThrowBackThursday post since Facebook started showing you your past posts.

The National Coalition for the Homeless recognizes that we are at a pivotal moment in our social policy. Modern mass homelessness, as we know it, began, not that long ago, in the 1970’s. But here we are, again facing threats to social programs that are vital for the survival of working families, and now in the midst of unprecedented economic inequality.

In solidarity with the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s Our Homes Our Voices Week of Action (May 1-9) and the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for a Moral Revival 40 Days of Action (May 14-June 23), we are going to be posting historical information that relates to current trends, policy proposals, and cultural perceptions of those who experience poverty and homelessness.

To kick us off, we’ve included some more detailed history about how and why our organization was formed, and what we have accomplished over the years.

NCH Historical TimelineNCH’s Story

When modern homelessness first emerged in the late 1970s, hundreds of thousands of homeless were forced to fend for themselves on the streets, and many died or suffered terrible injuries. In 1979 a lawyer named Robert Hayes, who co-founded the Coalition for the Homeless in New York City, brought a class action lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court against the City and State called Callahan v. Carey, arguing that a constitutional right to shelter existed in New York. In particular, the lawsuit pointed to Article XVII of the New York State Constitution, which declares that “the aid, care and support of the needy are public concerns and shall be provided by the state and by such of its subdivisions…” The Coalition brought the lawsuit on behalf of all homeless men in New York City. The lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, Robert Callahan, was a homeless man suffering from chronic alcoholism whom Hayes had discovered sleeping on the streets in the Bowery section of Manhattan.

On December 5, 1979, the New York State Supreme Court ordered the City and State to provide shelter for homeless men in a landmark decision that cited Article XVII of the New York State Constitution.

In August 1981 Callahan v. Carey was settled as a consent decree. By entering into the decree, the City and State agreed to provide shelter and board to all homeless men who met the need standard for welfare or who were homeless “by reason of physical, mental, or social dysfunction.” Thus the decree established a right to shelter for all homeless men in New York City, and also detailed the minimum standards which the City and State must maintain in shelters, including basic health and safety standards. In addition, Coalition for the Homeless was appointed monitor of shelters for homeless adults.

On the heels of the landmark Callahan win, the decision was made to take the work of the Coalition for the Homeless national. Robert Hayes organized a meeting of several local coalitions in San Francisco in April 1982, out of which the National Coalition for the Homeless was established.

Again we ask, Welfare to What?

Written by admin on . Posted in Advocacy, Policy Advocacy, Poverty

Twenty years after “ending welfare as we know it” with the passage of the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, the current administration issued an Executive Order on April 10, 2018 to Reduce Poverty in America by Promoting Opportunity and Economic Mobility.

While the Administration’s Order is more suggestion for Federal departments of government, the National Coalition for the Homeless [NCH] was strongly opposed to the 1996 law and is equally strongly opposed to the direction of the Executive Order, and any attempt to enforce work requirements on social benefits, including food assistance (SNAP) and Medicaid.

The reality is that the 1996 legislation and now the Executive Order goals language is code for reducing the welfare rolls even further by slicing benefits, imposing further work requirements and mandating further time limits on welfare programs.  It is clear that the direction of the Executive Order, and potential work requirements being considered for access to food assistance (SNAP) and Medicaid, is punitive and does nothing to promote self-sufficiency. At a time when our wages are not keeping up with the cost of living, the only direction of economic mobility for many will be downwards, in some cases leading to homelessness.

In 1998 NCH partnered with the Children’s Defense Fund to publish Welfare to What: Early Findings on Family Hardship and Well-BeingThe key findings include:

  • only a small fraction of welfare recipients’ new jobs pay above-poverty wages; most of the new jobs pay far below the poverty line;
  • many families who leave welfare are losing income and not finding steady jobs at all;
  • extreme poverty is growing more common for children, especially those in female-headed and working families;
  • many families leaving welfare report struggling to get food, shelter, or needed medical care; many are suffering even more hardships, including becoming homeless, than before;
  • many families are not getting the basic help they need [for example, child care, medical coverage, food or transportation] that might enable them to sustain work and care for their children on very low wages;
  • many families are denied cash assistance through little or no fault of their own; states often penalize families without assessing their ability to complete required activities.

Twenty years later, the 2018 Farm Bill with significant changes to SNAP [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or Food Stamps] proposed by House Agriculture Committee Chair Michael Conway is the testing ground for the broader direction of the 2018 Executive Order.

And, just as we said 20 years ago, the Center for Budget & Policy Priorities President Robert Greenstein said in April 2018 that the proposed changes in SNAP would “end or reduce benefits for a substantial number of low-income people… and would widen the nation’s economic divides.”

Clearly the current administrations goal is to “leave no billionaire behind” while punishing low-income people.  We ask the same question of the Executive Order as we did 20 years ago: Welfare to What?

NCH does not believe the current false rhetoric of economic mobility and expanding opportunity.  We know better.  We know that the real direction of work requirements as welfare reform is punitive and the results will be increased poverty and homelessness for children and families, disproportionately impacting people of color, especially African-Americans and Native Americans.

NCH stands ready to partner with local, state and national organizations to demand the real direction of any reforms to welfare results in living wage employment and truly affordable and accessible housing.

-Bob Erlenbusch, NCH Board President
Executive Director, Sacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness

 

Further reading:

Spring into Action

Written by admin on . Posted in Advocacy, Awareness, Community Organizing, Criminalization

We have seen so many movements and actions since the 2016 elections – which means our communities want social and economic justice! We recently recorded a video of solidarity with the March for Our Lives and #NeverAgain campaign for gun reform. We are also partnering with the National Low Income Housing Coalition and the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for a Moral Revival on public actions working to fight the root causes of homelessness.

Here is what you can do this Spring:

Our Homes, Our Voices

We hope that you will join us in taking part in the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s Our Homes Our Voices week of action, May 1-8, 2018. Learn more about the event, and how to get involved here.

Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival

We also hope you will join us in joining the new Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. This is a ground up movement being led by faith leaders and people who are struggling with an economic and social system that only benefits the most wealthy among us. The campaign has just launched its list of demands, which outline
how the evils of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, and the war economy and militarism are persistent, pervasive, and perpetuated by a distorted moral narrative that must be challenged.
 The campaign states,
We must stop attention violence and see the human and economic costs of inequality. We believe that when decent people see the faces and facts that the Souls of Poor Folk Audit presents, they will be moved deeply in their conscience to change things. When confronted with the undeniable truth of unconscionable cruelty to our fellow human beings, we must join the ranks of those who are determined not to rest until justice and equality are a reality for all.
Mother’s Day, May 13th, will kick off 40 days of nonviolent action, and we encourage you and your network to join the campaign and take part in changing “not just the narrative, but who is narrating” our national political agenda.

Public Education

Finally, we know one of our biggest hurdles to housing all of our neighbors is public perception and prejudice against both people of color and poor people. To this end, we have created shareable documents that we encourage you to print and distribute: PUBLIC NOTICE for class action lawsuit - DHOL 2018
  1. A list of demands for the American Dispossessed: Created by Denver Homeless Out Loud in support of the Right to Rest and presented as a public notice, it is meant to be posted outdoors in places where our neighbors are forced to live in encampments or on public land. Click here to download

  2. State of Homelessness 2018: A brief (3 pages) overview of why we are seeing increased visible homelessness in our communities, covering everything from housing to HUD funding to criminalization. Click here to download

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