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National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week 2015

Written by admin on . Posted in Awareness

Awareness Week Logo '14Today kicks off our annual week of raising awareness and taking action against on our ongoing homeless crisis.

Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week originated 40 years ago, in 1975, at Villanova University in Pennsylvania. From the school’s website, “The initiative began when a group of Villanova students, recognizing the power education could play in the fight against homelessness, decided to coordinate a week of activities around the issues.” The National Coalition for the Homeless has since partnered with the National Student Campaign Against Hunger & Homelessness to bring greater awareness of the effects of poverty to communities nationwide. Annually, at least 750 schools and community groups take part in the week.

Though we are thrilled with the ongoing participation in National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week, we also wonder how much longer we will have to keep building awareness before as a country, we enact policies that house and support our neighbors. Join us over the next week to continue our fight for greater investment in affordable housing, to support our labor through living wages, to listen to the struggles of those who are currently unhoused, and those who are at risk of losing their homes and to work in partnership with our neighbors and policy makers to protect our basic human rights and dignity.

Be sure to register your event, look for an event nearby, or find out more at http://nationalhomeless.org/about-us/projects/awareness-week/

Some more highlights over the coming week:

  • NCH’s Faces of Homelessness Speakers’ Bureau will be traveling to six states and the District of Columbia to share personal experiences with homelessness.
  • For the second year in a row, Storied Streets will be hosting free screenings of this powerful documentary November 13-15, with a live Twitter chat on Sunday, Nov. 15th at 8:30pm EST. Be sure to follow @StoriedStreets to take part.
  • Faith leaders will be holding town hall meetings on homelessness in Washington, DC on Sunday Nov. 15 and Monday the 16th. See the Presbyterian Network to End Homelessness for more.
  • We will be posting lots of great information about poverty, hunger and homelessness to our social media, as well as highlighting others doing great work. Be sure to follow and share on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, hashtag #NHHAW.
  • We will be releasing an update to our report on feeding restrictions, one of the more disturbing efforts by cities to move homelessness out of sight.

Stay tuned for more, and thank you for being a part of the movement! Together we can end homelessness.

HUD puts teeth into effort to stop criminalizing homeless people

Written by admin on . Posted in Uncategorized

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has released a Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) for the Continuum of Care (CoC) Program for $1.89 billion for Fiscal Year 2015. The CoC Program distributes funding to homeless projects in communities throughout the nation. The deadline for applying for the FY 2015 CoC Program Competition is November 20.

For the first time, HUD will examine whether applicant communities are preventing the criminalization of those experiencing homelessness. In a 2014 report, the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) found over 70 cities that had or were considering restricting the sharing of food with people who were homeless. Other laws that disproportionately affect people without a permanent home include bans on camping in public spaces, bans on loitering or begging, even limits to the time someone can spend sitting or lying down on a city sidewalk or park bench.

“The National Coalition for the Homeless is pleased to see HUD continuing the federal proactive approach against the continued criminalization of people experiencing homelessness,” state Megan Hustings, Interim Director, NCH. “NCH is the leading homeless civil rights organization in the nation and have been advocating for this position for at least two decades and our advocacy has finally paid off. If communities continue to enforce anti-homeless ordinances, now they risk losing valuable points in their CoC application, which means a potential loss of funding,” continued Hustings.

Specifically, the NOFA states that up to 2 points will be awarded to applicants that demonstrate their communities have implemented specific strategies that prevent criminalization of homelessness, affirm further fair housing, and ensure that outreach is conducted to homeless individuals and families who are least likely to request housing or services in the absence of special outreach.

This is especially critical given the recent Department of Justice [DOJ] statement of interest in the Bell v Boise, et.al. case where DOJ argued that for communities that lack housing alternatives of for homeless people, anti-camping ordinances violate the US Constitutions 8th Amendment as “cruel and unusual punishment” and as “misguided public policy.”

“It is a new day for protecting the civil rights of homeless people. Lets hope that this is a wake up call for communities to now focus on creating affordable housing that will end and prevent homelessness,” states John Parvensky, Board Chair, NCH and CEO of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.

NCH is an advocacy organization focused on organizing and giving a voice to those who have experienced homelessness. NCH’s mission is to prevent and end homelessness while ensuring the immediate needs of those experiencing homelessness are met and their civil rights protected.

How Trauma Informed Care is helping homeless families

Written by admin on . Posted in Awareness, Domestic Violence, Education, Families, Mental Health, Policy Advocacy, Poverty, Women, Youth

The National Coalition for the Homeless recently hosted a Congressional briefing on Trauma Informed Care (TIC) and homeless families. Trauma Informed Care is an important topic that is rapidly gaining notability due to its capacity to teach practitioners how to engage with individuals who have experienced trauma without the use of damaging punitive or paternalistic attitudes.

Representative Alcee L. Hastings of the 20th District of Florida, co-chair of the Congressional Homelessness Caucus, began the briefing with opening remarks. He was then followed by a panel of TIC experts, including Cheryl Sharp, the senior advisor for trauma informed services at the National Council for Behavioral Health, Jennifer Pearlman, the coordinator for trauma informed care for the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, Leah Harris, the TIC specialist for the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, and Barbara Anderson, the director of Haven House Services. The panel was moderated by Carmela DeCandia, the director for child and family initiatives from the Center on Social Innovation. Each speaker brought a complimentary perspective from a different facet of homeless and mental health services, as they informed the audience on their knowledge and experience with trauma informed care.

Each panelist explained that trauma informed care serves as an organizational strategy to help social service agencies gain the awareness, knowledge, and skills to better support individuals on their pathway to recovery. This approach prompts service providers to respond to the recipient’s psychological and emotional needs rather than just provide resources. It necessitates that service providers approach recipients from a perspective of empathy that rejects ideologies of individual blame for issues created by much larger forces. This ideology is pertinent in light of the findings of the SHIFT study that showed, 93% of homeless mothers had a history of trauma, 79% experienced trauma as children, 81% experience multiple traumatic events, and 36% had a lifetime history of post-traumatic stress disorder. The SHIFT study also provides valuable insights on the impact of public policy on the creation of homelessness and poverty.

With the severe lack of affordable housing in this country, only one out of four low-income families that are eligible for federal rental assistance will receive it. Meanwhile, the minimum wage is not sufficient enough to cover the cost of housing in many cities. Without stable housing, traumatic vulnerability occurs, which can result in assault, mental and physical health issues, and substance abuse. More than half of homeless children are under the age of 6, which is a critical time for brain development and resilience. Cheryl Sharp warned that when children do not know if they are safe it impedes upon their development. Traumatized caregivers are more likely to pass adverse experiences onto children, and are less emotionally and physically available. This is compounded on the stressors of being homeless. Even sheltered families can experience trauma because of danger in these environments, instability, and a lack of mental health knowledge among caregivers. This trauma furthers the barrier to successful re-housing. We must demand systemic change to increase our nation’s affordable housing stock, and make TIC funding available in existing shelters and service organizations to allow homeless families pathways to stability and healing. Barbara Anderson stated that ending homelessness and the resulting trauma requires the completion of two main objectives: solving the root causes of homelessness through a paradigm shift to a democratic government that addresses the needs of the people, and healing the trauma of past policies with social service investment. Our political representatives, our shelters, our service providers, our schools, and our culture must implement trauma-informed strategies, because within our current mode of operation, we are only making surviving in America more difficult.

Interested in measuring the TIC in your organization? Check out the ticometer at www.Thinkt3.com.

– Kyra Habekoss and Quinn Kobelak 
   NCH Interns

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