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Living My Uncle’s Story

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

The following was written by a recent college student participant of NCH’s Homeless Challenge program, as a reflection on the experience:

“When I entered the world of the homeless all I had were the clothes on my back, a sleeping bag, and the preconceptions and stereotypes I had created throughout my 21 years of existence. Having grown up with an uncle who struggled with homelessness for a length measured in years, I thought I knew it all. But you can’t truly understand what it’s like through a story.

Forty-eight hours may not seem like a long time now, but those two days held a week’s worth of activities and a lifetime’s worth of change. We walked many miles, mostly because when we weren’t walking, we were cold. When we got tired of walking, we watched businessmen walk past us. We became invisible. We got used to being invisible, we took advantage of being invisible, and then we got sick of being invisible. We appreciated the small things. Celebrations were often but short lived, like smiles. We befriended pigeons, squirrels, and other homeless people, the only things not scared of us. We experienced the homeless community. We made friends. We saw the city.

We scoured the trash. We searched for caring eyes, but instead found averted eyes. We went crazy. And we became sane. We found the meaning to life, the importance of friendship, the power of money, and the makeup of happiness. We transformed.

When we finished the challenge, we had the opportunity to hear the Faces of Homelessness Speakers’ Bureau. My uncle and two other wonderful speakers stood at the front of the room, taking turns sharing their stories to a room full of transfixed students. Hearing my uncle turn back the pages of his life, recounting his struggles and tragedies, my mind was reeling with empathy and understanding. I have lived my story for 21 years.

But for the past two days, I lived his.”

Update on HEARTH and FY2011 Budget

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

From Ann Marie Oliva, Director, Office of Special Needs Assistance Programs, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (via the CPD homeless listserv)

In September of last year, HUD held two national conferences to begin the process of familiarizing communities with the policy and performance requirements that will govern the new HEARTH Act programs.  In the plenary session, we briefly discussed the connection between the roll-out of the new programs authorized under HEARTH and the appropriation levels HUD  may receive in this and the coming years.  As you are probably seeing in the news, the budget situation has changed since September – which has an impact on the high-priority items we are working on in SNAPS, including the HEARTH regulations and the 2011 competition.

Fiscal Year 2011 has thus far proven to be a challenging year, and we at HUD know and understand that the uncertainty about the 2011 budget has been a matter of great concern to our grantees and stakeholders.  We also know that you were expecting to see, in the near term, the new regulations for the Emergency Solutions Grants, Continuum of Care, and Rural Housing Stability programs.  I want to take a moment to update all of you on the budget and how it has affected our plans to implement HEARTH.  Let me summarize for you where we stand on these critical items:

FY2011 Budget:

  • As is the case in all federal agencies, we are awaiting a final FY2011 appropriation from Congress and have been operating under Continuing Resolutions, the most recent of which expires March 18.  Because we do not know the final funding level for FY2011, ESG formula funds (which are usually released along with other formula programs early in the year) have not been released.
  • There are several possible scenarios regarding the budget amount for 2011, and HUD is working to ensure that we have viable options for each scenario that minimizes the adverse impact – if there is one – on CoCs and grantees.  Developing planning options for whatever scenario becomes reality is our priority at present.  This includes how and when we will conduct the 2011 Continuum of Care competition and what elements of HEARTH can be included in the competition.
  • Last week’s House-passed appropriation (H.R.1 — a full-year Continuing Resolution) held HUD’s targeted homeless programs steady at the 2010 funding level.  At that level, HUD projects that ESG and competitive renewals can be funded.  However, the HEARTH Act could not be fully funded.   We commit to providing you with as much information as possible once it becomes clear what the funding level will be.

HEARTH Regulations:

  • We continue to move the regulations through the clearance process, which includes review and approval by several different offices within HUD and with Office of Management and Budget.  Until the new regulations are released and effective, grantees must continue to use the current regulations. This includes the definition of homelessness.
  • HUD is in the final stages of clearance for the new definition of homelessness, which will include changes made in response to the public comments that we received last summer.  HUD plans to provide training on the new definition and will clearly state when the new definition will be effective.
  • As stated above, the 2011 appropriation level will determine, to a large extent, what provisions of HEARTH can be implemented in 2011 and what the process will be for implementation of the regulations.  For example, although HEARTH allows for increased administrative dollars for projects and planning funds for CoCs, those provisions can only be implemented if there are sufficient funds to cover those costs.  Consequently, only when the 2011 budget is finalized will HUD be able to communicate its plans for this year’s funding.

Although the current situation is challenging for all of us, HUD is focused on providing communities with the resources needed to successfully implement HEARTH within the limits of the final appropriation for FY2011.  In the coming months, we will be launching a comprehensive self-assessment tool for CoCs to use to help identify where strategic planning efforts should focus at the community level.  We will also be launching other technical assistance tools and resources over the rest of the year.

HUD will continue to keep you informed of our progress and of the impact of the FY2011 budget process.  I encourage all CoCs to continue conducting strategic planning conversations, because these conversations will be critical for the successful local implementation of both HEARTH and the Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness.

Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Awareness

Have you ever heard the expression, a wolf in sheep’s clothing?

Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

photo credit: Phil Wood

Being in my early twenties,  I have not been following Nickelodeon’s hit tween show iCarly that closely. Though I had never watched the show, I have heard of its popularity with the tween crowd.  In the 1990’s, I grew up with shows such as The Secret World of Alex Mack, All That, and The Amanda Show, which I thought was the funniest thing on the planet.

At first glance, iCarly looks harmless, even tame compared to the rest of  Hollywood’s offerings. iCarly is centered around a tween girl named Carly Shay who lives with her 26 year-old guardian brother while their father is in the air force. Carly creates an online web show with her two best friends, Sam and Freddie. After Freddie tapes the girls performing at a school talent show and posts it online, the trio becomes an internet sensation.

iCarly has been airing since September of 2007, with the star, Miranda Cosgrove, making around $180,000 per episode. This salary is sickening enough, but recently, the successful show has been making fun of others in less fortunate positions. The TV series has been airing jokes about “hobos,” and has been featuring pictures on the show’s website from a ‘Hobo party’ and a fake blog interviewing “Hollywood the Hobo.”

Among 12 things about Hollywood the Hobo that are mentioned in the blog are that he:

  • “Knows how to ask for change in 12 languages. He put this on this resume under special skills.”
  • Says, “Any moron can have a job. It takes a special person NOT to have one!”
  • Believes that “Anywhere from five seconds to five weeks is fair game for eating food off the ground,” and
  • “Thinks underwear is a conspiracy created by laundry detergent companies to sell more bleach.”

If this blog were really about hobos in the traditional meaning, the “interview” with “Hollywood the Hobo” would not be mentioning pride in lack of employment as a characteristic of a hobo.

The word ‘hobo’ was used in the 1930’s mean a transient worker, but are young children going to know the difference between a slag used in the 1930′s and homelessness today?

Also, from reading that blog, kids could conclude that people living on the streets are there by choice, and are strange and amusing to poke fun of. (People become homeless for many different reasons, and often through no fault of their own.)

If the blog was not bad enough, take a look at the show’s website. Here you will find an array of pictures taken from a “hobo party” where the cast dresses up as homeless people. I am not sure what is more disturbing, the fact the cast thinks it is entertaining to dress up as homeless people, or that the mismatched bubblegum flavor clothing they don could be viewed as impoverished.   The photo op also features such comments as “Carly got her hobo costume from that new store in the mall called C.J. Penniless.”

Homelessness is not a laughing matter. People who are homeless struggle with trying to survive, from eating three meals a day to staying warm or even remaining safe. Hundreds of homeless people have been beaten for no apparent reason other than the fact that they are vulnerable and homeless.   Kids watching iCarly may learn that the courtesies extended to most of us do not apply to the homeless. Do kids seeing these images understand that homelessness can happen to anyone, even to other children?

It makes me sad that the channel I loved as a kid is now promoting this kind of narrow-mindedness. Please write Nickelodeon and tell them that this is not okay. If not, this cruel joke will continue.

– Gaberiel Johnson
NCH Intern

Read more on Change.org

March 14, 2010 Update: Nickelodeon and the iCarly show have removed the use of the term “hobo” from their materials, and have committed to do no further episodes on the theme.  Read more.

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