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#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!

#NHHAW – From Street to Cell

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Awareness, Civil Rights, Criminalization, Food Sharing

From Street to Cell: The Criminalization of Homelessness – Deirdre Walsh

It’s a cold, winter evening. There is no place for you to go. You have no place to sleep, no money, and no options. You find a corner near a subway terminal where warm air blows. You settle in for the night in hopes that tomorrow you will find shelter. All of a sudden, you are woken by a police officer conducting a sweep and told that you are not allowed to sleep in the terminal. If you protest, you risk being arrested. You are out of options and it is colder than it was before.

For too many Americans, this scenario is a reality. Instead of helping people to get the services they need, state and local governments are criminalizing everyday activities that target people experiencing homelessness. Theoretically, new measures seek to combat the rising numbers of homeless women, men, and children, but do little to address the causes of poverty that lead to homelessness. Criminalization can be carried out in a variety of ways. Carrying out sweeps of city areas known to be hubs for the homeless community while confiscating personal property including tents, bedding, clothing, and/or medication. Local ordinances are enforced that prohibit panhandling or sleeping in cars and parks. “Quality of life” requirements are issued pertaining to public activity and hygiene. Actions such as sharing food with people experiencing homelessness in public spaces are made illegal in an effort to keep homeless people from congregating in public spaces. The criminalization of homelessness has many faces, but it has one goal to reduce the visible signs of poverty on the streets of US cities and towns.

Many cities and tourist locations hope these ordinances will reduce the visibility of homelessness and poverty. News and media outlets have reported the various attempts to remove homeless individuals from street corners and sleep on park benches. Cities such as Honolulu, Fort Lauderdale, and Dallas impose anti-homeless laws in order to keep homelessness away from the eyes of passing tourists. They start with one ordinance that does not seem too bad and then expand into 5-10 restrictions on life-sustaining activities. When these cities succeed, homeless individuals have almost no choice but to relocate (if economically feasible) or go to jail because it is just too unreasonable to try to stay on the move and comply with all of the restrictions.

While cities across the country are focusing on developing new strategies to “clean the streets” and make homelessness illegal, the causes of poverty and homelessness go unaddressed. The leading cause of homelessness is the lack of affordable housing. Americans spend close to half of their income on housing and are left with little to use for additional expenses including food, clothing and healthcare. The demand for shelters is not met, affordable housing and rental assistance is not attainable for millions and healthcare to treat mental illnesses and addictions is not provided. Millions of homeless men and women are labeled “criminals” for being poor and disenfranchised. Many state and local governments seek to sweep the issue of homelessness off the street, out of sight, and out of mind, which New York City did in the 1980’s. Poverty in America, however, must be addressed. Criminalizing homelessness does not remove the problem from the streets. It infringes on the rights of homeless persons and abides an endemic cycle of poverty.

In order to address poverty and homelessness in the United States today, it would be more beneficial for government officials and policy makers to look at the journey from street to home instead of street to cell. The criminalization of homelessness does not end homelessness. It only sustains the suffering of individuals today and ensures of future of poverty for tomorrow.

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