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Author Archive

Meet NCH’s Fall Interns

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Uncategorized

AdamAdam Goldstein
American University
Majoring in Political Science with History Minor
Class of 2017

I was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and grew up in the suburbs. Living in the suburbs puts people in a bubble. They are not exposed to daily reminders of the homeless problem in the United States. I was one of those people.

Growing up in such an insulated community prevented me from seeing anything beyond the average panhandler when I dared venture into the city to go to a restaurant or sporting event. This vague view of the homeless community was shattered once I began to become more cognizant of politics and the wider social issues plaguing many Americans today. After taking a sociology class in the spring of 2014 I knew I wanted to work on this issue. Understanding the structural problems behind homelessness is the first step towards solving them. When a panhandler in the city asked for change, I wanted to know why they asked for money.

At the National Coalition for the Homeless I help to add homelessness to the list of protected characteristics in the District of Columbia’s Human Rights Act. Preventing discrimination is an important step towards busting the cyclical nature of homelessness. My goal in the future is to continue to help those at the bottom of the economic and social totem pole reach success, and what better place to start than at NCH, right in the nation’s capital?

 

Annie LeomporraAnnie
Northeastern University
Masters in Urban and Regional Policy with emphasis on Homelessness
Class of 2015

I grew up in Minnetonka, Minnesota, and I finished my undergraduate degree at the University of St. Thomas, in St. Paul Minnesota with a degree in Justice and Peace Studies.

My internship with the National Coalition for the Homeless has given me incredible experience in lobbying, writing reports and researching civil rights issues surrounding homelessness. I am currently working with Michael Stoops and the People for Fairness Coalition on trying to add homelessness to the District of Columbia’s Human Rights Act. This legislation would make DC the first city in the country to declare people experiencing homelessness as a protected class. I have also had the honor of assisting with the now published 2014 food-sharing report, Share No More: The Criminalization of Efforts to Feed People In Need.

Anyone who is interested in homelessness issues should consider interning at the National Coalition for the Homeless. You’ll gain incredible experience working for a national nonprofit with an unbelievable staff and you’ll make great contacts in the District of Columbia.

 

JarredJarred Myers
Indiana University, School of Public and Environmental Affairs
Majoring in Law & Public Policy
Class of 2016

I have been enjoying my time with the National Coalition for the Homeless, where I serve as the intern for the National Campaign for Youth Shelter. The amount of hard work and dedication that goes into this great organization continues to teach me great values in working to assist individuals who are currently facing homelessness. As someone who comes from a family of public servants, I have always had an understanding that there will be individuals who have gone through and who are currently going through rough times. However, since I have started my time here at the National Coalition for the Homeless, I have started to catch glimpses at what it takes to live a life serving others. Although I have volunteered at many organizations working to provide assistance for homeless individuals and their families, I would not have imagined being able to view what homelessness was like on a national scale. The National Campaign for Youth Shelter has taught me that there is much more to be done in the prevention and the eradication of homelessness. There needs to be better research and a better understanding of the lives of individuals who are struggling to do what is necessary for them to live a life much more desirable than the one on the street.

 

Auburn TrotterAuburn
University of Central Arkansas
Majoring in Public Administration
Class of 2016

I was granted the opportunity to intern with the National Coalition for the Homeless as a member of the Washington Center Program here in DC. Whilewith NCH, I will be serving as a policy intern for the affordable housing and rental assistance campaign. After graduation,I aspire to work for a non-profit organization that serves both domestic and international citizens, emphasizing on community development. Whether that’s educationally, economically or with programs thataid in reducing homelessness.

When I found out that I was going to be living in DC for three months, I was extremely excited. I came to the city looking to explore and learn about all the beautyit has to offer. Working for NCH has immersed me into the DC culture and I am loving it!I’m very excited to see what I will learn within the coming months of working at NCH. The rental assistance and voucher campaign has become like my baby and I plan to help this campaign succeed!

 

DeirdreDeirdre Walsh
Catholic University of America
Majoring in History with Peace & Justice Studies Minor
Class of 2015

Growing up outside of Boston, Massachusetts I participated and led various community service projects and organizations. I knew that I wanted to continue volunteering in college, but I did not know that it would become such a big part of my life. Upon starting as a student at The Catholic University of America, I began working with weekly service opportunities such as delivering meals to homeless men and women throughout Washington, D.C. I connected with the people I served and learned more about the obstacles they experienced living on the streets and in poverty. I wanted to do more for them. Their stories and hardships gave me a drive to not only work to make sure their daily needs were met, but also advocate for change to help them out of poverty and end the discrimination they experienced.

As an intern with the National Coalition for the Homeless, I have the opportunity to engage with passionate leaders and community advocates who have made ending poverty their goal. The experience to understand grassroots organizing and witness change as it happens is invaluable and will provide me with the tools to pursue advocacy as a career after I graduate. Although NCH is a national organization, it still maintains its personal connection with the people and cause it advocates for. My time here has taught me to always remember who you are working for and to know that when you advocate for change, you advocate for a person.

Letter to the Editor by Guest Matias Vega

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Advocacy, Awareness, Hate Crimes, Violence Against the Homeless

Guest Post – by Matias Vega

Following last weekend’s devastating murders of two homeless individuals, Matias Vega of Albuquerque Health Care for the Homeless, Inc. wrote this piece to gather media attention.

Vulnerable to Hate: A Survey of Hate Crimes Committed Against Homeless People in 2013

This is the title of a June 2014 report from the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) on the national trend of hate crimes and violence targeting people experiencing homelessness. I am a family physician who has worked exclusively with the homeless community over the past 26 years, am the current Medical Director at Albuquerque Health Care for the Homeless where I have worked for the last 16 years, and am a 24 year member of the NCH Board of Directors.

Hate Crimes By Class

For the past 15 years, we at NCH have been documenting hate crimes against homeless people across the nation. Sadly, what has happened locally in Albuquerque over the past 2 months is neither unique nor surprising. Since 1999, there have been over 1400 acts of violence against homeless individuals and over 375 deaths reported in 47 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, DC. 72% of the victims were men over the age of 40, and 48% of the perpetrators were males under the age of 20. For reference, homeless hate crimes leading to death have been greater in number than all other deadly hate crimes combined in 14 out of the last 15 years across all of the US.

These deaths all meet the definition of homeless hate crimes: crimes committed against people simply because of their homelessness and vulnerability. Much can be done to protect the lives of people experiencing homelessness including designating homeless status as a protected class, adding homeless status to existing hate crime laws, or passage of City or State homeless hate crime legislation or a Homeless Bill of Rights, and requirement of law enforcement to complete trainings on how to interact effectively and respectfully with the homeless community. Since most of these hate crimes are committed by teenagers, creating educational curricula in grade and high schools on homelessness can be essential in preventing future homeless hate crimes. As the NCH report documents, “Bias crimes send a message to the attacked group, as well as a message about society as a whole. There is a correlation between the criminalization of homelessness and hate crimes against homeless individuals. Without protection under hate crimes legislation, homeless individuals are targeted as a class because of their status in society. We need to send a message that people who are homeless are still people and, as such, should not be attacked.”

This is the time for NM and Albuquerque to lead the way in making crimes against people who are homeless a hate crime. In America and New Mexico, people deserve the right to a quality of life and safety from violence, and especially, murder, regardless of their housing status. Homelessness should not be a death sentence. We can and must do better in protecting the lives of people experiencing homelessness.

How are Tourism and Homelessness Related?

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

Unintended Consequences: Leaving a Wake of High Living Costs in Tourist Destinations – By Julia Chambers

In recent years, Americans have become increasingly interested in the idea of responsible tourism. Many seek the most authentic and local experiences possible, but they do not necessarily consider how their presence may alter the place or the lives of the people who live there. The priority of responsible tourism is to minimize that impact. Most discussions about sustainable tourism, ecotourism, etc. are generally focused on places like Costa Rica, Kenya, or Thailand, but how are the trips that we take, our spring break trips and honeymoons, impacting the places we visit domestically?

It is no coincidence that we see the densest homeless populations in locations that are also desirable tourist destinations. While they arrive for different reasons, a decent climate is highly sought after and can reduce the burden of everyday life and survival. Tourists travel to warm places like Fort Lauderdale, San Diego and Honolulu to decompress and escape the cold winters. People experiencing homelessness also gravitate to these destinations for a bit of added security, because even if they cannot find any rental assistance or a place in a shelter, they can live more comfortably outside without the daily threat of hypothermia/hyperthermia that they might face in more dramatic climates. Visible homelessness is certainly higher in these locations.

Not all homeless individuals in these climates have travelled to arrive there. The truth is that a quality tourism industry is a powerful economic tool, which unfortunately does not always benefit the whole community. Many individuals experiencing homelessness in these sites have lived there for long periods of time and eventually could not keep up with the constantly-increasing, astronomical cost of living. Home prices and services are too expensive for the average citizen and access to basic necessities, like low-cost grocery stores, is often scarce. Jobs can be limited and many times reserved for skilled outside labor. The hospitality industry, for example, is very competitive; local talent is rarely developed and hardly ever brought into management roles. Orlando serves as an outstanding example of how a single tourist destination, like Disney world, can inflate the cost of living so high that the minimum wage workers keeping the destination running can hardly afford to live within a reasonable distance of the site. In an isolated state like Hawaii, there is fierce competition over job opportunities, even minimum wage work. Without massive job development on the part of the tourism industry, locals will be left with no work and nowhere else to go to look for employment. Even those with jobs are constantly at risk of falling into homelessness, as wages are inadequate to comfortably support a family.

If one were to fall into a state of homelessness, he or she could expect an exceptionally challenging future. Navigating shelter systems, housing authorities, and other service agencies is exhausting and difficult, but in high-tourism zones, those are just a few of the struggles that homeless individuals will face. In states like Florida, California and Hawaii, localities have enacted legislation that effectively criminalizes homelessness, in hopes of pushing the problem out of sight. Governments in these states have even purchased one-way bus or plane tickets for people experiencing homelessness in order to get them out of their jurisdictions. When the economy is so reliant on tourism dollars, it is natural for a local government or tourism board to take complaints seriously. Often times, tourists complain that they feel unsafe or uncomfortable around homeless individuals. The reputation of a destination can be tarnished so quickly, it is almost remarkable to see how agile governments can be in responding to economic threats. They generally first introduce bans to keep people from sleeping in the most visited parts of town. Sometimes they will open up a resource center far from the center of town to try to lure homeless people away from the hot spots.

HONOLULU-CRIMINALIZATION

Sadly, more often they will enact numerous so-called “quality of life” laws that they can use to collect and jail homeless individuals in periodic sweeps. Some examples of laws that are in place are bans on sitting/laying on public sidewalks, bans on begging or panhandling, prohibition of the use of blankets, chairs, tents, etc. in public places, and bans on sharing food with homeless people in public parks. Not only do these laws neglect the immediate needs of people experiencing homelessness, they actually punish them for their current circumstances. They are inherently flawed and will fail to assist in any effort to end homelessness in this country.

Honolulu’s current war on the homeless is perhaps the most concerning, where nightly sweeps and increasing numbers of anti-homeless ordinances are forcing homeless individuals to constantly relocate, but this is taking place all over the country, and not only in tourist destinations. We need to stand together and shout that it is not acceptable for our neighbors to be targeted and jailed simply for being poor.

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