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#TBT – Street Newspapers

Written by admin on . Posted in Uncategorized

If you live in, or have ever been to, a city like Chicago, or Washington, DC, San Francisco, Nashville or Seattle, you have probably seen a vendor selling a paper that reports on issues of poverty and homelessness. This is a “Street Newspaper,” and there are over 40 of these in print in North America, and over 100 published in 34 countries around the world.

photo credit Do Haeng Michael Kitchen

We’ve shared before about the activism of the 1980’s and 90’s, when our current era of homelessness was just starting to rear its ugly head. People who were becoming homeless were intimately involved in advocacy and services to help folks who were unhoused. By the late 1980’s, homeless advocates realized there was a need for educating the larger public about the issues surrounding homelessness. Street News, first published in NYC in 1989, is credited with being the first street newspaper focused on homeless issues, followed closely by Street Sheet, still published by the Coalition on Homelessness in San Francisco.

Inspired by Street News, the Big Issue was launched as a “social business” in 1991 in the UK, inspiring a further wave of street newspapers across Europe. The International Network of Street Papers (INSP) was created in 1994 and our own beloved Michael Stoops helped to start the North American Street Newspaper Association (NASNA) in 1996. The two networks worked collaboratively until 2013, when INSP became the single global network for street papers on all six continents.

Recent numbers from the INSP Network

Street papers in the US have, for the most part, intended to act as both an advocacy tool and a primary way for people who have been homeless to be active leaders in that advocacy. Today, most papers are run, written, and sold by homeless folks. Many papers offer case management assistance, training and networking opportunities to homeless folks in their communities.

The National Coalition for the Homeless has long supported the advocacy and empowerment outlet that street newspapers have provided. Street papers across the world continue to break down barriers between housed and unhoused people, creating employment opportunities to poor people worldwide.

Read More:

#TBT – In Celebration of Mental Health Month

Written by admin on . Posted in Uncategorized

May is recognized as Mental Health Month. It is estimated that 1/3 of the homeless population is suffering from some form of mental illness, though popular mythology will tell us that most, if not all, homeless people are “crazy.”

Former President Ronald Reagan is sometimes referred to as the father of modern homelessness, not just because he oversaw drastic budget cuts to Federal affordable housing programs, but also because he repealed the Mental Health Systems Act, which had the effect of closing most institutional mental health service centers.

From a Salon article from 2013:

President Reagan never understood mental illness. Like Richard Nixon, he was a product of the Southern California culture that associated psychiatry with Communism. Two months after taking office, Reagan was shot by John Hinckley, a young man with untreated schizophrenia. Two years later, Reagan called Dr. Roger Peele, then director of St. Elizabeths Hospital, where Hinckley was being treated, and tried to arrange to meet with Hinckley, so that Reagan could forgive him. Peele tactfully told the president that this was not a good idea. Reagan was also exposed to the consequences of untreated mental illness through the two sons of Roy Miller, his personal tax advisor. Both sons developed schizophrenia; one committed suicide in 1981, and the other killed his mother in 1983. Despite such personal exposure, Reagan never exhibited any interest in the need for research or better treatment for serious mental illness.

5 FACTSMuch of the rhetoric in the 1980’s was about how patients at mental hospitals should have the agency to get the care they need. However,  neither the housing nor support services needed to fully integrate former patients into their communities were provided. The result was that many suffering from mental illness were left to fend for themselves on the streets.

Luckily, today, most of the country understands that mental illness is a disease and that those suffering from a mental illness need and deserve treatment. The popularity of Housing First homeless assistance models rests on the understanding that folks who are chronically homeless, often with a mental illness, need ongoing access to appropriate treatment and care.

In 1996, the Mental Health Parity Act (MHPA) was signed into law, requiring that group health plans provide mental health treatment. Additionally, the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, and the Affordable Care Act in 2010, extended the scope of mental health services insurers were required to cover.

Despite these legislative advancements, it remains difficult to access adequate mental health care. The expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act has been able to connect many homeless folks to care, but not all states have expanded their Medicaid offerings. Further, current attempts to add bureaucratic and counter-productive work requirements to Medicaid could decrease the number of poor folks who can access adequate mental health care.

Today, 40 years after de-institutionalization of mental illness patients, we still have not fully addressed the mental health needs of our residents, housed or not. See the below links for more:

#TBT – National Union of the Homeless

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

Art thanks to WRAP and artist Art Hazelwood

Art thanks to WRAP and artist Art Hazelwood

Modern homelessness, as we know it today, began in the 1970’s. During the Reagan Administration, affordable housing dollars were cut but almost 75%, leading directly to poor working families experiencing homelessness at alarming rates. Folks began to organize in the 1980’s, this was when our organization was formed. At the same time, a group called the National Union of the Homeless (NUH) developed out of the first resident-run shelter in Philadelphia.

Read more about the NUH:

“In the late 1970s and early 1980s the United States economy underwent a series of changes that led to a sharp rise in homelessness. Homelessness was no longer characterized by down and out individuals living on skid rows. For the first time in US history, families were increasingly becoming homeless, and the shelter system was created to house them.

Out of this common experience of dislocation and dispossession grew a national organization of homeless people that mobilized thousands throughout the US in the 1980s and 1990s. At its height, the National Union of the Homeless (NUH) had over 20 local chapters and 15,000 members in cities across the US.

Most importantly, it implemented a model of organizing involving the poor and homeless thinking for themselves, speaking for themselves, fighting for themselves and producing from their ranks capable and creative leaders. This was contrary to the prevailing stereotypes and misconceptions about homelessness. Almost twenty years after the decline of the NUH, its history offers important lessons for building a movement to end poverty today, in the midst of continuing concentration of wealth among a few and expanding poverty for many.”
(Copied from The National Union of the Homeless: A Brief History, Published July 2011, https://homelessunion.wdfiles.com/local–files/curriculum/BriefHistoryPamphlet.pdf)

The NUH was active between 1985 and 1993. During this time, NUH mounted several campaigns, first aimed at overcoming stereotypes of who was homeless, then later focused on appropriating housing for its members. Their actions used slogans like “Homes and Jobs: Not Death in the Streets” and “Homeless Not Helpless.” They mounted civil disobedience like the Tompkins Square Tent City (detailed in Tent City Blues, an article in the Sept-Oct 1990 issue of Mother Jones), a national series of housing takeovers (watch in the documentary, The Takeover, from 1990), and the Union organized and participated in the Housing Now March along with the National Coalition for the Homeless and several others.

We encourage anyone reading this to learn more about where our collective work has come from by checking out the above links, and also visiting the Homeless Union History Project and the National Union of the Homeless Wikipideia page.

 

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