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Putting our heads together to find the Criminalization of Homelessness

Written by admin on . Posted in Advocacy, Civil Rights, Community Organizing, Criminalization, Food Sharing, Hate Crimes, Policy Advocacy, Tent Cities, Violence Against the Homeless

Thirty eight grassroots organizations from around the nation gathered in Denver last week to discuss the criminalization of homelessness. NCH helped fundraise for the event, one of the largest strategy sessions with our field partners in many years. A growing trend of criminalization laws have made it illegal for homeless people to eat, sleep or even ask for help. As a consequence, those who inhabit public spaces have their lives constantly interrupted by law enforcement, racking up arrest records for petty crimes that exist only as penalties for being homeless. Advocates came away from the Denver strategy session with renewed energy to fight these policies and protect the civil rights of those experiencing homelessness.

Advocates from across the country show their fighting spirit

Advocates from across the country show their fighting spirit

 

#NHHAW – Learning to Lobby

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Advocacy, Awareness

Learning How to Lobby – Jennifer Warner

You are one of 319,247,005 American citizens. That number grows by, on average, one person every 13 seconds. With such a large pool of people, it’s hard to believe that anything you do or say will affect the laws that govern us all. It seems unlikely that any legislator would listen to you and it is intimidating to consider asking them to. As daunting as it might seem, I have seen first-hand that the American political system is designed for each of us to be able to access and influence elected officials, if we take the right steps

Anything a person does to try to influence the actions of legislators is considered lobbying. You may have a negative connotation of this word; in fact, 61% of Americans hold an unfavorable opinion of lobbyists and 81% believe that lobbyists bribe legislators for votes. However, lobbying simply means advocating for policy decisions that you or your organization would like to see. One group I’ve gotten involved with, called SAVE for All, believes budget decisions should protect low-income and vulnerable people. To encourage this, SAVE members visit the staff of Senators and Representatives who sit on funding committees and have an open dialogue about community needs and funding possibilities. These conversations involve both education about the issue and the exchange of personal opinions. This is direct lobbying: a face-to-face exchange of information and opinion.

However, lobbying doesn’t necessarily mean in-person meetings with on Capitol Hill. You can communicate with your Congressperson wherever you are, through letters, email, and phone calls. To find out how to best contact your Senators and Representatives, look up their websites at www.senate.gov and www.house.gov. On their official websites, you can also find the location of their closest district office, which is their office in your local community. When contacting your elected officials, try to pick one or two specific issues that you care about. (For ideas, go to NCH’s “Campaigns” tab!) Research the topic thoroughly and clarify your own stance on the issue. When your write, call, or present to a staff person, be clear and concise with your argument. If you called or sent a letter, ask for a response from the Congressperson, and if you met with a staffer, send a follow up email thanking them for their time.

Your elected officials can only serve your interests if they know what those interests are, so communication is essential. Engaged citizens should tell their local Representatives and Senators what they want, as the primary job of those officials is to represent the interests of their own district or state. Your senators are there to represent each person in your state and your representative works for the 732,203 people in your immediate community. They are your voice among the 319,247,005 in this country—make sure that they are saying things you agree with.

New Report: The Criminalization of Food-Sharing Practices

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Advocacy, Awareness, Civil Rights, Community Organizing, Food Sharing

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On Tuesday, October 21, Fort Lauderdale Commissioners will vote on a proposed ordinance that will severely limit the capabilities of groups to distribute food to people experiencing homelessness. According to our research, over 30 American cities that have tried to introduce similar legislation in the past two years.

The new report, Share No More: The Criminalization of Efforts to Feed People In Needdocuments the recent known cases of food-sharing restrictions throughout the country. Since January 2013, 21 cities have restricted the practice of sharing food with people who are experiencing homelessness while at least ten others have introduced ordinances that are pending approval.

These restrictions primarily come about in three different forms; the first is by restricting the use of public property. In this scenario, individuals and organizations are generally required to obtain a permit, often for a fee, to share food in a park or in another public space. 12 cities have recently passed legislation that imposes this type of restriction.

The second type of legislative restriction is to require groups to comply with city/county/state food-safety regulations. Since January 2013, four cities have passed legislation that required individuals and organizations to comply with their food-safety regulations when sharing food with people experiencing homelessness.

The last method utilized to deter food-sharing are community actions driven by the principle of “Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY)”. Often, local businesses and homeowners do not want to attract people experiencing homelessness to their community join together to put pressure on local government or directly on individuals and organizations that share food with people experiencing homelessness. These groups are harassed and in result feel compelled to relocate their food-sharing efforts or cut the program all together. Since January 2013, four cities have successfully utilized this tactic, with local community pressure, to pass legislation to restrict sharing food with people experiencing homelessness.

Share No MoreThis year’s food-sharing report attempts to address the myths and motivations that often drive the demand for food-sharing restrictions. While the evidence is overwhelming that this practice is too common, there are some success stories that prove that these restrictions do not need to stand. Citizens can use the same community pressure to stop these laws from taking effect. Some faith-based organizations have led the fight to protect their First Amendment Right to openly practice their religion. There are a number of policies we can advocate for on the local, state, and federal level to protect the civil rights of those experiencing homelessness.

Since January, 2013 the following 22 cities have passed ordinances that restrict the food-sharing process.

Public Property:

Food Safety:

Forced Relocation:

  • Fort Lauderdale, FL
  • Lake Worth, FL
  • Daytona Beach, FL
  • Houston, TX
  • Shawnee, OK
  • Costa Mesa, CA
  • Chico, CA
  • Hayward, CA
  • Manchester, NH
  • Olympia, WA
  • Columbia, SC
  • Medford, OR
  • Raleigh, NC
  • Salt Lake City, UT
  • Myrtle Beach, SC
  • St. Louis, Missouri
  • Pasadena, CA
  • Lafayette, IN
  • Harrisburg, PA
  • Seattle WA
  • Charlotte, NC
  • St. Petersburg, FL

 For more information about food-sharing restrictions please read this year’s report and/or contact the National Coalition for the Homeless.

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