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National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week 2015

Written by admin on . Posted in Awareness

Awareness Week Logo '14Today kicks off our annual week of raising awareness and taking action against on our ongoing homeless crisis.

Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week originated 40 years ago, in 1975, at Villanova University in Pennsylvania. From the school’s website, “The initiative began when a group of Villanova students, recognizing the power education could play in the fight against homelessness, decided to coordinate a week of activities around the issues.” The National Coalition for the Homeless has since partnered with the National Student Campaign Against Hunger & Homelessness to bring greater awareness of the effects of poverty to communities nationwide. Annually, at least 750 schools and community groups take part in the week.

Though we are thrilled with the ongoing participation in National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week, we also wonder how much longer we will have to keep building awareness before as a country, we enact policies that house and support our neighbors. Join us over the next week to continue our fight for greater investment in affordable housing, to support our labor through living wages, to listen to the struggles of those who are currently unhoused, and those who are at risk of losing their homes and to work in partnership with our neighbors and policy makers to protect our basic human rights and dignity.

Be sure to register your event, look for an event nearby, or find out more at http://nationalhomeless.org/about-us/projects/awareness-week/

Some more highlights over the coming week:

  • NCH’s Faces of Homelessness Speakers’ Bureau will be traveling to six states and the District of Columbia to share personal experiences with homelessness.
  • For the second year in a row, Storied Streets will be hosting free screenings of this powerful documentary November 13-15, with a live Twitter chat on Sunday, Nov. 15th at 8:30pm EST. Be sure to follow @StoriedStreets to take part.
  • Faith leaders will be holding town hall meetings on homelessness in Washington, DC on Sunday Nov. 15 and Monday the 16th. See the Presbyterian Network to End Homelessness for more.
  • We will be posting lots of great information about poverty, hunger and homelessness to our social media, as well as highlighting others doing great work. Be sure to follow and share on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, hashtag #NHHAW.
  • We will be releasing an update to our report on feeding restrictions, one of the more disturbing efforts by cities to move homelessness out of sight.

Stay tuned for more, and thank you for being a part of the movement! Together we can end homelessness.

Homeless State of Emergency

Written by Kyra Habekoss on . Posted in Advocacy, Awareness, Uncategorized

Local officials of Seattle and King County, Washington have declared a civil state of emergency for homelessness this week. Seattle follows Los Angeles, Portland, Oregon and the state of Hawaii, who have made similar proclamations likening the seriousness of homelessness with the aftermath of natural disasters. Unlike a natural disaster homelessness is not a new phenomenon, it has been prevalent for almost 40 years, but is being exacerbated with growing economic inequality and lack of affordable housing, etc. Homelessness is not contained to these areas either; it is widespread across the United States. It is safe to say that our country as a whole is in a state of emergency!

The recognition of epidemic levels of homelessness is long overdue. According to Mayor Ed Murray of Seattle, “More than 45 people have died on the streets of the city of Seattle this year and nearly 3,000 children in Seattle Public Schools are homeless,” In Hawaii, there were 7,600 people experiencing homelessness and only room for about 3,800 people in shelters or housing programs; among these unsheltered individuals were 439 children. The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority counted more than 44,000 individuals experiencing homelessness in the county. Likewise, Portland, Oregon, officials counted 1,800 individuals including 566 women experiencing homelessness while unsheltered.

Further, as the value of our wages continues to decline, renters across the country are finding themselves paying 50% or more of their income on housing. 20.7 million households are housing-cost-burdened. Add to that the 1.5 million households living on $2.00 a day, the number of workers who can not afford fair market rents working 40 hours a week, etc. All further exasperating decades-long de-investment in affordable housing production and assistance to create growing homelessness.

Although these proclamations of emergency will enable regions to receive millions of dollars in crucial funding, these funds alone are not enough to prevent homelessness long-term. The allocation of emergency funds is fundamental to the effectiveness of local programs in preventing and ending homelessness. Hawaii has claimed they plan to use the funds toward the rapid construction of temporary shelters, increase of existing homeless services, and funding for housing first programs. Portland has stated that they will waive portions of state building codes to convert private and city-owned buildings into shelters, as well as build housing for people who will be served by the future psychiatric emergency center. While specific spending plans are in the process being negotiated, it seems that the common focus is the development of shelters. Even though shelters could reduce the amount of deaths on the street it is only a short-term solution that will not prevent homelessness and extreme poverty.

For long-lasting change we must focus on long-term systemic solutions, such as affordable housing, rent control, jobs that pay a livable wage, healthcare, and adequate funding for services like social security and disability, and so much more. The big picture response that we advocate is not easy, but it is necessary to correct the structure that has produced inequality and vulnerability for the last few decades. Homeless shelters alone will not remedy the factors that have produced homelessness in epidemic proportions.

How Trauma Informed Care is helping homeless families

Written by admin on . Posted in Awareness, Domestic Violence, Education, Families, Mental Health, Policy Advocacy, Poverty, Women, Youth

The National Coalition for the Homeless recently hosted a Congressional briefing on Trauma Informed Care (TIC) and homeless families. Trauma Informed Care is an important topic that is rapidly gaining notability due to its capacity to teach practitioners how to engage with individuals who have experienced trauma without the use of damaging punitive or paternalistic attitudes.

Representative Alcee L. Hastings of the 20th District of Florida, co-chair of the Congressional Homelessness Caucus, began the briefing with opening remarks. He was then followed by a panel of TIC experts, including Cheryl Sharp, the senior advisor for trauma informed services at the National Council for Behavioral Health, Jennifer Pearlman, the coordinator for trauma informed care for the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, Leah Harris, the TIC specialist for the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, and Barbara Anderson, the director of Haven House Services. The panel was moderated by Carmela DeCandia, the director for child and family initiatives from the Center on Social Innovation. Each speaker brought a complimentary perspective from a different facet of homeless and mental health services, as they informed the audience on their knowledge and experience with trauma informed care.

Each panelist explained that trauma informed care serves as an organizational strategy to help social service agencies gain the awareness, knowledge, and skills to better support individuals on their pathway to recovery. This approach prompts service providers to respond to the recipient’s psychological and emotional needs rather than just provide resources. It necessitates that service providers approach recipients from a perspective of empathy that rejects ideologies of individual blame for issues created by much larger forces. This ideology is pertinent in light of the findings of the SHIFT study that showed, 93% of homeless mothers had a history of trauma, 79% experienced trauma as children, 81% experience multiple traumatic events, and 36% had a lifetime history of post-traumatic stress disorder. The SHIFT study also provides valuable insights on the impact of public policy on the creation of homelessness and poverty.

With the severe lack of affordable housing in this country, only one out of four low-income families that are eligible for federal rental assistance will receive it. Meanwhile, the minimum wage is not sufficient enough to cover the cost of housing in many cities. Without stable housing, traumatic vulnerability occurs, which can result in assault, mental and physical health issues, and substance abuse. More than half of homeless children are under the age of 6, which is a critical time for brain development and resilience. Cheryl Sharp warned that when children do not know if they are safe it impedes upon their development. Traumatized caregivers are more likely to pass adverse experiences onto children, and are less emotionally and physically available. This is compounded on the stressors of being homeless. Even sheltered families can experience trauma because of danger in these environments, instability, and a lack of mental health knowledge among caregivers. This trauma furthers the barrier to successful re-housing. We must demand systemic change to increase our nation’s affordable housing stock, and make TIC funding available in existing shelters and service organizations to allow homeless families pathways to stability and healing. Barbara Anderson stated that ending homelessness and the resulting trauma requires the completion of two main objectives: solving the root causes of homelessness through a paradigm shift to a democratic government that addresses the needs of the people, and healing the trauma of past policies with social service investment. Our political representatives, our shelters, our service providers, our schools, and our culture must implement trauma-informed strategies, because within our current mode of operation, we are only making surviving in America more difficult.

Interested in measuring the TIC in your organization? Check out the ticometer at www.Thinkt3.com.

– Kyra Habekoss and Quinn Kobelak 
   NCH Interns

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