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The Controversial “Safety Net” (1981 to 2012)

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Advocacy, Awareness, Policy Advocacy, Poverty

By Michael Stoops

Over the past several decades, the usage and connotation of the term ‘safety net’ has changed, but the need has only increased. The ‘safety net’ encompasses various programs, such as Medicaid for children and families, Medicare for the elderly, Food Stamp Programs and more. The National Coalition for the Homeless has always been in support of safety net services as vital resources for preventing and ending homelessness, and giving our neighbors the dignity to feed and care for themselves and their families. NCH’s support of the safety net is best illustrated through our newsletter, Safety Network, which was sent out from 1981 through 2006. Although the name for the newsletter was chosen based off former president Ronald Reagan’s quote on the safety net, the usage and attitude towards the safety net has undoubtedly transformed over the past few decades, as demonstrated by the quotes below.

When he announced his budget proposals Feb. 18, in an address to a joint session of Congress, President Reagan declared: ”We will continue to fulfill the obligations that spring from our national conscience. Those who through no fault of their own must depend on the rest of us, the poverty-stricken, the disabled, the elderly, all those with true need, can rest assured that the social safety net of programs they depend on are exempt from any cuts.”   President Ronald Reagan, February, 1981.

Former U.S.  Rep. Cynthia McKinney, Green Party Presidential Candidate 2008, at a Citizen’s Commission on 9/11, stated that “this time, not just for supporting me, but also for not being bamboozled into submission by questionable insider backroom characters who want to take away our freedoms, send our children off to war, and rip to shreds the social safety net for the American people.” September 2004.

President Barack Obama, during his senator years, said that “Privatization is not something that I would consider. And the reason is this: Social Security is the floor. That’s the baseline. Social Security is that safety net that can’t be frayed and that we shouldn’t put at risk.” July 2007

Ron Paul, Republican Presidential Nominee, is opposed to the safety net. He thinks that “it does work for some people, but overall it ultimately fails, because you spend more money than you have, and then you borrow to the hilt. Now we have to borrow $800 billion a year just to keep the safety net going. It’s going to collapse when the dollar collapses, you can’t even fight the war without this borrowing. And when the dollar collapses, you can’t take care of the elderly of today. They’re losing ground. Their cost of living is going up about 10%, even though the government denies it, we give them a 2% cost of living increase.”  Newsweek interview by Howard Fineman, December 2007.

“For people who have for been putting their hard-earned money into the system for years, the president’s idea would replace their safety net with a risky gamble with no assurance of a stable return of investment.” – U.S. Rep. Grace Napolitano  for California’s 38th congressional district March 2009.

 “I understand that during this financial crisis, when countless numbers of our family members, neighbors, colleagues, and friends have seen their retirement savings disappear, the safety net of Social Security is more important than ever. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that next year, for the first time since 1975, beneficiaries will not get a cost of living adjustment. I support emergency measures to ensure that beneficiaries receive a cost of living increase, ensuring that social security’s promises are kept. As Senator, I will fight to keep the promise of Social Security and preserve it for future generations. I am committed to ensuring that benefits are not reduced, and that those paying into the system now will be guaranteed their benefits later.”  -Martha Cloakey, Democratic nominee from MA for special election in the Senate and current Attorney General of MA, December 2009.

“Democrats know that the simple math of health care will eventually shred the social safety net they seek to protect.’” National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), Washington Post, June 2011.

California U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, former chairwoman of the Progressive Caucus, said she has faith in Obama’s ability to cut a fair deal, but when asked about potential cuts to Medicaid, Lee said, “No, you can’t cut that.” “That’s a safety net, really,” Lee told POLITICO.  – U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, U.S. Representative for California’s 9th congressional district, June 2011.

“Social Security is America’s social safety net for the elderly and disabled. The program was enacted in 1935 in the midst of the Great Depression as part of the New Deal. While it initially sparked controversy, it has over seven decades proved to be a success, providing needed benefits to millions of Americans in need and serving as a source of retirement income for America’s middle class.” – Republican Texas Governor Rick Perry’s Proposal to turn Social Security over to the States, from White Paper, September 2011.

“I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there,” Romney told CNN. “If it needs repair, I’ll fix it. I’m not concerned about the very rich, they’re doing just fine. I’m concerned about the very heart of the America, the 90 percent, 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling.” Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney, January 2012

“What the poor need is a trampoline so they can spring up, so I am for replacing the safety net with a trampoline.” – Republican Presidential Candidate Newt Gingrich, February 2012.

Republican U.S. Rep. Allen West (FL) is disturbed that food stamps buy much more than food these days.  “I happened to drive by a gas station in Pompano Beach, Fla., in the heart of Congressional District 22, the district I represent.  In front of the gas station were large banners proclaiming, ‘We accept EBT SNAP cards.’  This is not something we should be proud to promote,” the Florida Republican said.  “Now we see a growing number of businesses in this country, including sit-down and fast food restaurants, standalone and gas station convenience markets, and even pharmacies eager to accept SNAP benefits, Rep. West observed.  “The measure of success for our social safety net programs should be that fewer and fewer Americans must rely on them, not more and more,” he added.  – Washington Times April 2012.

Crisis Hidden in Plain View

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Advocacy, Awareness, Poverty, Speakers' Bureau

Homelessness is quickly becoming America’s “forgotten tragedy”. All around us, we are encountering historic levels of economic hardship, childhood hunger, terminal illness, domestic violence, disabled veterans’ languishing on the streets, as well as a rising tide of lethal hate crimes. But we can make a difference.

The National Coalition for the Homeless is proud to announce a new campaign, Crisis Hidden in Plain View, a campaign to encourage outreach and engagement to families and individuals who are homeless or at-risk of becoming un-housed.  Watch the video.

We need your help today!

NCH is working each day to prevent and end homelessness, while ensuring that the needs of those experiencing homelessness are met. We do this by…

  • Bringing America Home. Ending homelessness is a national problem with local solutions: NCH’s is ending homelessness by creating affordable housing; growing living wage jobs; improving access to affordable healthcare; and, protecting civil rights.
  • Protecting the Human Right to Shelter & Housing. Everyone deserves a place to call home. NCH is working to establish and preserve the human right to shelter & housing.
  • Helping Hands. Homeless families and individuals can use support: NCH has placed 60 VISTA volunteers in 24 sites across 6 states, giving people in need a helping hand.
  • Keeping an Eye on Justice. Poverty is not a crime: NCH is protecting workers rights in the courts and in the field and making certain that homelessness can’t be criminalized.
  • Speaking Truth to Power. NCH issues twelve annual reports with in-depth analysis and reviews on housing, healthcare, jobs & benefit income and civil rights.
  • Protecting Voting Rights: Homelessness can feel dehumanizing. NCH is fighting for the right and ability to vote by registering 25,0000 voters living in persistent poverty.
  • Sharing Our Stories: The homeless experience is best told in the first person; NCH’s Speakers Bureau is dozens of speakers, 100’s of thousands listeners, and 30 bureaus.
  • Grassroots Organizing: Homelessness is not community-less. NCH brings homeless stakeholders together to organize, act in their own self-interest and create durable power for many tomorrows.

Your donation today will be matched dollar-for-dollar through a time-limited $30,000 matching contribution.

Contributions to housing the homeless have never been more necessary, and investments today have never more effective. NCH is Bringing America Home and we need your support now.

Why We Fight For Those Who Are Homeless

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Awareness, Poverty

As we close out another year of hard work towards ending homelessness, we reflect on our struggles, our successes and our inspiration to keep pushing forward.  Here, Yvonne Vissing, PhD, National Coalition for the Homeless Board Member, reflects on why we keep fighting:

“We are the National Coalition for the Homeless.  We give our time, our energy, our talents, our resources and our money to make sure everyone has a home. Why do we do this?  We give generously of ourselves because we believe that home is the singular foundation that supports us, protects us, and enables us to build better lives and a better world.   A home can be a physical structure where we can store foods and cook nutritious meals so our bodies will be strong.  It is a place where we can get clean so we can stay healthy. Homes ideally have a safe and comfortable space where we can curl up when we are tired, sick, and weary, where we can close our eyes and revitalize ourselves so we can get up and live another day.  A house is a physical place and space. A house and a home can be similar, but they are not necessarily the same.

Photo thanks to pillowhead designs on Flickr

A home is far more than walls and refrigerators and beds.  While “a house is made of walls and beams, a home is built with love and dreams.”  A home is where people care for us, listen to us, help us, and believe in us. Home is where our values are born and where our futures are paved.  “Home is where the heart is” is a commonly held notion, and people think of home as the place where they grew up, played, laughed, and shared fond memories. Children need a home to give them a good start in life, since “home is where one starts from,” as T. S. Eliot reminds us.   What children get in the home sets them up for the rest of their lives. Our nation’s original leaders knew this; Benjamin Franklin reminded us that “a house is not a home unless it contains food and fire for the mind as well as the body.”  Home is where we have the space to think, to read, to reflect, to work and to plan. It is the place where we may become loved and accepted for whatever we are.  Home comforts us when things don’t go well and celebrates our joys and accomplishments.

Sometimes people may have shelter but no sense of security. Their struggles of fighting to survive, to hold a job, to have enough to eat and a place to sleep may be exhausting and enormous. The pressures associated with lack may be overwhelming and lead us down a path filled with problems and despair.  The social forces associated with poverty may rip families apart and etch in the minds of children a picture of reality in which they are not enough and the world doesn’t care for or about them. Children may not have a mental place where they can go to be safe or build dreams.  They may suffer from a lack of belonging.  Physical homelessness breeds emotional homelessness, and neither type is good for individuals or the world.

What happens in the home doesn’t stay in the home. When children live in a sense of abundance they can grow forward to spread it around to others; when they are deprived they will require assistance to merely survive.   We are all interconnected. One person’s sense of lack inevitably impacts us; we pay for others not having or being “enough” with our own money, time, energy, and resources. The biggest way lack hurts us is by creating a skewed way of thinking about things, ourselves, and each other. The result is that our world suffers from the creation of a host of preventable social problems.   Conversely, every act of loving kindness and generosity nurtures the heart and makes the world a better place. Confucius said that the strength of a nation is derived from the integrity of the home. Growing strong children brings forth strong societies. We don’t need a crystal ball to show us what will happen if all levels of society don’t step up to help children and families – the result is inevitable and unpleasantly clear.

We are the National Coalition for the Homeless.  We fight for people who are downtrodden because the integrity of society depends upon someone having a voice for those whose plight is ignored or discounted.  We fight for the homeless because we believe in our nation’s underlying principle of equality. We believe that each person should be treated with respect. We fight for democracy-in-action so those deemed the least among us may have the same chances as those who are regarded as best. We fight for the homeless because our nation can’t build a strong house without investing in the human foundation. We believe that homelessness is unacceptable for any citizen of the United States of America.  We fight for those who are homeless because others can’t, won’t or don’t. We hope that each citizen, organization, and governmental leader will join us in a new partnership to ensure our nation’s mandate of liberty and justice for all.”

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