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Donald Whitehead Jr. Named Executive Director of NCH

Written by admin on . Posted in Blog, News, Press Releases

Donald WhiteheadThe Board of Directors of the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) announced today that it has hired Donald H. Whitehead Jr. as its new Executive Director. Mr. Whitehead brings more than 20 years of experience in serving and advocating for persons experiencing homelessness to NCH, including five years experiencing homelessness himself. “At a time that our nation is experiencing record homelessness, a rise of COVID-19 infection among those experiencing homelessness, and a rising movement for racial and economic justice that calls to account decades of institutional racism that contributes to the disproportionate over-representation of people of color on our streets, we are extremely proud that the oldest national organization focused on ending homelessness in our country is now being led by Black man who has himself experienced and overcame homelessness and addiction.” said John Parvensky, outgoing NCH Director. “I am so grateful for the opportunity to help elevate the voices of those experiencing homelessness so that our country can address the intersection of racial justice and housing justice, and finally completes the unfinished business of the civil rights movement”, said Donald H. Whitehead Jr.” Whitehead, who has served as the NCH Board President for the past year, will give up that role to devote his full-time effort as Executive Director.  Previously, Whitehead has directed several programs serving people experiencing homeless including outreach and case management, health care, emergency shelter and permanent supportive housing.  He has also served as a national advocate and an Organizational Management Consultant focused on homelessness and racial equity.  He brings a unique combination of direct service to those experiencing homelessness as well as years of advocacy for systemic change to end homelessness through increased federal investment in housing and services as well as an end to policies that criminalize homelessness.  Whitehead is also a veteran who served three years in the U.S. Navy. The National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH), founded in 1981, is the oldest national organization focused on ending homelessness in America.  It is a national network of people currently experiencing or who have experienced homelessness, activists and advocates, community-based and faith-based service providers, and others committed to their mission of: To end and prevent homelessness while ensuring the immediate needs of those experiencing homelessness are met and their civil rights protected. Over the last 38 years through advocacy efforts addressing the root causes of homelessness including lack of affordable housing, and partnering to write landmark legislation including the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 1987. The hiring of Whitehead to lead NCH was made possible by an anonymous two-year capacity building grant. Sue Watlov Phillips will become Board President of NCH.  Watlov Phillips has worked together with people experiencing homelessness by addressing both the immediate needs and structural causes of homelessness for over 52 years and currently serves as Executive Director of MICAH – Metropolitan Interfaith Council on Affordable Housing in Minnesota. Dr. Rajni Shankar-Brown serves as Board Secretary of NCH.  Shankar-Brown is an internationally renowned scholar-educator and social justice activist in education, is a leading expert on child and family homelessness, diversity and transformative leadership, community engagement and human rights. Dr. Shankar-Brown is a professor and the Jessie Ball duPont Endowed Chair of Social Justice Education at Stetson University, as well as the Founder and Executive Director of the Poverty and Homelessness Conference. Barbara Anderson serves as Board Treasurer of NCH.  Anderson served for 24 years as Executive Director of Haven House, an emergency shelter and service center for families and individuals experiencing homelessness in rural Indiana.  She is currently devoting her time full time to advocacy and organizing on behalf of those experiencing homelessness in rural communities. In 2019, NCH entered into a strategic alliance with the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless (CCH)  to leverage the strengths of each organization towards a renewed focus on elevating the crisis of homelessness being experienced in communities across America and increasing organizing and advocacy for immediate action at the Federal level to end homelessness and reduce its trauma on the millions of individuals and families experiencing homelessness and those at imminent risk of losing their homes. The agreement allowed NCH to build its capacity to focus on its strength of bringing together those experiencing homelessness to share their experiences with our nation’s leaders in a call for immediate action to end homelessness.  The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless will continue to provide its administrative, financial and policy capacity to support NCH’s renewed efforts as Whitehead assumes his new position.

NCH Statement on Martin v. Boise Case

Written by admin on . Posted in Advocacy, Blog, Civil Rights, Criminalization, Press Releases

NATIONAL COALITION FOR THE HOMELESS WELCOMES SUPREME COURT DECISION TO ALLOW MARTIN V. BOISE CASE STAND.  CALLS FOR NEW INVESTMENTS TO ADDRESS THE UNDERLYING CAUSES OF STREET HOMELESSNESS

The National Coalition for the Homeless applauds the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court to deny a review of the Martin v. Boise case, leaving in place the decision by the 9th Circuit that people experiencing homelessness cannot be punished for camping or sleeping on public property where there are no adequate alternatives.

The Boise decision remains the law, at least in the states within the 9th U.S. Circuit.  Criminalizing homelessness, in absence of reasonable and acceptable alternatives to sleeping on the streets, is unconstitutional, and cities and states must act to develop adequate shelter and affordable to address homelessness in their communities.

“Today is a victory for people experiencing homelessness”, said John Parvensky, Acting Executive Director of the National Coalition for the Homeless.  “It is not a victory because people can legally sleep on the streets.  Rather it is a victory because it will force communities to address homelessness proactively – through the development of an adequate supply of affordable housing, while providing safe and appropriate emergency shelter in the interim”. 

NCH calls of the Federal Government to immediately and significantly increase its investment in both housing and services for those experiencing homeless as well as in broader pubic and affordable housing for those at risk of becoming homeless.

NCH Outraged and Concerned about the Appointment of Robert Marbut to head USICH

Written by admin on . Posted in Blog, Policy Advocacy, Press Releases

The recent announcement of the imminent appointment of Robert Marbut as Executive Director of the USICH raises significant concerns about the Trump Administration’s plans to address homelessness.  Rather than building upon evidence based practices like housing first, permanent supportive housing, increased health and mental health services, and expanded affordable housing, the pick portends an expansion of punitive strategies to control, marginalize and criminalize people experiencing homelessness.

Marbut, a self-described “expert” on homelessness, has limited actual experience developing and operating effective housing and service programs to move people experiencing homelessness from the streets or shelters into housing, and connecting them to the employment, health and mental health resources they might need to remain stable in housing.

As a consultant, Marbut has advocated policy and programming approaches that warehouses people in large congregate shelters which are designed to contain and isolate people experiencing homelessness with punitive rules and practices.  Rather than accepting and implementing the evidence based housing first approach, Marbut has claimed he believes in “Housing Fourth”, as if housing is less important to resolving homelessness than other interventions.

He has also called feeding people on the street “enabling them”, as if not feeding them will make the problem go away.

The appointment of Marbut to lead the agency charged with coordinating the response of federal agencies to homelessness is particularly concerning in light of President Trump’s recent complaints about the large increase in street homelessness in San Francisco, Los Angeles and other cities and the release of a report by the White House Council of Economic on “The State of Homelessness in America” in September.  That report used faulty logic, statistics and policy prescriptions to give cover to the President’s recently stated desire to crack down on the homeless by criminalizing and warehousing people experiencing homelessness – not to help end their misery, but to alleviate the impact of street homelessness on real estate investors and businesses.

Rather than proposing new initiatives with adequate funding to proactively address  and end homelessness through evidence based practices, the Administration has repeated proposed cuts to housing and homeless program budgets, food stamps, Medicaid and other programs that provide a pathway out of homelessness for the more than 1 million individuals and families experiencing homelessness across our nation.

What is needed is vast expansion funding to build more affordable housing, to fund additional supportive housing units targeted to persons with disabilities experiencing homelessness, and to ensure that those on the streets or at risk of homelessness have access to health care and support to they need to improve their lives.

While there is much in the existing federal policy on homelessness which can be improved, the approaches promoted by Marbut would likely exacerbate the existing homelessness crisis rather than solve it.

We urge the members of the USICH to oppose the appointment of Robert Marbut and to seek the input of people experiencing homelessness and those housing and serving them in the selection of a leader with the experience, philosophy and competency to move federal policy towards the ending of homelessness.

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