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Citizen Engagement: Educating City Council About Solutions to Homelessness

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

On June 24, Baltimore’s Faces of Homelessness Speakers’ Bureau held a first-of-its-kind speaking engagement by Bureau members who shared their perspectives and experiences of homelessness with members of the City Council, area service providers, and other invited guests (including Michael Stoops and Brian Parks of the National Coalition for the Homeless).

Earlier this year, many members of the Bureau were involved in organizing efforts to stop the city from forcibly removing a community from an encampment under the Jones Falls Expressway in downtown Baltimore. While advocates were not able to stop the City from closing down the encampment, they successfully drew attention to the injustice of closing down an encampment without providing any place for campers to go. City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke called a hearing to revisit commitments five years in to the city’s “Journey Home” 10-year plan to end homelessness.

Comments made at the hearing indicated misconceptions about the causes and experience of homelessness.  A University of Maryland Social Work Intern who was involved in the organizing efforts around the encampment began reaching out to Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke about organizing discussion with members of the Speakers’ Bureau.

The Baltimore Speakers' Bureau at a recent event.

The Baltimore Speakers’ Bureau at a recent event.

Many emails and several months later, the Speakers’ Bureau finally set a date to meet with City Council in late June and dove into preparing for this very important speaking engagement.  The Bureau aimed to keep the discussion focused on solutions and opportunities for collaboration and hoped that City Council members would walk away with an understanding that while there are a myriad of individual circumstances that contribute to a person losing their home, underlying causes of homelessness all relate to poverty, lack of affordable housing and insufficient health care.

Members outlined goals for the meeting through an agenda that included an introduction on the common misconceptions and stereotypes held about people experiencing homelessness, personal stories from Speakers Bob Jankowiack, Bonnie Lane, and Damien Haussling, as well as a roundtable discussion on pressing issues facing the homeless community. Faces of Homelessness Speaker Tony Simmons who moderated the presentation challenged the audience to think about how themes emerging from Speakers’ stories can point us toward solutions.

The Baltimore Bureau was thrilled by the level of engagement of Council Members during the discussion. Speakers’ Bureau members and advocates from the homeless community were also present to weigh in on the roundtable discussion which focused on changing perspectives of homelessness and an upcoming shelter transition facing the community.

What made this event so important was that for the first time, the real experts on homelessness—those with lived experience—led elected officials and leaders of the service provider community in a discussion on the state of homelessness in Baltimore.  Speakers demonstrated the importance of partnering with individuals that have experienced homelessness in the struggle to end it.

The event captured the essence of a favorite poem of mine by Julia Dinsmore, a poet and activist for social justice from Minneapolis (my hometown):

Take another look, don’t go away. For I am not the problem, but the solution. And… my name is not ‘Those People.’

By Vanessa Borotz
NCH AmeriCorps*VISTA volunteer

Read more about what the Baltimore Speakers’ Bureau is up to: http://citypaper.com/arts/stage/i-am-i-said-1.1517758

Our 100th Post!!!

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

masthead_2011

It’s quite fitting that we’ve reached the big 1-0-0 during the beginning of a new year!

In four years of blogging about current issues homeless communities face, we have covered stories from the everyday struggle of living without a stable home to celebrating the lives of our friends. While we are proud to have this space where our members, speakers, AmeriCorps VISTAs, interns, staff, and other dedicated advocates can contribute to the conversation regarding our neighbors and friends, we recognize that this conversation has been a long one that needs to end with more affordable housing, accessible healthcare, and living wage jobs.100th Blog Entry-A

As we continue to advocate for these rights, we dedicate this entry to the Top 10 Bring America Home Blog post which represents a diversity of perspectives from our bloggers. We invite you to take a look, be part of the conservation, and join us in our work.

Thanks for reading!

10. Living my Uncle’s Story
Hearing my uncle turn back the pages of his life, recounting his struggles and tragedies, my mind was reeling with empathy and understanding. I have lived my story for 21 years. But for the past two days, I lived his.

9. Is Prison Adequate Housing?
What some don’t realize is that these parole restrictions, combined with the difficulty in finding an employer willing to hire an ex-offender, make it very difficult for people who have served their time to find housing and be productive members of the community.

8. What would Mitch Snyder Do and Say Today?
I just hope that there is a little bit of Mitch Snyder in all of us which keeps our eyes on the prize of stopping this injustice of homelessness in our midst.

7. Voluntary Hunger in Protest of Involuntary Hunger
It is important that we remember what hangs in the balance. In the past, the anti-hunger and poverty movement has responded in a multitude of ways. One of those is known as a hunger fast (or strike) to draw public awareness to the issues the poor face and create policy change.

6. Tourism vs. Homelessness
Rather than providing day and night shelter services during the summer months, tourist cites do their best to move out homeless out of visible downtown locations. Homeless people are seen as bad for both tourism and economic development.

5. Shefights.net: A Sequel to Bum Fights

4. Police Charged with Murdering California Homeless Man
Thomas died because six officers of the Fullerton Police Department didn’t know how to react or respond to a mentally ill person in distress and crisis. When faced with a situation that caused confusion, law enforcement at the scene chose brutal force to subdue Mr. Thomas.

3. State ID Legislation Threatens to Disenfranchise Homeless Voters
This trend is only becoming more and more widespread: according to The Brennan Center for Justice, ‘at least 37 states are considering or have considered voter ID and/or proof of citizenship’ bills in this legislative session alone.

2. Membership Matters
There are very real and important reasons why homelessness in America grew to such crisis levels during our lifetime and why it continues to exist today. There are also a number of basic ways that each of us can help locally to prevent, reduce and end homelessness nationwide.

1. Homelessness: An Issue of Convenience Impacting Others
A special thanks must once again be given to our four wonderful speakers, without whom, we would not be able to effectively carry out NCH’s mission

Why Membership Matters to Andrè

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

Andrè is a member of NCH and participates in the Faces of Homelessness Speakers’ Bureau. Over the past few years he has been able to share his story with many and today shares with us why he knows his Membership Matters:

Greetings, I’m Andrè. NCH continues to receive my support because of their approach tackling homelessness. They work to end homelessness not just through litigation and advocating about the issue but also in personal action. I’m referring to how they treat the people who are affected by homelessness on a daily basis. You see, when I was introduced to NCH by my good friend Steve Thomas, I was at what I can only explain as the lowest point in my life. Upon entering NCH’s offices in DC, I was greeted with friendly handshakes, genuine welcomes and sincere smiles. I had become conditioned to expect being ignored, ridiculed and dismissed by society.

Not only was I overwhelmed by kindness but curious and interested. I finally felt I had found a place where I had a voice. Since then I have had the honor of meeting with and speaking to some awesome people both as a guide for NCH’s Homeless Challenge and as a member of the Speaker’s Bureau. My perception of life, specifically my life in general, has been altered from hopeless to hopeful. I attribute my attitude of hopefulness to the donations of talents, time, service and tangible treasures ($) of those associated with NCH, such as you.

Searching my vocabulary the only words to express my gratitude for you is……

THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR YOUR SUPPORT!!

Gratefully yours,
Andrè

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