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Living My Uncle’s Story

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

The following was written by a recent college student participant of NCH’s Homeless Challenge program, as a reflection on the experience:

“When I entered the world of the homeless all I had were the clothes on my back, a sleeping bag, and the preconceptions and stereotypes I had created throughout my 21 years of existence. Having grown up with an uncle who struggled with homelessness for a length measured in years, I thought I knew it all. But you can’t truly understand what it’s like through a story.

Forty-eight hours may not seem like a long time now, but those two days held a week’s worth of activities and a lifetime’s worth of change. We walked many miles, mostly because when we weren’t walking, we were cold. When we got tired of walking, we watched businessmen walk past us. We became invisible. We got used to being invisible, we took advantage of being invisible, and then we got sick of being invisible. We appreciated the small things. Celebrations were often but short lived, like smiles. We befriended pigeons, squirrels, and other homeless people, the only things not scared of us. We experienced the homeless community. We made friends. We saw the city.

We scoured the trash. We searched for caring eyes, but instead found averted eyes. We went crazy. And we became sane. We found the meaning to life, the importance of friendship, the power of money, and the makeup of happiness. We transformed.

When we finished the challenge, we had the opportunity to hear the Faces of Homelessness Speakers’ Bureau. My uncle and two other wonderful speakers stood at the front of the room, taking turns sharing their stories to a room full of transfixed students. 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.”

Speakers’ Bureau Update

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

The Speakers’ Bureau is currently in the process of creating a new orientation manual and at the same time is in the process of recruiting new speakers-in particular women and families.  This summer we have had meetings with representative from Community of Hope and JHP as well as meeting with N Street Village and Miriam’s Kitchen in hopes of recruiting new speakers!

One of our speakers, Maurice King and I were interviewed by a Blogtalk radio station in Colorado Springs, CO on Saturday, July 25th.

The first National Homeless Persons Memorial Day Committee meeting will take place on Wednesday, July 29th 3:00pm at the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless office at 1200 U Street, NW…..all are welcome to attend!

On August 1st at NCH at Noon about 15 individuals who have experienced homelessness will be attending and meeting with Mischa Fisher who would like to create a Photobook: “Biographies of the DC Homeless Community.”

Our next Speakers’ Bureau meeting will be on Saturday, August 22nd and we will have a lot to talk about with new speakers, photobook project, Homeless Persons Memorial Day, Living Wage rally, workshops and other projects…..

The Speakers Bureau spoke to 27 groups in July!  We currently have 13 scheduled for August including one at Boston University on August 25th in my home state!

Looking forward to keeping you all posted on the going ons of the speakers bureau and please feel free to respond and if you have seen a speakers panel please post your feedback!  If you are interested in becoming a speakers please let me know and if you would like to start a speakers bureau post it here!

Thanks and that’s all for now!

Michael O’Neill
Director, Faces of Homelessness Speakers’ Bureau

The musings of a Hunger Fellow

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

Steph Whitaker has been with NCH for the past 5 months as the Bill Emerson Hunger Fellow. Her time here has been invaluable, taking the lead to pull together our Criminalization and Hate Crimes reports.
Below she reflects on her time in Washington…

As my time wraps up here at NCH, I realize that I’ve encountered many unique experiences. I’m not entirely sure where 3 out of my 5 months went… but I imagine that means they were well spent.

Top 5 things I’ll miss about NCH:

5. Speaking engagements with the Speakers Bureau: it’s really great to witness the “ah-ha” moment of others when they finally realize that homeless people are not just a stereotype. An added bonus is that its fun to get to know the speakers and their quirks.

4. Laid back atmosphere and entertaining co-workers: it’s easy to focus on your work when you don’t have to worry about office politics and whether or not your belt is accurately coordinated with your shoes… or in my case if your earrings are too big and loud. It always helps to have friendly banter and people you know you can go to for help when things get confusing. They also make great company for #3.

3. POTLUCKS! Must I really elaborate? These are the best goodbye anyone could get, going out with a party and pasta salad is far more exciting than a handshake and a fancy dinner.

2. Civil Rights: Working on the Criminalization Report (documenting all cases that make it illegal to be homeless) and the Hate Crimes Report (violent acts committed against homeless people for no logical reason) have really given me insight into the problems faced by homeless people every day.

1. Advocacy WITH homeless people: I think many social movements have a tendency to forget who they advocate for. When you lose track of the who, its easier to forget why, and even how to help. Its so much better with the words and advice from individuals who are or have experienced a problem.

Just as a wrap up, I plan to return to my home in Kentucky and hope to use my skills and experiences to educate others and advocate for change. My current plan of action is to return to school in the spring to work towards getting a M.A. in Public Health.

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