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#TBT – Street Newspapers

Written by admin on . Posted in Uncategorized

If you live in, or have ever been to, a city like Chicago, or Washington, DC, San Francisco, Nashville or Seattle, you have probably seen a vendor selling a paper that reports on issues of poverty and homelessness. This is a “Street Newspaper,” and there are over 40 of these in print in North America, and over 100 published in 34 countries around the world.

photo credit Do Haeng Michael Kitchen

We’ve shared before about the activism of the 1980’s and 90’s, when our current era of homelessness was just starting to rear its ugly head. People who were becoming homeless were intimately involved in advocacy and services to help folks who were unhoused. By the late 1980’s, homeless advocates realized there was a need for educating the larger public about the issues surrounding homelessness. Street News, first published in NYC in 1989, is credited with being the first street newspaper focused on homeless issues, followed closely by Street Sheet, still published by the Coalition on Homelessness in San Francisco.

Inspired by Street News, the Big Issue was launched as a “social business” in 1991 in the UK, inspiring a further wave of street newspapers across Europe. The International Network of Street Papers (INSP) was created in 1994 and our own beloved Michael Stoops helped to start the North American Street Newspaper Association (NASNA) in 1996. The two networks worked collaboratively until 2013, when INSP became the single global network for street papers on all six continents.

Recent numbers from the INSP Network

Street papers in the US have, for the most part, intended to act as both an advocacy tool and a primary way for people who have been homeless to be active leaders in that advocacy. Today, most papers are run, written, and sold by homeless folks. Many papers offer case management assistance, training and networking opportunities to homeless folks in their communities.

The National Coalition for the Homeless has long supported the advocacy and empowerment outlet that street newspapers have provided. Street papers across the world continue to break down barriers between housed and unhoused people, creating employment opportunities to poor people worldwide.

Read More:

#TBT – In Celebration of Mental Health Month

Written by admin on . Posted in Uncategorized

May is recognized as Mental Health Month. It is estimated that 1/3 of the homeless population is suffering from some form of mental illness, though popular mythology will tell us that most, if not all, homeless people are “crazy.”

Former President Ronald Reagan is sometimes referred to as the father of modern homelessness, not just because he oversaw drastic budget cuts to Federal affordable housing programs, but also because he repealed the Mental Health Systems Act, which had the effect of closing most institutional mental health service centers.

From a Salon article from 2013:

President Reagan never understood mental illness. Like Richard Nixon, he was a product of the Southern California culture that associated psychiatry with Communism. Two months after taking office, Reagan was shot by John Hinckley, a young man with untreated schizophrenia. Two years later, Reagan called Dr. Roger Peele, then director of St. Elizabeths Hospital, where Hinckley was being treated, and tried to arrange to meet with Hinckley, so that Reagan could forgive him. Peele tactfully told the president that this was not a good idea. Reagan was also exposed to the consequences of untreated mental illness through the two sons of Roy Miller, his personal tax advisor. Both sons developed schizophrenia; one committed suicide in 1981, and the other killed his mother in 1983. Despite such personal exposure, Reagan never exhibited any interest in the need for research or better treatment for serious mental illness.

5 FACTSMuch of the rhetoric in the 1980’s was about how patients at mental hospitals should have the agency to get the care they need. However,  neither the housing nor support services needed to fully integrate former patients into their communities were provided. The result was that many suffering from mental illness were left to fend for themselves on the streets.

Luckily, today, most of the country understands that mental illness is a disease and that those suffering from a mental illness need and deserve treatment. The popularity of Housing First homeless assistance models rests on the understanding that folks who are chronically homeless, often with a mental illness, need ongoing access to appropriate treatment and care.

In 1996, the Mental Health Parity Act (MHPA) was signed into law, requiring that group health plans provide mental health treatment. Additionally, the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, and the Affordable Care Act in 2010, extended the scope of mental health services insurers were required to cover.

Despite these legislative advancements, it remains difficult to access adequate mental health care. The expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act has been able to connect many homeless folks to care, but not all states have expanded their Medicaid offerings. Further, current attempts to add bureaucratic and counter-productive work requirements to Medicaid could decrease the number of poor folks who can access adequate mental health care.

Today, 40 years after de-institutionalization of mental illness patients, we still have not fully addressed the mental health needs of our residents, housed or not. See the below links for more:

National Voter Registration Day

Written by Nadia Busekrus on . Posted in Uncategorized

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the National Coalition for the Homeless’ “You Don’t Need a Home to Vote” campaign. What was a problem in 1992 is still a problem today – homeless individuals vote at a lower rate than non-homeless individuals, even though homelessness does not disqualify anyone from voting. In fact, voting allows un-housed men and women to have a say in government by electing leaders who will advocate for the rights and well being of the homeless community.

Registering to vote can feel like an overwhelming task, and a lack of typical forms of identification as well as the reality of living without an address can discourage homeless individuals from trying to register. In order to support houseless people, the National Coalition for the homeless has put together two resources – a 2017 National Guide to Voter Registration Guidelines (an update to our 2016 “You Don’t Need a Home to Vote” guide) and, for people living in the D.C. Metro area (Virginia, Maryland, and D.C.), an in-depth Guide to DMV Voter Registration Cards.

If you are someone who is currently experiencing homelessness, please contact one of your local election officials who would be happy to answer any of your questions about the registration process. Voting is such an important way to make your voice heard!

If you are a friend of the homeless, please make sure you vote too and consider leaders who will support the homeless community! Also, if you have relationships with any un-housed men or women in your community, offer to help them register to vote!

The National Coalition for the Homeless does not support or oppose any political candidate or party. Our informational materials are strictly for educational purposes and suggest no endorsement, bias, or preference.

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