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March Madness

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Uncategorized

In the business of national advocacy it’s difficult to measure your success and impact. However, as a national coalition representing the interests of homeless stakeholders, we must be able to measure our success and impact both accurately and often. As advocates, we understand the importance of disseminating information and the wisdom of sharing it as broadly as possible.

NCH Speakers' Bureau members Steve Thomas and Shelly Gilbert with staff from the Families USA Foundation

NCH Speakers’ Bureau members Steve Thomas and Shelly Gilbert with staff from the Families USA Foundation

The Faces of Homelessness Speakers’ Bureau is a program of the National Coalition for the Homeless, with bureaus now in more than two dozen cities, including its flagship program in Washington, DC. The Faces of Homelessness is comprised of people who are or have recently been homeless. It works to educate the public about homelessness and what can be done to prevent, reduce and ultimately end the widespread condition of being un-housed. NCH’s “first person” approach is a unique and necessary tool for establishing significant platforms for those affected directly by homelessness. Each bureau creates unique local opportunities for its members to advocate both personally and collectively for building bridges to their greater community.

Students from Nazareth College with NCH Speakers' Bureau members Andre Colter, Shelly Gilbert, and George Siletti

Students from Nazareth College with NCH Speakers’ Bureau members Andre Colter, Shelly Gilbert, and George Siletti

During the month of March, NCH’s bureaus were busy supporting students who chose to take an “Alternate Spring Break”. While many students were at the beach or back home with friends, students from more than three dozen universities and colleges came to our Nation’s capitol to take on the “Homeless Challenge” of sleeping on the streets for a few nights with our homeless guides, listening to a speakers panel and taking on the goal of an “Outreach Run”.

NCH’s programs are becoming increasingly more and more popular with students, corporate members and throughout our membership. These programs are now reaching a broader more diverse audience with its message and experiences.

This month, NCH had success with record breaking impact:

March 2013 Activity
Faces of Homelessness Speakers Panels Held: 34
Policy and Lobbying Presentations Given: 18
Outreach Runs Conducted: 9
Homeless Challenges (2 nights) Led: 8

Total Number of Events: 58
Number of Schools/Organizations Engaged: 39
Total Number of Audience Members Engaged: 1,986

Participating Schools & Organizations:
Amizade Global Service-Learning (PA)
Baruch College (NY)
Bellarmine University (KY)
B’nai B’rith Youth Organization/Panim el Panim (DC)
B’nai B’rith Youth Organization Civic Education Project (IL)
Clemson University (SC)
Close Up Foundation (VA)
Colorado State University (CO)
Concord University (WV)
Davidson College (NC)
Families USA Foundation (DC)
Florida International University (FL)
George Mason University (VA)
George Washington University (DC)
Hamline University (MN)
Humanity in Action & Lantos Foundation for Human Rights (NY)
Kent State University (OH)
Loyola University (MD)
Nazareth College (NY)
Ohio Wesleyan University (OH)
Pilgrimage (DC)
Princeton University (NJ)
Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism (DC)
St. James Lutheran Church (PA)
St. John’s College High School (DC)
St. Luke’s Lutheran (PA)
Steinbruck Center (DC )
United Methodist Seminars (DC)
University of Illinois-Urbana (IL)
University of Maryland-College Park (MD)
University of North Carolina-Greensboro (NC)
University of South Florida (FL)
Vanderbilt University (TN)
Virginia Commonwealth University (VA)
Washington Center for Internships & Academic Seminars (DC)
Washington Seminar Center (DC)
Westminster Presbyterian Church (PA)
Williams College (MA)
Winthrop University (SC)

VISTA Counts in Local Communities

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Uncategorized

During our difficult winter weather months, members of the National Coalition for the Homeless AmeriCorps*VISTA program are working diligently with their partners in local communities to conduct “Point in Time” homeless counts.

iStock_000006795293Small-300x199Point-in-Time PiT counts often look different form one community to the next, but the purpose is singular. Required by US Department of Housing and Urban Development, the PiT count is a volunteer led effort to try to capture an accurate picture of the number of homeless individuals living in shelters and on the street. Data from the count enables service providers to gauge the extent of homelessness, determine the services needed to prevent, reduce and end it, and help leverage federal funding to support homeless directed services. However the truth concerning the fullest accounting or enumeration of America’s homeless men, women and children lies somewhere far beyond current attempts at data collection.

When volunteer enumerators seek to count those experiencing homelessness they can find them sleeping in a downtown square, a park bench, sleeping out in a car, or hidden from public view under a bridge. Since the counts began, more than two decades ago, there has been considerable controversy concerning the efficacy of a nationwide enumeration. However, the National Coalition for the Homeless and its member organizations believe that many communities across the country are capable counters, wonderful advocates and stewards for progress towards ending homeless. In spite of the best efforts by local area advocate and providers, it’s still remains difficult to imagine that an accurate portrayal of homelessness can be found in a majority of local communities. Nonetheless this is how numbers are collected and resources are allocated. So, America’s only enumeration of those experiencing homelessness is still a very important annual “tradition” for community stakeholders working to end homelessness. In dealing with the confines of the count, NCH-VISTA members have taken this moment to use it as an outreach opportunity in their community.

NCH-VISTA members now employ many different outreach ideas and practices to reach and conduct outreach to individuals experiencing homeless in their community. The members mobilize volunteers to create care packages for individuals, hand out gift certificates, and develop relationships with the individuals that they come in contact with. Through these much needed exchanges, members are able to inform individuals in their own community about what services were available to them.americorps-week

An NCH VISTA member in Florida has recounted an experience where he was able to inform a group of homeless people under encampment that they had access to a food pantry and a health clinic that they were not aware of. Our members were able to share their “survival guides” that they created, hygiene materials, as well as hand out bus passes to homeless connect events that were planned for the following days. Homeless Connect events are ways for individuals experiencing homelessness to go to one location to receive services such as health screenings, check ups, hair cuts, and job training information.

Our VISTA members are taking advantage of the opportunity to make a big impact on their communities. Though flawed, the homeless count is a great benefit to engage and make contact on a larger scale with those experiencing homelessness in some of the most meaningful ways possible.

-Brian Parks, VISTA Project Director of the National Coalition for the Homeless

Our 100th Post!!!

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


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. 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


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