NATIONALHOMELESS.ORG
Twitter Facebook Facebook Facebook Facebook

Goofus and Gallant

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Uncategorized

I’m in a constant wrestle with the whole notion of ending homelessness in the United States. The lack of affordable housing and the resulting struggles of millions of un-housed Americans are profound and can be paralyzing. But, sometimes we’re presented with clearly contrasting personal stories that can help us make sense of these global problems. Recently, two law enforcement officers were each faced with a situation all too familiar to both of them: a homeless man was living-out his private daily existence in “the public square”.

In Sarasota, Florida, Police Sgt. Anthony Frangioni spotted Darren Kersey charging his cell phone in a public park. Mr. Kersey was homeless at the time and unable to access a private resource for recharging. The officer arrested him for theft of a public utility. He spent the night in jail.

In New York’s Time Square, Officer Larry DiPrimo spotted a homeless man sitting on the sidewalk in frigid temperatures. DiPrimo crossed the street and purchased socks and boots for the man with $120 of his own money. He crossed back over and helped the man on with his boots. The homeless man spent the night with warm feet.

These two examples remind me of the cartoon I used to read as a child in Highlights Magazine: Goofus and Gallant. The cartoon featured two contrasting boys responding to the same situation. Goofus was irresponsible, while Gallant chose the responsible route. The situations were always stark comparisons of right and wrong.

If we are to end the nationwide tragedy of homelessness, we could begin by respecting the inherent worth and dignity of each and every human being, especially those we may find most abhorrent. An important aspect of respecting someone is to understand them and their condition. Officer DiPrimo accepted that challenge and met it with compassion. The result was an outpouring of support from the general public. Sgt. Frangioni confronted the challenge and met it with ignorance and cruelty. The public cried foul.

I’ll end this message the same way the narrator would end each Goofus and Gallant strip. When Goofus saw the homeless man charging his cell phone he saw only the wrong that was being done, instead of a person in need of understanding and compassion. When Gallant saw the homeless man without shoes, he saw someone in need and a problem that he could solve. When we see our world as full of offenders requiring consequences, we see things only punitively. When we see our world as full of people with problems that we can help solve, we see things with limitless possibilities: perhaps an end to homelessness.

– Neil Donovan, executive director, National Coalition for the Homeless

Segmentation of the Homeless Population

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Uncategorized

Over the past few months, a lot of media attention has been given to President Obama’s plan to end veteran homelessness by 2015. Without a doubt, this plan is honorable, and was proposed with noble intentions. Veteran homelessness is a pressing issue, and with more soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, the number of homeless veterans is set to increase. However, President Obama’s plan promotes the segmentation of the homeless population, a hidden issue that has been present since homelessness became a national problem.

Print by Pat Apt

The segmentation of the homeless population refers to the division of the homeless into different groups such as single mothers, family, female veterans, veterans, LGBT youth, and immigrants. The segmentation of the homeless population subsequently causes services and resources to be divided and provided exclusively for chosen groups. While any service or resource for the homeless is commendable, it becomes a problem when services remain geared towards certain homeless groups, not the entire homeless population.

It is difficult to create and implement a plan that will solve national homelessness, and it appears that for now, the government and other institutions  are focusing on eliminating homelessness of one group is more manageable.  However, that logic leaves other parts of the homeless population bereft of necessary services and resources. Dividing the homeless population into different categories and then choosing a specific group to cater to, indicates that one homeless group is more deserving of government and private resources than another group. This is not the message that should be portrayed by government initiatives to solve homelessness.

Homelessness needs to be tackled from all different angles, including the varying factors that contribute to homelessness, such as a lack of affordable housing, lack of access to affordable health care, unemployment, and decent living wages. Government initiatives that would take into account the different contributing factors that cause homelessness would be beneficial and a step closer to solving national homelessness, rather than just veteran homelessness. My suggestion is not meant to belittle President Obama’s goal of ending veteran homelessness by 2015, but rather, to bring awareness to the fact that segmenting the homeless population and solving it by groups is counterproductive to ending national homelessness. Ending veteran homelessness is an admirable goal, but providing access to affordable housing and healthcare and creating more jobs that provide decent living wages would certainly go a longer way to ending national homelessness and prevent the cycle from beginning once more.

-Sundal Ali, Intern

NCH Spring Interns and why they’re excited to be here

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Uncategorized

NCH has the honor of working with so many talented interns each semester, read below examples of why they volunteer their time:

Sundal Ali, George Washington University ‘15

As a child, homelessness was not apparent to me. I grew up in Carrollton, TX, a small city a half hour outside downtown Dallas, where many of the social welfare issues were obscure and hidden. As a result, I came to Washington, DC with a sheltered perspective of the world. Homelessness was, and still is, running rampant in the streets of DC, home to the nation’s capital. During the day, the White House is a tourist attraction, crowded with tourists and workers but at night, the benches in front of the White House become coveted living spaces for the homeless.

For decades this grave social injustice has flourished on the streets of one of the strongest and most powerful nations in the world, and even now, not enough is being done to ensure housing for all of America’s citizens. How is it, that a nation with abundant weapons in its arsenal, enough funds in its pockets and an overwhelming number of people in its bureaucracy, cannot solve this crisis?

This paradox triggered action.

After attending a Faces of Homelessness Speakers’ Bureau panel, I was secure in my decision to apply to be an intern at the National Coalition for the Homeless. Working at NCH has shattered my sheltered perspective of our world, in a beneficial way. Because of my internship at NCH, I am more attuned to social crises, more aware of growing national concerns and most importantly, a more passionate advocate for the homeless. I am in a position where I can aid in protecting and promoting NCH’s goal to ensure the human right to housing and shelter. Devoting my time to help prevent returning veterans from Iraq or Afghanistan from becoming homeless, to help prevent more children experiencing homelessness at such a young age, to help prevent the criminalization of homeless people—  all of this, makes my time as an intern at NCH worthwhile. NCH has been working vigorously for decades to establish and protect every individual’s right to housing and shelter and I am privileged to be a part of their team to help accomplish their goal of Bringing America Home.

Jose Morales, American University ’13

I was born and raised in Bronx for ten years. Living in the New York metropolitan area exposes you to how deep the homeless crisis really is. I couldn’t go more than a block without seeing another person without a home, living off the sidewalk and any spare change. When I moved to Washington, DC two years ago to attend American University, I saw more of the same, even in neighborhoods considered the “nice” part of the District.  I was lucky enough to get out of the city ten years ago and into a permanent home, which helped me do really well in school and prepare myself for college.

Ever since the economic downturn, it’s been impossible to avoid the effects of homelessness in any major city. And I know that we can do more as citizens to help. So much of this nation’s homeless population is not comprise of the drug dealers or mentally ill, but children, students, and hard-working Americans who haven’t had a fair shake at life. I’m a junior in college now, and I truly believe that that is not better time than the present to stand up against the criminalization of homeless and poverty. I see no reason why young people from all sides of the political and socioeconomic spectrum can’t come together and put forward sensible protections for civil rights, fiscally responsible affordable housing policy, and better education of what homelessness really is outside of Hollywood’s depictions.

It’s time for my generation to stop complaining about the problems we will have to deal with. It’s time to meet them and defeat them. Homelessness is one of these challenges.

The National Coalition for the Homeless is dedicated helping everyone—especially the students of my generation and the next—get back on their feet to fulfill their potential by getting them in permanent housing and then some. And they’ve done it before. Neil, Megan, and Michael have all helped to structure and display such an impressive non-profit that stays true to its mission in a climate that has become increasingly cynical.  It’s an honor to intern here for however long, even if just to say that I am a part of the solution.

Will Hernandez, Dartmouth ’14

I decided to volunteer my time with the National Coalition for the Homeless because homelessness is an issue that is easily ignored and forgotten in this country.  This seems almost unimaginable with the recent foreclosure crisis and millions of people being homeless each year.  It is easy to ignore homeless people due to the common myth that all homeless people are in there situation due to their lack of hard-work or their bad economic decisions.

I hope to bring more awareness to this issue as well as develop a new perspective for those people who are in dire times and need any support we can muster.  I want to learn about the current homeless policies that are making a huge difference in their respective localities and learn why destructive policies are not very effective for the targeted population. So far, I have been able to research different events and programs produced by different advocacy groups and critically analyze how these events benefit the homeless populations.

As a future hopeful for a Congressional seat, I know that working with the homeless and the National Coalition will provide me with great insights on how to deal with large epidemics that are great hurting America and more importantly, to listen and learn directly from those people who are suffering the most.

Thank you to Sundal, Jose, Will (and Tessa!) for their great work this semester, and for being a part of Bringing America Home!

NATIONALHOMELESS.ORG

National Coalition for the Homeless | 2201 P St NW, Washington, DC 20037 | (202) 462-4822 | info [at] nationalhomeless [dot] org
© 2014 National Coalition for the Homeless | Private Policy
Powered by Warp Theme Framework