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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

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

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

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