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Posts Tagged ‘Advocacy’

Can Social Media End Homelessness?

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Advocacy

By Megan Hustings

Good thing I’m not that old, because I’m showing my age. I’ve posted my way through several generations of social networks.  In college, students at my school shared a network of “Plans,” a page that was hosted on the college’s intranet where users could make text only posts (quotes, rants, etc.) and tag their friends. After graduation, I started out on Friendster, which I barely remember now. MySpace was the next big thing, but even as it grew in popularity, other online communities began vying for internet prominence.

Today, Facebook and Twitter seem to reign the waves, but again, new online communities continue to spring up to offer unique opportunities for organizing certain kinds of communities. I can’t even begin to list all the websites that could be classified as social networks, you can look for more on this Wikipedia listing of social networks, or I love to get lost in the “Conversation Prism” – here’s the author’s blog post.

Since starting out with NCH five years ago as an AmeriCorps*VISTA volunteer, I’ve seen the organization’s fundraising and outreach change quite a bit. Back then, we focused on sending out appeal letters a few times a year and writing grant proposals, but had just moved to an online only newsletter. Now, we look for more diverse funding sources, and spend a good amount of time connecting to our supporters and members through online and social media – Twitter, Facebook, the Bring America Home Blog, and many others (Change.org, MySpace, YouTube, Razoo, etc.).

The question I keep coming back to is how do we effectively engage the NCH community in ending homelessness through these networks? Can online advocacy make a difference?

We have raised some funds over the years from Facebook Causes, and have passed along several successful petitions through Change.org. Advocacy in all its forms is hard to quantify, but we know that we have the ears (or screens) of well over 15,000 advocates through various social media websites.

Recently, we sent out surveys on our social networks, Facebook and Twitter, asking you how we could improve our social networking presence. (To all of you who responded, thank you!) Through this experience, we got to know a little about you and how you interact with NCH online. Some of the things we learned were:

  • Many of you first engaged with us through social media to learn more about advocacy for the homeless
  • We Tweet just the right amount, but you would prefer if we posted more on Facebook.
  • You are most interested in the subjects of homeless organizations and services, and homeless services, but those on Facebook would like to see more direct testimonials from people experiencing homelessness
  • Interestingly, most of you work for another organization relating to homelessness

Finally, we learned that only a few of you who engage with us on Facebook and Twitter are active, contributing members of NCH. We know budgets are tight all around, but if you’re able to become a member, this holiday season is a great time to do so!

We have already begun to use this information to (hopefully!) improve our social networking interactions with you. But is there more we can be doing? Are we making a difference by educating with news stories, sharing the faces and voices of those who experience homelessness, or spreading awareness of what our great partners are doing across the country?

We’re always open to more suggestions, or examples of successes you have had in mobilizing your online community. Please feel free to leave your comments or contact me at 202-462-4822 or mhustings@nationalhomeless.org.

Guest Post: National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Advocacy, Awareness

Today’s guest post is from Dr. Norweeta Milburn, Professor at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at the University of California, Los Angeles. Dr. Milburn chaired the American Psychological Association’s (APA) 2009 Presidential Task Force on Psychology’s Contribution to End Homelessness.  The task force released a great report, and NCH is proud to partner with the APA’s Public Interest Directorate to raise awareness among psychologists of how we can all work together to end homelessness.

As I walk my daily early morning route up Westwood Avenue from the parking garage to my UCLA office in the old Neuropsychiatric Institute, it is impossible not to see what appears to be bundles of clothing in doorways are actually people sleeping. Homeless people have found a place to sleep that provides some security and shelter in the doorways of office buildings and store fronts in a relatively safe area.

In the mild Southern California October evenings, the doorways do not seem like such a bad spot to spend the night, but people will still be there, layered deeper in their worn clothing, when our weather turns wet and cold.  In the late afternoon, homeless people are sitting on benches or walking on the sidewalks; some are seriously mentally and actively psychotic, but some are not.  Other homeless people come to Westwood to panhandle but do not sleep on the streets.

Photo courtesy of davco9200 on Flickr

There is a man that I exchange “hello, how are you and have a nice day” with every day who gets off a bus in the morning to walk to his “spot” to stand with a cup asking for donations.  His cup says he is a homeless veteran.  There are other homeless veterans on the street in wheelchairs.  In the shadow of one of the world’s great universities, Westwood is no different from urban areas in many other cities where homeless people seem to be everywhere.

Before we accept this as the inevitable result of the new normal, what can be done to move public policy further in the direction of ending homelessness?   The American Psychological Association’s Task Force on Psychology’s Contribution to End Homelessness, it ‘s report “Helping People without Homes: The Role of Psychologists and Recommendations to Advance Training, Research, Practice and Policy,” advocates for  federal legislation to create supportive housing and safe low-income housing across geographic areas (e.g., urban, suburban and rural) and for legislation that provides  for mental health and a range of other needed services for homeless people: low-income housing, supplemental income, food and benefits.  Even in this era of limited funding, the needs of people who are homeless cannot be ignored.

What do I do personally?  Sometimes I put money in their cups. I try to always acknowledge homeless people who approach me – say  hello when greeted with a hello, and say sorry, no, when asked for spare change and don’t want to give it.  I also carry granola bars in my car (as suggested by another psychologist).

I wasn’t sure about this tactic, but one day after I had parked my car on the street, a rather sullen homeless young person sitting in a doorway by the parking spot asked for spare change.  I said no, sorry, but asked if he would like a few granola bars.  He actually perked up, lost his adolescent attitude and said yes.    His entire demeanor changed – I don’t think it was just the food, it was the fact that another person had taken a few minutes to stop and connect with him. Sometimes that is all we can do daily – continue to remember that homeless people are fellow human beings just like us and those brief social connections do matter.

NCH Headquarters Resembles a Portrait Art Gallery with a Homelessness Theme

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Advocacy

Over the years, NCH has had many homeless-related artwork either loaned or donated to us.   If you come visit us at our office located in the Church of the Pilgrims here in Washington, DC, you will find the following exhibits at the NCH office, and in the Church’s Bird Room Art Gallery and Pilgrimage Retreat Center.  Each year several thousand people get the chance to view our artwork.

If you are interested in checking out our artwork or borrowing our artwork for a special event, please contact us.  Also, if you are an artist who has done homelessness related artwork or know of an artist who has, please consider loaning or donating the artwork to us and or letting your artist friend know about our interest.

Portraits of Homelessness, Frank Russell Four paintings depicting homelessness in Baltimore grace our walls.  Mr. Russell also has loaned his paintings and drawings to Health Care for the Homeless in Baltimore.

“Giving Back”, Alan B. Tuttle—These five paintings depict the lives of homeless people with the goal of raising awareness of the problem of homelessness.  Alan resides and works in Oxbow, New York.

Home Street Home (1984), by Fran Adler and Kira Corser.   24 artworks, each with a photograph and poem.  This exhibit is a collaborative photography-poetry exhibition by photographer Kira Corser and poet Frances Payne Adler.  This exhibit was an artistic response to the homelessness crisis in San Diego in the mid-1980’s.

Homeless T-Shirt Quilts, by the late Dorothy Hand.    Since NCH’s founding in 1982, staff and board members have traveled the country to mobilize the grassroots to do advocacy on homelessness issues.   During these travels we came across a number of poverty-related t-shirts that reflect our extensive grassroots network.  As you can only wear one t-shirt at a time, we thought a better idea would be to have these cutting-edge t-shirts made into quilts.

All six quilts were done by the late Dorothy Hand, a quilter from Cincinnati.  She created the quilts in an effort to raise awareness of the homelessness issue.  Her daughter and granddaughter continue to make quilts for NCH.   So if you have a favorite homelessness/poverty-related t-shirt, please send our way.

Images of Homelessness (1999), Tammy DeGruchy (Grubbs).   The Images of Homelessness is the largest (22 portraits) ever oil painting exhibit on homelessness..  Artist DeGruchy painted the exhibit for the National Coalition for the Homeless. The exhibit raises awareness on homeless issues and represents who becomes homeless.

Tammy Grubbs now resides in Pipestone, Minnesota.   She continues to volunteer doing portraits for NCH.  Two of her paintings have been turned into posters that are available for purchase on NCH’s website.

Locked Out, Pat Apt—a 14 piece exhibit—linoleum prints (black ink on brown wrapping paper).  This exhibit seeks to explore how in a society as wealthy as ours, that allows persistent hunger and homelessness to exist.

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