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Posts Tagged ‘McKinney-Vento Act’

Reflections on Youth Homelessness

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Youth

http://youthsayyes.org/tag/youth-leadership/

Last week, we attended a briefing called “Voices of Youth- Discussion on Homelessness.” This forum, held on Capital Hill, brought together 13 students from around the country who were formerly and/or currently homeless, who had received a scholarship to pursue a college education on behalf of the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY)’s LeTendre Education Fund, and was originally a program of NCH. Their stories were inspiring and heart wrenching, leaving everyone in the room with tears in their eyes. As observers and advocates, we hope to shed light on some of the difficulties these youth faced and the ways in which we, as a society, can better create a support system for youth in need.

Each student’s experience of homelessness was caused by some sort of domestic circumstance, whether it be a parent struggling with addiction, a death in the family, a dispute at home, or simply poverty itself. Each inevitably had to adopt a mobile lifestyle, relying on no one but themselves. Wanting to blend in with their peers, most of the students never revealed their state of homelessness to others and were often times, too ashamed to ask for help.

One of the young women from the discussion made a clear point to help the audience understand that homeless youth do not choose to put themselves in situations that lead to homelessness. She argued that they are not “bad” youth, but rather struggle with a variety of issues including family problems, neglect, abuse, etc. Therefore, they felt as though they had no choice but to leave home.

Having lived with friends or distant family members, the students lacked permanent shelter. At one point or another, all had lived in a car, and a few mentioned sleeping in parks or on the street. The stress of their living conditions- namely, being forced to find food and shelter, to care for themselves, and to continue attending school- was the most inhibiting barrier they faced, as it caused lapses in their education and delayed their diplomas. Furthermore, because they were young, they were all unaware of services that were available to them. Many did not gain access to government aid until well into their homelessness.

All of the students attributed their educational success to the help of a single individual, someone who they believed “saved their life” and helped them find the resources they needed to survive. Though each student had a unique story and voice of their own, it was evident that their homelessness caused them all to experience a feeling of abandonment. It appeared as though all that was needed was a steady support system, for this would have lessened the burden that they carried on their shoulders. They needed someone who cared, and more than anything, they needed reassurance that their hardships were not deserved but rather, unfairly placed upon them.

As interns at the National Coalition for the Homeless, we have learned that homelessness can happen to anyone, at any time. Now more than ever, we understand that youth homelessness is a problem that is all too common, yet it falls under the radar and is drastically under-represented in statistics. More importantly, the students’ stories taught us that they too hold great passions and dreams, and they simply want someone who will believe in them. Now, despite their hardships, these students will not only finish college, but they will also volunteer their time to advocate on behalf of other homeless youth.

By: Jessica Ray & Kelsi Sullivan

The Controversial “Safety Net” (1981 to 2012)

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Advocacy, Awareness, Policy Advocacy, Poverty

By Michael Stoops

Over the past several decades, the usage and connotation of the term ‘safety net’ has changed, but the need has only increased. The ‘safety net’ encompasses various programs, such as Medicaid for children and families, Medicare for the elderly, Food Stamp Programs and more. The National Coalition for the Homeless has always been in support of safety net services as vital resources for preventing and ending homelessness, and giving our neighbors the dignity to feed and care for themselves and their families. NCH’s support of the safety net is best illustrated through our newsletter, Safety Network, which was sent out from 1981 through 2006. Although the name for the newsletter was chosen based off former president Ronald Reagan’s quote on the safety net, the usage and attitude towards the safety net has undoubtedly transformed over the past few decades, as demonstrated by the quotes below.

When he announced his budget proposals Feb. 18, in an address to a joint session of Congress, President Reagan declared: ”We will continue to fulfill the obligations that spring from our national conscience. Those who through no fault of their own must depend on the rest of us, the poverty-stricken, the disabled, the elderly, all those with true need, can rest assured that the social safety net of programs they depend on are exempt from any cuts.”   President Ronald Reagan, February, 1981.

Former U.S.  Rep. Cynthia McKinney, Green Party Presidential Candidate 2008, at a Citizen’s Commission on 9/11, stated that “this time, not just for supporting me, but also for not being bamboozled into submission by questionable insider backroom characters who want to take away our freedoms, send our children off to war, and rip to shreds the social safety net for the American people.” September 2004.

President Barack Obama, during his senator years, said that “Privatization is not something that I would consider. And the reason is this: Social Security is the floor. That’s the baseline. Social Security is that safety net that can’t be frayed and that we shouldn’t put at risk.” July 2007

Ron Paul, Republican Presidential Nominee, is opposed to the safety net. He thinks that “it does work for some people, but overall it ultimately fails, because you spend more money than you have, and then you borrow to the hilt. Now we have to borrow $800 billion a year just to keep the safety net going. It’s going to collapse when the dollar collapses, you can’t even fight the war without this borrowing. And when the dollar collapses, you can’t take care of the elderly of today. They’re losing ground. Their cost of living is going up about 10%, even though the government denies it, we give them a 2% cost of living increase.”  Newsweek interview by Howard Fineman, December 2007.

“For people who have for been putting their hard-earned money into the system for years, the president’s idea would replace their safety net with a risky gamble with no assurance of a stable return of investment.” – U.S. Rep. Grace Napolitano  for California’s 38th congressional district March 2009.

 “I understand that during this financial crisis, when countless numbers of our family members, neighbors, colleagues, and friends have seen their retirement savings disappear, the safety net of Social Security is more important than ever. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that next year, for the first time since 1975, beneficiaries will not get a cost of living adjustment. I support emergency measures to ensure that beneficiaries receive a cost of living increase, ensuring that social security’s promises are kept. As Senator, I will fight to keep the promise of Social Security and preserve it for future generations. I am committed to ensuring that benefits are not reduced, and that those paying into the system now will be guaranteed their benefits later.”  -Martha Cloakey, Democratic nominee from MA for special election in the Senate and current Attorney General of MA, December 2009.

“Democrats know that the simple math of health care will eventually shred the social safety net they seek to protect.’” National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), Washington Post, June 2011.

California U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, former chairwoman of the Progressive Caucus, said she has faith in Obama’s ability to cut a fair deal, but when asked about potential cuts to Medicaid, Lee said, “No, you can’t cut that.” “That’s a safety net, really,” Lee told POLITICO.  – U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, U.S. Representative for California’s 9th congressional district, June 2011.

“Social Security is America’s social safety net for the elderly and disabled. The program was enacted in 1935 in the midst of the Great Depression as part of the New Deal. While it initially sparked controversy, it has over seven decades proved to be a success, providing needed benefits to millions of Americans in need and serving as a source of retirement income for America’s middle class.” – Republican Texas Governor Rick Perry’s Proposal to turn Social Security over to the States, from White Paper, September 2011.

“I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there,” Romney told CNN. “If it needs repair, I’ll fix it. I’m not concerned about the very rich, they’re doing just fine. I’m concerned about the very heart of the America, the 90 percent, 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling.” Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney, January 2012

“What the poor need is a trampoline so they can spring up, so I am for replacing the safety net with a trampoline.” – Republican Presidential Candidate Newt Gingrich, February 2012.

Republican U.S. Rep. Allen West (FL) is disturbed that food stamps buy much more than food these days.  “I happened to drive by a gas station in Pompano Beach, Fla., in the heart of Congressional District 22, the district I represent.  In front of the gas station were large banners proclaiming, ‘We accept EBT SNAP cards.’  This is not something we should be proud to promote,” the Florida Republican said.  “Now we see a growing number of businesses in this country, including sit-down and fast food restaurants, standalone and gas station convenience markets, and even pharmacies eager to accept SNAP benefits, Rep. West observed.  “The measure of success for our social safety net programs should be that fewer and fewer Americans must rely on them, not more and more,” he added.  – Washington Times April 2012.

“Voluntary Hunger in Protest of Involuntary Hunger”

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Advocacy, Awareness, Civil Rights, Policy Advocacy

By: Brian Stone

Today, it seems as though there is normalized acceptance of a segment of our population not having enough food or shelter. The proof is last week’s budget cuts which will push those without food, homes and medical care into deeper despair. 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.

In the 1980’s Michael Stoops, Director of Community Organizing at NCH, and Mitch Snyder, a life-time advocate for the homeless, fasted on the steps of the Capitol Building to pressure President Reagan into signing the first legislative protection for homeless people, which eventually became the McKinney-Vento Act. This act provided blanket protection and assistance to the homeless. Mitch and other advocates also fasted to get the federal government to transform an abandoned federal building in D.C. into a shelter for the homeless. Out of this fast the Community for Creative Non-Violence (CCNV) emerged, and remains D.C.’s largest shelter.

Former Ambassador Tony Hall has an unwavering commitment to poor people and poverty issues. While in Congress, Hall frequently authored legislation with expansive protections for the poor and vulnerable. In 1993, Hall, who was an Ohio Congressman at the time, was dismayed by Congress’s decision to end the bi-partisan House Select Committee on Hunger. This resulted in his going on a 22-day hunger fast. He felt that Congress had lost sight of the issues that our most vulnerable face. The outcome of this fast was substantial. Congress agreed to fund the Congressional Hunger Center, of which I am honored to be a 17th Class fellow; and the World Bank pledged to support efforts to end world hunger.

Eighteen years later Hall feels that Congress has once again lost sight of the plight of the poor, those who stand to bare the brunt of the budget cuts. On March 28, 2011, Hall embarked on another fast to protest the current budget cuts. If you would like to join Tony Hall or get more information on the fast, check out: http://hungerfast.org/.

We must remember that people’s lives hang in the balance. What is more important than cuts made in the name of lowering the deficit is the impact that those cuts will have on a large group of people. Balancing the budget at the expense of the poor and vulnerable is not the answer. This will only prove to further complicate the lives of those who currently don’t have enough, with the likely end result being eventual increases in social support programs.

Hunger fasts, like Michael’s, Mitch’s, Tony’s and many others, have provided protections for the vulnerable and changed policy in the U.S. The time is now. Will you join the circle of protection around the most vulnerable members of our society?

Brian is a Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellow with the Civil Rights division at the National Coalition for the Homeless.

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