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Posts Tagged ‘National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week’

#NHHAW – From Street to Cell

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Awareness, Civil Rights, Criminalization, Food Sharing

From Street to Cell: The Criminalization of Homelessness – Deirdre Walsh

It’s a cold, winter evening. There is no place for you to go. You have no place to sleep, no money, and no options. You find a corner near a subway terminal where warm air blows. You settle in for the night in hopes that tomorrow you will find shelter. All of a sudden, you are woken by a police officer conducting a sweep and told that you are not allowed to sleep in the terminal. If you protest, you risk being arrested. You are out of options and it is colder than it was before.

For too many Americans, this scenario is a reality. Instead of helping people to get the services they need, state and local governments are criminalizing everyday activities that target people experiencing homelessness. Theoretically, new measures seek to combat the rising numbers of homeless women, men, and children, but do little to address the causes of poverty that lead to homelessness. Criminalization can be carried out in a variety of ways. Carrying out sweeps of city areas known to be hubs for the homeless community while confiscating personal property including tents, bedding, clothing, and/or medication. Local ordinances are enforced that prohibit panhandling or sleeping in cars and parks. “Quality of life” requirements are issued pertaining to public activity and hygiene. Actions such as sharing food with people experiencing homelessness in public spaces are made illegal in an effort to keep homeless people from congregating in public spaces. The criminalization of homelessness has many faces, but it has one goal to reduce the visible signs of poverty on the streets of US cities and towns.

Many cities and tourist locations hope these ordinances will reduce the visibility of homelessness and poverty. News and media outlets have reported the various attempts to remove homeless individuals from street corners and sleep on park benches. Cities such as Honolulu, Fort Lauderdale, and Dallas impose anti-homeless laws in order to keep homelessness away from the eyes of passing tourists. They start with one ordinance that does not seem too bad and then expand into 5-10 restrictions on life-sustaining activities. When these cities succeed, homeless individuals have almost no choice but to relocate (if economically feasible) or go to jail because it is just too unreasonable to try to stay on the move and comply with all of the restrictions.

While cities across the country are focusing on developing new strategies to “clean the streets” and make homelessness illegal, the causes of poverty and homelessness go unaddressed. The leading cause of homelessness is the lack of affordable housing. Americans spend close to half of their income on housing and are left with little to use for additional expenses including food, clothing and healthcare. The demand for shelters is not met, affordable housing and rental assistance is not attainable for millions and healthcare to treat mental illnesses and addictions is not provided. Millions of homeless men and women are labeled “criminals” for being poor and disenfranchised. Many state and local governments seek to sweep the issue of homelessness off the street, out of sight, and out of mind, which New York City did in the 1980’s. Poverty in America, however, must be addressed. Criminalizing homelessness does not remove the problem from the streets. It infringes on the rights of homeless persons and abides an endemic cycle of poverty.

In order to address poverty and homelessness in the United States today, it would be more beneficial for government officials and policy makers to look at the journey from street to home instead of street to cell. The criminalization of homelessness does not end homelessness. It only sustains the suffering of individuals today and ensures of future of poverty for tomorrow.

Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week and Youth Homelessness

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Awareness, Uncategorized

Why you should think about youth homelessness this Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week by Deirdre Walsh, NCH Intern

Youth homelessness is this year’s central theme for Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. While the issues associated with living in poverty are difficult for all, homeless youths encounter unique obstacles when trying to secure housing, employment, health care, and emergency services. Discrimination and a lack of opportunities put American youths at great risk to be on the streets without access to shelter, appropriate resources, and protection. The National Campaign for Youth Shelter seeks to provide all young people, ages 24 and under with immediate access to safe shelter, affirming the principles that no young person in the United States should be left homeless in the streets. This commitment calls attention to the causes of youth homelessness and its troublesome existence in the United States today.

Each year, as many as 500,000 unaccompanied youths experience homelessness. Many homeless young people have fled abusive homes, left or aged out the foster care system without resources, or been rejected by their families because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Increased discrimination against the homeless youth population is leading thousands to life on the street and the need is greater than ever for shelter beds and resources. The National Campaign for Youth Shelter calls for an immediate commitment of 22,000 shelter beds and services to match the impending influx of youths requesting services. The campaign also calls for a more accurate and comprehensive effort to count the number of homeless youth in the nation in order to determine the number of beds that are needed over the next decade. It is only through understanding the ongoing issue and realities of homeless youth that their needs can be address.

Schools and community groups can support this campaign. When planning events for this year’s H&H Week, event organizers can shine an important light on vulnerable youth populations. NCH is encouraging groups to take actions that will be matched around the country to start a movement that will keep fighting long after Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. Find your local shelter that provides resources specifically to homeless youth and see what they need or what resources they lack. Advocate on the behalf of discriminated LGBTQ youths to your local, state, and federal officials. Help your community know what resources are needed and raise funds and materials for your local shelter. Our society cannot sustain the lack of resources for homeless youth. There is only 1 bed available for every 125 homeless youth. Awareness and advocacy this Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week can help to increase the number of youth shelter beds increase and decrease the number of homeless youth on the streets.

Download the Planning Guide for advice on organizing youth-focused awareness events.

How to Plan for Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Awareness, Poverty

Planning for National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week, An Organizer’s Perspective – By Deirdre Walsh, NCH Intern

Planning events for National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week can seem daunting. What will you do? Will the events be oriented towards service or education? How do you know that you are planning the right type of event? These are all common questions when starting the planning process, but the most important thing to remember is that you are not alone. Last year, over 750 high schools, colleges, community groups, and faith-based organizations nationwide hosted events including clothing drives, speaking engagements, educational films, and voluntarily nights without a home to understand the struggles related to the experience of homelessness. Now it is your turn to look at the impacts of poverty around you, educate yourself, and call your communities to action to help end hunger and homelessness!

The planning process must start off with two major elements. The first is a team to brainstorm and execute programs. Bring together individuals from different backgrounds who share an enthusiasm for helping to end poverty. Volunteers can be individuals who donate their time to their local soup kitchen, community leaders, and individuals who are or have experienced homelessness. Their commitment to the cause will be a part of everything you do and show others why they too should become involved. The second is a theme. It may be cliché, but the theme is everything! It helps you to clarify your goals and prevents your programming from becoming muddled. This year, the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) is encouraging groups to focus on youth homelessness, in honor of the launch of the National Campaign for Youth Shelter. With only 4,000 shelter beds for as many as 500,000 young people (16-24 years old), NCH recognizes that the time has come for us all to fight for more safe shelter for vulnerable youths in our communities. No matter what aspect of poverty you choose to highlight, a unifying theme is a way to bring your passions and ideas together to make your week a success!

National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week is dedicated to education and awareness about poverty-related issues within our local communities and across the nation. Poverty has many different causes and there are a variety of factors affecting those experiencing poverty and homelessness today. It is wise to think outside of the box and go beyond stereotypes to create awareness programs that are diverse, unique, and creative. An important element to planning an educational program is to know your audience. On a college campus, students embrace volunteerism and enjoy making toiletry kits, trail mix packs on-the-go, and sandwiches. Your local community group may want to organize a clothing drive or Oxfam Hunger Banquet while your faith-based organization can host a round table discussion to discuss poverty, its causes, and how it can be eliminated.

Engage your community! Some of the most prevalent needs may be around the corner. Rather than make assumptions, see what your local soup kitchen or community center needs. If you invite a speaker, invite someone who is local and can share experiences within the community. Engagement with local organizations and individuals has the potential to establish long-lasting relationships and service opportunities that can extend your efforts beyond H&H Week. The National Coalition for the Homeless can provide you with many more ideas for events and educational resources. Check out the 2014 manual to be inspired.

Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week brings people together from across the country to educate and promote change for some of the country’s most dire issues. You can be a part of this movement and help your community become a part of the solution. Planning your events is the first step to making hunger and homelessness a thing of the past. After you have planned your events, don’t forget to register them on the NCH website to become part of our national map and let participants in your area and across the country know what you are doing to celebrate Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week 2014!

National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week 2014

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