The National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) supports today’s Supreme Court ruling enabling the expansion of medical coverage to those most in need. Homeless people suffer from multiple health problems at a higher rate than those who aren’t, yet 55% have no medical insurance. Increased access to Medicaid will provide medical services to the country’s most vulnerable citizens who would otherwise remain uncovered. Such an increase will facilitate management and recovery from untreated medical problems, as well as prevent many from entering homelessness due to unmanageable medical bills. While NCH applauds this initial step towards change, it will continue to advocate for a health care system that guarantees access and eliminates all financial barriers to health care services for all Americans. NCH looks forward to discussing equitable and practical solutions to ensure that all homeless people have equal access to medical coverage.
The National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) supports today’s Supreme Court ruling upholding sound healthcare legislation and affirming individual mandates. Today’s ruling brings us closer to recognizing that all Americans should have access to medical care, regardless of financial or health status. The individual mandate will increase affordable healthcare access to more of our country’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens. While NCH applauds this initial step towards change, it will continue to advocate for a health care system that guarantees access and eliminates all financial barriers to health care services for all Americans. NCH looks forward to discussing equitable and practical solutions to ensure that all homeless people have access to medical coverage.
Alison Dinmore is a third year law student at the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law working on her J.D. and a certificate in Public Law and Policy with a concentration in Housing Law.
“Through my experiences volunteering in legal aid clinics, numerous homeless shelters, a low-income, medical treatment facility, and non-profit policy firms, I have seen that often unavoidable circumstances can force an individual or their family into the state of homelessness. I believe that members of the legal profession not only have a moral imperative to do everything in our power to prevent homelessness from occurring, but also to ensure that it no longer continues to adversely affect society’s better interests. I chose to intern with NCH this summer because it is uniquely positioned at the national level to provide homeless individuals with opportunities they lack to empower them to help themselves, as well as affect broader-reaching change through education and advocacy. I intend to continue learning more about policy and causes of homelessness so that upon my completion of law school, I will be better equipped to help create and implement real and lasting solutions to end and prevent homelessness from occurring.”
Jake Walters is a junior at Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts, studying Sociology and History.
Growing up in the suburbs I always felt sheltered and unaware of the world around me. After taking a few sociology classes in college I felt that I had gained some deeper understanding of society, but this was only through books and in a classroom. This internship, or probably any, can’t truly give me first-hand knowledge of the inequalities many people deal with, but it’s a practical step into a world where I can help the people who I have read so much about. It’s a way for me to see the world in a new light and to further my understanding of how society grants privileges to some and not to others. The reality is for everything I can do to help homeless individuals there is just as much that they can do to help me see the world in a more realistic light, and interning with the National Coalition for the Homeless will allow me to help myself just as much as it will allow me to help others.
Jesica Ray is a junior at Dickinson College, located outside of Pennsylvania. She is a Law & Policy major.
“I have lived in New Jersey my entire life and was always too afraid to look at the world outside of my comfortable hometown. I would say my life has been pretty sheltered, and most notably, safe. However, last summer I worked at Lacoste in the Atlantic City Outlets in NJ and was shocked by the reality of what I learned in school or read on the news. Who knew that just 5 miles outside of my home, there was a world of poverty, homelessness, and pain! Long story short, I met a homeless woman named Joanne*, who showed me that homelessness is not a choice and that they are people just like you and I. For this reason, among many, I am now at the National Coalition for the Homeless, and will dedicate my time researching and issues surrounding homeless youth.”
Katherine Nguyen is a rising sophomore at the Rutgers Camden School of Nursing in Camden, NJ, and is also the Homeless Advocacy Fellow from the Bonner Foundation.
“My primary project at the National Coalition for the Homeless is an initiative called Homeless People Action Networks (HPAN). I will be reaching out to state and city homeless coalitions around the country to create advocacy groups completely comprised of currently or formerly homeless people so that these advocacy groups can have the most authentic voices for their concerns. The purpose of HPAN is to connect all of these advocacy groups into a central, collaborative network that can act as a guide for those seeking help and services. This is an initial organizing effort on behalf of the NCH, and ultimately the hope is that HPAN will continue to run independently after the project is off the ground and running.”
Kelsi Sullivan is a senior at The College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA. She is a Religious Studies major and an Asian Studies concentrator.
“I could not think of a better place to be this summer than amidst people who are passionate about what they do and committed to making a visible difference in the world. Homelessness is something that could happen to anyone and it is important to give a voice to those who are traditionally voiceless. This summer, I hope to learn the different ways in which we can prevent homelessness and create viable solutions for the future that will end homelessness all together. Theologian Ellie Wiesel once said: ‘The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.’ So, in a world full of indifference, its time to be an active citizen dedicated to making positive change for those who need it most.”
Lauren Karl is a senior at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pa. where she is studying History, Political Science and Values, Ethics and Social Action.
“I have always been interested in how service, advocacy and activism are connected. The National Coalition for the Homeless is amazingly dedicated to the people they serve, not only as individuals, but also as part of a larger movement. This summer I will have the chance to act not only as an advocate, but also encourage others to advocate for themselves. It is through this second action that I believe real change can occur; once a person is empowered to speak on their own behalf they are far more likely to successful achieve their goals. I am very excited to be here for the summer and am confident my experience will be phenomenal.”
Sahana Malik is a senior at the University of Michigan studying political science and psychology.
“Growing up in a small economically-depressed town in Ohio, I was able to see on an intimate level what it means to struggle for money. Some of the people I personally knew were facing problems obtaining basic necessities for survival. Although these people were not homeless, they lived with the fear of possibly becoming homeless. I firmly believe not enough is being done today to help people living on the streets of America, and I want my generation to spur a change. As an activist looking to specialize in human rights law, I wanted to work for the National Coalition for the Homeless in order to contribute to the efforts to protect the civil liberties of the homeless. I am privileged to be given the opportunity to turn my passion into action.”
Marc McCue is a Summer VISTA volunteer from Anaheim, California.
“I am happy to be working as an intern with the National Coalition for the Homeless because homelessness is a very personal subject for me. I spend two years of my life sleeping in abandoned houses, warehouses and bus benches. With the help of public and private organizations I was given a place to live and the opportunity to recreate my life. I believe no matter what the reason for homelessness is everybody deserves a safe place to call home. NCH is working on a national level to help provide housing for many individuals and families. It is an honor to be working with the National Coalition for the Homeless and doing my part to not only provide shelter to those who are already homeless, but to eliminate homelessness altogether.”
Meghana Sthanam is a rising junior at Vanderbilt University studying Neuroscience and Cellular and Molecular Biology.
“Coming from Birmingham, Alabama, I’ve personally become very aware of the plight of homelessness in the city. For the past several years, I’ve done scientific research in a laboratory, but this summer I wanted to somehow more directly benefit the community. So I turned to the National Coalition for the Homeless, an organization I saw that has clearly enacted so much change nationwide. At home and at school, I became cognizant of the less fortunate around me, even though I live in the affectionately termed ‘Vanderbubble’ and it became more difficult to passively allow such injustices to occur so close to me. I am so thankful to be part of such a commendable advocacy group. I am very passionate about my project on LGBT homelessness, and I hope that my summer here will make an impact!”
Zach Stone is a sophomore at Colorado College studying political science and religion.
“I’m from Bethesda, MD and have lived in the greater DC area all my life. Here at NCH, I am primarily working with the Faces of Homelessness Speakers’ Bureau, a program that consists of individuals who have experienced homelessness first hand. These individuals give presentations across the country, sharing their experiences and expressing what they believe can be done to combat the injustice that is homelessness. I was driven to come work for NCH because of their ongoing reputation as a non-profit committed to achieving their goals. I knew, as an intern at NCH, I would be given the opportunity to do real hands on work and make a visible impact on the surrounding community.”
And check out this post (Part 1 and Part 2) by Taylor Southall, a Summer AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer working through NCH’s program at the Community Council for the Homeless at Friendship Place.
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