Sign Mr. Abbott’s petition to repeal these food-sharing restrictions in Fort Lauderdale!
Sign Mr. Abbott’s petition to repeal these food-sharing restrictions in Fort Lauderdale!
Living in a self-storage unit is neither safe nor legal, but it does occur – for a variety of reasons. According to a SpareFoot survey of nonprofits that help the homeless, it’s unusual but not unheard of.
“Being homeless, according to a friend, is like being a turtle,” said Michael Stoops, director of community organizing for the Washington, D.C.-based National Coalition for the Homeless. “You’re carrying everything you own on your back.”
Homeless people typically rent storage units to keep their most precious belongings safe and to preserve what they can of their former life, according to Stoops.
For the survey, SpareFoot contacted 100 homeless services organizations in the country’s 50 most populated metro areas. SpareFoot received 41 responses from nonprofits in 30 of those metro areas. The organizations that responded to the survey serve more than 120,000 people a year. Most provide emergency shelter, and many also provide transitional and long-term services, such as job training and health care.
The survey results: Five organizations (12 percent) responded that current or recent clients had lived in a storage unit and reported 14 such cases within the past three years. Five more responded they’d heard about people doing this, but had no specific reports from current or recent clients. The remaining 31 (76 percent) had not heard of people living in storage units.
“The majority of homeless folks are just like you and I,” Stoops said. “They’re chronically normal. All they need is a place they can afford to live in, a job that pays a decent wage and health care.”
To read the entire blog post, visit Sparefoot.com.
There are nearly half a million unaccompanied young people in this country who experience homelessness each year. They are on their own, without parental or institutional support, trying to navigate a complicated system at a time in their lives when everything is already uncertain and often difficult.
Stability is fundamental for proper mental and physical development and for the chance to receive a decent education. We cannot abide the current youth homelessness crisis. We, at NCH, are spearheading the National Campaign for Youth Shelter, along with the Ali Forney Center in NYC, to demand that every young person in America has access to safe shelter.
You can do your part by joining the National Campaign for Youth Shelter and fighting for homeless youths in your community!
When I moved to DC to intern with NCH, I knew that I would gain a new perspective on the housing policies in America, but never did I think that the nation’s capitol would be suffering from such a crisis. In January 2014, a Point-in-Time count showed that a total of 7,748 people experienced homelessness in the District of Columbia. This number increased 12.9% from the previous year’s count. While cities surrounding the metropolitan area have decreased their homeless populations, the District has not seen much change. In fact, D.C.’s homeless population continues to rise at an alarming rate.
It’s important to first recognize that there are city officials who have fought hard to push forward possible solutions to this issue. It wouldn’t be fair to say that our officials haven’t done anything to try and curb this issue. Legislation has been introduced and passed. Plans to transition families from shelters to permanent homes are being strategized. Our leaders have the will to address the issue but even with these efforts the problem has continued to spiral out of control. So the lingering question becomes, why does homelessness continue to exist at a crisis level in the nation’s capital? The answer is two simple words: affordable housing!
There are many reasons that people find themselves homeless, but the lack of affordable housing remains one of the leading causes. With rents rising all around the city, what are people left to do? Some would say “go live with friends or relatives,” but a majority of the time families do not have room to accommodate others in their living space. So the next natural answer would be to report to the Public Housing Authority (PHA) and seek assistance. Thanks to the 2013 sequester and budget cuts, this has become a dead-end option. With funds being cut by 5%, PHAs across the country encounter difficulties trying to serve those in need. In fact, DC’s housing authority closed its Section 8 voucher wait list, which contained 70,000 people at the time, in April of 2013 and has not re-opened since.
After being told “NO” on several instances, the next and last resort for many people is a shelter. Many of the residents at D.C. General emergency shelter, the area’s largest family shelter, will tell you that they are thankful for the shelter and for having a roof over their heads, but it is not a place where they want to be raising a family. Many have jobs where they work long hours, just to receive a poverty level income. City officials want them to apply for assistance programs where, after their time in the program has ended, they face a rent payment of $900-$1200 depending on the size of the apartment.
Homelessness and increasing rents are serious issues that need an urgent response. Ultimately, the homeless crisis will continue to get worse unless the city invests in sustainable, affordable housing for its residents. A strong housing policy could significantly reduce the size of our current homeless population and prevent thousands of others from losing their homes. There is no reason that we cannot decrease homelessness in our city. But we must all take action.
Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week has come to a close and it is an opportunity to reflect on the work that has been done and the work that still needs to be completed. This past week, over 450 high schools, universities, faith-based organizations and community groups worked together to host over a thousand events nationwide to bring awareness to the issues of hunger and homelessness. The enthusiasm to learn more about the causes of poverty and how it can be eradicated was inspiring, but the work is far from over.
The eradication of poverty is not a suggestion for the future of the United States, but rather a requirement. If we do not address the issues of affordable housing, equal employment opportunities and funding public assistance inequality will rage on creating a further divide between the rich and poor. The National Coalition for the Homeless is committed to addressing these needs and ensuring the rights and dignity of all those affected by homelessness and poverty.
A home is a right that all Americans, no matter their age should be guaranteed. The National Campaign for Youth Shelter seeks to increase the available shelter beds for the nearly 500,000 unaccompanied homeless youths throughout the country. Despite the staggering number of homeless youths, only 4,000 shelter beds are put aside for them. This harsh reality leads many young, homeless individuals to fend for themselves on the street. For the thousands of families and adults who are at risk of losing their homes or trying to get back on their feet, we must put money back into rental assistance programs and fight to make housing more affordable.
The issues of homelessness and poverty in America must become part of the national and local agendas. Stronger grassroots networks and organizing have the ability to eradicate poverty. Let’s make Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week a catalyst for action in every community. Mass homelessness and mass hunger is a reality in our country and it shouldn’t be. Call attention to and organize against local legislation that criminalizes homelessness, cuts funding for affordable housing and ensures that the issues of the poor and homeless are constituently neglected. Make Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week your community’s catalyst for change and join together to resolve to end poverty!
National Coalition for the Homeless
Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week brings together high schools, colleges, community groups, and faith-based organizations in the common cause to educate their communities about poverty in America. The issues of hunger and homelessness, however, are more than a week’s worth of problems for many Americans. Veterans return from war suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder with little support, which too often can lead them to life on the streets. LGBTQ youth are at risk of being rejected by their families and the general public and make up close to half of all unaccompanied homeless youths in America. Women in domestic violence situations are forced to choose between an abusive home or an unstable life without a home. Families are riddled with debt from the lack of housing assistance and affordable healthcare and must decide which bills to pay or buy food for dinner. Poverty has many different faces and the causes of homelessness are just as varied as the people who endure it. The issues of hunger and homelessness cannot be fully understood or addressed in one week. Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week is just the start of what you and your local community can do year round.
How can the actions you took this November be continued year round? There are so many great ways! Make volunteering at a local soup kitchen or shelter a part of your weekly or monthly routine by asking a friend to commit to it with you. Create a community forum or book club with regular meetings meetings focused on understanding the social issues relating to poverty. Challenge different organizations to try to out-do your events each month. Make a regular date to have dinner with someone who faces food insecurity. Whatever you are comfortable with, we hope you will commit to this cause and remain an active advocate for those living in poverty.
Addressing the goals of Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week can and should be more than a week’s affair, however, starting dialogue and open discussion in your community is the first step. When people are talking about the lack of affordable housing, the criminalization of homelessness, and the discrimination against LGBT homeless youths you know that they can see past the stereotypes and understand the realities homelessness. Over 3.5 million men, women and children will go without a place to sleep and even more will be unable to feed and sustain themselves. Students, community groups and local organizations can work year round to assist and provide needed resources and have the capabilities to engage local civic leaders and policy makers to remove obstacles for America’s poor. Hunger and Homelessness may be one week in November, but the lessons and programs started can be a year round initiative for all. Bring poverty, its hardships and its causes, to the forefront of social and political discussions to give everyone a home this year. Resolve to fight poverty!
You are one of 319,247,005 American citizens. That number grows by, on average, one person every 13 seconds. With such a large pool of people, it’s hard to believe that anything you do or say will affect the laws that govern us all. It seems unlikely that any legislator would listen to you and it is intimidating to consider asking them to. As daunting as it might seem, I have seen first-hand that the American political system is designed for each of us to be able to access and influence elected officials, if we take the right steps
Anything a person does to try to influence the actions of legislators is considered lobbying. You may have a negative connotation of this word; in fact, 61% of Americans hold an unfavorable opinion of lobbyists and 81% believe that lobbyists bribe legislators for votes. However, lobbying simply means advocating for policy decisions that you or your organization would like to see. One group I’ve gotten involved with, called SAVE for All, believes budget decisions should protect low-income and vulnerable people. To encourage this, SAVE members visit the staff of Senators and Representatives who sit on funding committees and have an open dialogue about community needs and funding possibilities. These conversations involve both education about the issue and the exchange of personal opinions. This is direct lobbying: a face-to-face exchange of information and opinion.
However, lobbying doesn’t necessarily mean in-person meetings with on Capitol Hill. You can communicate with your Congressperson wherever you are, through letters, email, and phone calls. To find out how to best contact your Senators and Representatives, look up their websites at www.senate.gov and www.house.gov. On their official websites, you can also find the location of their closest district office, which is their office in your local community. When contacting your elected officials, try to pick one or two specific issues that you care about. (For ideas, go to NCH’s “Campaigns” tab!) Research the topic thoroughly and clarify your own stance on the issue. When your write, call, or present to a staff person, be clear and concise with your argument. If you called or sent a letter, ask for a response from the Congressperson, and if you met with a staffer, send a follow up email thanking them for their time.
Your elected officials can only serve your interests if they know what those interests are, so communication is essential. Engaged citizens should tell their local Representatives and Senators what they want, as the primary job of those officials is to represent the interests of their own district or state. Your senators are there to represent each person in your state and your representative works for the 732,203 people in your immediate community. They are your voice among the 319,247,005 in this country—make sure that they are saying things you agree with.
Tonight will likely be an uncomfortable and cold evening for some of the nation’s most influential business executives. In 14 cities nationwide, Covenant House will host its fourth Executive Sleep Out. The annual fundraiser brings not only financial resources to those combatting youth homelessness, but also much needed attention to the issues of hunger and homelessness. Executives will join together on behalf of the thousands of people around the country who have no place to call home. This act of sacrifice and attention will raise funds and awareness in order to protect the most innocent and forgotten members of our society.
The National Coalition for Homeless will also call upon people to take the ‘Homeless Challenge‘ or participate in ‘One Night Without a Home‘ events throughout the annual National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. Solidarity and understanding develops between participants and their peers without homes. These events then bring about greater public awareness and raise much needed funds for services and care for homeless individuals. Those who live in poverty and who do not have a home deserve the same treatment as the highest paid executives and everyone in between. By working together, both challenge participants and people experiencing homelessness can work to end homelessness.
Major fundraisers and awareness events such as Covenant House’s Sleep Outs and the National Coalition for the Homeless’ Homeless Challenge are part of a rising trend throughout the United States. Their goal is to spread awareness about poverty and its effects on the poorest of American citizens. Through these experimental learning events and projects, awareness for homelessness has a deeper meaning. Homelessness can be easily disregarded by the public if they have no understanding of the harsh realities and ordeals undergone by men, women, and children living on the streets. Sleep outs simulate just a small part of those experiences, but teach the participants that homelessness is more than statistics or stereotypes. Homelessness has many causes, many obstacles, and many faces.
With more and more experimental learning events and fundraisers, the question “do these programs actually work?” often comes to mind. The answer is YES! The place of simulated experiences in homeless advocacy is critical. They bridge the gap between the haves and have-nots by uniting people for one cause: to end homelessness. Statistics and facts about poverty are one-dimensional and easy to disregard. One evening on the streets cannot encompass the entirety of life without a home or financial insecurity, but it can help participants to see beyond the factual side of poverty and see the faces of hunger and homelessness. Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week is an opportunity for people around the country to join together and bring political and social attention to the impacts of mass poverty and homelessness. Sleep outs not only help finance the efforts of nonprofits such as Covenant House, but also bring people together in support of those who are usually forgotten. Solidarity between all Americans, no matter their financial or housing situations, will enable thousands more to resolve to fight poverty!
It’s time to get creative with the methods of addressing people’s concerns while they experience homelessness and to find new roads to housing. Technologically-savvy individuals can be a powerful and important new group of supporters for anti-poverty organizations. Throughout the month of November, these individuals have been challenged to think outside of the box to create innovative system designs and develop products that can be implemented in shelters and housing programs.
On November 8-9, the Tech Garden in Syracuse, NY hosted a Hunger Hack. The weekend was dedicated to the development of new tech ideas and solutions, as well as raising awareness about the issues of hunger and homelessness. The Tech Garden hosted a panel discussion to ensure that participants understood the problem at hand and the challenges currently facing service providers in the field. They challenged participants to consider the following questions:
Attendees had the opportunity to learn about hunger and homelessness, as well as the chance to brainstorm new ways tech groups can help hack hunger and homelessness. Ultimately, 25 participants representing the business, university, tech, and support services community worked with experts to develop ten fresh ideas. They range from mobile apps to employment programs for people experiencing homelessness. Check out the full event recap here.
The Hunger Hack was just one example of nationwide trend of incorporating outside groups in the brainstorming of ways to address hunger and homelessness. The Scattergood Foundation is currently sponsoring its 2015 Design Challenge dedicated to the creation of a low-cost, high-impact product that promotes resilience and improves trauma-informed care in a shelter environment. The challenge winner’s design will be implemented at Jane Addams Place, a shelter in West Philadelphia that creates a safe place for mothers and children after becoming homeless. To learn more, please visit the Design Challenge web page.
Innovative design projects and challenges such as the Hunger Hack and Design Challenge are great of examples of collaboration. Organizations of all specialties and skills can have a major impact on the lives of the hungry and homeless. If they can resolve to fight poverty so can all sectors of our society. The more people are aware of the challenges, the more innovative they can be to end those challenges. Join the movement to end hunger and homelessness today!
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.