Jake Walters believes that Membership Matters, especially to young people. Read how youth can make a difference in ending hate crimes against the homeless by becoming a member at NCH:
The Coalition’s You Don’t Need a Home to Vote campaign is aimed at spreading awareness to organizations about issues related to voting among the homeless population. In addition, the campaign aims to register numerous new homeless voters so that they can exercise their democratic right to vote. On this note, membership with the Coalition is crucial as the greater the membership to the organization, the more awareness of homeless voting issues can be spread throughout the nation. Voting discrimination is not something commonly associated with homelessness and many people do not consider it an important issue, therefore it is important that information about this issue be spread so people can be aware of how this issue reflects on homeless peoples’ invisibility in society.
I am also working on the Coalition’s 2012 Hate Crime report, which looks to spread awareness about violence conducted on people experiencing homelessness. This is another important issue that there is little awareness of, and since few states report information on violent crimes against the homeless, this information needs to be spread in other ways, such as through members of the Coalition. Having greater membership would also lead to more resources for this research, since the Coalition relies heavily on input from connected organizations and individuals who are aware of acts of violence in their local areas.
Its especially important that young people be involved on this issue because, unfortunately, the large majority of hate crimes against people experiencing homelessness are perpetrated by youth. This makes it especially important for young people to become involved in this issue so they can spread awareness of the root causes of homelessness among their peers in an effort to stop others from acquiring negative attitudes toward homeless people and then acting on these attitudes.
NCH aims to create a national network of dedicated homeless advocates; read how intern Katherine is working to expand that network and why your Membership Matters to her work:
I am an Advocacy Fellow from the Bonner Foundation at the National Coalition for the Homeless. I am currently working on a project to create a program called Homeless People Action Network (HPAN). This is an initial organizing effort to connect existing local homeless-led advocacy groups and to create new local advocacy groups in different states and cities around the country. In other words, NCH wants to help people experiencing homelessness around the country to organize and congregate. We want to see less duplication of homeless advocacy groups and more collaboration among existing groups.
Ideally, these advocacy groups would be comprised of currently or formerly homeless people so that they could have the most authentic, direct voice for their concerns. Once these advocacy groups have been formed, the purpose of HPAN is to connect all of these advocacy groups into a central, independent, collaborative, national network that can act as a community and a guide for those seeking help and services. NCH would initially provide leadership training and support for HPAN groups. Once HPAN is formed and functioning independently, NCH would remain as an affiliate and resource center.
HPAN is a call for the homeless to be their own advocates. Membership in NCH would be greatly beneficial to the HPAN movement because it would increase public awareness and provide the funds for a greater range for outreach across the country. Membership in NCH not only extends to donors, but to people experiencing homelessness, for free. NCH can refer homeless members to their local HPAN groups to receive the support they need.
I am so lucky to be a summer intern. I feel as if I was waiting to do this kind of work for a long time. I am learning so much, since it is my first real job outside of my involvement in direct community service. Working here gives young adult students the chance to increase their awareness on social issues and policy, and to build upon skills such as research, event planning, and public relations.
Steve Thomas is a member of NCH’s Faces of Homelessness Speakers Bureau and an active advocate for the rights of homeless citizens. Read his story and hear why Membership Matters to him:
“I first became involved with NCH almost five years ago. After being addicted to drugs and alcohol for forty years and having had that lead to my living on the streets of DC, homeless, for almost two years, an outreach worker found me and got me into treatment. While undergoing treatment, I was introduced to a speaker from NCH that introduced me to the organization. Immediately I realized that NCH respected me as a human being. That my past addiction issues and homelessness didn’t matter in my assessment as a person. I learned that we all had a story, and that the telling of that story of my addiction leading to homelessness could be used to educate the public. To put a face to homelessness was an essential tool in the war to end homelessness. What I didn’t know or expect was the boost to my self-esteem (which had been very low my entire life) and the first time feeling of self-worth.
NCH ignited and fueled my passion for homeless advocacy. NCH taught me to be self respectful and to expect that of others. The last five years of being a member of NCH and being a speaker with the NCH “Faces of Homelessness” Speakers Bureau has made me a better person, a more concerned person, a more informed person and a more caring person. All this has allowed me to be a forceful advocate for the homeless, THE FORGOTTEN CITIZENS.”
Find your voice and support men and women like Steve by joining NCH and make your Membership Matter!