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Posts Tagged ‘National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week’

#NHHAW – What Comes Next?

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Awareness

What’s next? Building Hunger and Homelessness Awareness beyond November – Deirdre Walsh

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!

#NHHAW – Solidarity through Experience

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Awareness, Poverty

Solidarity through Experience: Experiential Learning and its place in Homeless Advocacy – Deirdre Walsh

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!

#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.

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