Educating the Public About Homelessness
Samantha Hordes is a participant in the Religious Action Center's Machon Kaplan summer program for college students. She is a student at American University and an intern at the National Coalition for the Homeless.
Although I live in DC throughout the school year, my internship at the National Coalition for the Homeless and my participation in the Machon Kaplan program have introduced me to information about DC that I never knew of. The average week here consists of museums, restaurants, trolley rides and other exciting activities I don't usually have time for during the school year.
When I first learned I'd be interning at NCH, I was eager to get started because I had worked with them before, working as a volunteer to administer a survey about attacks on homeless people in Washington, DC. I also had the opportunity to see one of their Faces of Homelessness Speakers' Bureaus a couple years ago. These panels take place in different locations across the U.S. to educate different groups about homelessness. First, a moderator comes in to introduce the speakers by giving statistics and information about homelessness. Then two to three currently or formerly homeless people speak to the group about their personal story and allow the group to ask questions. These panels show young people what homelessness is like rather than allowing stereotypes to dictate knowledge. The other day I had the opportunity to moderate a speakers' bureau in front of a group of about twenty teenagers. It was a great experience educating others about the issue of homelessness and hearing someone who went through homelessness tell his story
Homelessness is an important issue to Jewish community because various Jewish texts intruct us to help others who have less than we do. We are instructed, "Share your bread with the hungry, and take the wretched poor into your home; when you see the naked, clothe him and do not ignore your own kin (Isaiah 58:7)." While this may not literally mean you should take the homeless into your own home, it teaches that we should not ignore others who may be less fortunate than us. I am currently working on various projects for NCH, such as updating a few of their fact sheets covering topics such as the civil rights of homeless people, "Who is Homeless?" and information on the income of homeless people.
NCH and the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty recently released a report titled Homes Not Handcuffs: The Criminalization of Homelessness in U.S. Cities, which identifies the top ten U.S. cities that are "meanest" to homeless people. The report includes information about 273 cities nationwide and focuses on specific city measures from 2007 and 2008 that target homeless persons, such as laws that make it illegal to sleep, eat or sit in public spaces. Based on the report, top 10 meanest cities are:
- Los Angeles , CA
- St. Petersburg . FL
- Orlando , FL
- Atlanta , GA
- Gainesville , FL
- Kalamazoo, MI
- San Francisco, CA
- Honolulu, HI
- Bradenton, FL
- Berkeley, CA