CSH’s Community Activists Speak Up!

Empowering homeless people and those who were formerly homeless by sharing their individual stories encompasses the majority of the work I do through Invisible People. This type of work is critical primarily because people who are currently experiencing or have experienced homelessness are grossly underrepresented at every level from social services to political policy.
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So, when Conrad N. Hilton Foundation asked me to meet with the Corporation of Supportive Housing Community Advocates and help amplify their story, to say I was excited would be an understatement. This was an extraordinary opportunity to provide representation to those who typically don’t have a voice.

Supportive Housing Community Advocates program is designed to support formerly homeless residents of permanent supportive housing to effectively advocate for themselves and their communities. The year-long curriculum combines monthly educational trainings on topics such as housing policy, advocacy, storytelling, narrative development, and public speaking with individual coaching sessions, as well as numerous opportunities to advocate at local, state, and federal levels.

From the initial meetings it seemed like an awesome project, but little did I know how truly incredible the CSH’s Community Advocates program is. I don’t think anyone knew what to expect from our first in-person meeting as oftentimes there can be some stress from allowing a story to happen organically. That was not the case here. I walked into a collaboration between a few formerly homeless people and a facilitator developing a program to help case managers. Immediately everything flowed as if it was all meant to be.

I had never heard of such a thing as formerly homeless people helping to train case managers, but it makes so much sense. Programs like this should be much more common. We produced a few short Instagram videos that you can watch here: https://instagram.com/csh_innovate.

The next day I met with a different group of advocates, and again this group of formerly homeless people embraced my presence with kindness. In a few days, I would be joining most of these new friends during a trip to Sacramento, so we took a little time to get to know each other. Everyone had such compelling stories. One woman shared about living with schizophrenia and surviving homelessness, and it was so powerful, I used my phone and uploaded to YouTube immediately:

The following Monday, I met a small group of CSH’s Community Activists at LAX at 5:00am to fly to Sacramento. I bring this up to provide a glimpse “behind the scenes”: some of the very best moments of this journey was witnessing how this project gave formerly homeless people a purpose. This small group of individuals, now in supportive housing, were overjoyed by simply being on a shared-ride driving through downtown Sacramento. I’m sure speaking to state legislators was an experience they’ll never forget, but the whole CSH Community Advocate program provides them all with something to look forward to and to be excited about.

Having a purpose in life can never be overstated. People need to have a reason to get up in the morning. When someone goes from the streets to housing, it’s often a very scary experience. Obviously, the advocacy aspect of a “lived-experience” peer support program is invaluable, but equally important is the worth and boost in self-esteem such programs give to the people involved.

Below is embedded playlist of all three Speak Up Advocates that traveled to Sacramento. Follow the conversation and activities of our advocates via #CSHSpeakUp on social media.

Cities, Stations and Times for March’s PBS Broadcast of @home

John polishing stars + Mark_LA@home will be broadcast on public television stations in 35 states starting March 25th! The documentary is being featured on WORLD Channel programs. Help us spread the word via social media to your networks. Here is a link to graphics for each city and station you can use.   If you’d like to throw a viewing party read this.

EASTERN STANDARD TIME
Wednesday, March 25 at 7:00 PM
Thursday, March 26 at 12:00 AM, 8:00 AM and 2:00 PM
Saturday, March 28 at 1:00 PM ET

WEDU – Tampa, FL                       NHPTV – Durham, NH
WPBT – North Miami, FL               WNET – New York, NY
WUCF – Orlando, FL                     WNED – Buffalo, NY
WXEL – West Palm Beach, FL      WMHT – Troy, NY
WJCT – Jacksonville, FL               WXXI – Rochester, NY
WSRE – Pensacola, FL                 WCNY – Syracuse, NY
WGCU – Fort Myers, FL                WCFE – Plattsburgh, NY
WUFT – Gainesville, FL                 WSKG – Vestal, NY
GEOR – Atlanta, GA                      WPBS – Watertown, NY
ALAB – Birmingham, AL                WVIZ – Cleveland, OH
WGBH – Boston, MA                     WOUB – Athens, OH
WGBY – Springfield, MA               WCTE – Cookeville, TN
MPBN – Bangor, ME                       WKNO – Cordova, TN
WTVS – Wixom, MI                        WETP – Knoxville, TN
WKAR – East Lansing, MI              WLJT – Martin, TN
WHYY – Philadelphia, PA              WHRO – Norfolk, VA
WQED – Pittsburgh, PA                 WBRA – Roanoke, VA
WPSU – University Park, PA          VERM – Colchester, VT
WQLN – Erie, PA

CENTRAL STANDARD TIME
Wednesday, March 25 at 6:00 PM and 11:00 PM
Thursday, March 26 at 7:00  AM and 1:00 PM
Saturday, March 28 at 12:00 PM

ARKA – Conway, AR                      KENT – Lexington, KY
IOWA – Johnston, IA                      WYES – New Orleans, LA
WTTW – Chicago, IL                      KWCM – Appleton, MN
WSIU – Carbondale, IL                  KETC – St. Louis, MO
WILL – Urbana, IL                          NDAK  – Fargo, ND
WMEC – Chatham, IL                    NEBR – Lincoln, NE
WTVP – Peoria, IL                         KERA – Dallas, TX
WTIU – Bloomington, IN                KLRN – San Antonio, TX
WVUT – Vincennes, IN                  WMVS – Milwaukee, WI

MOUNTAIN STANDARD TIME
Wednesday, March 25 at 5:00 PM ant 10:00 PM
Thursday, March 26 at 6:00 AM and 12:00 PM
Saturday, March 28 at 11:00 AM

IDAH – Boise, ID                           SDAK – Vermillion, SD
MONT – Bozeman, MT                 KUED – Salt Lake City, UT

PACIFIC STANDARD TIME
Wednesday, March 25 at 4:00 PM and 9:00 PM
Thursday, March 26 at 5:00 AM and 11:00 AM
Saturday, March 28 at 10:00 AM

KUAC – Fairbanks, AK                  KIXE – Redding, CA
KAET – Phoenix, AZ                     KEET – Eureka, CA
KUAT – Tucson, AZ                      KNME – Albuquerque, NM
KOCE – Santa Ana, CA                KSYS – Medford, OR
KQED – San Francisco, CA          KSPS – Spokane, WA
KVIE – Sacramento, CA

Help Fight Homelessness by Hosting a @home Viewing Event

Rick's Summer HomeCall me crazy, but I have always believed in the magic of social media to do amazing things. In fact, back in 2008, all I had was a dinky laptop, a cheap camcorder and social media. It was connecting to all of you and your on-going support that created Invisible People. Literally millions upon millions of people are reached every year that would have never had a positive interaction with someone experiencing homelessness.  The results have been everything from communities rallying to get someone off the streets because of a YouTube video (several people have found housing as a direct result of this website) to farmers donating land to help feed people, to being asked by foreign governments to help them fight homelessness, to working with major brands on awareness campaigns to help end homelessness. No other organization in the homeless services sector has come close to the impact you’ve helped create!

@home, a documentary about me and my work fighting homelessness with social media and digital storytelling, will be broadcast on public television stations in 35 states starting March 25th. The documentary is being featured on WORLD Channel programs. Stations, cities and broadcast times will be listed later in this post.  The film documents homelessness around United States as I traveled on my 2010 road trip and features one of the first 100,000 Homes registry weeks in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  Its a good tool to help start the conversation about fighting homelessness in your community, but we need your help to augment the impact.

I have fond memories of the early days of Twitter. Because I adore the serendipity of social media when used for a good cause, one of my favorites has always been Twestival. Amanda Rose started a grassroots movement many years back that was truly amazing. In 2009, Twestival crowd sourced tweetups (do those even exist anymore?) in 202 cities around the world and raised huge money for charity:water. Some of the events were pretty significant while some were just a few people gathering at a bar or restaurant. It showed how social media can be used to organically organize people to gather for a purpose and have impact.

Some of you may remember Twittamentary, a crowd sourced documentary about Twitter directed by Tan Siok Siok. I just loved the spirit behind the Twittamentary movement. One of my favorite memories of the movie is they rented a box truck at SXSW and hosted ‘popup’ screenings in parking lots.  No matter what city in whatever country Twittamentary was playing in,  you could guarantee people in the audience would be interacting via twitter with people featured in the film,  who often were thousands of miles away and in different time zones. The magic of social media was fun to watch.

WE NEED YOU

Sadly, there is little to no resources to help promote the broadcast or create a campaign to amplify the conversation. But that’s OK, because like with both Twestival and Twittamentary, we have YOU – the wonderful people who like to do amazing things with social media and make good things happen regardless of budget.

The point of this movie is to create a conversation on people experiencing homelessness and solutions to help them.  At the end of this post I will list cities, stations and times. If you live in one of those communities and are a make-things-happen type person, it would be awesome if you (or a team) would start promoting the PBS airing and make some kind of an event happen. If you want to make it a fundraiser, PLEASE PICK A LOCAL HOMELESS SERVICES to benefit. It’s important we fight homelessness at a local level. Plus, supporting a local homeless services would just be a better fit for any local event.

Local social media clubs, this could be an awesome event to make happen. It was the Los Angeles Social Media Club that first helped support this work. If you’re a homeless services and @home is playing in your area, you may want to host a screening at your facility. Be creative, have fun, and share share share on social media!

This will be a ‘living’ post as I will share materials that can be used as they are created.  My hope is we’ll soon create a “tool kit” for people to use.

  • Seattle University created a discussion guide for the film that is in PDF. It’d be cool if someone with mad coding and design skills was able to take the PDF and build a mobile-friendly website people could interact with while viewing. If you have those skills or know of someone please contact me.
  • Here is a link to graphics for every city and station.
  • Here is a PhotoShop template to use to make graphics. You just have to change out the city, station and times. If you are hosting an event of course feel free to use to promote that event
  • Here is a link to a national press release. If you know someone in media please download and forward. Here is a link to a version that can be edited to use locally. Simply change out the station in top highlighted section and highlight your city/station in a listings and distribute. (Special thanks to Deb Brown and Jean Roth for originals used as foundation.)
  • This link is to a few photos from the movie you can download to use.
  • Hashtag is #AtHomePBS
  • This link is to the trailer and a few webisodes from the film. Video 2 is a must-see.
  • Urge your U.S. Senators and U.S. Representative to co-sponsor the Homeless Children and Youth Act.
  • If you can’t find a local homeless charity to support you could raise funds for a homeless person on HandUp.

If you have any ideas on how we can make this airing of @home have more impact please let me know, especially if it’s an campaign type idea that will keep the conversation going long after the documentary has aired.

EASTERN STANDARD TIME
Wednesday, March 25 at 7:00 PM
Thursday, March 26 at 12:00 AM, 8:00 AM and 2:00 PM
Saturday, March 28 at 1:00 PM ET

WEDU – Tampa, FL                       NHPTV – Durham, NH
WPBT – North Miami, FL               WNET – New York, NY
WUCF – Orlando, FL                     WNED – Buffalo, NY
WXEL – West Palm Beach, FL      WMHT – Troy, NY
WJCT – Jacksonville, FL               WXXI – Rochester, NY
WSRE – Pensacola, FL                 WCNY – Syracuse, NY
WGCU – Fort Myers, FL                WCFE – Plattsburgh, NY
WUFT – Gainesville, FL                 WSKG – Vestal, NY
GEOR – Atlanta, GA                      WPBS – Watertown, NY
ALAB – Birmingham, AL                WVIZ – Cleveland, OH
WGBH – Boston, MA                     WOUB – Athens, OH
WGBY – Springfield, MA               WCTE – Cookeville, TN
MPBN – Bangor, ME                       WKNO – Cordova, TN
WTVS – Wixom, MI                        WETP – Knoxville, TN
WKAR – East Lansing, MI              WLJT – Martin, TN
WHYY – Philadelphia, PA              WHRO – Norfolk, VA
WQED – Pittsburgh, PA                 WBRA – Roanoke, VA
WPSU – University Park, PA          VERM – Colchester, VT
WQLN – Erie, PA

CENTRAL STANDARD TIME
Wednesday, March 25 at 6:00 PM and 11:00 PM
Thursday, March 26 at 7:00  AM and 1:00 PM
Saturday, March 28 at 12:00 PM

ARKA – Conway, AR                      KENT – Lexington, KY
IOWA – Johnston, IA                      WYES – New Orleans, LA
WTTW – Chicago, IL                      KWCM – Appleton, MN
WSIU – Carbondale, IL                  KETC – St. Louis, MO
WILL – Urbana, IL                          NDAK  – Fargo, ND
WMEC – Chatham, IL                    NEBR – Lincoln, NE
WTVP – Peoria, IL                         KERA – Dallas, TX
WTIU – Bloomington, IN                KLRN – San Antonio, TX
WVUT – Vincennes, IN                  WMVS – Milwaukee, WI

MOUNTAIN STANDARD TIME
Wednesday, March 25 at 5:00 PM ant 10:00 PM
Thursday, March 26 at 6:00 AM and 12:00 PM
Saturday, March 28 at 11:00 AM

IDAH – Boise, ID                           SDAK – Vermillion, SD
MONT – Bozeman, MT                 KUED – Salt Lake City, UT

PACIFIC STANDARD TIME
Wednesday, March 25 at 4:00 PM and 9:00 PM
Thursday, March 26 at 5:00 AM and 11:00 AM
Saturday, March 28 at 10:00 AM

KUAC – Fairbanks, AK                  KIXE – Redding, CA
KAET – Phoenix, AZ                     KEET – Eureka, CA
KUAT – Tucson, AZ                      KNME – Albuquerque, NM
KOCE – Santa Ana, CA                KSYS – Medford, OR
KQED – San Francisco, CA          KSPS – Spokane, WA
KVIE – Sacramento, CA

Over 900,000 Homeless Kids Are Invisible to HUD. We Can Change That!

CaitlinWhen I worked as an outreach case manager in Los Angeles, nothing was more heartbreaking than when I would have to turn a homeless family away because U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development didn’t feel the family was “homeless enough”. Denying services to homeless families and unaccompanied homeless children and youth happens because HUD doesn’t count them as actually being homeless.  I literally have had to tell numerous families that paid for a hotel room the night before and ran out of money, they need to sleep in their car with their children or sleep outside on the ground before we can help them.

HUD’s definition of homelessness does not include families living in weekly rate hotels or doubling up, nor does it include unaccompanied adults, children or youth who are living couch to couch.  Often the condition of low-end hotels are unfit for kids. Today, I listened as Stephenie Van Housen, a school liaison from Iowa City, talked about the hotel where most of their families are staying. She said the hotel is also home to seven registered sex offenders because offenders don’t have any place else to live. This last year the hotel received 407 police calls.

In HUD’s 2013 point-in-time survey, HUD counted 222,197 households that included at least one child as homeless. However, data from the Department of Education show that more than 1.2 million children nationwide are homeless.  I would bet younger siblings who have not enrolled in school are under-represented in the data, so the number of homeless children is much higher. Basically, our government is saying over 900,000 homeless kids do not exist!

Sadly, we are seeing a drastic increase in school-aged children who are experiencing homelessness. But without being able to access federal services, families cannot get the support they need to get out of their horrible situations. Due to the narrow HUD definition, only one in 10 homeless children in California is eligible for federal housing programs.  Ohio reported 23,748 children experienced homelessness last year, while HUD counted only 4,714 households that includes at least one child as homeless. Only one in five homeless children in Ohio is eligible for federal housing programs. That’s just unacceptable!

WE CAN CHANGE THAT!

“No child should ever be without a home, let alone be forced to navigate bureaucratic red tape just to prove that they are actually homeless” ~ Rep. Steve Stivers

The Homeless Children and Youth Act has been re-introduced in the Senate by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and in the House by Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH) and Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-IA). The bill will expand the definition of homelessness used by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The change would allow more than 1 million homeless children and families nationwide to access federal housing assistance programs.

We have an opportunity to help homeless families and homeless children in a tremendous way, and your involvement will make a world of difference. Contact your U.S. Senator and U.S. Representatives and ask them to support the Homeless Children and Youth Act. You can find more information including a link to take action on helphomelesskidsnow.org.

I cannot stress how important this is and how much we need you to take action. Please share this post with all of your network and let’s help over 900,000 homeless kids become visible!

photo by:

Insite Loves People Right Where They Are At to Save Lives

Woman injecting heroin - Warning not for everyoneI first visited Insite in summer of 2011. At the time, I didn’t know what I was walking into. I never heard of a “supervised injection clinic” before, which is how most people describe Insite. I think Insite is much more than that because Insite loves on everyone right where they are at to help save their life!

One of the most common phrases homeless services nonprofits or faith based ministries say is: “we build relationships”, and many do just that, but often there is a catch or an agenda at the relationship’s foundation – the person is expected to change in some way!

I find Insite to be about unconditional love. Insite does provide detox and recovery services, but they are simply being present with people at often what’s probably the worst moments of their lives.

You have to understand that the people who walk into the front door of Insite are some of the most amazing people in the world who just happen to be at the lowest point in life a human being can exist. Most everyone who uses Insite’s services would not be allowed in or accepted at other services or ministries.

Gotta Gettaway

The Downtown Eastside (DTES) of Vancouver is one of the poorest communities in Canada. Los Angele’s Skid Row district is only area that compares in North America, yet for some reason DTES seems to mess me up more. Seeing people living outside in the cold and rain always wrecks me.

DTES was in a crisis. HIV and HepC rates along with related deaths were skyrocketing. People were literally fixing their needles out of urine puddles. Something had to be done!

The results are dramatic. From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insite

A 2008 cost-benefit analysis of the site in the Canadian Medical Association Journal observed net-savings of $18 million and an increase of 1175 life-years over ten years. Another cost-benefit analysis published in the International Journal of Drug Policy in 2010 determined that the site prevents 35 cases of HIV and about 3 deaths per year, indicating a yearly net-societal benefit of more than $6 million. A 2011 study in The Lancet found overdose deaths have dropped 35% in the Insite area since it opened, much more than 9% drop elsewhere in Vancouver. An editorial in the Canadian Medical Association Journal noted that after three years of research “a remarkable consensus that the facility reduces harm to users and the public developed among scientists, criminologists, and even the Vancouver Police Department.”

During my first visit I was not able to record an video interview at Insite, so for the last few years I have been rehearsing in my mind how perfect the video would be if I ever got a second chance. It would be in a perfect location. Perfect lights and audio. It would be with the perfect person – maybe a doctor or a nurse wearing a lab coat. Just perfect in every way. But life is not perfect, and as I thought about it – that’s why Insite exists. So although this interview is in an awkward location and Darwin is not dressed as a medical professional – it actually is a perfect video because what Darwin talks about – you need to hear!

Please watch and share this important video interview with Darwin Fisher, who is now at the top of my hero list. Not everyone can be present with the most vulnerable, but Darwin does so with grace and love. In this video we talk about Insite’s flat management style, which I wish more nonprofits would adopt. At one point just before this video, a nurse saw me and put me to work. A moment I will cherish and it showed me first hand how Insite operates. We also talk about the importance not having a bunch of dumb protocols that end up being road blocks to getting people the support they need. Even if you’re an abstinent based model you could learn a lot from how Insite loves on people – all people!

 

For my faith based friends that may have a problem with Insite please read/watch: Why I help addicts shoot up: Interview w/ Meera Bai, Christian nurse & harm reduction advocate

Photo credits: jellymc – urbansnaps