It’s Not “Wet Housing”. It’s Just Housing.

When I landed in Seattle last month, I received an email from Daniel Malone, who at the time was Deputy Director of DESC and is now Executive Director. In the email, Daniel asked me what I wanted to see during my visit. While still on the plane typing with my thumbs I responded “wet housing”, but as soon as I hit send I felt a little uncomfortable that I used that term. I quickly followed up with another email requesting to see their “low barrier services”.  I am not sure why I corrected myself; it was probably out of my own insecurity trying to sound more professional.

“We don’t use the term ‘wet housing.’ We use the term ‘housing’ because in housing people get to do what they want to do.” ~ Daniel Malone

As many of you know I love and support the harm reduction model and strongly believe the United States needs to add more harm reduction solutions if we are ever going to end homelessness. Over the years you’ve heard me use the term “wet housing” to reference services that allow alcohol. At the same time you’ve also heard me scream real loud that we need to provide people with dignity, and that the housing first model (when done right), is by far the best solution to get people out of homelessness.  When Daniel Malone said to me: “We don’t use the term ‘wet housing.’ We use the term ‘housing’ because in housing people get to do what they want to do.” something just clicked it made so much sense!

Harm reduction saves lives and saves taxpayer money!

I understand some of you have issues with harm reduction. Keep in mind that this morning you (hopefully) brushed your teeth – that’s harm reduction.  Using seat belts in a car is harm reduction.  Harm reduction simply put is a strategy to prevent negative consequences. In the housing first model, and what I love so much about DESC’s view, it’s about allowing people to be people!

The most expensive solution to end homelessness is criminalization and it doesn’t actually end homelessness. If you support criminalization, you might as well just give the government access to your bank account for easy withdrawal. For example, New York City’s average annual cost per inmate in 2012 was $167,731. The second most expensive is just leaving people on the streets. As Daniel shares in the video below, people experiencing homelessness often go through a lot of crises that can increase the cost of public services. University of Washington’s research showed year over year savings to the community was $4 million. Here is a link to DESC’s research page http://desc.org/research.html

My friend Bevan Dufty says that the housing and harm reduction model at DESC should be replicated in every city in America.  I have to agree. But don’t take my word for it, check out the research, and if you can – go visit to see for yourself!

Seattle’s Tent City 3: Using Tent Cities to Fill a Gap in Services.

Los Angeles Times reported transient encampments and car camping grew 85% countywide in the last two years. This week the Los Angeles City Council voted to make it easier for authorities to clean up homeless camps, but Seattle has found another solution by embracing tent communities.

With the lack of affordable housing continuing to be a crisis along with the growing amount of people who cannot find employment with a livable wage, tent encampments are increasing across America. There is no community rural or urban that is immune from homelessness and tent encampments. Directly and indirectly tent cities effect you!

Over the last few years I have visited several tent communities. Most are just a group of people who have come together for social and survival needs. Occasionally a tent encampment will grow, and if there is the right leadership, the group can evolve into well-organized community.

Seattle's Tent City 3

Seattle’s Tent City 3

My first experience was when I visited Seattle’s Nickelsville back in 2009, and being an old hippie at heart, I fell in love the self-governed tent community model. I have visited Nickelsville a few times over the years. Dignity Village in Portland is another wonderful community. In the feature film @home, the film makers follow me into Ann Arbor’s “Camp Take Notice”, but sadly the community no longer exists.

This video is of my visit to Tent City 3 in Seattle last year. Seattle is the one city that I am aware of that embraces tent communities and incorporates the model into their homeless services. Although tent encampments are not the best solution, when housing and shelter beds are not available, adding tent cities to the continuum is a smart move.

Mostly we only hear bad news about tent encampments. Check out this post from Seattle Pacific University hosting Tent City 3.

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