Advocacy is critical to creating the systemic changes needed to end homelessness. Advocacy means working with people experiencing homelessness to bring about positive changes in policies and programs on the local, state, and federal levels. It means working with various sectors of the community (e.g. city/county officials, members of Congress, direct service providers, and the business community) to develop workable strategies for responding to homelessness. It also means changing your language and behaviors in small ways that may contribute to larger changes in the way people experiencing homelessness are seen and treated in our society.
Here are some ways you might help:
Get connected to a coalition. Volunteer at your local, state, or national housing or homeless advocacy coalition, or make a financial contribution to support their work.
Respond to NCH's Legislative Alerts. These alerts give the most up-to-date information about what is happening in Congress affecting homelessness and poverty on a national level, and what you can do about it. NCH’s legislative alerts can be found on theNCH home page. Then write letters, e-mail, call, or visit public officials at the city, county, state and federal levels asking what they are doing about homelessness and/or mentioning relevant legislation. When legislators receive more than a few visits or letters about any subject, they sit up and take notice. Personal visits are the most powerful; letters, e-mails, and phone calls are next. Addresses for public officials are available at the local library or on the Internet at www.house.govand www.senate.gov. To call anyone in Congress: Capitol Switchboard (202) 224-3121.
Follow local politics. Attend neighborhood and public meetings and speak up in favor of low-income housing, group homes, shelters, and homelessness prevention programs.
Educate your leaders. Organize site visits for political leaders and the media to visit local homeless programs to highlight ways that your community is successfully addressing the many problems associated with homelessness.
Involve the media. Call or write the media to inform them of your concern for people experiencing homelessness in your area. Write editorials when important issues related to homelessness arise in your community.
Encourage those most directly involved to advocate. Encourage people experiencing homelessness, agency volunteers, and staff to contact officials at all levels of government. Use opportunities like special holiday meals to do this—provide paper, pens, stamped envelopes, and sample messages at every meeting and event. Have a "Call In Day." Try getting a few people with cellular phones to go to shelters or meal programs to get people experiencing homelessness, volunteers, and staff to call the Governor (Mayor, Council Member...) asking them to stop future cuts in essential services. Create a "reverse panhandling" activity—get people experiencing homelessness and other volunteers to hand out quarters and ask people to call their legislators.
Register people experiencing homelessness to vote. The “You Don’t Need A Home to Vote” nonpartisan voter registration/education/get-out-the-vote campaign occurs nationwide each election cycle. Find out how you can lobby for homeless voting rights written policy or law in your state. To obtain the voting rights registration manual and poster, contact Michael Stoops, (202) 462-4822 or email@example.com.
Get involved with a local street newspaper. Street newspapers educate the general public about homelessness while providing people experiencing homelessness with a creative outlet to have their articles, photos, artwork, and poetry published and providing employment opportunities as vendors and writers. To get in touch with the street newspaper nearest you or to get help in establishing a newspaper in your community, contact NASNA www.nasna.org, firstname.lastname@example.org
Join the National Homeless Civil Rights Organizing Project. NCH’s National Homeless Civil Rights Organizing Project (NHCROP) is organized at the grassroots level with nine regional field sites throughout the country. NHCROP tracks the growing trend of criminalizing homelessness, along with the recent increase in the number of hate crimes and violence against people experiencing homelessness. Local homeless activists are working to stop this trend by using litigation, lobbying, community organizing, documentation, and research. To get in contact with your regional field site and/or to become a civil rights monitor in your area, contact Michael Stoops, (202) 462-4822 or email@example.com.
Sponsor a Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. NCH and the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness (NSCAHH) co-sponsor an Awareness Week every year during the first full week before Thanksgiving. Awareness weeks are organized in more than 500 campuses and communities nationwide. For more information or to order this year’s organizing guide, contact Michael Stoops at NCH at (202) 462-4822 x19 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or NSCAHH at (800) NO-HUNGR or email@example.com.
Recognize National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day. Every year, on or around the first day of winter (December 21), nearly 100 communities nationwide hold local memorial services to remember people who have died homeless during that year. Contact NCH to see if your community already participates in such an event. If no event is planned, NCH has an organizing manual to help you organize a memorial day in your community. Contact Michael Stoops, (202) 462-4822 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.nationalhomeless.org/projects/memorial.
Become more aware of your language. Try to minimize language in your own and others’ vocabularies that refers to people experiencing homelessness in derogatory ways. By using expressions such as “people experiencing homelessness” rather than labels such as “bum,” “transient,” or even “the homeless,” we remind ourselves that people who are in such situations are still people first—just people who are going through a difficult period in their lives. In a time when they may find it difficult to hold onto their sense of humanity, it is particularly important that we do not use language that further diminishes the dignity of people in homeless situations.
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Curry Homeless Coalition
PO Box 349
Gold Beach OR 97444