Tuesday, August 27, 2013

"We've still got a long way to go"

Fifty years ago 250,000 supporters of Jobs, Justice and Freedom marched on Washington, helping to open the door for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the creation of Medicare and Medicaid. Last Saturday, when 100,000 people retraced that route and celebrated the famous Martin Luther King “I Have a Dream” speech, the event was still very much about civil rights and economic issues, including availability of affordable housing, ending homelessness and creating jobs and opportunities for vulnerable people all across America.

Care for the Homeless was especially pleased to have the opportunity to have ten of our client leaders, all members of a CFH Advisory Board and active in CFH activities, take part in the event. Of special note, two of the participants last Saturday were there for the historic march 50 years ago.

David Broxton and Bill Bryant went to Washington to stand up for civil rights and opportunities for people in need. Both were in their 20s, but even then they were thinking about social justice and equality. Bryant was in the military where he would later serve in Viet Nam, and home on leave in August of 1963. Broxton was living in Brooklyn and went down on a bus, just as the CFH clients did this year.

“There’s been lots of progress,” Bryant said, “but we’ve still got a long way to go.

Broxton agreed. “We’re still marching for many of the same things this time that we did then, including access to health care for all and access to decent housing” he said.

Other clients participating in Saturday included Calvin Alston, Ava Connor, Johnny Hernandez, Vilna Miller, Phillip Malebranche, Raymond West and Anthony Williams. A number of Care for the Homeless staff participated too, including CFH Executive Director Bobby Watts.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Poetry workshop promotes healing and personal growth.

Meet Rosalind. A minister who fell on hard times and became temporarily homeless, she now lives at Susan’s Place. Two weeks ago, Rosalind organized a poetry workshop at the shelter, using poetry as therapy, reaching out to others in her situation. Rosalind volunteered to lead this one-hour workshop, called Suite Poetry, which teaches the art of poetry, incorporating styles from around the world.

There wasn't a dry eye in the room as seven women read pieces aloud during the workshop. One woman wrote:

I sat down one day to think
How come I was born
For since I’m black and known as a slave
I’m worked till I’m tired and worn…

This week attendance at the poetry workshop doubled.

Susan’s Place is our 200-bed transitional shelter in the Bronx for mentally ill and medically frail homeless women. On average, women stay at Susan’s Place between six and nine months. Since the program opened in 2008, over 800 women have moved out of homelessness and into permanent housing.

Workshops like Suite Poetry are part of the healing process, helping Care for the Homeless clients overcome the trauma of homelessness. Could you donate one evening a month to help promote healing and personal growth? Do you have an idea for a workshop? We want to hear from you.

Please contact Joe Vargas in Volunteer Services at Volunteerservices@cfhnyc.org or click here for more information. Join Rosalind and volunteer your time and talent and make a difference today. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

"Now I feel like a person again"

Last week, the client leaders of Care for the Homeless completed their most successful voter registration drive in their history. They turned 247 completed new voter registration forms in to the New York City Board of Elections and handed out more than 1,250 additional voter registration applications.

The drive by the Care for the Homeless clients included 14 outreach activities at Care for the Homeless sites in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens, aimed at homeless or formerly homeless people. It was a nonpartisan effort, not endorsing any candidate or party, but urging everyone to exercise their right to register and vote. Outreach efforts were scheduled at homeless shelters, soup kitchens, drop-in centers and places people experiencing homelessness gather.

“The most exciting thing,” according to longtime Care for the Homeless client leader David Broxton, “is that we registered a number of new voters who thought they weren’t eligible.” He said that happened because “some people without permanent housing think they lose the right to vote if they temporarily live in a shelter, or even on the street, and of course they don’t.” He said it also happens because many people don’t realize people with felony records not currently incarcerated or on parole do have the right to vote.

One new registrant who didn’t know he had the right to vote said “Now I feel like a person again.”

Client leaders who serve on Care for the Homeless client boards, including the CFH Consumer Advisory Board and the HIV-AIDS Advisory Committee, participated in the voter sign up effort. A dozen clients participated. They were assisted by volunteer Eric Wolkwitz, a college student, who contributed dozens of hours over his summer recess to the effort.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Can fashion help change a homeless woman's life? You bet it can.

How? Join us on September 12, 2013 for a Fashion Show Fundraiser to benefit Susan's Place. This fun, splashy event will combine awesome runway fashions from new designers, homeless women showcasing their talents as models, a passionate audience & doing good. Help take a stand against homelessness and promote health empowered beauty. 

In partnership with the Bronx Museum for the Arts, the Fashion Show starts at 6 p.m. on Thursday, September 12, 2013. The evening includes light refreshments, music, contests and more.

Health Empowered Beauty
Thursday, September 12, 2013
6:00 p.m.
@ the Bronx Museum for the Arts
Benefiting Care for the Homeless' Classic Re-Runs at Susan's Place

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Saving lives through behavior changes

This July, the Health Education Department promoted disease prevention by outreaching in our shelter sites and surrounding communities. These wellness events, offering health screenings and information, were coordinated with the CFH Social Service and medical teams at our Wards Island and Jamaica Citadel sites.

The National Health Care for the Homeless Council states that "adults who experience homelessness die from heart disease at a much higher rate than those in the general population. One study found that men experiencing homelessness, aged 45 to 64, were between 40 and 50 percent more likely to die from heart disease than their counterparts (Lee, 2005)."

Teaching clients about disease prevention and preventative measures is a year-round focus for Health Educators. In our medical clinics, the team has even expanded their services to include one-on-one health counseling on chronic disease management, weight management and sexual health. Behavioral health is critical in keeping homeless men, women and children on the right track to permanent housing and healthy once they are there.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Approaching that all-too familiar Cliff

With an all-too familiar feel to it, we’re heading towards a Washington fiscal cliff with scant reason to imagine an increasingly divided Congress being able to hit the brakes to avoid it.

The House and Senate spending gap in their “appropriations bills in progress” is $91 billion. The two houses of Congress aren't even operating on a shared premise. The House assumes current sequestration levels as a baseline and delivers another more sequestration cuts. Worse, they abandon shared pain between military and domestic appropriations, applying even larger sequestration cuts only to domestic spending.
The Senate assumes no added sequestration in the coming budget and essentially rolls back the current fiscal year’s sequestration, too.

The fiscal new year, October 1, is in sight. Reaching October 1 with no resolution leaves the government without authority to spend on “non-essential” programs. That’d “shut down government” for most programs. It would quickly affect health and human service programs America’s most vulnerable people count on just to get by.  

In the past, if Congress couldn't complete the budget on time, they’d routinely pass a “Continuing Resolution” keeping things running, typically at current level, as they completed the budget process. That would probably happen again, but lots of smart analysts bet it won’t happen by October 1, or necessarily at continuing levels.

For more deja vu, we’re expected to run out of borrowing capacity – go over the authorized debt limit – perhaps around mid-November.  Hitting the debt limit means government would be unable to pay some bills we've already incurred.  It’s reminiscent of our last “fiscal cliff,” negotiating both budget levels and the debt ceiling in tandem.

Don’t look for quick action. Congress is in “summer recess.” The next session of Congress is set for after Labor Day. It gives us all an opportunity to do our civic duty and tell our representatives which programs are important to us.

It’s worth the effort to save funding for vital programs like health care for people experiencing homelessness, Section 8 rental vouchers, affordable housing and programs for kids. We want Congress to get things done on time, but not by compromising the programs people in need depend on.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

5.1 million more hungry Americans by the end of 2013?

We've been writing about issues in Congress and asking people to let their members of Congress know how they feel. Well, Congress is in recess for the summer now, but before they left town they gave us an even better reason to give them a call.

Congress did not reauthorize the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which most people still refer to as “food stamps,” before they left for vacation. This is a vital program that puts food on the table for millions of poor families, mostly providing meals to poor single moms and their kids. It must be reauthorized by the beginning of the fiscal year 2013-14 year, on October 1, or authority for SNAP ends.
SNAP has historically been part of the omnibus farm bill, which protected both farm supports favored by rural members and food stamps favored by members representing urban or rural poorer areas. Year after year farm bills with food stamps have been approved overwhelmingly in Congress, typically without much delay.

But not this year.

There are at least 4 proposals on the table for SNAP, none of them are very good. The U.S. Senate passed a version of the farm bill cutting SNAP by $4.5 billion over 10 years. The House failed to pass a version that cut SNAP by $20.5 billion, and failed to move a more draconian plan cutting SNAP by $40 billion over the decade. 
There was also an even more troubling attempt to strip SNAP out of the farm bill and deal with it separately, possibly eliminating the program altogether.
A think tank, The Health Impact Project, released a study documenting cuts to SNAP will decimate the ability of many low-income families to feed themselves and increase the overall rate of poverty. Obviously it will have negative health impacts and could lead to increases in chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.  In children, it could increase already high rates of asthma among those in poverty as well as depression.
Cutting $20.5 billion, the probable starting point when the House reconvenes in September, eliminates 5.1 million people currently on SNAP. Literally, it would take food out of the mouths of hungry people, mostly children.

Now is the time to call your members of Congress and tell them to protect our most basic nutrition program for people experiencing homelessness or poverty.  You can call members, or find out who represents you, through the Congressional switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Volunteer Game Festival is a Success!

United Talent Agency and CFH Volunteer Services hosted the first of many Game Festivals last Friday, July 26th at Susan's Place, our transitional residents for homeless women. The event was called Lunch n' Games, and the group of 12 volunteers seeking some team building through service, spent the afternoon serving lunch and playing board games with the woman of Susan's Place.  The volunteers discovered, amongst the many boardgamers; chess geniuses, Spades masters, scrabble wizzes and more.  At the end of the day UTA presented Bingo complete with prizes and a donation of board games for future game festivals at Susan's Place.

The June Toiletry drive was a success, pulling in thousands of toiletry supplies!  Wednesday, The TRIO youth group of The College of Mount Saint Vincent visited Susan's Place to assemble over 700 toiletry kits, to be delivered to our sites across New York City. While at Susan’s Place the CMSV student volunteers served lunch to the women and made our first delivery of toiletry kits to Franklin Avenue Women's TriageA volunteer proclaimed “Everyone should come out to do this, it’s a humbling experience.”  
We at Care for the Homeless thanks United Talent Agency and The College of Mount Saint Vincent for their service.

Click HERE to find out how you can be a part of volunteering at Care for the Homeless and changing the lives of homeless New Yorkers.