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You, me and the unsecured: hungry and homeless

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D'Mitri Johnson

on 21 July 2015

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Transcript of You, me and the unsecured: hungry and homeless

man's best friend indeed
what does it mean to be homeless
In the U.S., more than 3.5 million people experience homelessness each year.
35% of the homeless population are families with children, which is the fastest growing segment of the homeless population.
23% are U.S. military veterans.
25% are children under the age of 18 years.
30% have experienced domestic violence.
20-25% suffer from mental illness.
In urban communities, people experience homelessness for an average of eight months.
who is homeless and why
People facing food insecurity and hunger are most likely to live in households near or below the poverty line. In addition, households with children are almost twice as likely to face hunger as those without.

Poverty and politics are the main causes of hunger in the United States. The U.S. produces enough food to feed everyone in the country and we have the resources and technology to distribute that food widely. However, millions of Americans can't afford food and current policy programs aren't enough to bridge the gap.

Hunger is a serious problem in the U.S., made more shameful by the fact that it is unnecessary and solvable. By devoting resources and expertise to programs that make housing and health care more affordable, food assistance more accessible, and increase wages for American workers, the U.S. could end hunger.
why are they hungry?
how to help the homeless
You, me and the unsecured: hungry and homeless
by: D'Mitri Johnson
When you hear about a family or a child being "hungry," this could mean a couple of different things. "Hunger" is the physical sensation that results from not having had enough food to eat; however, when talking about "hunger in America," what we're often talking about is more accurately called "food insecurity." Food insecurity is defined as a lack of access to enough food to fully meet basic needs due to lack of financial resources. Hunger is the worst-case scenario of food insecurity.


Who is Hungry?
what does it mean to be hungry
49 million Americans were food insecure in 2008
16.7 million children in the U.S. are food insecure.
2/3 of households facing food insecurity reported having at least one member employed full-time.
Solutions to end hunger
Homeless under other Federal statutes
Homeless under other Federal statutes – Unaccompanied youth under 25 years of age, or families with children and youth, who do not otherwise qualify as homeless under this definition, but who:
Are defined as homeless under the other listed federal statutes;
Have not had a lease, ownership interest, or occupancy agreement in permanent housing during the 60 days prior to the homeless assistance application;
Have experienced persistent instability as measured by two moves or more during the preceding 60 days; and
Can be expected to continue in such status for an extended period of time due to special needs or barriers
Fleeing/Attempting to Flee Domestic Violence
Fleeing/Attempting to Flee Domestic Violence – Any individual or family who:
Is fleeing, or is attempting to flee, domestic violence;
Has no other residence; and
Lacks the resource or support networks to obtain other permanent housing.
imminent Risk Of Homelessnes
Imminent Risk of Homelessness – An individual or family who will imminently lose their primary nighttime residence, provided that:
Residence will be lost within 14 days of the date of application for homeless assistance;
No subsequent residence has been identified; and
The individual or family lacks the resources or support networks needed to obtain other permanent housing.
While probably everyone has some idea of what it means to be homeless, in the context of service delivery and the development of strategies to prevent and end homelessness, it’s important to be precise.
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), there are four categories of homelessness:
Literally Homeless – An individual or family who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence, meaning:
Has a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not meant for human habitation;
Is living in a publicly or privately operated shelter designated to provide temporary living arrangements (including congregate shelters, transitional housing, and hotels and motels paid for by charitable organizations or by federal, state and local government programs); or
Is exiting an institution where (s)he has resided for 90 days or less and who resided in an emergency shelter or place not meant for human habitation immediately before entering that institution.
For Professionals
Helping Don'ts
Helping Do's
Volunteering Options
Things You Can Do
Support mental health services. One of the best ways to make a difference for homeless people is to change how our society views homelessness issues and what it does about them. The biggest problem in the US for homeless individuals is lack of mental health services. Support such local services and write to your local politicians about your cause.

Support affordable housing initiatives. Another problem in many cities is the lack of affordable housing. This is a really big issue. Support ballot initiatives for affordable housing and write to local housing groups to help them understand the need. Speak out against new developments which are not affordable.

Support free and low cost medical care. Basic medical care is also a huge problem for homeless people. They are more prone to health problems but obviously are stuck in a position where they cannot afford help. Support local free clinics and work on getting more free clinics in your city.

Support day shelters. Day shelters are another service which can help homeless people get back on their feet. These shelters give homeless people a safe place to go to work on finding a job, or even just store their things while they go out to try to find work. Day shelters are uncommon, so if your city doesn't have one, work on trying to get one together.

Support libraries. Local libraries are a huge resource for homeless people. They make job searching tools, such as the internet, free and available for homeless people. They are also a source of information, so that homeless people can learn skills that help them get jobs in the future.
Assess their immediate needs. Stop focusing on long-term goals, like getting them back in school or getting them off alcohol. You have to solve their immediate problems first, by getting them a place to sleep as well as some food.

Find out how they became homeless. This can often lead to an understanding of what you need to do to stop the problem. It will also help them bond to you and they will be more willing to allow you to help.

Find out their support system. Find out if they have family or friends who can help. Often they do but are uncomfortable asking for help or do not know how to find their family.

Find them resources. Find them things like shelters, food program, education programs, and government resources. They will likely be unable to find these things on their own.

Make them a list. Have a list of the basic resources available to them once you've located them things like shelters and food. List addresses, phone numbers, and opening schedules. Make it as easy to read as possible. You can even include emotional reminders, to help keep them inspired and motivated.


Find them WET housing. If they are alcoholics, they may have trouble in the system because many or most homeless shelters require people to go cold turkey. WET housing, available in some cities, is specially designed to help homeless people with addiction problems and their success rates tend to be phenomenal.
Respect them. Always respect homeless people. Some made poor choices but others didn't. Even if they did make poor choices, no one deserves homelessness. Homeless people are not worth less than you. They are still someone's child. Talk to them and treat them the way you would want to be treated.

Be friendly. Smile at them. Talk to them. Don't stare. Don't ignore them. Homeless people can feel very self conscious and just treating them well can make their day much better.

Offer help. Offer to help them. They may not know who to talk to or how to get help with what they need. Offer to help them, maybe not through giving them money directly but by buying them lunch or contacting a shelter for them.

Use simple language. When you talk to them, talk simply and get to the point. This is not because they're stupid but because being hungry or cold can impair a person's judgement. They may have trouble understanding you and they may need help reasoning through problems.
Don't offer transportation. You generally should not offer them a ride somewhere unless you have assurances from their caseworker that they are safe. Many homeless people suffer from mental health problems and may pose a danger, even though they don't mean to.

Don't offer them a place to stay in your own home, for the same reasons as above. Find other ways to help them.

Never confront someone who appears to be having an episode. If someone is ranting, shouting, or appears to be having another mental health problem, do not confront them. Just call the police.

Never treat them as less or stupid. They usually aren't. Sometimes bad things just happen to us in our lives and many countries are not well equipped to help people get back on their feet.
Donate money. The easiest way to help the homeless is to donate your money. This makes sure that professionals who understand where the most help is needed will have the resources necessary to help people.

Donate items. Donating your used or new items is another easy way to help. Donate these items to local organizations which help the homeless or give them to homeless people you see frequently.

Provide food. Everyone needs to eat and they need to eat every single day. If you're hungry, your ability to make good decisions for yourself isn't very good, right?

Create jobs. If you're in a position where you can give someone a job, do that. Whether it's offering to hire and train someone in a position like a secretary or file clerk, or just letting them do odd jobs like mowing your lawn, this can really make a huge difference for someone.

Contact local help. If you see people on the streets, one of the best things you can do for them is to call the local homeless services. Some people may not know how to locate help and so they never get it. Call for them and get them on the path to recovery.

Call emergency services. If someone is clearly having a serious problem, call emergency services. If you see someone who is clearly having a psychotic episode, call the Emergency Services. If you see someone who may be a danger to themselves or others, call for help also. If someone is in danger because of weather conditions or seems likely to commit suicide, call Emergency Services also.
Volunteer at an organization. Find organizations in your area that help the homeless. These are usually advocacy groups or organizations which focus in finding homeless people homes, jobs, and education. See what's available in your area and help out.

Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Soup kitchens focus on solving one of the biggest short term problems that homeless people face: getting enough food to survive. Soup kitchens can almost always use an extra hand serving or preparing food, as well as picking up donations from local churches and businesses.

Volunteer with Habitat for Humanity. Habitat for Humanity is an organization that build homes for homeless and displaced families. You can learn important skills and help people by helping to build these homes in your area.

Volunteer your property. Landlords are especially helpful. Oftentimes, homeless people may get a job but they'll have a period of a week, 2 weeks, or a month before they get their first paycheck. In that time, they need a place to stay so that they can sleep and get ready. Keeping an apartment open for people in this situation can be a huge service to your community and a local shelter can probably help.

Volunteer at a shelter. Shelters provide a safe place for homeless people to sleep. They usually need volunteers to help clean and monitor the facility, as well as help homeless people find more permanent solutions.

Using Political Activism
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