THE FACE OF HOMELESS SPEAKERS BUREAU
The Lighthouse for Recovery Ministries
“Faces of Homelessness” Speakers' Bureau
is comprised of
extraordinary people who are committed to sharing their personal and
powerful experiences of homelessness with others.
The lack of interaction between different groups of our society, combined with impersonal or inaccurate descriptions of homelessness posed by the media and public officials, contributes to a distancing of those who have housing from those who do not.
As a result, homelessness is perceived as an abstract social problem. We believe the Speakers’ Bureau is an important part of the fight to end homelessness in America as it links the many different levels of our society together and challenges commonly held misconceptions.
Our “Faces of Homelessness” Speakers’ Bureau accomplishes this by:
• Putting a human face on homelessness.
• Creating better understanding on a very difficult and complex problem one person at a time.
• Challenging the myths of homelessness with the actual realities of homelessness.
• Promoting, supporting, and facilitating dialogue between housed and homeless Americans to effectively address this growing problem.
• Building public awareness of homelessness on a local and national level
This unique and necessary approach to addressing homelessness establishes a significant platform for those whom homelessness affects directly to talk personally about their experiences while advocating for themselves and others. Ultimately, The Faces of Homelessness Speakers’ Bureau seeks to build bridges with the rest of society so that we may work cooperatively to end this disgrace called homelessness.
The Speakers Bureau is a team of
homeless and recently homeless advocates who conduct presentations and forums
on homelessness and other social issues. These presentations take place at
universities, church groups, high schools and other community venues.
For more information, contact Pamela D. Wray Biron (205) 834-6272. To schedule a speaking engagement, please complete aSpeakers Bureau Request Form.
WHO ARE THE HOMELESS?
At any given time there are 3.5 million homeless people in the United States.
People who are parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends – or used to be family members and/or friends (before being disowned by embarrassed friends and relatives), make up our homeless population.
Some homeless people have university degrees. Homeless people are ordinary people just like everyone else except that they have fallen on hard times.
FAMILIES WITH CHILDREN
Families with children make up 43% of the homeless population. Of that number, 23% -- just over half, are children.
The recent passage through Congress of a bill that will cut Food Stamps by 40 Billion dollars will not improve the plight of homeless families, nor prevent more families from becoming homeless.
One of the results of the passage of this bill that cut 40 Billion dollars from the SNAP program was that 900,000 needy veterans and their families lost their food stamps!
At a time when the economy is still bad for working class people, Congress has cut benefits to the most vulnerable people in our society – children – but have taken no cut in their own salaries of $172,000 a year plus benefits.
How could anyone with even a tiny conscience living a comfortable life, thanks to a generous God, deny food to poor people, and especially children?
The majority of our Congress members have done just that – and want to make even more cuts to public assistance programs for the poor. (At least 60% of our Congress members are millionaires and accomplished that condition after being elected to office.) Some members of Congress make even more than the basic $172,000 a year.
OUR FUTURE RESTS ON A FRAGILE FOUNDATION
In the minds of many people homeless people are disposable. That attitude permeating a community makes it even more dangerous to be homeless, because no one cares about the safety and well being of homeless people as a result. Being one of the few who care about homeless people when most of the people around you do not can be hazardous to fitting in - but I have never been one to worry about the opinions of others or let their attitudes stand in my way in order to combat social injustice!
When people are dehumanized, as is often done to homeless people, the people in our society who have poor judgment and who often have undiagnosed mental issues of their own, think it is OK to harass, attack, and do horrendous things to those unfortunate, homeless people, who are looked down upon by people who consider themselves better.
There have been hundreds of attacks on homeless people all across the United States in recent years and months. Most attacks do not involve setting people on fire, but rather simply beating or clubbing them to death – or trying to.
In 2011, 10 hate crimes not involving homeless people were documented. That same year 32 homeless people were criminally killed out of hate and bias. These statistics come from NationalHomeless.org.
The National Coalition for the Homeless reports there were many more hundreds of violent attacks that did not result in death. These violent attacks occurred essentially because a lot of people seem to believe it is acceptable to harass, abuse, or attack homeless people.
Even police in some cities harass and abuse homeless people and a few of them are now awaiting trial for murder. In Orange County California, three officers have been charged with killing a mentally disabled homeless man. Brutality and harassment by police is another danger homeless people must face, as if they do not already have enough problems.
IT IS AGAINST THE LAW TO BE POOR IN THE UNITED STATES!
Dozens of cities across the U.S. have passed laws making it illegal to be poor. It is also against the law (if it leads to homelessness and poverty) to be born into this world with a physical or mental handicap.
All of these things contribute to poverty and homelessness, and most if not all cannot be controlled by the individual, yet they are sometimes charged with a crime if one or more of these terrible events befalls them because these are the things that lead to most homelessness and poverty. The crime of being poor!
Having laws passed making it illegal to be homeless and poor has not been helpful in either getting homeless people employed, or solving their homeless problem.
Yes, homeless people get off the main streets or go to jail and stand trial for the egregious crime of being poor, but everyone has to be somewhere, so homeless people are simply pushed from place to place so that the better off (and in their own minds just plain ‘better’ people) -- people incapable of compassion -- do not have to look at them.
The world seems so much nicer when a person can pretend everything is as perfect for everyone else as it is for themselves -- and it saves having to care.
In addition to criminalizing the condition of poverty, jailing the unfortunate victims of this circumstance and giving them a police record, the few meager possessions most of the homeless people have when they are arrested is confiscated and destroyed.
How long before police are not only encouraged, but ordered, to shoot homeless people on sight? If being homeless and poor can be made into a crime, what is to prevent even more egregious and unconscionable behavior towards these unfortunate victims of our society?
Will criminalizing people who find themselves in unfortunate circumstances be the limit of heartlessness? How long before it becomes illegal to be sick?
You can laugh if you want to, but who ever imagined being poor would be criminalized? Some people care about the way homeless people are needlessly and unfairly condemned, reviled, vilified, and abused.
We care about helping and finding long-term solutions, but they are the minority. If everyone, or even the majority of people in this country truly wanted to end homelessness and the dangers that go with it here in the United States, it would happen.
Making poverty a crime is not the answer. Forcing people to move on is not the answer. Starving people or letting them die for lack of healthcare, or shelter from the elements, and the dangers associated with being reviled, is not the answer.
In short, hate is not the answer.
Then we change the face of homelessness.