Congresswoman Lee Leads Effort Urging President Obama to Ban the Box

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Washington, D.C.- More than 70 Members of the U.S. House of Representatives, led by Congresswoman Barbara Lee, sent a letter to President Obama to adopt a federal fair chance hiring policy. This effort was co-led by Congressman Conyers, Congressman Scott, Congressman Davis, and Congresswoman Jackson Lee.

The federal government should not be in the business of erecting barriers between those who have made a mistake and are looking a job, said Congresswoman Lee. By enacting these basic fair chance hiring reforms, the federal government will continue to lead as a model employer while working to end the cycle of mass incarceration, unemployment and recidivism.

The effort was supported by various groups including Policy Link, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), National Employment Law Project (NELP), PICO Networks LIVE FREE Campaign, and All Of Us Or None, a national organizing initiative founded by formerly-incarcerated individuals to fight against discrimination and for the human rights of prisoners.

It’s rewarding to witness the work started in our backyard reach national levels, and continue to dismantle the barriers facing formerly incarcerated communities, said co-founding member, Dorsey Nunn, of All Of Us Or None. This effort could not have come at a better time to reflect that all Black Lives Matter, including the lives of people with arrest and conviction histories.

The letter calls on President Obama to take executive action requiring that federal contractors and agencies refrain from inquiring about an applicants criminal record in the initial stage of hiring. Employers would be able to inquire about convictions and conduct background checks before making an employment decision.

The letter reads: We urge you to build on your administration’s commitment to adopting fair change hiring reforms by committing the federal government to do its part to eliminate unnecessary barriers to employment for people with criminal records.

Specifically, the letter notes that seventeen states, the District of Columbia and more than 100 cities and counties have already adopted fair chance hiring reforms.  In six states, the policy also expands to the private sector. Several private sector firms have also independently adopted fair chance hiring policies including: Walmart, Koch Industries, Home Depot, Bed Bath & Beyond and Target.

There are more than 70 million Americans with criminal records and communities of color are disproportionately affected. One in three African-American men will be arrested during their lifetime.

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Banning the box in federal hiring would help those who are fighting for a fair opportunity to show their qualifications for employment.  This is the right thing to do for individuals seeking to provide for themselves and their families, and it is the smart thing to do for our national economy which sorely needs the talents and contributions of all of our citizens, said Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (MI-13), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee.

The EEOC has ruled that discrimination based on prior convictions without an individualized assessment of the relevance to job performance constitutes illegal employment discrimination, said Rep. Scott (VA-03), Ranking Member of the Committee on Education and the Workforce. The Fair Chance practices, also known as ban the box, are consistent with that EEOC guidance.  Studies have consistently shown  that properly tailoring employment restrictions will help to increase public safety, reduce recidivism, and save money.

The cruel, relentless logic of mass incarceration has now become apparent to all.  One in four Americans has a conviction history which often excludes them from the workforce and from housing creating new layers of crisis for our communities, said Congressman Danny Davis (IL-07). Ban the box is a critical step for formerly incarcerated individuals to a dignified, productive civilian life and helping families and communities become self-sustaining once again.

Almost one in three adults in the United States has a criminal record that will show up on a routine criminal background check. This creates a serious barrier to employment for millions of workers, especially in communities of color hardest hit by decades of over-criminalization, said Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18).

Nationwide, 100 cities and counties have adopted what is widely known as ban the box so that employers consider a job candidates qualifications first, without the stigma of a criminal record. These initiatives provide applicants a fair chance by removing the conviction history question on the job application and delaying the background check inquiry until later in the hiring. Fair chance policies benefit everyone because they are good for families and the local community.

The letter can be found here.

The Struggle For American Indian Voting Rights in South Dakota

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In places as isolated as Pine Ridge and Rosebud Reservations, these satellite offices are essential to making voting a possibility for most residents
Last month, the Oglala Sioux Nation filed a voting rights lawsuit with the federal government for failing to put a pre-election satellite voting and registration site on the portion of Pine Ridge Reservation which sits in Jackson County, South Dakota. Despite having money apportioned by the Help America Vote Act to address just this sort of issue, Jackson County has yet to place a satellite office in Wanblee, the largest Indian reservation town in the county. While at the same time, the largely white residential off-reservation county seat of Kadoka, which actually has a smaller population than Wanblee, maintains a satellite voting office. Instead of being able to vote within a reasonable distance of their community, the people of Wanblee have to travel 54 miles round-trip to register and cast their ballots. 54 mile in the cold, inhospitable snow of a South Dakota November on poorly maintained roads that are made of dirt as often as they are asphalt.

These are the sorts of bigotry, harassment and human rights violations faced on a regular basis  by American Indians seeking equal access to the ballot box. The discrimination that they endure is remarkably similar to that of African-Americans and Latinos, but odds are that you hadn’t been thinking about the voting rights of American Indians. In fact, outside of the #ChangeTheName controversy surrounding Washington DC’s professional football team, I doubt that American Indians have crossed many of your minds recently. This may be in part because there are only 1.9 million American Indians in this country and you don’t have much direct interaction with them, but I think it is also because the Civil Rights Movement in the United States during the fifties and sixties was almost exclusively an African-American movement.

What happens to an injustice unheard? On their own, many people—along with the local and state governments who represent them—will plug up their ears with cotton balls and blot out the sounds of injustice and oppression that surround them, while others still will hear the wails of injustice and track them down like bloodhounds so they can shove their hands over the mouths of the moaning. That’s why sometimes it becomes necessary for the Federal government to remove the cotton from the callous, cauliflowered ears of the oppressive and the bigoted and demand that they listen.

More so than any other civil right in America’s history, suffrage has required Federal intervention in order to be preserved and it is not a coincidence that the right to vote under the equal protection of the law is the focus of no less than four Constitutional amendments. The first two—the 14th and the 15th amendment—were forged in the fires of The Civil War and established during Reconstruction, a 12 year period where more than 2,000 African-American men held public office in the South. Of course, these political gains were only made possible by the physical presence of former Union soldiers in formerly Confederate towns and as soon as the Republican Party made their deal with the devil in 1877 and agreed to remove those troops in exchange for a Rutherford B. Hayes White House it was all over.

Almost overnight all trace of the black politician was swept away by poll taxes, literacy tests, Jim Crow laws and lynch mobs and black suffrage was suppressed for more than 75 years until the sacrifices of the Civil Rights Movement birthed the Voting Rights Act in an attempt to provide all Americans with equal voting rights and representation in government. Yet, even today, in what a startling number of young Americans consider a “post-racial” society, the percentage of African-American representation in Congress from southern states (11.25%)(1) is still considerably less than it was in 1870 (15%). And all of this was before the Supreme Court disassembled the Voting Rights Act and gave states that were once beholden to the federal government for preclearance of all voting laws free rein to disenfranchise people of color, the elderly and the poor.

There are many aspects of race-based voter discrimination that Chief Justice John Roberts and the other 4 men who voted to neuter the Voting Rights Act (VRA) last year wholly fail to comprehend or care about, but there are none more important than the fact that racism and oppression do not live in a vacuum and that past progress does not prevent against future regression. In his majority opinion for Shelby County v. Holder, Roberts reiterated time and time again the fact that, “things have changed dramatically” in the 50 years since the Voting Rights Act was created and consequently uses those changes as the principle reason why section 4 of the VRA should be struck down(2), as if the law’s efficacy was somehow grounds for rendering it toothless.

In his opinion, Roberts writes that, “the [15th] Amendment is not designed to punish for the past; its purpose is to ensure a better future,” failing to comprehend that this “punishment” is constantly being reinvoked by states and counties who continue to brazenly discriminate against their minority citizens. All a given state or county has to do is follow the VRA’s instructions and not get caught trying to engage in voter discrimination for 10 years in a row and they’re “bailed out” of Section 5. In effect, section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is the equivalent of probation and parole for state and local governments who have committed the crime of denying people of the right to free and equitable elections. If you get released from prison on 2 years parole for selling narcotics and your P.O. Catches you slinging dope, you’re going to be headed back to prison. It’s the same principle with discriminatory states under the VRA.

Of course, it shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone with even a tenuous grasp on reality that the states who were saddled with preclearance requirements under Section 5—and quite a few that weren’t—have wasted no time in enacting as many restrictive and discriminatory voting laws as possible since the Shelby County v Holder ruling. During the first year post-preclearance, 7 of the 9 states that were singled out under Section 5 of the VRA pushed through laws that restricted voting rights. States are enacting unnecessary and prohibitive voter ID laws, eliminating same-day registrations, purging qualified citizens from voter rolls and, as was recently the case in my home state of Ohio, cutting back early voting days for no just reason whatsoever.

If there is a silver lining to the fallout of the Supreme Court’s decision, it’s that it has lit a fire underneath many communities in America and it has directed the attention of the media and activists in ways that could result in enhanced voter turnout, higher political awareness andpossibly the passage of new legislation that makes the Voting Rights Act even more effective than it was before. However, the media coverage of the VRA and the efforts of the vast majority of voting rights litigators and scholars have focused almost exclusively on how the changes effect African-American and Latino voters.

This is certainly understandable considering the fact that they are the 2 largest racial minorities in America and that voter discrimination in both the past and present has impacted them in a greater and more visible way than any other section of American society, but it largely ignores the struggles of other minority groups who will suffer just as much from the Supreme Court’s weakening of the Voting Rights Act.

250 years ago, before the prolonged presence of American settlers, the Great Sioux Nation—known to its members as the “Oceti Ŝakowiŋ” or Seven Council Fires—held dominion over most of the Northern Plains.To the east, in what is now modern-day Minnesota, northern Iowa and the easternmost edge of the Dakotas, lived the Santee or Eastern Dakota. Next to them, in the eastern half of the Dakotas were the Yankton or Yanktonai, which are sometimes confusingly referred to as the Western Dakota. And then, beside them, in western portions of the Dakotas and Nebraska lived the Teton or Lakota people.

Within a hundred years time, the Great Sioux Nation had been effectively driven apart by white settlements and white soldiers. To make a long and bloody story short, the second half of the 19th Century was little more than an unbroken string of violated treaties wherein the United States took Sioux land that wasn’t theirs in exchange for the false promise of peace and security on the Sioux land that they planned to take in the future. In the span of roughly 100 years, the Great Sioux Nation had gone from a powerful group of allied tribes that could lay claim to much of the Great Plains to a collection of splintered and suppressed peoples who had been relegated to life on reservations on the parcels of their land that whites could find little use for.

Along with their land, the Sioux—and all of the tribes around them that were not wiped from the face of this earth by the inexorable hand of Manifest Destiny—lost their sovereignty and self-determination. In the days of the Seven Council Fires, the Sioux would hold intertribal councils during the summer months, with a spokesperson from each of the 7 tribes coming together to govern intertribal affairs. Each tribe was made up of several bands and the intertribal spokespeople were usually the chief of the most power band in their respective tribe. Once the reservation system had been imposed on them, the Sioux and all other American Indians(3) and (eventually) Alaskan Natives effectively became wards of the state and were treated as second class citizens in the eyes of the law.

Sioux reservation land from 1851 to today

Even after the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924 made all American Indians US citizens and gave them the right to vote under the 14th and 15th amendments, most were still prohibited from voting. Many western states like Montana dealt with the threat of Indian suffrage by adding amendments to their state constitutions and forbidding American Indians on reservations from voting on the grounds that they were not considered taxpaying citizens.

Other states, like Wyoming and Arizona took pages out of the deep south’s playbook and instituted literacy tests as a means of halting American Indian suffrage. South Dakota didn’t even bother with masking it’s blatant bigotry and flouting of the Constitution by keeping a law on the books that prohibited all American Indians from voting until the 1940s, while the Utah Supreme Court ruled in 1956 that Indians could be barred from voting because they were, “neither acquainted with the processes of government, nor conversant with activities of the outside world generally.” And, even after the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, many American Indians faced open discrimination from state and local governments until an extension of the VRA was passed a decade later specifying coverage for “language minorities” like American Indians.

In 1975, two South Dakota counties—Shannon County and Todd County—were made subject to preclearance under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Both counties had a long history of voting discrimination and institutionalized racism and both were the homes of Indian reservations, with Shannon County containing the Pine Ridge Reservation and Todd County holding the Rosebud Reservation. If you’ve heard of either Pine Ridge or Rosebud before, it probably wasn’t for the best of reasons. Pine Ridge and Rosebud Reservations are living breathing testaments to the horrors of colonialism and the perpetual poverty that is guaranteed to communities with little-to-no socioeconomic resources. On the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Reservations at least 80 percent of the population is unemployed, as many as 4 out of every 5 adults suffer from alcoholism and/or addiction, infant mortality is 3 times the national rate, suicide rates for youth are 10 times the national average and the life expectancy on Pine Ridge is lower than every other part of the Western Hemisphere besides Haiti.

As is often the case with socioeconomically depressed regions, the Oglala Sioux of Pine Ridge and the Sicangu Sioux of Rosebud, have experienced some of the most reprehensible attempts to eliminate or weaken their suffrage in America’s recent history. In 1975, long after the equal voting had become the law of the land and black voter turnout was hovering around 50% in presidential elections, the state of South Dakota was still prohibiting residents of almost exclusively Indian “unorganized counties” like Shannon, Todd and Washabaugh(4) from voting in the elections of the counties to which they were attached andprohibited residents of those counties from holding office until as late as 1980.

Shortly after the Voting Rights Act had been amended to cover American Indians, then South Dakota Attorney General William Janklow wrote a formal opinion to South Dakota’s Secretary of State, in which he referred to the Voting Rights Act as a “facial absurdity” and wrote that, “I cannot in good faith recommend that [the Secretary of State’s] office and the State Board of Elections be unnecessarily subjected to the bureaucratic agony of obtaining immediate preclearance of all voting legislation and regulations.”

In other words, South Dakota’s Attorney General just recommended that the state government ignore the requirements of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act and hoped it would be repealed by Congress or declared unconstitutional in the near future. It would seem that South Dakota state officials heard Attorney General Janklow loud and clear as they enacted over 600 laws concerning elections and voting in Shannon and Todd Counties that were covered by Section 5 of the VRA between 1976 and 2002 and sent less than 2 percent of them to Washington for preclearance. In the words of former ACLU Voting Rights Project Director Laughlin McDonald, “Many jurisdictions in the South also failed to comply with Section 5 in the years following their coverage. But in none was the failure as deliberate and prolonged as in South Dakota.”

Over the past 30 years, the strategies of predominantly white governments, counties and municipalities in America for negating the impact of minority voting blocs have shifted from outright voter suppression to a more indirect approach. One of the preferred modes of neutralizing the American Indian vote has been voter dilution, a process by which a state, county or local government redraws their districts so as to concentrate as much of the American Indian population into as few districts as possible to lessen number of elections they can seriously effect. After the 2000 census, the South Dakota legislature put forth a redistricting plan that turned District 27, an overwhelmingly Indian district that contains Pine Ridge Reservation, from one of the most underpopulated districts into one of it’s most overpopulated.

To do this,the legislature made a change in the boundary lines between District 27 and District 26, another mostly Indian district that includes Rosebud Reservation, packing District 27 with American Indians and leaving them without a large enough population in District 26 to ensure that Indian-preferred candidates had a chance at winning.

Another way the existing white power structure in South Dakota is trying to disenfranchise American Indians is through the simple act of making it as difficult and inconvenient for them to vote as possible. This tactic, which manifests itself in other states through the enactment of stringent voter ID laws, reduced early voting days and the repeal of same-day registration, is primarily borne out in South Dakota through the failure to provide American Indians with satellite voting and registration offices, using tribes’s socioeconomic shortcomings against them.

Indian reservations are typically located in remote areas and are often self-contained, so that many of the people living on the reservation rarely, if ever, go outside of its borders. Beyond that, many American Indians don’t have access to a car to reach far off polling places and, even if they did, might find they’re unable to scrounge up the gas money to make the trip.

For those who are skeptical, I urge you to take note of the events from the Civil Rights era that come to mind. When I think on it, the images I see are of sit-ins in Greensboro, North Carolina and bloody marches in Selma, Alabama; I envision Dr. King speaking of his dreams in front of a packed National Mall and I think about the bodies of 3 civil rights workers being buried on a hot Mississippi night during Freedom Summer. At no point do I think about “No Indians or Dogs Allowed signs” in Wyoming during the 1960s or the Occupation of Wounded Knee, because these things aren’t part of our mainstream narrative of civil rights in America.

They aren’t part of our narrative, but they should be. Civil rights movements are not mutually exclusive and there is no cause too remote or removed from our personal experience to be fought. Many of us may not live near a reservation or interact with American Indians in our daily lives, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t hold ourselves as responsible for their voting rights as we do any other race or ethnicity. First and foremost, voter discrimination is not a southern problem; nor is it an African-American problem, a Latino problem or an American Indian problem. It is an American problem and it’s about time we treated it as such.

Ministry of Justice’s Decision to Deny UK Prisoners Books is Inhuman

Those who know me best know that one of my greatest passions is my love of books. Therefore, I was greatly distressed to read an article this Sunday in Politics.co.uk from the Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, Frances Crook on the latest prison reform legislation. In the article, Crook drew attention to measures that were introduced on 1st November 2013 by Secretary of State for Justice, Chris Grayling, which have banned prisoners in England and Wales from being sent small items, such as books, clothing and birthday cards.

091913CABooks2Prisoners_full_600Crook’s article has prompted a petition on Change.org which has already gained over 9,000 signatures and attracted the support of notable authors such as Mark Haddon, Anthony Horowitz and Susan Hill. Philip Pullman, author of the award-winning His Dark Material’s trilogy described the measures as “one of the most disgusting, mean, vindictive acts of a barbaric government.”

Grayling has defended his decision by stating that re-offending rates have remained at over 60% for almost a decade and therefore a new approach needs to be taken to rehabilitation. Whilst prisoners currently still have access to libraries, drastic funding cuts to library services has caused concern for the future provision of literary material in prisons.

Books will be used as an incentive for good behaviour. In a response to Crook’s article, Grayling wrote in Politics.co.uk on Monday: “If any prisoner wishes to buy books with the money he or she gets from their pay, then that is up to them. If a prisoner has engaged with their own rehabilitation in prison, then he will be on a higher level in the Incentives and Earned Privileges scheme, and so would have more money to spend – on books if he so chooses.”

In 2010, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit challenging the “unconstitutional” policy at Berkeley County detention centre in Moncks Corner, USA, when the prison officials refused to allow prisoners to receive any materials that contained staples or pictures of any level of nudity, including beachwear or underwear”, effectively banning most books, magazines and newspapers. As there was no library at the Berkeley County detention centre this policy would deprive prisoners of reading material for years on end.

“Jail officials are looking for any excuse they can come up with to obscure the fact that they are unconstitutionally censoring materials sent to detainees,” commented Victoria Middleton, executive director of the ACLU of South Carolina. “And in so doing they are failing to serve the detainees and the taxpayers of South Carolina. Helping prisoners rehabilitate themselves and maintain a connection to the outside world by reading books and magazines is a key part of what should be our larger and fiscally prudent objective of reducing the number of people we lock up by lowering recidivism rates.” The ban was finally lifted in 2012.

Biblioclasm is a tactic that has been used since time immemorial to oppress, control and punish the populace. In 213 BCE Emperor Qin Shi Huang ordered the burning of all philosophy books and history books from states other than Qin; during World War II Richard Euringer identified 18,000 works deemed not to correspond with Nazi ideology, which were then publicly burned. Whilst Grayling has not been so drastic as to commit libricide, the author Ray Bradbury once astutely noted that “you don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” Grayling must be aware from the lessons of history that denying human beings literature is a callous and powerful stratagem.

In Britain, the average prisoner spends 20 hours a day in their cell and we must remember that many of the people in prison are there for minor and non-violent offences. If books become a scarcity, we will be denying a form of mental escape to people who are trapped inside an unjust system. C.S. Lewis said that “we read to know we are not alone.” But we also read for the simple reason of learning new skills. Self-teaching is a major element in the succesful rehabilitation of ex-criminals. I am currently working with a seventeen year old boy, Liam, who entered the prison system at thirteen, unable to read. For the three years he was inside, he taught himself to read through books on Margaret Thatcher and the miners. Liam proudly claims that being able to read is the single greatest thing that has happened to him. Now he knows that he can one day get qualifications and a job; something he never thought he could do before. Books literally change lives.

At present, I am reading one of those books which is so mind-expandingly brilliant that each page makes you a little giddy. Nothing amazes me more than being able to travel to places that you never even comprehended could exist, all in the comfort of your own head. Reading does not only take you to foreign lands and introduce you to strange and wonderful characters, but it also reveals to you new ways of thinking entirely.

To sit alone in your cell and have the voice of another, articulate to you your exact thoughts and feelings in a way much better than you could ever articulate them yourself,-as if they are speaking to your very soul and speaking to you alone- is the most extra-ordinary of human experiences. A prisoner has already had his family, his home, his job, his liberty and his future taken from him. As Kofi Annan once said, “literacy is a bridge from misery to hope” to take this experience away as well makes me question how Britain can call itself a civilized society.

“Dumping” the Homeless In America

“Dumping” the homeless – the new craze in America?  The way we treat and view those who are homeless in this country is unsettling.  When I came across the story about those within the Detroit Police Department “dumping” the homeless in areas that were unfamiliar to them in order to “clean up” the image in a popular tourist area, I was angered as a social worker and a human being.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a Department of Justice (DOJ) complaint against the Detroit Police Department this month.  The ACLU has been investigating these inhumane indignities since 2012, after receiving complaints from several individuals who had experienced such injustices.

The ACLU’s complaint describes the dumping “tactics.”   The officers would approach those who they perceived to be homeless, and in some instances, would coerced the person to get into a van.  Once in the van, the officer would drive to a remote area far away from the familiar surroundings the homeless individual was accustomed to.  The officers would leave the individual stranded, and in some cases, penniless.  (Several reported that the police specifically asked for whatever monies they had on them, and would confiscate it.)  Without a means to pay for transportation, some individuals would have no choice but to walk several miles back to their original location, sometimes having to travel at night and through unsafe neighborhoods.

Though this story is unbelievable in how those who are expected to uphold and enforce the law treat those who are most vulnerable in our society, it is sadly another example of how we view those who call our streets “home.”

When it comes to the homeless, we have the NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) complex.  On one hand, we see countless organizations discuss the increase numbers of those without homes in our cities, states, and country.  We go out of our way during the holiday season to donate to these organizations so that they will have adequate food, clothing, and monetary resources to provide for those who have fallen on hard times and have no place to lay their heads.

On the other hand, we do not want these individuals in our backyards/neighborhoods.  We look at these individuals as being “lazy,” “unclean,” “dangerous/menaces” to society, and “unwilling” to better themselves.  Being homeless is their “fault” – they should not have made bad life choices (e.g., being addicted to drugs and alcohol, battling emotional/mental illnesses, and/or not trying hard enough to be productive members of society).  We protest against having homeless shelters and centers in our communities; an issue that has made headlines in my own home state concerning the location of a new homeless shelter.  We want the homeless to receive help… just not on Earth, apparently.

What do these disturbing mistreatment stories and ill  opinions surrounding the homeless reveal about our level of sensitivity and sense of community in helping those who are in need?  “Dumping the “homeless is absolutely not the answer to eradicating this growing life circumstance that has been exacerbated due to our economic state  in this country.  In 2012, the Housing and Urban Development Department reported that 633,782 individuals were homeless in the United States.  Those this figure is slightly less than what was reported the previous year (636,000).  Though there was a slight decline, the numbers show that this country has not effectively extirpated the issues that places individuals and families at risk of homelessness.

If we were to focus more on helping people and families appropriately cope with the issues that put them at great risk of becoming homeless instead of moving the “undesirables” from the “money-making” tourist areas so they will not “disturb” residents and tourists or “tarnish” the look of the city, we may be able to get the homeless numbers down to 0.

Allowing people to call our streets and parks “home” is shameful.  When one person or family becomes homeless, it affects us all.  We cannot sit around and allow people to exploit or dehumanize the homeless in any matter, whether they wear a uniform or not.  This injustice cannot, and most importantly, should not become the “norm” in America in how we address the issue of homelessness.

What steps will you take to ensure that the homeless are treated justly by law enforcement and other members in our communities?  Do you donate resources or volunteer your time to help those less fortunate?  If you presently do not, I hope that this article will prompt you to take some form of action, whether small or large, to find out what organizations are serving the homeless in your community, whether these organizations are upholding the mission and values for which they were founded, and learn more how you can become an advocate in addressing the abuses to human rights that may exist for this population.

We cannot stomp out the issue of homelessness by staying quiet or looking for others to step up – sometimes we have to be the change we want to see.  Writing this article is my way to bring forth awareness and hopefully activism to this problem – what will be your course of action?

If you walk down the street and see someone in a box, you have a choice. That person is either the other and you’re fearful of them, or that person is an extension of your family.
Susan Sarandon

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