Thursday, April 28, 2011

Upcoming Events in support of the Mayors' Plan to End Homelessness

H.O.P.E. :: Opportunities for Action

Mobilization at City Council :: Tuesday, May 3, 3:30-6:30pm
Phonebanking :: Starting Wednesday, May 4, 6:30-8:30pm
Campaign Organizing Mtg :: Monday, May 9, 7:00pm
For any questions pertaining to any of these events please contact Brad Watkins, Organizing Coordinator for H.O.P.E. at 901-725-4990 or by email at

Mobilization at Memphis City Council
Memphis City Council Chambers, 125 North Main Street
Tuesday, May 3rd :: 3:30pm-6:30pm * Presentation will occur between these times *

Sadly, the presentation of the Mayor's Plan to End Homelessness has once again been delayed from the Memphis city Council meeting on this past Tuesday April 19th. The Federal budget cuts in Washington DC may have a serious impact on funding of local programs for homeless prevention and housing and shelter opportunities. This is the fifth straight delay in the presentation which was originally set for Feb 15th! We can afford no further delays in this process as the budget hearings on the city and county level are already underway. It is now confirmed that Mayor AC Wharton will present the plan to the council on Tuesday and that there will be no further delays.

We invite you to come join us at 3:30pm to join us we will loudly call out to our elected officials to support of full funding of the Mayor's Plan to End Homelessness, federally and locally. We will also be calling on the council for a percentage of set aside jobs for the homeless and graduates of the Shelby County Drug court out of the millions in blight demolition, board ups and yard work that the city needs done. We can provide jobs for those who have little chance of getting them even in a good economy and curb blight at the same time.

We really need you there, all of you, as we launch our grassroots campaign of lobbying and phone banking high turnout voters across this city to stand with us in the coming weeks to ensure that the administration’s pledge of help to those without shelter is not empty words or just hollow campaign promises.

For those who have not seen this plan, you can download a copy through this link.

Phone banking for H.O.P.E. :: Starting Wednesday May 4th
Volunteers needed!!

We are also seeking volunteers for our phone banking drive, where we will begin to call most likely voters across the city to place calls of support of funding this plan to end homelessness to their elected officials. These calls will be made from the offices of MSPJC starting on Weds, May 4th from 6:30pm-8:30pm and will continue every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday throughout the city and county budget process.
It is crucial to understand that the City of Memphis and Shelby County currently contribute $0 (zero dollars) to homeless services in Memphis. That is if you don't count the money spent on medical care at The Med, MPD and Sheriff man hours spent "policing" this population, jail costs spent locking the homeless up, fire costs associated with fires in vacant houses that people are forced to turn to because we have no free shelter in Memphis. Full implementation of the Mayors' Plan to End Homelessness could put an end to these negative costs, but only if we invest in a positive future for those living on the streets of Memphis.

If you are interested in volunteering please contact Brad Watkins, Organizing Coordinator for H.O.P.E. at 901-725-4990 or by email at

H.O.P.E. Campaign Organizing Meeting :: Monday May 9th at 7pm

There will be a campaign organizing meeting on Monday, May 9th at 7pm at the offices of the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center.(map) At this event we will discuss how we will push this issue out into our communities in order to rally community support for this plan and how you can be involved. If you are interested in becoming involved in this campaign please attend.
For any questions pertaining to any of these events please contact Brad Watkins, Organizing Coordinator for H.O.P.E. at 901-725-4990 or by email at

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Investment not Charity can end Homelessness

The public face and perception of homelessness is changing and as more and more families grapple with economic uncertainty, we all as human beings should take time to be mindful of the old adage, “There but for the grace of God go I.”

Yet all too often we look at homelessness and those who are homeless with a two-fold ambivalence. This denies the harsh realities of what occurs out on the streets of Memphis and also gives rise to a greater danger than simple disinterest, a narrative of “exclusive charity.”

Homelessness has myriad causes and dimensions, from foreclosure, to mental illness, domestic violence, job loss, medical expenses and addiction among others.

If we as a community are to properly respond and act, then we must take a more comprehensive view of why homelessness occurs and in what ways can we be most effective in combating it.

REACHING HOME is a two-day series of events to raise community awareness on the issue of homelessness and as a kickoff for the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center’s efforts to rally community support for adequate funding for the Mayors’ Plan to End Homelessness. MSPJC staff worked as members of the policy and planning committee that crafted and researched the various programs and reforms within the plan.

This plan, sponsored and supported by both City Mayor AC Wharton and Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell, stands as a historic document and is potentially a path to ending homelessness in our community within 5-10 years.

The committee chaired by Housing and Community Development director Robert Lipscomb and facilitated by city consultant Katie Kitchin looked at best practices from across the country and modified those programs to fit the needs of our population in Memphis. The committee also looked at which existing local programs was most effective and needed augmentation for continued success.

After a year-long process, the plan is complete and is scheduled to be presented to the Memphis City Council on April 19th. The Mid-South Peace and Justice Center will be working to rally community support to ensure that this plan is funded. To be frank, this is a historic document and represents an enormous paradigm shift in the city’s approach to homelessness. The MAYORS’ Plan moves our City and County efforts away from an unsuccessful “housing readiness” ideal to a “housing first” model, stressing permanent supportive housing among other reforms.

Still, despite the many noble and data-supported programs and reforms within this plan, the fact remains that without adequate local funding from the city of Memphis it is simply pretty words on paper.

Many will cite the old canard that in this period of fiscal austerity we cannot afford to fund these services now. However one should note that for slightly less than one percent of the operating budget of the City of Memphis combined with our federal funding, we could be well on our way of effectively ending homelessness in as little as 5-7 years. The problem is that homelessness is most often spoken of in a “charity” narrative. “Charity,” in the minds of most people, is what is done after “essentials” are paid for.

Resigning this social ill to the exclusive province of charity alone automatically destines the issue to forever be a lower priority. This concept is even more dangerous than apathy. Homeless services like the MAYORS’ Plan are investments into the long-term health of the city, morally, spiritually and fiscally.

Consider that we currently spend 3/5th of our operating budget on police and fire services. Modest and reasonable investments in this plan will pave the way for tens of millions of dollars in savings on the city and county level through decreased MPD manpower hours, fewer 9/11 emergency calls and EMS ambulance services, fewer vacant fires, fewer emergency medical costs via Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare and The Med, as well as reduced General Sessions Court operational and administrative costs and a reduction of jail operational costs and overcrowding.

These savings can and will occur in the short and long term. So it’s important to see that we all have a vested self-interest in raising the quality of life of those who are suffering from brutal poverty, mental illness and or addiction on our city streets, in our shelters, and in our vacant properties. The above costs I listed are all upwardly trending and this plan is the only option on the table thus far that provides a sustainable means of lowering those costs.

We should also consider, that despite reports that violent crime is on a downward trend, domestic violence rates continue to occur at a high rate. Also consider that Memphis and Shelby County have a relatively low level of available shelters for homeless women. I, for one, do not believe these two things to be unrelated, the lack of adequate shelter for homeless women compels many to remain in harms way due to the fact that they have no where else to go. Domestic violence is one of the leading causes of homelessness in families with children. This in turn has ramifications in our schools and educational systems.

The point is our issues and challenges in this city are all connected. Just as we as residents of Memphis and Shelby County are all connected, Christians, Muslims, Jews and skeptics alike. Homelessness is not a “them” issue, it is and always will be an “US” issue.