[Hpn] Re: looking for suggestions / Homeless Speakers / tips on tone

Tom Boland wgcp@earthlink.net
Mon, 1 Jan 2001 19:21:07 -0800 (PST)


>some friends and myself are looking for funding that would allow us start a
>mentor group where formerly homeless people would go around speaking to
>different homeless coalitions and shelters . anyone got any ideas where we
>may
>find funding for this? - thanks - doug <JDOJ1@aol.com>

My advice on Homeless Speakers Bureaus follows my musings on the "tone of
our discourse".

HPN will not censor text which our members write and post.
Nevertheless, I encourage HPN list-members to:
1) address how to end homelessness,
2) treat facts and theories fairly, (and)
3) write in a tone of personal respect.

As an activist and journalist, I _love_ "free-ranging DEBATE" on the causes
and solutions to homelessness.  To be _useful_, I think debate needs to
show RESPECT for others, even when we disagree.  Why?

If we "homeless activists who've been there" can be DIVIDED on aims and
means, or if perceived "leaders" openly compete by "character
assassination", we can easily be discredited, and our efforts will gain
little for our "currently homeless" peers.

If we are UNITED on goals and means _and_ if we also "act in solidarity",
we can help redistribute wealth and power from the Haves to the Have Nots,
including homeless people.

Conventional so-called "best practices" for ending homelessness fail so
miserably, I think, that we need to think "out of the box" on how to "help
each other".  Plus we need "seek aid to gain our aims" from "never-homeless
others" who have resources we need.

We need to assure that "coalitions to end homelessness" address homeless
people's self-defined aims.  Toward that end, we must self-select "our own
voices" whereever institutional policies are made which affect us.
Otherwise, others will speak "for" us or select "Tokens from among us"
willing to push for funding for traditional, unworkable approaches.

Homeless Speakers Bureaus sometimes deploy few speakers.

*Any ideas why some Bureaus fail, or how to effectively run Homeless
Speakers Bureaus?

Some good ideas about funding have been suggested.  I'd add these tips:

Start small, funding your efforts out of pocket.  Once you establish a
track record, you can attract grants.

Before you seek grants, find a nonprofit who will become your "Fiscal
Conduit".  Such fiscal sponsors keep a record of your grup's cash flow, but
governance remians within your group.

Governance:  I suggest that only (or mainly) currently and formerly
homeless people be allowed on any Board or governing body for your project.

Staffing:  I also suggest that all staff have experienced homelessness, or
at the very least, be strongly considered for any paid job opening.

Pay your speakers before you pay anyone else.  It irks me when major
coalitions _can_ afford to pay staff to arrange "homeless speak-outs", but
then claim that they _can't_ afford to pay homeless speakers.

Take funds only from sources who will promise not to interfere with the
content of the messages your speakers put out to the public and to
policy-makers.  It's very hard (but possible for the brave) to take funds
from a group (such as corporations or government) and still have the
principle to criticize funders when they act against homeless people's
interests.  But always refuse funds from groups that try to select your
messengers or control your message.

Seeking peaceful means to homeless people's aims. -- HPN listworker Tom


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