Fwd: ACTION Needed!! Update on Homelessness Symposium

Morgan Brown (morganbrown@hotmail.com)
Mon, 02 Nov 1998 11:14:34 EST


Below is a forward of the text of a follow-up by Laura Van Tosh that 
regards previous posts that I recently forwarded to HPN of messages from 
Vicki Fox Wieselthier on the Homelessness Symposium which may be of 
interest to you and others you may know.

Morgan <morganbrown@hotmail.com>
Morgan W. Brown  
Montpelier Vermont USA
Norsehorse's Home Turf: http://members.tripod.com/~Norsehorse/


-------Forwarded message-------

On: Monday, November 2, 1998 at 10:27:58 EST
Laura Van Tosh <Lauravt@aol.com> wrote:

ACTION Needed!! Update on Homelessness Symposium

Hello Fellow Consumer/Survivors, People who are/have been Homeless, and 

I am writing to augment some of what Vicki Wieselthier has written about 
the "National Symposium on Homelessness Research: What Works" sponsored 
by the Departments of Housing and Urban Development and Health and Human 
Services (HUD and HHS) held October 29-30, 1998 in Arlington, VA which 
has been posted on various lists (Vicki has agreed to post this 
message.) I was able to stay until the close of this meeting (Vicki had 
to leave to catch her plane and didn't hear the rest of this macabre 
saga.  I have sent her this update to
incorporate into her summaries, etc.).  Below is an update on the 
outcome of our efforts to ensure the consumer/survivor voice is included 
in this important policy activity.

You may say, "Well they didn't include us, so what can we do now?"  We 
can and should make our views known because, quite simply - it shouldn't 
happen again.

After years of struggling to be seated "at the table," we have earned 
our place.  Two major Federal laws passed in the late 1980's (State 
Mental Health Planning Act in '85 and Protection and Advocacy Act for 
the Mentally Ill in '86) creating opportunities for our active 
involvement and participation in the planning, development, oversight 
and evaluation of mental health services as well as advocacy for persons 
with mental illness.  Among other important milestones, 
consumer/survivors are now in key roles providing and researching
mental health and alternative services.  A huge $20 million program 
funded by CMHS has just begun to research mental health services run by 
and for people with mental health needs.  We cannot ignore the 
incredible strides we've made as a Movement. 

I encourage each of you to express your views by writing letters to the 
appropriate decision makers involved (contact information is below).  I 
am preparing a letter and will post it as soon as possible. Your action 
is critical in this regard.  The responsible parties must know we are a 
Movement, not just a peer group of one or two vocal activists.  Plus, 
this effects all of us!!  Here are some additional details and an 

Policy Research Associates, Inc. took the lead in planning the 
Symposium.  PRA is a government contractor.  They operate the National 
Resource Center on Homelessness and Mental Illness.  Consumer/survivors 
were not part of the planning committee.  A small number of 
consumer/survivors were in attendance and served in token capacities as 
respondents during the Symposium.  The Center for Mental Health Services 
(CMHS) Homeless Programs Branch also played a major role in the planning 
of this meeting.  They also fund the PRA. 

As Vicki has reported, a series of papers were commissioned prior to the 
Symposium on a variety of topics impacting people who are homeless.  
Eleven papers were presented in this pseudo-concensus conference.  None 
were authored by consumers/survivors.  One paper references one 
ex-patient's work.  The papers, according to the planners, were to be 
modified based on respondent input and Symposium participant remarks via 
several open-mic sessions.

By the end of the Symposium, we received a guartantee that a paper would 
be commissioned and written by consumer/survivors.  What was grossly 
missing from these papers was the inclusion of the views of homeless 
people about what "works"  (to use the conference title) or doesn't.  To 
deliberately exclude this flies in the face of the research the other 
authors were attempting to espouse.  One point I raised during an 
open-mic session and in conversations I had with HUD, HHS, the Symposium 
organizers and facilitator, was that one
important way to validate their research and policy recommendations 
would be to include our voice.  We may agree with some of their findings 
- a powerful tool to further their goals for continued research as well 
as the development of models supporting community integration and 
self-sufficiency among people who are homeless.  For homeless people to 
validate their findings would only add power to their hypotheses.

Self-sufficiency among the poor - a common refrain by Congress, policy 
makers, and researchers -  is clearly evident by virtue of current state 
and national initiatives (Welfare to Work, for example).  For the 
HUD/HHS to commission work on homelessness research without taking into 
consideration the Public Relations aspect of the self-sufficiency tenor 
in this country is beyond me. In other words, the 11 papers shut out any 
voice of empowerment, independence, self-sufficiency, etc.  In an era 
where we (those of us who are/have been homeless) are perceived by 
Congress as "feeding off the system," etc. the underlying purpose of 
these papers only perpetuate these misconceptions.  In fact, Congress 
wants to hear about successes.  They demand it.  Especially
when it comes time to appropriate scarce resources.

For HUD/HHS to not see this connection is wholly insulting to all 
homeless people and politically foolish, again given the current state 
of affairs on Capitol Hill.

Several binders containing the 11 papers, by the way, were to be hand-
delivered at the close of the Symposium to the U.S. House Appropriations 
Committee. (This was told to me by James Hoben, a HUD official keenly 
involved in the planning of the Symposium and transporter of the 
binders.)  The binders containing 11 papers are subsidized with public 
dollars and, as Vicki and I have pointed out, does not include our 
voice(s).  We - as I stated during the
open-mic session - are citizens too and to deliberatly withold and/or 
stifle our opinions is sheer oppression.  Responsible public policy 
based on research cannot be developed when a class of people is wholly 
excluded from participating in the development of such policy, etc.

So, the final conclusion, is that a paper will be commissioned (if 
you're interested in serving as a contributor, contact Deborah Dennis at 
PRA - see below).  In addition, the Symposium planners have decided to 
commission a paper on Homeless Youth - another important group excluded 
in the 11 papers.  

As Vicki wrote, the authors were originally asked to modify their papers 
to include  consumer/survivor information and voice.  I doubt this will 
occur. Two authors actually told me they were not modfying their papers 
at all - even with substantial feedback provided to them over the course 
of the two-day Symposium.  That's why I termed the Symposium a 
psedu-concensus meeting.

We must 'go on record' with our views about this incredibly unfortunate 
set of events.  Although a paper will ultimately be commissioned, it is 
being done only after intense advocacy.  Such a paper is, in fact, an 
afterthought and will not be given the same credence as the others which 
were presented at the Symposium.

Below are names and contact information to direct your views.

If you have any additional questions, please feel free to contact me or 
Vicki Wieselthier at vickifw@stlouis.missouri.org.

Thank you very much.
Laura Van Tosh


Key Players:

James Hoben
Office of Policy Development and Research
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
451 - 7th Street, SW, Room 8140
Washington, DC  20410
(202) 708-0547 (phone)
(202) 708-5837 (fax)

Mary Ellen O'Connell
Office of the Assistant Secretary
of Planning and Evaluation
Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, SW
Room 447D
Washington, DC 20201
(202) 260-0391 (phone)
(202) 690-8252 (fax)

Walter Leginski
Homeless Programs Branch
Center for Mental Health Services
5600 Fishers Lane, Room 11C-05
Rockville, MD  20857
(301) 443-3706 (phone)
(301) 443-0256 (fax)

Deborah Dennis
Policy Research Associates, Inc.
262 Delaware Avenue
Delmar, NY 12054
(518) 439-7415 (phone)
(518) 439-7612 (fax)

Linda Fosburg
Abt Associates
55 Wheeler Street
Cambridge, MA  02138
(617) 349-2388 (phone)
(617) 349-2670 (fax)

Secondary Players:

Michael English
Division of Knowledge Development and Systems Change
Center for Mental Health Services
5600 Fishers Lane, Room 11C-26
Rockville, MD  20857
(301) 443-3606 (phone)
(301) 443-0541 (fax)

Fred Karnas, Jr.
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Economic DevelopmentO
Office of Community Planning and Development
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
451 - 7th Street, SW - Suite 7204
Washington, DC  20410
(202) 708-1506 (phone)
(202) 708-3672 (fax)
(no e-mail provided)

Marsha Martin
Office of the Secretary
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, SW
6th Floor, Room 605F
Washington, DC  20201
(202) 690-5400 (phone)
(202) 690-7098 (fax)


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