The Cause Of The Homeless Is Moving Forward

Much has been happening lately to move the cause of the homeless forward. This, of course, is why I haven't been blogging as often as I'd like to. I'm glad to say that progress is being made and that the cries of the impoverished and homeless have reached even as far as the UNITED NATIONS.

On October 7th, the case of SHEPTOCK, et al v. FENTY, et al was back in federal court for a status hearing. This is the case that was begun as a result of Mayor Fenty closing the Franklin School Shelter on September 26th, 2008. Many people are surprised that the case has lasted this long and not been thrown out of court. We are due to return to court on December 11th. So long as the case remains in court, there is still a chance for justice to be served.

On October 22nd, my fellow homeless advocates "Better Believe Steve", Skip Watkins, Brenda Wilson and others pre-taped 2 shows for STREATS TV. In the first show we spoke to Tommy Wells who is the Ward 6 councilman as well as the chairman for the Committee on Human Services along with Laura Zeilinger who is the deputy director for the Dept. of Human Services. We discussed HPRP (the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program) which is presently being developed.

HPRP is being created with federal funds from the American Recovery and Re-investment Act (ARRA) which is better known as the "Stimulus Package". It is geared toward helping those who need very little assistance from the federal government. Recipients of HPRP funds are only eligible for assistance for a maximum of 18 months. The program is not designed for someone to remain in it in perpetuity. The basic framework of the program is such that it will help the victims of the economic downturn to recover by helping them with back-rent, mortgage defaults and making ends meet as they seek employment or are re-trained due to their old line of work having become obsolete.

In the second show we spoke to Leo Alexander who plans to run for mayor in 2010 and Rev. Anthony Motley who will run for city council at-large. We gave them the rundown on what the homeless community expects from them, how terribly Mayor Fenty has disappointed us and the needs of the homeless (in addition to homes). I let them know,"We'll put you in office and then, if you don't deliver, we'll take you out". Leo Alexander made it a point to tell me that I should keep after the present mayor too and not just wait until he takes office in 2010 (hopefully). If only he knew just how much I presently go after Fenty for his misdeeds!!!!!

On October 25th, my choir put on its first concert at the Church of the Epiphany in Downtown Washington, DC. The Welcome Table Choir was begun in October 2006 and consists largely of homeless people. The Welcome Table Eucharist which begins at 8 AM on Sunday mornings (with the church opening its doors at 6 AM) is designed for the homeless population. (The homeless are also welcome at the 11:00 Eucharist.)

In the latter part of 2006, the clergy at the Church of the Epiphany decided that they needed to bring more life to the service. A former seminarian named Joe Hensley and I stood up in front of the congregation with him on the guitar and began to lead the worship. we invited people to join us and to create a choir. No one joined. Then I spoke with a parishoner (who was not homeless) named Carolyn Bledsoe. She informed me that having a choir for the Welcome Table Eucharist was originally her idea. She quickly took her place as the organizer. Three years later, we have over a dozen committed members, the majority of which are homeless or formerly homeless.

During the concert, various choir members were able to showcase their talent. (Unbeknownst to me at the time, someone videotaped me doing a solo of "His Eye Is On The Sparrow". It can be seen on Youtube.) If the involvement by the audience is any indication, they enjoyed the entire concert immensely.

Of all the projects that I've been involved in, the most exciting one is organizing for the arrival of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing. Some years ago, the United Nations declared housing to be a human right. Now they are moving forward on that declaration by making certain that all member nations are in compliance with it. The rapporteur is presently touring several U.S. cities so as to assess the housing and homeless situations in these cities. Her last stop in this country will be Washington, DC on November 7th and 8th. She will hear about the housing situation (i.e. DC's lack of affordable housing) on the 7th and about homelessness in our nation's capital on the 8th. I'm anxious to hear her assessment of this nation's housing practices, as are many others, I suppose.

As you can see, much is happening in DC to further the cause of the homeless. What will come of our efforts remains to be seen. In the meantime, we'll just keep on keepin' on.

NOTE: Thrive DC which used to serve the homeless out of the basement of the First Trinity Lutheran Church at 309 E street, NW is in the process of relocating. Their last day at the former address was Friday, October 23rd. They will be moving to St. Stephen's of the Incarnation at 1525 Newton Street, NW (near the Columbia Heights Metro Station). Their first day at that location will be Wednesday, November 4th.

Their hours will be as follows:

Morning Program (for men, women and children) from 8:30 to 11:30 AM, M-F
Evening Program (for women and children only) from 3 to 6 PM, M-F

(There will not be any more Sunday dinners for women and children; but there will be Friday dinners. Also note the time change for the evening program. It will no longer run from 3:30 to 7 PM.)

FINALLY, I'm not the "conspiracy theory" type and usually shun such conversation. However, something weird has been happening with my e-mail. a select few contacts of mine have not been getting my e-mails lately. I get theirs; but, they don't get mine anymore. They used to get them regularly. I've advised them to check their BULK and SPAM folders, but to no avail. The ones with whom I'm having this problem are the social justice/activist types. This leaves me to wonder if the federal authorities are onto us and intercepting our messages. I've tried to formulate other more credible theories, but couldn't. I even opened another e-mail account today. I'll soon find out if my messages from that account went through. How can I find out if I'm being censored????? Can anyone help with this matter?????

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