civic media: week fourteen

reintegration graphic

 

The planning of logistics and concrete details for our final documentary continued this week in Civic Media. As a class, we decided that our focus for our documentary would be shifting from the story of Ram to a broader outline of the causes of homelessness. Instead of emphasizing the journey of Ram, we will now feature more interviews from students on campus in the attempt to create a dialogue about the issue of homelessness.

 

As well as interviewing students, the production team will also interview a sociology professor, who will speak specifically about the causes of homelessness. By brainstorming questions to ask this professor, we hope that she is able to shed light on those details of homelessness that we have yet to cover in class. As homelessness is a very complex issue, we hope that our video is able to better explain the intricate details and numerous factors that play into this issue.

 

Furthermore, we also briefly discussed the connection between homelessness and prison during class. This is a topic that I was recently exposed to through my participation in Magis, an evening service program offered by Saint Joe’s.

 

Through Magis, I had the opportunity to visit Our Brother’s Place, a men’s homeless shelter located in downtown Philadelphia. Here, I met a man who was previously incarcerated and was now experiencing homelessness. Similar to Thomas, whose story was shared in an article we read for class, this man staying at Our Brother’s Place was unable to find a place to stay when he left prison due to complex circumstances.

 

Frequently, three factors contribute to and complicate homelessness among people leaving prison. These include…

  • Ex-offenders face the same social and economic conditions that lead to homelessness among the general population
  • Ex-offenders returning to the community also face barriers to housing associated with their criminal justice involvement
  • Lack of ownership of the problem among government agencies and community organizations

 

As a result of these factors, many individuals fall back into the same cycle that led to their incarceration. Thankfully, various states have begun to implement reintegration programs for ex-offenders, which ease their transition back into society. For example, ex-offenders in Baltimore can enroll in job training and get help finding a job through the Re-Entry Partnership Initiative. The goal of this program is to help ex-offenders save money so that they can eventually live on their own.

 

I believe that through reintegration programs, such as those being implemented in Baltimore, ex-offenders will be able to reenter society more easily. Furthermore, I hope that they will be able to afford housing and begin working to support themselves.

 

I look forward to continuing the planning and organizing of our final documentary! I hope to learn something more about homelessness through this project.

 

thanks for reading

– madauer

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civic media: interview on homelessness

interview: homelessness

 

For this week’s post, I spent time interviewing several people on the issues of homelessness, incarceration, and recidivism. These individuals who participated in my interview are current sophomores at Saint Joseph’s University. The interview took place on campus at a comfortable and relaxed location. Questions were asked in order to delve deeper into the issue of homelessness. At the end of the interview, individuals were asked how they can help improve the situation and put an end to this cycle…

 

Do you believe that homelessness is a current problem within the city of Philadelphia? Why do you feel this way?

I believe that it isn’t acknowledged as much as it should be. I also believe that it is just as prevalent of an issue within the city of Philadelphia as it is in other cities, such as New York.

 

What is your perspective on the connection between incarceration and homelessness – do you see a link between the two?

I think that today, many opportunities that are given to people are partially based on judgement, how they appear, and their past – not what they can give in the future. So, when interviewed, these individuals are often looked at by their past (such as criminal behavior). This can cause a setback and unequal job opportunities.

 

Describe your reaction to the following statement:
“Jeremy Travis, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute who studies reentry issues, notes that a ‘significant percentage’ of the 600,000 people leaving state prisons each year are likely to be homeless. ‘Even if it’s 10 percent of 600,000 a year, that’s 60,000 a year coming out that have some serious housing issue.’”

I am not surprised that this is happening, because when you are in prison you can lose faith or hope. That is why I believe that it is important for those leaving prison to have somewhere to go, even if it is a temporary housing situation. However, these organizations shouldn’t just provide living assistance, but also support programs and guidance to help these individuals find a permanent profession. Without this strength, assistance, and help that they would receive through the program, these individuals would struggle to reenter society and provide for themselves.

 

Reentry programs are working throughout the country in order to facilitate the transition that formerly incarcerated individuals face upon reentering society. How do you think that these facilities help aid these individuals? (example: job opportunities, education programs, etc.)

As each prisoner leaves the facility that they are serving time at, they should each have someone helping them to discuss future plans for what they will be doing once they leave the prison. This guidance can help motivate them and enable them to find organizations that can provide assistance for them, based on his / her goals in life for the future.

 

Many of the individuals who return to their previous housing situations fall back into the same cycle of criminal behavior, also known as recidivism. How do you think these individuals could avoid this cycle of criminal behavior?

At the quiet times in an individual’s life is when they tend to reflect back on their past, so this could cause them to lose hope as to whether or not they will have anything in the future. This loss of hope will cause them to lose strength in faith for the future. However, by having organizations for these individuals to go to, they can achieve motivation and desire to strive to be a better person than who they were and who they are. They can know that they are capable of being whoever they want to be – it may take work and be challenging, but they are capable of overcoming these challenges. They must remind themselves that they do have a future and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel or hope at the end of their journey.

 

“In Maryland, ex-offenders in Baltimore can enroll in job training and get help finding a job through the Re-Entry Partnership Initiative. The program provides two months of housing, which participants pay for with the stipend they receive while they are in job training.” The goal of this program is for ex-offenders to save money so that they are able to eventually provide for themselves. Did you know that such programs existed? How does hearing about these types of reintegration programs make you feel?

I was aware that such programs existed, however, I was not aware that within these programs, individuals were provided with the opportunity of finding a profession for their future. Before, I thought that they were only provided with temporary housing. This combination of resources will remind these individuals that there are people willing to help them. It will also provide them with faith that there is more potential for them than their past behavior.

 

How do you see yourself as playing a role in improving the issue of homelessness within the city of Philadelphia?

As a freshman at SJU, I spent time helping those who are not as fortunate in the Magis service program. Before taking advantage of this service opportunity at SJU, I thought that I was very grateful for the things that I have been given; however, after witnessing the problems that many individuals face who have experienced homeless, I am even more grateful. Every week we would visit a different organization and learn about how they are working within the community of Philadelphia. These organizations would help feed the homeless or help bring happiness to their situations. One of the first things that we were taught during Magis, was that there is a difference between referring to someone without a home as one experiencing homelessness or a homeless person. Referring to someone as a homeless person defines them based on one quality that they have or their situation. Referring to them as one experiencing homelessness indicates that they have more to them than the one challenge that they are facing.

 

How do you see Saint Joseph’s University as having the potential to bring awareness to this issue, as well as implement programs to stop this cycle of homelessness?

Saint Joe’s currently has many programs – Magis, which I participated in, and also PSIP – a service integration program for incoming freshman. These programs enable participants to help those who are not as fortunate. In addition to Magis and PSIP, Weekly Service also works within the Campus Ministry Department to provide students with the opportunity to visit the same service site every week. This allows participants to become very close with those they are serving with. You are able to learn how those individuals got to their situation and how you can help them improve their situation. I participated in both Magis and Weekly Service, and in my opinion, both programs were eye opening as to what is around me in the community of Philadelphia. I tend to be a very optimistic person; thus I am usually unaware of the challenges that surround me. With these experiences, I now have the desire to provide additional assistance to those in need.

 

How can we aid the use of digital media in order to bring awareness to the topics of homelessness, incarceration, and recidivism?

I think that many people are already aware of the idea of homelessness and how devastating it is; therefore, what I really think would have an impact on the lives of others would be to witness, read, and hear more stories about specific individuals or prisoners and how they became successful after leaving prison. These stories not only inspire individuals to work harder when they want to achieve something, but also gives them the desire to provide assistance to those in need.

 

Overall, I think that this interview went very well. By combining thought provoking questions with detailed quotes from scholarly sources, interviewees were able to both think more deeply about this issue and learn something new. Thank you to my interviewees for participating in this Q&A.

 

thanks for reading – I hope you were able to learn something new through this interview style post on homelessness! Have a happy and blessed thanksgiving.

– madauer

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civic media: week twelve

humanity and dignity graphic

 

The conversation central to homelessness and housing insecurity continued this week in Civic Media.

 

As we began to move away from statistics and facts about homelessness, I started to draw connections between these numerical figures and the more personal stories of those individuals experiencing homelessness.

 

Primarily, as part of a class assignment, we listened to the stories of several individuals experiencing homelessness and summarized their stories in a short power point that we would later share with the class. For this assignment, I listened to Samuel’s story. I found him particularly interesting because of his intelligent, hopeful, and peaceful spirit. The interviewer described the zen garden that Samuel created outside of his tent, comprised of various rocks and leaves.

 

Furthermore, Samuel described his emotional instability and experience with bipolar depression. In the attempt to stabilize his emotions, Samuel struggles to find his place in society, as well as in the workplace. However, Samuel has three wishes for the future – to find a companion to spend his life with, that his son is able to manage his bipolar depression, and that he could have another child with the capability of fully raising him / her and being fully present in his / her life.

 

The stories of these individuals were particularly touching to me as they reminded me of the experiences that I have had in Magis (a weekly service program). As a participant in Magis, I had a very meaningful conversation with a man experiencing homelessness at Our Brother’s Place, a men’s homeless shelter in Philadelphia. By hearing his story, I felt as though the barrier that is often placed between “us” and “them” was unraveled. Often times, society places a certain stigma and stereotype around those individuals experiencing homelessness. However, by engaging in conversation with them, their true humanity and personality comes forth.

 

This year, as a leader in Magis, I have had even more opportunities to engage with individuals experiencing homelessness, as well as experience with non-profit organizations that work to end homelessness. One of these organizations, Project HOME, offered me with the necessary background and facts in order to more fully engage with the issue of homelessness. As part of our visit to Project HOME, we had the opportunity to visit a store run by Project HOME that provides those individuals who have experienced homelessness with job opportunities. After speaking to one of these individuals working at the store, I more fully understood the power of conversation. In great detail, he described his gratitude for the time he spent with a group of college students throughout the week. These students would pack sandwiches and sit with him on the street, talking about anything and everything. These students, he said, reminded him of his worth and humanity.

 

In the future, I will challenge myself to engage with those individuals experiencing homelessness that I so often pass mindlessly on the street. In recognizing their humanity and dignity, we are one step closer to ending the problem of homelessness.

 

thanks for reading

– madauer

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