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 eleven

healing and hope

 

This week we began the planning of our documentary on homelessness. This documentary will focus on homelessness but will be centered around a story of healing and hope. As a class, we will work in teams to create this documentary.

 

When deciding which team to join, I thought that I would work best on the planning team, as my organization and love of planning would allow me to help establish an outline for the project. On Monday, we worked in our groups to begin developing our thesis, characters, resolution, and script for the documentary.

 

I am very excited to work with my class and develop this story, which will focus on Richard Ramson, or Ram Riches. He is a rapper, artist, and poet from Philadelphia who strives to bring the streets of Philadelphia to life in order to disrupt the preconceived notions that many people hold. These preconceived notions are primarily focused on homelessness and housing insecurity.

 

As well as developing our documentary, we also spent time diving into the issue of LGBTQ youth homelessness this week. By opening up these difficult discussions, we uncovered many of the main concerns and questions that circulate this topic.

 

LGBTQ youth homelessness is a difficult topic to grapple with, as it doesn’t offer any “attractive” one liners or clear statistics. For this reason, it is not an issue that is openly talked about across the media or among individuals in society, especially in comparison with other issues of today, such as marriage equality.

 

Furthermore, there are many barriers that stop authority from achieving an accurate count of LGBTQ youth. These individuals are increasingly difficult to account for, as many of them do not outwardly identify as homeless or LGBTQ. Moreover, much of the LGBTQ youth are not easily reached, as many homeless individuals will avoid those who look like an authoritative figure and homeless youth usually try to remain constantly mobile.

 

The topics that we have discussed in class thus far, especially those concerning LGBTQ homeless youth, housing insecurity, and the broader issue of homelessness, coincide perfectly with the service site that I had the opportunity to visit this week, Project HOME. Project HOME is a nonprofit organization in Philadelphia that works with those individuals experiencing homelessness, as well as those who are beginning their journey to reenter society from homelessness. In terms of social justice, they work to fight the root causes of homelessness and end the cycle of poverty in the community of Philadelphia.

 

During my time at Project HOME, we discussed the alarming young age of children living on the streets, especially focusing on the large portion of those youth who identify as LGBTQ. Many of these topics related to those ideas that we discussed concerning the Family Acceptance Project and the importance of feeling accepted, loved, and protected in your home.

 

At the end of our visit with Project HOME, we narrowed down the main causes of homelessness, with the top cause being a lack of affordable housing. This factor is the number one cause, as it draws a direct line between those individuals experiencing homelessness and the absence of housing options in the community.

 

As I work with my class to develop our documentary on homelessness, I look forward to further learning about the various issues that correspond with this topic. Furthermore, I am excited to learn more about Richard Ramson and his story, as well as help his vision come to life through our documentary. It is through the work of my class in our documentary, as well as the work of nonprofits, such as Project HOME, that elevate the voices of the homeless community and advocate for change.

 

thanks for reading

– madauer

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civic media: week nine

the power of fela kuti

 

This week in civic media, our focus shifted from hip hop music and political expression to a more specific artist, namely, Fela Kuti.

 

Fela Kuti was able to see music’s hidden monumental purpose as a form of political expression. For Fela and those listening, Afrobeat was more than just danceable and catchy music. Rather, his songs contained a political message meant for all of Africa to hear.

 

During the time of Fela and his rise with Afrobeat, the people of Africa were struggling under incarcerated societies. Specifically, the Nigerian and broader African government was employing corrupt and oppressive leaders. As a result, Fela considered it his mission to reclaim Africa’s dignity and stolen identity from the government.

 

Beginning in 1975, Fela called his home a republic, as he was determined to secede and leave Nigeria. His home became known by many as the Kalakuta Republic – all were welcome to his republic as a place of safety and solace from the corrupt government.

 

After police forces stormed and destroyed Fela’s compound in 1977, the Kalakuta Republic was no longer a place of safety for Fela and his people. The police responded with vengeance to Kuti, as they recognized his relentless challenge to Nigerian authorities through his music, lifestyle, and community of followers.

 

An important theme that should be noted from the events of Kalakuta is the immense difference between the intensity of activism in the global North vs. the global South. For those in Africa, activism is more than going into the streets and participating in protest; rather, it is a powerful and dangerous commitment that may result in injury or death by police force.

 

The tragic events of the Kalakuta Republic led to a turning point in Fela’s music. One of these changes can be seen in his song, “Unknown Soldier,” which directly addresses the events that occurred during the Kalakuta destruction in 1977. The more the government attacked Fela and his music, the more defiant he became. This back and forth relationship between Fela and the government continued throughout his musical career.

 

By comparing Fela’s music with much of today’s top hits heard on the radio, it is evident that Fela’s unique sound goes against the music of our modern pop culture. Unlike songs of today, his music refuses to align with “KIS,” or the theme of “Keep It Simple.” Instead, his lyrics are packed with substance, meaning, and political messages. Listeners are able to find something to connect with through his lyrics, usually drawing from their own personal experiences or background.

 

Despite its differences from what is coined as today’s “top hits,” Fela Kuti’s work still resides with many individuals as a reflection of his musical genius. Afrobeat is all about social, political, and cultural change. That change, believed by Fela Kuti and many others, is essential to society and can be initiated through the power of music.

 

thanks for reading

– madauer

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