Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Can You Wax Poetic?

It used to be that when you loved someone (or something), you wrote them a poem. Now, if you love what we do here at Community Voice Mail, you can write a poem about us and help us raise $10,000!

The CTK Foundation Philanthropic Fund is having a nationwide contest asking people to write a 4-8 line poem describing the "heart and soul" of their nonprofit mission. CTK will select the best poem from among all the entries it receives, and the winning organization will receive $10,000 and have their poem set to music and recorded by the Grammy Award-winning band Los Lonely Boys.

Any nonprofit can submit a poem, and CVM is looking for your help. We're good with words, but we're betting that among you (our clients, our agencies, our CVM Managers, our donors, our friends) there are some great poets who can write beautifully about Community Voice Mail. Here's the deal:

Anyone can participate. Simply write your best 4-8 line poem about Community Voice Mail, and send it to us at info@cvm.org by Monday, July 13. You must include your name, phone number (of course), city and state. We hope we get a lot of poems by our clients!

The staff of the Community Voice Mail National Office will read every submission and pick our favorite to submit as CVM's official entry in the contest. If Community Voice Mail's poem is selected by the CTK Foundation, CVM will receive the $10,000 grant. If the winning poem is submitting by a CVM client, staff, participating agency or volunteer of a local Community Voice Mail program, CVM will split the $10,000 between our office and the nonprofit agency hosting the program in that community. Your poem can help a lot of people get a free voice mail box, and a new connection to information, resources and hope.

If you need any inspiration, learn more about Community Voice Mail at www.cvm.org, or on this blog. Maybe watch a fun animated film about us. Follow our tweets, see us on Facebook, or visit us in Second Life. Read who we helped last year. Or maybe just go sit under a tree and contemplate the beautifulness that is Community Voice Mail. (Or sit under a tree and think how hard it would be if you were homeless and didn't have a reliable phone number). Get your friends involved. Be deep, be zany, rhyme, don't rhyme. Poety, like Community Voice Mail, is versatile!

Remember, you have to submit your poem to info@cvm.org by July 13 to be considered as our entry for the CTK contest. Thanks in advance for sending us your words!

Friday, June 26, 2009

It's Hot In Houston!

6/29 Update: The always great End Homelessness on Change.org has a post about heat and homelessness. Also, the heat advisory is still on for Houston today.

It was hot in Houston this week. Hot. As in 102 degrees hot on Thursday, with a heat index of 108 or so. It was hotter in Baghdad yesterday (113 degrees), but not by that much. Most people in Houston are probably finding some relief from the heat in air-conditioned offices, apartments and homes. But what about people who don't have a place to live? High temperatures like this aren't just uncomfortable when you're homeless; they can be deadly. Your body can lose up to a gallon of water each hour through perspiration in such temperatures. There is danger from heat exhaustion, stroke and other health issues resulting from dehydration.

The City has issued a heat advisory through Saturday night, and more than 1,800 CVM clients learned what they can do to stay safe from a series of messages sent from the Houston Community Voice Mail manager. On Thursday, he sent a broadcast voice message that reached everyone, a broadcast email message that reached 568 CVM clients, and posted a message on the Houston CVM blog that reached others in the area. As with messages sent to Houston CVM clients before Hurricane Ike in 2008, it's likely that these simple messages saved a life, or at least prevented someone from getting seriously ill.

Many of our clients are homeless, or may otherwise find it hard to get accurate information about important things in a timely manner. We used to think that providing our clients with a phone number made up most of the value of our service. Increasingly, it's the ability to send information to our clients, and to get responses from them, that is making all the difference. And this is happening all over the country, in 45 CVM cities.

Bruce and Donna

InvisiblePeople.tv has a new video posted, featuring a couple living in Nickelsville in Seattle (my city). Nickelsville is a living community created by and for homeless people, named after the mayor of Seattle (Greg Nickels). The encampment is forced to move around a lot, but while it's in one place, it's a remarkably well-organized community. People have to sign agreements to live there. There are strict rules against things like drugs, alcohol and weapons. Community meetings are mandatory. There is sanitation, security, and most of the things that other communities have. While we need make Nickelsville and similar homeless communities unnecessary by actually housing people, I find the resolve of the people living in this community quite inspiring. Sometimes, you just have to make what you need. (And remind me to check to see if they have a phone available for residents to use).

Bruce and Donna from InvisiblePeople.tv on Vimeo.

InvisiblePeople.tv has more video about Nickelsville that describes in detail how it is organized. (My thanks to Scot at Community Voice Mail Houston for letting me know about this).

Monday, June 22, 2009

"Hi, I'm Homeless" Animation

We've updated our short animation about Community Voice Mail, and it's worth watching. Maybe it's because I was raised on Bugs Bunny, but I find this animation to be one of the most effective ways to tell people about what we do. We hope you like it!

I wish all of our clients had such an easy time getting a job and finding housing, but again, this is just a cartoon. In real life, a Community Voice Mail number is just a great and simple tool to help the client do what he or she is trying to accomplish (employment, housing, health care, connection).

Friday, June 12, 2009

National HIV Testing Day: CVM partners with AIDS.gov to get the word out

June 27th is National HIV Testing Day. This week, Community Voice Mail launched a campaign with AIDS.gov to inform our clients around the country about free or low-cost HIV testing resources in local communities. Every nine and half minutes, someone in the United States becomes infected with HIV, and AIDS.gov estimates that 1 out of 5 people that have HIV don't know they're infected. HIV is five times more prevalent in the homeless population than in the non-homeless population. It's important to know if you're infected, and the only way to know is to get tested.

Using our national communication network, here's what we're doing to inform our clients and agencies (and lots of others) about local HIV testing resources:
  • Sending broadcast voice messages to 20,000 clients. Click here to listen to the message sent by our Aiken County (SC) CVM Manager. CVM Managers in all our cities are sending similar messages
  • Sending broadcast email messages to the 3,600 clients who have given us their email addresses
  • Sending broadcast voice and/or email messages to our contacts at 1,800+ social service agencies in 45 cities, encouraging them to tell all their clients about HIV Testing Day
  • Blogging, "tweeting" (Twitter) and posting messages on facebook. Several sites are also adding badges and widgets from AIDS.gov to their web properties
  • In May, we presented with AIDS.gov at a "mixed reality" panel at NetSquared's N2Y4 Conference in San Jose and in Second Life. (In the coming weeks, look for more about HIV Testing Day in CVM's Second Life presence - SLurl)
It's great to be able to communicate with so many people who are often hard to reach, and who can benefit greatly from this kind of information. The partnership with AIDS.gov has been great, and we look forward to working with them again on other information campaigns. Most importantly, we hope that a lot of people who might not otherwise think about it call the hotline, find a testing location, and get tested.

Call 1-800-232-4636 (CDC-INFO), or go to www.hivtest.org to find an HIV testing site near you.

Planning to Tweet about this post? Please use the hashtag for HIV Testing Day (#NHTD09) and the Twitter handle for the CVM National Office (@cvmnational)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Two New CVM Blogs (New Mexico and D.C.)

Two more Community Voice Mail programs have recently launched blogs:
There are now 11 CVM blogs around the country, including this one. Welcome New Mexico and D.C.!