Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Keep the Messages Flowing in D.C.

Street Sense is a street newspaper in Washington, D.C. that raises public awareness about homelessness and poverty in the city, and creates economic opportunities for people experiencing homelessness. Last week, they published a nice article about the D.C. Community Voice Mail (CVM) program, describing how one client used the service (and his personal will) to land a job and gain some financial independence. We love articles like this, because it shows what we know to be true; homeless people and/or those who can't afford a phone number lose out on opportunities to live a better life, and CVM is a simple, low-cost solution to this problem.

But, CVM doesn't happen by magic, and it doesn't happen without support. And this article points out the hard truth; our D.C. program is in danger of closing due to funding cuts for social services in D.C.. For want of $40,000 and an agency to host the program, hundreds of homeless and low-income people in D.C. may no longer have a phone number to put on job applications.

So, times are tough all over, and every agency providing services to people living in poverty (including the surging numbers of newly homeless) is looking for ways to maintain services in the face of reduced funding. We're not whining. We just want to find the right group of people who want to keep CVM available to the thousands of homeless and "phoneless" people in D.C.. We're not talking about millions of dollars and big infrastructure; we're only talking about $40,000 a year to pay for a part-time person in D.C. who will distribute phone numbers to the 35 existing agencies (and find new ones), send broadcast voice and email messages about about jobs and other resources to clients using the system, and innovate locally by finding new uses for CVM. It's a plug-and-play program that scales, with great support from a National Office here in Seattle and 44 other programs around the country. Clients need it. Agencies benefit from their clients having a reliable phone number (so they can reach them. Duh.). Communities benefit from homeless or at-risk people getting back on their feet and contributing again.

Can you think of another program to help homeless people that achieves so much for such a small investment? $40,000? In a city the size of D.C.?

If you'd like to talk about ways to keep CVM in D.C., and make it an even stronger resource for the homeless and the people serving them, contact us.

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