Wednesday, November 25, 2009

New Blog: Seattle Community Voice Mail

Seattle CVM has a blog! Seattle is where Community Voice Mail was first offered, and the program is now hosted by Solid Ground. Lambert and Maureen manage the CVM program there, and we look forward to lots of information for clients and their agencies. This is the 15th CVM program to publish a blog.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Navigating the Social Service Safety Net

Mark Horvath today introduces us to Jay, a man in Cleveland who lost his job, lost his home to foreclosure, and has been homeless for the past two years. Horvath has himself experience homelessness, and he is perhaps best known for recording short video interviews with homeless people around the county. He often asks the people he's interviewing what their three wishes are, and the responses are always thoughtful, beautiful, and obvious (in a "of course, how simple!" sort of way).

Jay's three wishes are my favorite of the series. Listen to the end...

Jay from on Vimeo.

Monday, November 16, 2009

World AIDS Day - December 1

Tuesday, December 1 is World AIDS Day, an international day to reduce the stigma and raise awareness about HIV and AIDS around the globe. Working with, Community Voice Mail will be participating this year, sending messages to our clients and agencies about HIV testing resources and other information. HIV is five times more prevalent in the homeless population than in the general population, so it impacts a lot of our clients. It's important to know if you're infected, and the only way to know is to get tested.

There are lots of ways you can participate in World AIDS Day, but one great way is to take a photo of yourself showing how you're "Facing AIDS." Just download a Facing AIDS sign, write on it why you're participating, take a photo of you holding it, and submit it to the Flickr pool. will select a bunch of these photos and create a video "collage" that will be available on their site. Great campaign, and the photos already submitted are really touching and powerful. You can learn more by watching the video below, featuring Director Miguel Gomez.

Tulsa Community Voice Mail - in the News

KOTV (Tulsa, OK) has a nice news story about the Tulsa Community Voice Mail program, featuring our own Lori Morton (Tulsa CVM Manager). Watch the clip by clicking on the image, or read the transcript below.

Voicemail Service Keeps Homeless Connected

By Ashli Sims, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- A local program is helping Tulsa's homeless connect with a better life. It's something many people take for granted, but it's offering messages of hope to hundreds.

When Christine ended up at the Day Center for the Homeless, she says she didn't just lose her home. She felt disconnected from her life.

"When you don't communicate with people - you can't communicate with people -it's like being blind and deaf at the same time. It's hard to find your way. And it's hard to get your needs met," said Christine.

Christine needed a phone - to get a job, to find a home, to get out. But she couldn't afford it, and the Day Center line wasn't always the best option.

"People don't want to call somewhere where they have to page you, where you may or may not be there. You may or may not hear your name being called," she said.

That's when she found out about community voicemail. It's a free service that gives folks a phone number with a personalized voice mail that they can check from anywhere.

"They could get a job or stay in touch with their doctors. Or put their name on a list for housing. Because you can't have those opportunities, if people can't reach you," said Lori Morton, Day Center program manager.

Morton says more than 900 people are checking their community voicemail every day, and the program's so successful, it's won a national award.

"As a result we've been able to capture over 660 successful outcomes - goals being met - as a result of having that connection," Morton said.

"Community voicemail is a blessing," Christine, a community voicemail user, said.

Christine says with community voice mail, she was out of the shelter in less than a month and into a home of her own.

"But it gives you hope, absolutely. And it gives you a way out of a place that seems like there's no way out," she said.

Organizers say the program cost about $80,000 dollars a year, and they get much of their funding from the Schusterman Foundation

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

New CVM Blogs: Arizona, Twin Cities and Vancouver (WA)

Three more CVM programs have started blogs, to provide information to clients who use Community Voice Mail, the agencies they're working with, and the community in which they all live. Here's a rundown of the new sites:
  • Arizona Community Voice Mail blog: The Arizona CVM program is hosted by Community Information & Referral in Phoenix, and the blog is maintained by Juan Mendez, the new CVM Manager there. Arizona CVM serves more than 1,500 clients each year.
  • Twin Cities Community Voice Mail blog: The Twin Cities CVM program offers voice mail services statewide, and is the largest program in the country, providing voice mail boxes and broadcast messaging to nearly 5,000 clients.
  • Vancouver (WA) Community Voice Mail blog: CVM Vancouver is hosted by the Council for the Homeless in Vancouver, Washington. CVM Vancouver serves more than 800 clients each year.
Why does CVM blog? Well, we've found that nationally, 59% of our clients have an email address, and look for information (and entertainment) on the web like everyone else. Case managers and others serving people in poverty also use the blogs to provide information to their own clients, especially those who don't have a CVM number. Finally, the material posted on CVM blogs generally mirrors the information our clients receive via broadcast voice messages, so the blog becomes a permanent repository of that information in case our clients lose the voice mail ("Now where did I write that down?").

Happy reading!

Television Show Produced by Homeless People

Last month, CNN did a story about Voices for Change, a TV show on the St. Paul (MN) Neighborhood Network that is produced and presented by people who are homeless. The story focuses on Ron Kennebrew, the producer of the show, and tells his story as a formerly homeless person. Twin Cities Community Voice Mail is involved with the show as well, with board and staff members supporting this effort.Click on the image below to watch the report.