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Preview & Purchase Our CD: GIVE US YOUR POOR Give US Your Poor Album

This CD has exclusive new tracks by Bruce Springsteen & Pete Seeger, Jon Bon Jovi, Mario Frangoulis, Buffalo Tom, Natalie Merchant, & more in collaboration with currently or formerly homeless musicians on benefit CD to fight homelessness.

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Frequently Asked Questions

1. How will you create a revolution in public awareness?

One person at a time.  We aim to do this by combining (1) education (public and classroom), (2) communications, (3) trusted spokespersons, (4) strategic partnerships, and (5) evidence-based information.

2. That’s all well and good, but can you break that down a bit so it’s believable?

We’ll try.  First education.  We are based at the University of Massachusetts Boston’s McCormack Graduate School where education is our mission.  As a lean organization we are rich in great partners.   These include the Dean, faculty, staff, and students at McCormack as well as Chancellor of UMass Boston, and the Graduate College of Education, and the Center for Social Policy an applied research center where Give US Your Poor was incubated.  We are also fortunate to have partnered with the Writer’s Express who are a national writing program based near us in Boston.   In the past, we have worked with teachers and students to develop curricula that we have used in multiple states.  We aim to keep refining the curricula and widening its use particularly in middle schools, but also at other levels.

Then there is public education.  Through our events and forums, Internet, and Public Service Announcements we always push a systemic thinking to homelessness that takes the traditional focus off of individual failings.  (We have always had individual failings in the U.S.; we have never had rates of homelessness like we do today.)

Second, is communications.  We again are rich in partners that bring expertise and tools in communications.  This includes our lead media partner, King Fish Media, the rich media direct marketing tools (FLIMP, ExactTarget), musicians (celebrity and homeless), filmmakers (Larry Marshall, Michael Mierendorf especially among others we have worked with), amazing writers, politicians, photographers (Lynn Blodgett, Dave Miller, Susan Young), record label partner (Appleseed Recordings) and publishers.  This allows us to effectively communicate through film, photography, Blogs, PSAs, the web, film, You Tube, music, and writing (e.g., Op Eds and other outlets).  

Trusted spokespersons.  We are fortunate to partner with folks that are generous with their name and reputation in the effort to better address homelessness.  Celebrity actors and musicians leverage their audience and draw more attention to the issue.  Our board members do the same, whether writing or speaking or endorsing.  Many leading advocates and researchers are also trusted spokespersons that we work with.  And lastly, the truest experts on homelessness, someone who has experienced homelessness and can effectively speak to the issue.  There are many such people that are the greatest asset in dispelling myths about homelessness.  We are fortunate to partner with many of them.

Strategic Partners.  Again, we are a lean organization in size.  Our partnerships are our greatest resource.  They include private sector, homeless networks (people and organizations), artists, education networks, media experts, and politicians.

Evidence based information.  Give US Your Poor began as a project of the McCormack Grad School’s Center for Social Policy an applied research center.  Its value of research greatly informed Give US Your Poor.  Many researchers are on the Give US Your Poor board and/or supporters of work and a vital resource.  We also are up to date on the latest research in the homeless field.  At the same time there is always a danger of collective thinking getting stale.  We always look for that research that is trying a new tact to speed known solutions or find new ones.  Currently we are looking to systems-based approaches and market-based solutions to complement known successes around supportive housing and homelessness prevention.

3. How will you dispel myths?

BY focusing on that.  It’s not too hard.  Example.  “Most homeless people are lazy?”  We shared data such as that from the U.S. Conference of Mayors that found that over 40% of the homeless population work.  Or we highlight cases of mothers working three jobs and still can’t afford enough rent, clothes, food for kids, heat, transportation.   “All homeless people are like the person I see on the street – drunk, dirty …scary.”  We partner with  amazing people like Cheryl Middleton and her daughter to speak to classrooms where they talk compellingly and articulately about their experience with homelessness.  It’s easy to explain to someone that the homeless person they may see on the street is not necessarily representative of the majority of homeless people.  The hard part is bringing that message to scale so it translates into changed behavior.  That’s our job.

4. How will you inspire action towards ending epidemic homeless?

We do this through different avenues, speaking to the heart and the head.  To the heart, stories through video, or music (sweet music!), or photography can do wonders to open people up to the human connection.  It’s just a fact.  But speaking to the heart is not enough.  That must be coupled with facts about what we know about helping end homelessness for people (prevention, Housing First, are two great examples).  But also stepping back and providing an easy to understand framework of homelessness, how it evolved as such (decisions were made in the past that affect today), and policy and market conditions, etc. 

Most people want to help but need a connection and a belief there is a plausible plan to making a difference.  Then they will act.  We’ve seen that.

5. How do you define epidemic homelessness?

We use that language because who can say there will never be one homeless person and you will end all homelessness?  Probably no one.  But what we have today, some 3.5 million homeless people each year according to the latest data from 1999 (we assume its more now) is clearly “epidemic.”  The fact that we need a homeless industry to just house people who are otherwise on the street is an epidemic.  So, we define an “epidemic” as the homeless rate reach 0.05% of the population.  For Boston, where Give US Your Poor is based, with a population of about 590,000 in 2006 that would mean the number of homeless people is below 295.  In 2006, the point in time homeless count for Boston was 6,636 or 1.12% of the population.  Boston is a leader in addressing homelessness with a wonderful service system and an aggressive mayor for whom addressing homelessness is a priority.   There are many factors on the system contributing to homelessness.

6. How and where does Give US Your Poor work to affect change at the policy level?

Give US Your Poor is an active partner with the national homeless advocacy network and has contacts in the U.S. House and Senate that we work with. It aims to promote a very limited number of specific policy proposals (3-5 at most), promoting bi-partisan approaches wherever possible. It will include utilizing our networks, and communication tools and expertise to reach legislators, partners, and the general public.

7. How and where does Give US Your Poor work engage volunteerism?

We have opportunities within Give US Your Poor (host a house party, bring our homeless curriculum to your local schools, help with an event) but that is not what we talk about when we say engage volunteerism. It refers to inspiring people new to the issue to get involved and promoting the pyramid of involvement. We plan to enhance our website in 2009 to link visitors to our site to volunteer opportunities close to them based on their level of the pyramid they are comfortable with. There will be a structured way to engage them through the site to push some folks up the pyramid as they are ready. We can support volunteerism through fun events, service-learning components built into our curriculum, and merchandise…and other creative ways we haven’t thought of yet!

8. How and for whom does Give US Your Poor work to affect contributions at the individual and corporate levels?

See question 7 above. We will do this through targeted appeals for Give US Your Poor as well as promotion of the pyramid of involvement which includes giving to some homeless organization with suggested levels of giving depending on the level of the pyramid a donor is self identified as.

9. How does Give US Your Poor work to do the above through the media?

TV/radio (coverage of our work and nationally run TV Public Service Announcements), OP ED articles in the newspapers, FLIMPs (rich media marketing campaigns), and blogs.

10. How does Give US Your Poor work to do the above through technology?

Primarily through the FLIMPs which is a cutting edge rich media direct marketing tool and company by the same name that we have partnered with. Also through the Internet and systems-thinking technology to explore scenario planning to address homelessness.

11. What kind and how does Give US Your Poor work to channel support to partner homeless organizations?

To date that has occurred by making available the following: celebrity and homeless artist music CDs at cost (with partner Appleseed Recordings) so they can sell and keep all the profit, curriculum made available at no cost to use in their communities, video shorts for conferences and public events our partners run, access to PSAs with their name changed in the titles. As we advance our Internet reach we will feature links to partner organizations. Also through our concerts we have raised money for other homeless organizations, and lastly we often promote the efforts of other homeless organizations around the country to our database of supporters. On our website we will have a revolving logo of featured partner homeless org and corporate sponsor. We will also feature innovative work by our partners.

Plus as other opportunities arise we will be receptive. It's part of our mission!