Showing posts with label mitch snyder. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mitch snyder. Show all posts

Monday, May 12, 2014

Homeless Terms To Know - USICH

USICH is the acronym for the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness.

The USICH consists of the heads of some 19 Executive department cabinet heads.  They are charged with enacting the provisions of the McKinney-Vento Act.    The provisions have been modified over time, but the main objective is still to create an all-encompassing federal response to homelessness.  HTTP://USICH.GOV

In 1987, in response to increasing pressure from homeless advocates, but mostly from Mitch Snyder (and the national attention he generated, shedding light on the federal governments lack of response to the growing homeless problem in the United States), a homeless relief bill was created and passed with bipartisan support, soon after re-named the McKinney Act, for the recently deceased senator who supported the bill.  Eventually it was again renamed the McKinney-Vento Act, in honor of senator Vento who also supported the bill and who had passed away.

Like most other bills, this one has undergone several revisions over the years, but they have been mostly positive, strengthening the bill, gaining the support of each successive president.

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Homeless Terms To Know - Mitch Snyder

Oddly enough, my first experience with homelessness (back in 1982) happened to correspond with an unexpected surge in the national homeless population.   I remember seeing news articles in the local paper discussing this sudden increase in homelessness, and reports of its continued growth through the 80s.  This growth was happening in cities all over the country.  Attention shifted from local news to national news and programs like 60 Minutes.   In the mid 1980s a great deal of attention was given to Washington DC homeless advocate Mitch Snyder who understood the importance of media in getting out his message.  In watching old news clips it is interesting to see how the media, even back then, made homeless advocates appear as troublemakers, and how government officials were dismissive and downplayed the significance of Snyder’s efforts.

Mitch Snyder advocated for the needs of the local homeless, yet being in Washington DC, he’s actions had national repercussions.   He requested that the government give one of it’s many empty buildings to his organization to use as a homeless shelter.  Frustrated over the lack of progress being made in this regard, Mitch and others broke into a building and took it over, basically squatting on the property.  Eventually the government conceded and allowed Mitch and his group to lease the building.   Still the building was is very bad condition, walls were crumbling, plumbing did not always work, there was no heating, etc.   So again Mitch called on the government to bring the building up to standards and make the needed repairs.  The government, namely President Reagan, refused.  In response to this, Mitch and 11 others went on a hunger strike.  With Mitch near death, and an election nearing, President Reagan relented and promised to have the building repaired.  This ended the hunger strike, but after several weeks, repairs had yet to begin.

Mitch Snyder’s struggle with the federal government continued until his death in 1990.  But his efforts did provoke the government into action, and homeless people today are still benefiting for it. There is a documentary about Mitch Snyder and his organization CCNV that is available on  Additionally, a low budget movie was made about Mitch called “Samaritan”, also available on

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Sunday, May 11, 2014

Promises to Keep CCNV

Sometimes people fight for the homeless, but not often enough.