Miriam’s Kitchen Gets a Fresh Perspective on Advocacy
New “Advocacy Fellows” Program Leverages Skills and Perspectives of Formerly Homeless Experts to Advance Mission of Ending Chronic Homelessness in Washington, D.C.
January 20, 2015 (Washington, D.C.) Miriam’s Kitchen today named Albert Townsend and Waldon Adams as the organization’s inaugural Advocacy Fellows. Together, they will help shape Miriam’s Kitchen’s advocacy efforts by incorporating their own insights, as individuals who have emerged from homelessness.
“Our guests are at the center of all that we do, so we strongly believe that our advocacy is most effective when it is informed by those who have directly experienced homelessness,” said Kurt Runge, Director of Advocacy for Miriam’s Kitchen. “Albert and Waldon are well-known and well-respected members of the D.C. homeless advocacy community. We could not be more pleased to have them on our team.”
Both Fellows will actively participate in D.C.’s political process by testifying at select D.C. Council hearings, participating in policy working groups and coalitions that address homelessness, and meeting with elected officials and agency staff to recommend policy solutions to homelessness. They both will also work to encourage and inspire people experiencing homelessness to participate in advocacy and community organizing efforts.
According to Runge, the Miriam’s Kitchen Fellows program represents an important opportunity to invest in the chronically homeless community the organization serves.
“Albert and Waldon understand what homeless individuals experience each day. They have the leadership abilities to help inspire, educate and empower homeless and formerly homeless individuals to advocate on their own behalf,” he said. “This represents a big step forward in how Miriam’s Kitchen can help create future leaders and enlist the entire community – especially those most at risk – behind a common goal of ending chronic homelessness in Washington, D.C.”
The program currently consists of two positions:
Albert Townsend has been named the Miriam’s Kitchen People for Fairness Coalition Fellow. Albert will focus his efforts on supporting the People for Fairness Coalition (PFC), a grassroots advocacy organization made up of homeless and formerly homeless District residents. Among his primary duties will be to build leadership skills among PFC members, a role for which Albert is uniquely qualified as a past PFC member and director.
“I want to help people create change in their own lives while they work to change the homeless services system. Advocacy is a powerful way to do both,” Townsend said. “The best way for me to change my situation was by becoming a leader in the People for Fairness Coalition. Without that work, I feel like I would be stuck in the same place as I was five years ago. My goal is to give people an understanding of the political process, help them develop a voice in that process, and provide them with an opportunity to become leaders in their own right.”
Waldon Adams has been named the Miriam’s Kitchen Permanent Supportive Housing Fellow. His duties will include conducting regular outreach to D.C.’s chronically homeless community to share his experience in the District’s Permanent Supportive Housing program, and educating the community at large about the transformative power and potential of this program. Additionally, he will be supporting The Way Home Campaign – a city-wide effort to build public will behind ending chronic homelessness in Washington, D.C. – by encouraging more people who have experienced chronic homelessness to share their voice in the campaign.
“There are solutions to the District’s homelessness crisis, and Permanent Supportive Housing in the Housing First model is one of the most effective ones,” Adams said. “Yet, I’m saddened to find out how few people know about Permanent Supportive Housing – especially the people who need it the most. My goal is to not only inform and educate homeless individuals about the program, but also to empower them to have their voice heard in advocating for this important housing program. People at risk deserve to know that there’s a solution. They deserve to have hope.”
Each Fellowship runs six months, with the current terms running through May, 2015.
About Miriam’s Kitchen
Miriam’s Kitchen is committed to ending chronic homelessness in Washington, D.C. Miriam’s Kitchen advocates for permanent supportive housing as a long-term solution, while meeting short-term needs by providing healthy meals and high-quality social services to more than 5,000 homeless individuals each year. www.miriamskitchen.org
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