Archive | November 2013

Remember and render help to “…….the least of these…….”

Homeless Child

The “least of these” refers to those in a variety of needy situations. They include the hungry, thirsty, impoverished, sick, and imprisoned. Jesus said that those who cared for such individuals were not merely serving other people. They were serving God.

In the same passage of the Bible, the opposite is also noted. This narrative in the Bible concludes with Jesus condemning those who saw others in need and yet did not help. Jesus says, “For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’”

It will soon be Thanksgiving and in the American tradition, many will prepare a celebration to express their gratitude to God for all the blessings in their lives. Most celebrate with a turkey dinner. It is a longstanding tradition.

This year’s Thanksgiving holiday, for many families, is filled with worry about how they will pay their bills in December. How would you celebrate if you couldn’t afford to buy the traditional Thanksgiving food? There would be no turkey, no mashed potatoes, no gravy, no dressing, and even no pumpkin pie.

Many throughout our nation are facing another Thanksgiving holiday that will not include the traditional meal with all the trimmings. Economic times are very difficult for countless families and food budgets, for many, are stretched to the limit. You can make it a better holiday for a family in your community. Donate to your local community food bank and you will help make Thanksgiving a joyous day for many of your neighbors in need. After all, it’s an American tradition. Donate food to Food Banks in your community. The need for food continues to grow. Make a difference; change a life. God has always shown a special concern for the poor and needy (Psalm 35:10). It should come as no surprise that He expects His followers to do the same. What is surprising about the “least of these” is that our service is ultimately not to the poor, but to Christ Himself.

Tell your members of Congress to protect programs that give hope and opportunity to people experiencing hunger and poverty. Reducing our nation’s long-term debt is critical, but hungry and poor people didn’t cause the problem, and cutting programs that help them won’t significantly reduce our debt. But cutting these programs will have a devastating impact on the most vulnerable members of our society. As the our federal elected officials considers budget cuts, please join me in urging Congress to keep our nation’s commitment to those Jesus called “the least of these.” Please join me in sending an email to our members of Congress today and remind them that they are in office to care for all their constituents not simply the 1%.

Source(s): The Bible. http://www.gotquestions.org

Photo credit: Microsoft Clip Art

Bullying Online

Woman on Computer

With the growing prevalence of the Internet and online social networks, cyber bullying, cyber stalking, and cyber harassment have become ever growing phenomena. For some, it took the tragic deaths of countless victims such as Phoebe Prince, Hope Witsell, Ryan Halligan, Tiffany Barwick, Tyler Clementi, and Megan Meier to bring these issues into the public conscientiousness. This post will focus on cyber bullying. Cyber bullying occurs between minors. When an adult is harassing children or teenagers, it is known as cyber harassment or cyber stalking. As the Internet becomes more popular and online communities become more close-knit as well as more prevalent, online misconduct is occurring at an ever increasing rate in cyber space.

What constitutes Cyber bullying?Cyber bullying has been defined by some experts as a willful and repeated act where a child or teenager is harassed, humiliated, embarrassed, threatened or tormented through the use of digital technology such as computers, cell telephones, and other electronic devices. It is not limited to the Internet; cyber bullying also encompasses bullying done through such methods as text messages. It is important to reiterate that experts state that cyber bullying can only occur between minors. Research data indicates that cyber bullying can be just as devastating as bullying in real life. In some cases, cyber bullying is an extension of bullying already endured by the victim at school.

Cyber bullying is often a systemic attempt to cause another person to experience emotional pain as the result of an electronic communication or a series of communications. Traditionally, it occurs more than once, and includes but is not limited to: creating disturbing blog and website posts; leaving demeaning messages on victim’s Facebook or MySpace page; spreading gossip or rumors through instant messaging and text messaging; uploading embarrassing photos of the victim; and/or sending defamatory tweets on Twitter. Bullies have demonstrated that there are countless methods to humiliate and threaten a child or teen online. Because the damage is often psychological, and carries over into the real world, the threats posed by cyber bullying can be devastating for the victim. There have been cases where cyber bullying has been linked to severe depression, self-harm, and even suicide.

Prevalence of Teens and Cyber bullyingResearch indicates that electronic dating violence and teens is a significant social problem. The Cyberbullying Research Center reported that an online survey of teens sponsored by the Liz Claiborne company revealed that 36% of teens say their boyfriend or girlfriend checked up on them as many as 30 times per day and 17% reported that their significant other made them afraid not to respond to cell phone calls, email, or text messages. Another recent poll spearheaded by MTV and the Associated Press found that 22% of youth between the ages of 14 and 24 who were involved in a romantic relationship said that their partner wrote something about them online or in a text message that was not true. (Cyberbullying Research Center) This same survey reported that 22% of youth felt that their significant other checked up on them too often online or via cell phone. (Cyberbullying Research Center). The results of these studies referenced on the Center’s website illustrate that electronic dating violence is occurring across a meaningful proportion of youth in our nation.

In response to this pressing problem, the Obama administration has taken important and necessary measures to combat bullying. His administration is directing resources for the express purpose of reducing bullying in schools and to raising awareness around its ramifications, and, of course, to countering its negative impact. Toward that end, the White House convened a conference on preventing bullying, on Thursday, March 11, 2011. The Obama administration also launched a new website, http://www.stopbullying.gov, devoted to bullying prevention.

For further information on bullying and/or cyber bullying prevention and intervention strategies, there are several websites you can visit including but not limited: http://www.fightcrime.org; http://www.bullypolice.org; http://www.healthline.com; http://www.cyberbullying.us; http://www.stopbullying.org; http://www.stopbullying.gov; http://www.isafe.org; and others.

Source(s): White House website, §2 – C.18A:37-13.1 §1 – C.18A:37-13.2 §16 – C.18A:37-15.3 §§17; http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2010/Bills/AL10/122_. PDF. Fight Crime.org; Bully Police USA, Inc.; Healthline.com; Politics Daily; MyFoxPhilly.com; NJ.com; Cyber Research Center; Stop Bullying, Inc.; i-Safe, Inc.; “NJ Assembly, Senate Passes “Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights’ in Wake of Tyler Clementi’s Death” November 22, 2010, NJ.com; “Rutgers Student Tyler Clementi Commits Suicide After Video Voyeurism”, October 5, 2010, Star Ledger. Photo credit: Microsoft Clip Art

Veterans Day 2013

soldiers

In the USA, Veterans Day annually falls on November 11. This day is the anniversary of the signing of the armistice, which ended the World War I hostilities between the Allied nations and Germany in 1918. Veterans are thanked for their services to the United States on Veterans Day. Today is Veterans Day. With that being said, this post will speak to one of the many challenges confronting an alarming number of America’s veterans—homelessness.

Given their sacrifices for our nation, the number of veterans that are either homeless or at risk of homelessness is as my grandmother would say “a sin and a shame”. Here in the United Sates there approximately 1.5 million veterans that are at risk of homelessness due to poverty, lack of support networks, and dismal living conditions in overcrowded or substandard housing. According to the Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) there are over 67,000 homeless veterans on any given night.[i] Over the course of a year, approximately twice that many experience homelessness.[ii] Only eight percent of the general population can claim veteran status, but nearly one-fifth of the homeless population are veterans.[iii]

Why are veterans homeless?
In addition to the complex set of factors influencing all homelessness – extreme shortage of affordable housing, livable income and access to health care – a large number of displaced and at-risk veterans live with lingering effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance abuse, which are compounded by a lack of family and social support networks.[iv]

A top priority for homeless veterans is secure, safe, clean housing that offers a supportive environment free of drugs and alcohol. Although “most homeless people are single, unaffiliated men… most housing money in existing federal homelessness programs, in contrast, is devoted to helping homeless families or homeless women with dependent children,” as is stated in the study “Is Homelessness a Housing Problem?”[v] (Understanding Homelessness: New Policy and Research Perspectives, Fannie Mae Foundation, 1997).

What services do veterans need?
Like most homeless persons, veterans need a coordinated effort that provides secure housing, nutritional meals, basic physical health care, substance abuse care and aftercare, mental health counseling, personal development and empowerment. Additionally, veterans need job assessment, training and placement assistance. Service providers assert that all programs to assist homeless veterans must focus on helping them obtain and sustain employment.

What can you do to help homeless veterans?•
Determine the need in your community. Visit with homeless veteran providers. Contact your mayor’s office for a list of providers, or search the National Coalition for the Homeless.
•Engage Friends/Family: Involve others. If you are not already part of an organization, align yourself with a few other people who are interested in attacking this issue.
•Help: Participate in local homeless coalitions. Chances are, there is one in your community. If not, this could be the time to bring people together around this critical need.
•Donate: Make a donation to your local homeless veteran provider.
•Advocate: Contact your elected officials. Discuss what is being done in your community for homeless veterans.

Relevant Legislation in Congress:
United States House of Representatives
H.R. 136 – To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow taxpayers to designate a portion of their income tax payment to provide assistance to homeless veterans, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY)
Status: Referred to the Committee on Ways and Means, in addition to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs (Jan. 1, 2011)
•Amends the Internal Revenue Code to allow individual taxpayers to designate on their tax returns $3 of income taxes ($6 in the case of joint returns) to provide assistance to homeless veterans.

H.R. 287 – Homes for Heroes Act of 2011
Sponsor: Rep. Al Green (D-TX)
Status: Referred to the Committee on Financial Services, in addition to the Committee on Ways and Means (Jan. 12, 2011)
•Expands the supply of supportive housing for very low-income veteran families.
•Authorizes an annual budget increase needed to provide 20,000 additional rental vouchers each fiscal year.
•Extends VA-supported housing, which is currently limited to homeless veterans with chronic mental illness or chronic substance use disorders, to all homeless veterans.

H.R. 806 – End Veteran Homelessness Act of 2011
Sponsor: Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA)
Status: Referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs (Feb. 18, 2011)
•Increases GPD authorization to $200 million in FY 2011.
•Changes GPD reimbursement from a “per diem” to an annual cost of providing services.
•Requires each VA medical center providing case management services through the HUD-VASH program to hire a specialist to handle housing issues, including: ◦Outreach to landlords.
◦Mediation of veteran/landlord disputes.
◦Establishing and maintaining a list of available rental units.

•Authorizes $100 million by FY 2014 for supportive services for very low-income veteran families in permanent housing.
•Promotes awareness of VA programs to assist homeless women veterans and homeless veterans with children.

H.R. 1133 – Helping Our Homeless Veterans Act of 2011
Sponsor: Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA)
Status: Referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Subcommittee on Health (April 1, 2011), as well as the Committee on Financial Services, Subcommittee on Insurance, Housing and Community Opportunity (April 4, 2011)
•Authorizes VA to enter into agreements with organizations to collaborate in the provision of case management services to veterans in the HUD-VASH program.

H.R. 4287 – To expand the definition of homeless veteran for purposes of benefits under the laws administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Sponsor: Rep. Janice Hahn (D-CA)
Action: Referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs (March 28, 2012)
•Expands VA’s definition of “homeless veteran” – for the purpose of benefits eligibility – to include a veteran of veteran’s family fleeing domestic or dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, or other dangerous or life-threatening conditions in the current housing situation, including where the health and safety of children are jeopardized, there is no other residence, and there is a lack of resources or support networks to obtain other permanent housing.

United States Senate
S. 411 – Helping Our Homeless Veterans Act of 2011
Sponsor: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
Status: Referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs (Feb. 17, 2011)
•Authorizes VA to enter into agreements with organizations to collaborate in the provision of case management services to veterans in the HUD-VASH program.

S. 1060 – Honoring All Veterans Act of 2011
Sponsor: Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)
Action: Hearing held by Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs (June 8, 2011)
•Changes GPD reimbursement from a “per diem” to an annual cost of providing services.
•Extends enhanced protections for service members relating to mortgages and mortgage foreclosure.

S. 1148 – Veterans Programs Improvement Act of 2011
Sponsor: Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA)
Action: Hearing held by Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs (June 8, 2011)

Reauthorizes critical programs such as the following:
◦DOL-VETS Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program (HVRP).
◦VA Homeless Providers Grant and Per Diem Program (GPD), as well as the related Special Needs grant program.
◦VA Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) Program.
•Orders VA to study and restructure the GPD reimbursement rate.
•Expands the VA Special Needs grant program to include male homeless veterans with minor dependents, as well as allowing dependents of all veterans in those programs to receive services directly.

S. 3049 – To expand the definition of homeless veteran for purposes of benefits under the laws administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Sponsor: Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK)
Action: Referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs (May 9, 2012)
•Expands VA’s definition of “homeless veteran” – for the purpose of benefits eligibility – to include a veteran of veteran’s family fleeing domestic or dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, or other dangerous or life-threatening conditions in the current housing situation, including where the health and safety of children are jeopardized, there is no other residence, and there is a lack of resources or support networks to obtain other permanent housing.

Source(s): http://www.govtrack.us. http://www.congress.org. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. Understanding Homelessness: New Policy and Research Perspectives, Fannie Mae Foundation, 1997).

Photo Credit: Microsoft Clip Art

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[i] National Coalition for the Homeless

[ii] National Coalition for the Homeless

[iii] National Coalition for the Homeless

[iv] National Coalition for the Homeless

[v] Understanding Homelessness: New Policy and Research Perspectives, Fannie Mae Foundation, 1997).

Workplaces Respond to Domestic Violence

In the fall of 2010, the Obama administration launched a new initiative to assist employers to respond to domestic and sexual violence. Workplaces Respond to Domestic and Sexual Violence: A National Resource Center is a new initiative that makes it easier for employers to adopt policies to support and protect employees who are victims of domestic and sexual violence. The National Resource Center’s website includes but is not limited to: information on work place violence, guns and the work place, and union responses.

The new Workplace Resource Center was created by a partnership of seven national organizations led by the Family Violence Prevention Fund.   For further information on the new national center, visit Workplaces Respond to Domestic and Sexual Violence: A National Resource Center’s website at http://www.workplacesrespond.org/.

Photo credit: Microsoft Clip Art

The Growing Prevalence of Cyberstalking

computers

The prevalence of stalking is increasing. The Bureau of Justice Statistics indicates that 3.4 million persons over 18 were victims of stalking in a one-year period. Baum et al, Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report, National Crime Victimization Survey, Stalking Victimization in the United States (January 2009).

More than 1 in 4 stalking victims reported some form of cyberstalking was used, such as e-mail (83%) or instant messaging (35%). Id. at 5. In response to the growing prevalence of cyberstalking, the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence provides training and written articles (see STOP Newsletter, Summer 2009) to demonstrate how technology is misused to stalk victims.

If you have any questions or training needs on stalking and technology, you can visit the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence’s website at http://www.pcadv.org.

Photo Credit: Microsoft Clip Art