ADDRESSLESS: A Walk in Our Shoes played Off-Broadway at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater in February 2022 as a virtual, interactive production. The play intimately and personally illustrated what it means to live homeless in New York City. Hungarian director Martin Boross and playwright Jonathan explored this plight through three individuals living homeless, each on a mission to acquire $1,500 while staying as healthy as they could. Experts Shams Da Baron (aka Da Homeless Hero), Covenant House International President Kevin Ryan, and playwright Jonathan Payne join host Ruthie Fierberg to dissect the play and offer answers to the solvable homelessness crisis in the U.S.
Create the change:
- Learn more at the National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH)
- View homelessness statistics by state
- Volunteer with or donate to Covenant House; Organize a Sleep Out in your community
- Tell Congress to fund Homeless Assistance Grants (Click to sign a letter)
- Read up on current legislation that would impact homelessness
- How do we deal with our legislators?
- Improve conditions in homeless shelters:
- Hire well-trained staff, and hire enough of them
- Bring mental health services to the shelters (i.e. have AA meetings on the premises, have mental health counselors on the premises)
- What 4 experts have to say
- Find a mentorship opportunity
- Make cards with contact info to promote nearby shelters to hand out to those who are in need and asking for help
- Donate clothes, especially socks, to nearby shelters
- Participate in your city’s point-in-time count (signups are generally in Nov/Dec for the upcoming year – Google to find the PIT in your neighborhood)
- Try rapid re-housing in your community
- Learn about permanent supportive housing
- Increase employment opportunities (adjust job applications so they do not require listing a permanent address)
- Read the obstacles to solving the homelessness crisis—then counter them
- Understand why homelessness is rising
- Directory of Homeless Service Organizations by state
- Sign up for Advocacy Alerts from the NAEH
Referred to in this episode:
- What is StereoAKT?
- What is Covenant House?
- 2020 Point-in-Time Count
- About the foster care system
- What is a group home?
- Foster care vs. Group home
- What is transitional housing?
- Human trafficking and homelessness
- Legislation for Wifi in all shelters
- Shams fact-check: Shams said, “In Harlem, 40% of the students that are in school here are, are in, are either homeless or housing or facing housing instability.” Reports show 1 in 10 NYC public school students is homeless, up to 1 in 5 depending on the area, which makes a high of 20%. Shams was incorrect in his exact percentage; but 1 in 5 is still extremely high.
- Read more on homelessness of NYC public school students & CUNY students
- Greater risk of Black and brown, LGBTQ+ youth
- What is Community Access?
- How real estate development impacts homelessness
- How redlining impacts homelessness (more on redlining)
- What is the Lucerne and what was the controversy?
- Addressless’ How Can I Help? Worksheet (bullets incorporated above)
- The Childcare Tax Credit: How does it reduce child poverty?
How does that help alleviate homelessness?
- What is the Poor People’s Movements?
- What are Public Assistance Programs?
- Open Hearts in NYC
- Does shelter living cost money? Short answer: YES.
About Our Guests:
Ruthie Fierberg, Host
Jonathan Payne, playwright
Jonathan Payne’s work has been produced and developed at Long Wharf Theatre, Ars Nova, Fringe Festival NYC, The Bushwick Starr, and the Fire This Time Festival. He was a fellow at New Dramatists, Playwrights Realm and The Dramatist Guild, as well as an Ars Nova Play Group. Awards include the Princess Grace Award, Holland New Voices Award, Rosa Parks Award, John Cauble Short Play Award. He received a BA from the GSA Conservatoire (UK), an MFA in Playwriting from Tisch School of the Arts, and an Artist Diploma Recipient in Playwriting from The Juilliard School. As all playwrights need a day job he currently works in Human Services for an organization which focuses on housing insecurity called Community Access. Twitter: @JPayneWrites
Shams DaBaron, performer/script consultant, advocate for those experiencing homelessness
Shams DaBaron aka “Da Homeless Hero”, is a formerly homeless New York City activist that rose to prominence while at The Lucerne Hotel fighting for the rights of himself and his fellow residents. He’s organized political forums, rallies and protests throughout the city including the #JulyHomelessRights month in 2020 which led to 30 Days of Action across the City. Shams serves as a communicator between politicians and those who are housing insecure, homeless or formerly homeless. In addition to activism, DaBaron is a writer, filmmaker, and hip-hop pioneer. Addressesless was DaBaron’s theatrical performance debut. @homeless_hero
Kevin Ryan has served as president and CEO of Covenant House International since 2009. Under his leadership, Covenant House has employed research, data, proven experience, and best practices to refine and advance the work to end youth homelessness; heighten the agency’s understanding of trauma and resilience; and build a strong focus on advocacy to promote just laws to protect young people facing homelessness and survivors of human trafficking. During Kevin’s tenure, Covenant House has seen the largest period of expansion, renovation, and renewal in our history: Covenant House now stretches across more than 30 cities in 6 countries and reaches tens of thousands of children and youth annually. Covenant House has been recognized with several of the world’s most distinguished human rights awards, including the Conrad Hilton Humanitarian Award, the WOLA Human Rights Prize and the Olof Palme Peace Prize. Kevin initially served youth at Covenant House as an attorney-advocate from 1992 to 2002. He returned in 2009 to serve as the agency’s first lay president. He is the co-author of the national best seller, Almost Home, and has a J.D. degree from Georgetown Law School, a Master of Laws (LLM) from New York University Law School, and a B.A. from the Catholic University of America. He is a former Skadden Fellow and Wasserstein Fellow at Harvard Law School, and was the first public Child Advocate and the first Commissioner of Children and Families nominated by the governor in New Jersey. He also served as a member of President Barak Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships; an advisor to Major League Baseball on human trafficking; Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Human Services; and has been appointed by federal judges across the United States to monitor efforts to reform child welfare systems. He is the father of six children and describes himself as chief roadie to their musician-mother. They live at the Jersey shore with their two dogs. @CovHousePrez
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