Now Is The Time

Ending hunger, homelessness, and the cycle of poverty...in heels.

In the United States more than 633,000 people experience homelessness every night.  48.9 million Americans are at risk of hunger - including one in five kids. Nearly 50 million Americans are living in poverty.  Hunger, homelessness, and poverty are devastating for individuals and our communities. This is unacceptable, unjust, and illogical.

We know that effective, commonsense policies like SNAP and EITC lift people out of poverty. We know that Rapid Rehousing and Housing First models reduce homelessness. We know that innovative philanthropic endeavors like Collective Impact and Social Impact Bonds can transform the way government, nonprofits, and local communities work together to tackle our toughest challenges. We know we can band together and create change.

Now Is The Time to get this done.

This site will feature a collection of personal reflections, original ideas, and smart thinking from around the country and the globe on the issues of hunger, homelessness, and poverty.  We'll check in with thought leaders and discuss ways we can create change. We will also highlight ways to leverage two of my favorite things - National Service and the philanthropic sector. 

National Service. National Treasure.

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This was first posted in April 2017 after the skinny budget was released. The Trump Administration has now proposed the elimination of AmeriCorps — America’s largest national service program — and funding for YouthBuild and the Peace Corps, two other major national service programs, is in jeopardy. This is unacceptable.

Fight poverty.

Tutor children.

Repair trails.

Build housing.

Mobilize volunteers

Tackle hunger.

Retrain workers.  

Restore hope.

These are just a few of the things AmeriCorps members do every day. And research shows they do it exceptionally well. In 2003 I moved to Seattle to join AmeriCorps. I tutored struggling readers, connected families with community resources, recruited volunteers and built a program to provide free tax preparation to low income families. It was an incredible experience that launched my career and ignited my commitment to justice, equity and a lifetime of service.

I am one of the one million people who served with AmeriCorps since the program launched in 1994. This year 80,000 AmeriCorps members will serve at over 21,000 unique sites in cities, towns and rural communities across the nation. They will proudly serve our veterans, increase neighborhood safety, connect struggling people with job training, and leverage over $1 billion in cash and in-kind resources. Perhaps most importantly, they respond to disasters and emerging community needs like the opioid crisis.

National Service is a national treasure. It helps people today while building a pipeline of civically engaged leaders.

Most of us won’t know that it was an AmeriCorps member who prepared our taxes, rebuilt our home, tutored our children, or built the trail we run on. Quietly AmeriCorps member learn, engage, and serve our communities everyday.  After service, AmeriCorps Alumni go on to teach, run for office, lead nonprofits, change policies, and volunteer in their communities.  Without them, our kids would be hungrier, more people would be homeless, and it would take longer to recover from disaster.  Unfortunately, National Service is under attack from the Trump Administration. Despite deep bi-partisan support for the effective programs that serve our nation,  President Trump has called for the elimination of the Corporation For National and Community Service, the entity that houses AmeriCorps, The Social Innovation Fund, and similar programs.

We must fight to save AmeriCorps.

Back in 2003 when I joined AmeriCorps, it faced deep funding cuts. When my own service year was threatened, I sent an email urging my senator, the late Ted Kennedy, to protect service.  I recently found that email and remembered how proud I was to be selected for AmeriCorps  and reflected on how different my life would be without that experience. Senator Kennedy would go on to help create the Serve America Act, because he believed that everyone should have the opportunity to serve. I’ve dedicated my career to giving others the opportunity to serve – 200 this year. In turn, they work with people experiencing homelessness, hungry students in the K-12 and college systems, and nonprofits that need additional capacity. They work tirelessly to make our community stronger, healthier, and more resilient. We need more of them, not fewer. 

I remember tearing up the first time I took the AmeriCorps oath of service and still do every time I hear it. Because it is what this country is all about. Coming together, giving back, and getting things done. Now we need to get things done for AmeriCorps. Join me in taking action to save our national treasure.

~Lauren

p.s. Here's the letter I sent Senator Kennedy and a picture of my partner Mike and I as AmeriCorps members. Excuse the typos and his hair.  :)

Senator Kennedy,

As a MA Voter, and political activist I'd like to thank you for your recent
comments on the Crisis with AmeriCorps.  I'm a moving to Seattle in 2 weeks to join AmeriCorps.  However as a result of the Funding problems, I don't know if I'll have a program to serve when I
get out there.

As you are well aware, AmeriCorps allows non-profits and other organizations
to aid the community...the same communities whose States struggle to keep
the most crucial social programs alive, communities whose class size rise as
teachers lose jobs, and communities where families fight to have health
coverage and food.

The members of AmeriCorps serve the most vulnerable and fill the gaps in
places where funding lacks, where students struggle, and where social
programs have been cut.  AmeriCorps members are there to serve not because
they have to be, but because they want to be.  They want to help those in
need, they are happy to help those in need.

While the government cuts taxes and the president praises service, states
must raise taxes or cut programs and AmeriCorps has little money to hire
members to bridge the gaps that have been created.

While Democrats and Republicans bicker, and we fight over seas, the average
American suffers.  AmeriCorps is an opportunity, an opportunity to help
others, an opportunity to create new leaders and an opportunity for
communities to thrive.

I thank you again for your comments in support of this program and ask that
you continue your great work!

sincerely,

Lauren E. McGowan
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Lauren E. McGowan
Give Liberty A Hand! Coordinator
Massachusetts Immigrant & Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA)
105 Chauncy St., 9th Fl.