My name is Jeremy Nichols and I am the Alliance’s new Advocacy intern. In one short month, my time with the Alliance has already been filled with emailing member’s offices, conducting webinars, and getting used to the nonprofit world’s love of abbreviations (TANF ECF, HEARTH, HPRP, the list goes on).
I’ve been drawn to the issue of homelessness since high school. I grew in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and during my first week of high school, life ground to a halt when Hurricane Katrina hit. As people began to pick up the pieces in the weeks following the hurricane, it became clear to me that those families and individuals teetering on the brink of financial stability were about to be pushed off the edge.
Like so many, I tried to do my part. I volunteered through my church and worked with at-risk individuals living in the FEMA trailer parks. As the trailer parks began to be phased out, those left stranded were often mentally and physically incapable of holding jobs, paying rent, and fending for themselves. We worked to help such people: we secured benefits, dealt with landlords, and found stable living environments.
The entire experience opened my eyes to the stark scarcity of resources available for people experiencing homeless. Moreover, it became clear that the few resources that do exist are mired in miles of red tape that can seem impossible to navigate.
I’m also a bit of a political junkie, so when this advocacy internship opportunity came up, it was just too good to pass up. This is the chance for me to try and influence legislation for a cause that I believe in.
The way I see it, the place where we can really make a change for people experiencing homelessness is in public policy. By securing better legislation that addresses the specific issues that homelessness providers are faced with – such as lack of funds and red tape – we can help those providers offer more effective services for their clients and communities. I see it the way the Alliance does: that federal policy can influence better programs which can, in turn, better serve those most in need of our assistance. Systems change at the national level will lead to, we all hope, programmatic change at the local level.
Besides ending homelessness the list of things I enjoy includes bicycles (I just completed my first cross country cycling trip!), Indian food, comic books, and pecan pie. Before coming to Washington, D.C., I lived in rainy Portland, OR and attended Lewis & Clark College. Its been quite a shock going from the granola-munching-flannel-wearing Northwest to a place where casual seems to mean unbuttoning the top button of a Brooks Brothers oxford. In my short time in DC, I have fallen in love with E Street Cinema, greatly enjoyed the numerous bike paths, and indulge my inner history nerd with all of the Smithsonian museums.