Rights for All:  Reshaping the Voice of Homelessness
Here is my history as an advocate. 

I am a man with a traumatic brain injury, right side paralysis and speech aphasia which makes me unable to speak. When I was 35, I was viciously attacked with a metal bat by someone with the intent to kill me. Since my survival, I have overcome addiction, homelessness, and depression. In the year 2000, I went into a recovery program through a healthcare for the homeless program. Things gradually began to turn around for me. As a person in recovery, I began to feel there must be a way for me to make a conrtibution. I could not work due to my disabilities, and, like everyone else, I needed purpose.

I began working with Laura Webb to speak as a survivor of homelessness in their outreach program. Soon, I was telling my story to people of all ages who were interested in learning about homelessness. Laura and I soon realized that I could be a bridge between homeless people, community organizations, and people in the community. As that bridge, I could humanize the experience of homelessness and minimize stereotypes. 

When we created a consumer advisory board in 2002, I was a founding member. Our project eventually became the Community Consumer Advocacy Board on Homelessness. As a group, we have engaged with Savannah's mayor, our Georgia assembly delegates, the Governer's office, and our U.S. members of Congress. We even did a "sleeping out" study at the request of Mayor Otis Johnson. We visited tent camps and Savannah squares to talk to homeless people who chose not to be involved in our services. We presented this information to the mayor in hope that it would help him understand more about the long term community investment needed to address chronic homelessness.

As our consumer board gained experience, we started a monthly newsletter that informs and inspires people experiencing homelessness, providers, and community stakeholders. I continued to work as a public speaker, adding a new chapter to my story as a consumer advocate. I spent a lot of time during previous summers with youth from around the country doing service learning projects. Laura and I discovered that they consistently referred to me as a role model. Me?! A role model? Wow! So, we decided to use my relationship with the youth to reach out to them about advocacy. As part of their service with Union Mission, we made time for me to present my advocacy efforts with them, and we provided them with information and a template to write letters to their own elected officials. In these letters, our youth volunteers talked about their experience working among the homeless and they referenced legislation of current importance like the National Housing Trust Fund bill.

As an advocate, I try to be honest. I still struggle. I bring struggle to the discussion, but I also bring hope. Thank you.

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    Howard Jackson

    I am a traumatically brain-injured, formerly homeless man with right side paralysis and speech aphaysia. I am a recovering addict. I am also a friend and advocate for anyone trying to get out of homelessness, live a full life with disabilities, and explore the wonderful potential of living in recovery, one day at a time. I am a friend to all volunteers trying to make this world a little better. Join me as I strive to do all of these things myself! 


    November 2010


    Advocacy Work

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