We’re HUBZone Certified!

By | ChangingMedia, Social Enterprise | No Comments

We’re proud to announce that we have received our HUBZone certification. What does that mean? HUBZone is a program to promote economic development and employment growth in distressed areas by providing access to more federal contracting opportunities. For us, it is another part of our ongoing commitment to help empower the city we call home.

We’re proud to located in the heart of Baltimore at Impact Hub and employ people who live, work, and enjoy this city. We’re powered by the creative energy that buzzes through these streets. In fact, while we are on the subject of our hometown, we’d like to give a shout out to our client the Baltimore Office of Sustainability. Their new project Made in Baltimore will grow the market for locally made goods. Check out all these amazing local products in their online store.  We can’t wait to see the work we all do together to create living wage jobs, provide economic opportunity to all people in this city, and show the world the amazing things Baltimore can create.

Happy World Water Day!

By | Social Enterprise, The Thagomizer | No Comments

On World Water Day, we’d like to make a special announcement: we have a new client! We are proud to be working with Blue Water Baltimore to help them raise awareness and compel action to protect our most precious resource in the Baltimore area. Their mission is to restore the quality of Baltimore’s rivers, streams and Harbor to foster a healthy environment, a strong economy, and thriving communities. It’s incredibly easy to get involved in their incredible work. Here are a few actions you can take today:

1. Follow Blue Water Baltimore on Social Media 

Follow Blue Water Baltimore on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to stay up to date on the latest action issues and learn more about the amazing water system that keeps us and so much wildlife living and thriving.

2. Sign Up to Volunteer

You can help plant trees, stencil storm drains, clean up your community, and more. Find out how to connect with others who are passionate about our waterways and create a positive impact in our community.

3. Learn about the Issues 

Do you know how much styrofoam ends up in our waterways? What invasive species should you avoid? What can you do about the sewage being dumped into our waterways? Answers to all these questions and more can be found in the amazing resources available on Blue Water Baltimore’s website.

Congratulations Mr. Trash Wheel

By | ChangingMedia, Social Enterprise, The Thagomizer | No Comments

We’d like to be the first to congratulate Mr. Trash Wheel on 10,000 followers on Twitter.

Working on Mr. Trash Wheel has been a wild ride. Since we started managing social media for the free-wheelin’ trash-eatin’ machine in January, he has:

Congratulations Mr. Trash Wheel! We’re excited to be a part of all of the incredible adventures Mr. Trash Wheel and Professor Trash Wheel will embark on next.

 

BIG CHANGES AT CHANGING MEDIA

By | ChangeEngine | No Comments

CHANGINGMEDIA IS NOW CHANGELINGMEDIA

canter_girls__changeling__vectorized__by_ambassad0r-d64ryqha

We are delighted to announce our takeover and replacement by ChangelingMedia™. ChangingMedia is no more, its corporate body having been filched by fairies at the stroke of midnight to serve the cruel whims and strategic communications needs of his imperial majesty, the Goblin King, doomed to toil forever as perpetual slave to his eternal holding company in the mysterious, cobweb-strewn Enchanted Woods®.

We look forward to implementing ChangelingMedia’s exciting vision of appearing eerily similar to the company we replaced like a newborn babe in its crib, while spreading mayhem and mischief and poisoning the very air you breathe with our soulless malevolence.

No longer “Evil Geniuses for Good”, we are now simply and proudly Evil Geniuses for Evil (©). We look forward to working with you!

[Pictured: Our New Corporate Mascot!]

Tel-Hai Campaign Goes Live!

By | ChangeEngine | No Comments

10995294_10153246841376443_3974576297730688358_n

Welcome to Tel-Aviv International Airport, and to the newly launched campaign ChangingMedia has been working on for Tel-Hai College in the Galilee! The multimedia campaign will roll out across digital and print channels over the next few months, showcasing the innovative, pluralistic vision for the future Tel-Hai is pioneering. We’re delighted to be part of such an inspiring project.

The Police are not Our Landlords

By | Homelessness, The Race to End Homelessness | 2 Comments

If you were in Los Angeles last week, maybe you were a part of the great crisis of August 1, 2014. For a few hours that Friday, Facebook stopped working. Were you part of the panic that ensued? Network news reported on the issue, although many people were likely too busy refreshing their Facebook app to turn on CNN.

I am all about seeing my friends’ vacation pictures and status updates, but the news that followed the glitch seemed more disturbing. The Los Angeles police tweeted (thank goodness for alternative social media!) that they’d really appreciate it if citizens could stop calling 911 to report the Facebook issue.

While we all probably have a funny story about a ridiculous police report, it is worth questioning the jurisdiction of police. It does not extend to Facebook. This week, Los Angeles Police were relieved of another responsibility – clearing Skid Row of people experiencing homelessness.

Skid Row, a fifty block area in Los Angeles that is home to more than 17,000 people experiencing homelessness, is one of the most densely concentrated group of homeless people in the country. Studied and documented many times for the unique environment it creates, residents here have long been wary of police involvement in their lives and their belongings.

Amid a new Los Angeles plan called Operation Clean Streets, leaders are beginning to see that arrests are not the answer. “The seriousness of the situation makes this much more than a police issue,” said Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar during a news conference. Instead, this is becoming everyone’s issue – which is what homelessness has been all along.

Now, police will partner with mental health providers, legal services, and housing providers. Finally, police are being used as partners in the race to end homelessness rather than the only tool. Asking them on their own to end homelessness is about as effective as asking them to reactivate Facebook. Many police forces across the country undergo sensitivity training and don’t necessarily want or plan to widely criminalize homelessness, but they use the resources available to them. A police officer is not a mental health therapist, or a doctor, or a housing agency.

Providing necessary support to both police and individuals who are homeless in Los Angeles is the only way to successfully strengthen the neighborhood. There is potential here to finally adequately support a large group of chronically homeless individuals. I am sure the Los Angels Police Department hopes that it works.

 

Make Jobs, Not Bombs

By | Homelessness, The Race to End Homelessness | 2 Comments

Work experience is the most important part of your resume, so why would previous employment prevent someone from being hired -especially if the new position was less dangerous or stressful than the work the applicant had already completed?

This is just the situation faced by many unemployed veterans, who are increasingly unable to find work. While it is illegal for companies to discriminate against veterans in the hiring process, veteran’s advocates fear that employers automatically equate time spent in military service with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, and are afraid to make a hire. In reality, not all – or even most –veterans return from overseas with emotional problems. Furthermore, PTSD does not necessarily prevent an individual from working.

This discrimination isn’t limited to small misinformed business owners, some veterans report being passed over for positions in government, including being told in 2010 that a company did not want  “disabled veterans and the problems that come with them.” This was at the Federal hiring level. Unemployment among veterans decreased slightly in 2013 from 9.9 percent to 9 percent, but still remains higher than unemployment among civilians.

Without employment, the cycle of poverty begins. Besides supplying income, working can help a veteran return socially and psychologically to civilian life, yet often this opportunity is denied to the men and women with military backgrounds.  The never helpful but often – heard advice thrown at people experiencing homelessness is to  “get a job.” For those that are physically and mentally able to work, this advice is increasingly frustrating. Somehow, we deem these individuals qualified to enter combat internationally, but not to work in an office.

The justness of this discrimination is overwhelming, but luckily veterans are not a population who give up easily. Groups for veterans are leading some impressive advocacy work, including a military campaign aimed at employers. One organization I’ve raved about in past posts is The Mission Continues, a Missouri based group that deploys post 9/11 veterans to do more than just desk jobs, connecting them with service projects in their home communities. This structure both utilizes a veteran’s existing skill set and creates leadership opportunities for returning veterans.

Veteran unemployment contributes directly to veteran homeless, and no person who has served our country should return home to find themselves with nowhere to go. Opportunities to use their skills in new settings can change the cycle of homelessness and poverty among veterans, but only if employers can step away from fear and stigma.

Maybe City Planners Think Your Arms Are Tired

By | Homelessness, The Race to End Homelessness | 3 Comments

I’ve always thought of London as a friendly city. The only city to thrice host the Olympic Games, London hails itself as an welcoming destination city. That is, if you’re an Olympian, or a tourist. Not if you are experiencing homelessness. 

Recently, London installed spikes outside apartments to prevent anyone from sleeping on the ground. The instillation came about a month after one man was seen sleeping outside. The one-inch spikes are not the first of their kind, and are known to exist in other parts of the United Kingdom and Canada. London mayor Borris Johnson, to his credit, called the spikes not only “anti-homeless” but also “stupid.”

He was not the only one. You may have even seen the spikes on social media, as outrage spread across London and internationally. Perhaps it was the political shaming, or the large-scale social media blitz that protested the spikes, but news reports indicate they were removed earlier this week.

This is hardly the first example of creating an environment unsuitable for homelessness. If you have ever looked at a park bench or a subway stop and wondered why the city planners were so worried about people having a place to rest their arms, they probably weren’t. Benches with multiple armrests, divided only wide enough to sit, are too narrow to lay or sleep on, dissuading homeless people from staying the night.

photo: TimberForm

Among all this techniques for making cities unwelcoming, a Canadian company created an installation that is both humanitarian and an act of advertising genius. Notice that not only do these city benches not have intrusive arm rests, but they actually prop open to create a temporary rain shelter. Inside are directions to a RainCity Housing, an organization that specializes in working with low-income individuals to meet basic needs.

vancouver homeless bus bench

photo: Huffington Post

Decisions as small as armrests matter greatly if that armrest ruins your bed for the evening. The steps we as city planners, politicians, social workers, and concerned citizen take to develop and improve our hometowns truly do affect the lives of many people, and these small injustices could easily go unnoticed if you are not the person impacted. This time, Toronto leads the way in providing both shelter and dignity to homeless individuals in Canada- perhaps other cities can also design a place for all residents, giving even the impoverished a place to call home.

 

 

The Race to End Comic Sans

By | Homelessness, The Race to End Homelessness | 2 Comments

In an increasingly digital age, there are some things that will always be written by hand. Postcards. The grocery list on the fridge. And, until homelessness is eliminated – panhandling signs. One foundation in Barcelona, Spain, had the idea to connect the handwritten signs of people experiencing homelessness to the technology used by business and publishers. The Arrels Foundation worked with graphic design team to take the handwriting of several individuals experiencing homelessness and turn their letters into fonts. Now, the fonts are available for purchase at homelessfonts.org.

The group hopes to see big brands use the fonts for their products, generating income for the foundation and the individual artists. Their website introduces the “writer” of the font and explains the terms of licensing the fonts. Contributor Loriane’s font is already in use, purchased by a company called Valonga and used as a wine label.
14394242435_9d1dd61a4d_hPhoto Credit: homelessfonts.org

This is an important innovation for several reasons. Not only is it an exciting opportunity for someone to see their handwriting transferred into print, but the marketability of a person’s writing allows companies to support homeless individuals in a mutually beneficial way. I believe there is a crucial need for aid and fair distribution of basic needs, but that is not what this is. This is not charity. This is allowing people experiencing homelessness to profit from their own product and for a business to make a purchase with a social impact.

The fonts can be licensed by an individual for around $26 USD, or commercially for just under $400 USD. This might cost more than Times New Roman or Arial, but graphics are increasingly important for marketing and branding. In April, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office spent £80,000 (roughly $136,000) on a type change that the Daily Mail called “almost identical.”
commonwealth-old.jpgcommonwealth-new.jpgImage Credit: Daily Mail

This is not to say that the Arrels Foundation and its clients are simply cashing in on lavish wasteful spending. In a time when pen-and ink writing has all but disappeared, type is both the face and the handwriting of a company. Design is important, and this concept allows individuals of many socioeconomic backgrounds to contribute to the way we’ll read and see the future.

 

Realtors Want Housing For All

By | Homelessness, The Race to End Homelessness | 2 Comments

How do you experience homelessness? I wrote several months ago about the preferred terminology for homelessness; that “people experiencing homelessness” is a better phrase than “homeless people,” because it reminds us that homelessness is a condition – hopefully a temporary one – and not a defining characteristic. After further consideration, I think the phrase applies to all of us – even those of us who are lucky enough to have our own beds and roofs and keys to the front door. I have never experienced homelessness, but my experience with homelessness – meeting people who have lost their homes and their families and their health due to lack of affordable housing – makes me want to end this issue. I know many social workers, case managers, and shelter employees that are passionate about ending homelessness because they (we) interact with individuals experiencing homelessness every day. Sometimes I think we exist in a nonprofit bubble, believing that our peers in other lines of work cannot understand the realities of homelessness, or the importance of ending it. This is inaccurate.

For Cindy Eich, experiencing homelessness didn’t involve seeing a family member lose housing or encountering someone panhandling. As an Illinois Realtor, she started seeing not only people without homes, but homes without people. In 2011, Eich remembers “we were showing properties that were foreclosures and it was obvious that families had lived in those homes.” Motivated by the empty dwellings she saw, especially those that used to have children in them, Eich created Realtors Against Homelessness in 2011 and has since held multiple fundraisers in her community, the last of which raised $25,000.

This week in Florida, the state’s largest professional association – realtors – gathered at a conference to discuss how they could help end homelessness. As Florida hosts the third largest number of individuals experiencing homelessness, this is a crucial issues facing the state. The group has advocated for Florida legislation that supports individuals experiencing homelessness and provides more funding for rentals and home ownership.

In an era when politicians, business owners and plenty of private citizens attack and berate individuals for being homeless, it is refreshing and promising that this professional organization supports ending homelessness and is working to make that happen. People experiencing homeless are not a likely group to utilize the services of a realtor, so there is an obvious disconnect between realtors making a financial profit and helping this population. Their commitment to doing so demonstrates how important a home really is – the professionals who dedicate their careers to knowing the details of housing see how important having your own place can be, and want every person to have this as an option.

Our professional lives connect to homelessness in ways that aren’t always obvious. For one realtor, selling a foreclosed house was her experience with homelessness. For others, it may be serving homeless clients or treating homeless patients. Our experiences with homelessness are wide ranging, but until we see the end off this social issue, it will impact us all.