Craig-Thompson-white-house-HSN-Coop
credit: Craig Thompson

As a volunteer who helps man The William Thomas Memorial Anti-nuclear Peace Vigil,  the more than 35-year-old silent protest that sits across from the White House, I aim to be an active part of saving this world.

I’m not an “A” student. I was in high school, a long time ago. I am a work in progress, with the Holy Spirit changing me for the better. But in our eternal now, help is needed.

I am homeless. I live at CCNV shelter and I volunteer at the 24-hour tent demonstration. I recently began to wonder: how else could I help better our world?

Well, I spend much time on the internet and I admire the local homeless advocacy efforts of Eric Sheptock, another CCNV resident, and the national homeless advocacy efforts of Mark Horvath of InvisiblePeople.tv, who I worked with and was homeless with in L.A.

It got me thinking that there is a lot of good advocacy work being done and that there are a lot of good-hearted people that would like to get involved. But there is no clear next step for those people to take. InvisiblePeople.tv, for instance, gives homeless individuals a minute of fame and then they are forgotten. But that individual is still struggling.

So I started an online community on Facebook and LinkedIn that I hope will fill the gap. I even pitched it to my senator, John Thune (R-S.D.), when visiting his office to thank him for my inauguration ticket. (I spent half my adult life in South Dakota.)

I call this community the Homeless Stairway Networking Cooperative (HSNCoop). And at the moment, I see it as a simple chat forum of peers and good Samaritans where, after Mark Horvath features someone on InvisiblePeople.tv, for instance, we can post their story in the forum and talk about how to help that person. Where are they located and what do they need? How can we help them climb up that stairway to a better position in life? Are they looking for work? Skills training? Someone to pay cheap rent to for six months? Post their needs and respond if you can help.

If someone ends up homeless, then it means they have exhausted their personal network. They have no more couches to surf, no more personal loans to take or good words to be put in. I want this co-op to provide a new network of people that understand this reality and want to help move individuals beyond it. You only have to offer what you can: your time and your unique skills, insight and resources. Almost like a less-complex timebank.

I must be realistic. What can one person do? We homeless understand our needs better. If one of you joins and posts a topic of need that others might have contacts to fill, this could work out really well. For instance, I just met a man and woman in Dupont Circle who hand out things like clothes, shoes, and fingernail clippers. When he hears a need, he reaches out into his community to fill the need. May HSNCoop fill such a global need.

Please help me build this network. Active supporters are the key to success. Let’s build a community.

Let HSNCoop be a continued discussion on how to help the likes of us. Homelessness is a global crisis. InvisiblePeople.tv features people from England, to Canada, to L.A., to upstate New York. So, I hope the broad reach of the internet, of my new social media pages, will reach people willing to help in just as many places.

If you have an interest in assisting the homeless community in D.C., or anywhere, now would be a good time to join me in this fight.

Craig Thompson is an activist and occasional contributor to Street Sense.