April 8, 2011

Susan Jackson: Homelessness Advocate

This post is by Nathan Karrel, an intern with the Advocacy Department. He sat down recently with Susan Jackson, a former Bread for the City client and homeless advocate, who offered to share her story with us.

Washington DC has 5,518 individuals living in homelessness. Susan Jackson, born and raised in DC, is one of those adults. Recently, I sat down with Susan to speak with her about her activism and her struggle with homelessness. Susan shared that as a homeless resident, she’s had a difficult time getting access to nutritious food, especially fresh fruits and vegetables. This challenge is what Susan links to her early onset of diabetes. Nearly 9% of DC adults have diabetes, ranking it 4th highest in the nation for the percentage of people with diabetes in the general population. Susan noted that her homelessness was also exacerbated by the lack of shelters and transitional housing afforded to women. As she said to me, “Many women are living on the streets because of the lack of adequate space…Women are not at the forefront of anyone's mind; it’s only when an advocate, like myself, stands up and asks pointed questions about shelter space for women is it even discussed.” Through a District social worker, Susan became aware of N Street Village in Northwest DC. N Street Village provides housing for low-income and moderate-income individuals and families. As a member of the N Street Village community, Susan found the stability that allowed her transform the difficulties of her homeless situation to advocate on behalf of the homeless women in the District. “My experience of being homeless has afforded me opportunities or lessons of how to advocate for myself and my needs and in doing so caused me to advocate for others,” she said. “It’s not something that I set out to do, but I believe that it is necessary and I can't see myself doing anything else.”

If you want to learn to advocate like Susan, Bread for the City invites you to Winning a Better Budget: Dinner and Action Session, 5:30 to 8:00 pm Tuesday, April 12th at our Northwest Center. (If evening doesn't work for you, you can join our weekly luncheons from 12:00 to 1:00 pm each Wednesday at our Southeast location and Friday at our Northwest location.) Susan is a face behind the statistics of homelessness and poverty. She has struggled with adversity to become a powerful advocate on behalf of women in situations of homelessness and poverty in the District. She is pursuing a Human Services Administration Certificate at Catholic University, is a well-respected presence in the Logan Circle neighborhood, and active in food policy council organizing and the Fair Budget Coalition. Follow her inspiring example at Winning a Better Budget next Tuesday.

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