Mitch Snyder: Homeless Advocate
While homelessness may formerly have taken different forms, it has always existed in America. Homelessness is a problem shaped greatly by state and local policies and dynamics.
To blame Reagan for modern homelessness is to misunderstand the roots of the current crisis. Urban renewal and de-institutionalization began years before Reagan took office, and debate over their unintended consequences preceded his inauguration.
Mitch Snyder was a person who fought for the rights of homeless people before and during the Reagan years.
He grew up in New York and had a difficult childhood. He got into trouble and went to prison for stealing a car. After serving his time, he joined a group called the Community for Creative Non-Violence (CCNV) in Washington, D.C. They worked to help homeless people and raise awareness about the issue.
Snyder and CCNV did many things to make a difference. They organized protests, demonstrations, and even occupied a building to demand better conditions for homeless people. They wanted the government to provide shelters and support for those in need. He even protested in a church to draw attention to the needs of the poor.
Snyder also used art to show the struggles of homeless people. He worked with a sculptor to create a display called "Third World America," which depicted a nativity scene with homeless people instead of the traditional characters. It was a powerful way to draw attention to the issue.
Snyder's efforts gained attention through a documentary and a movie about his life. Martin Sheen played him in a 1986 TV movie (Samaritan: The Mitch Snyder Story).
He was a passionate advocate for homeless people, but he also had a knack for attracting media attention. He liked to create dramatic and attention-grabbing events to raise awareness about homelessness.
Sometimes his actions were seen as extreme or exaggerated. For example, he splashed blood on important buildings, went on hunger strikes, and released cockroaches in the White House. He even organized a special banquet where politicians ate food that was gathered from dumpsters.
Snyder believed that by creating these spectacles, he could make homelessness a national issue and get the government to take action. His tactics worked, and within a few years, the federal government started to address homelessness as a policy challenge.
While some people thought his methods were over-the-top, there's no denying that Snyder's efforts brought attention to the issue and led to important changes in how homelessness was addressed.
Major advocacy groups that carry on Snyder’s legacy include the Los Angeles Community Action Network, the New York City Coalition for the Homeless, the San Francisco Coalition for the Homeless, and the National Alliance to End Homelessness.
Snyder faced personal struggles and took his own life in 1990. He left behind a legacy of advocacy, a partner, ex-wife, and two sons.
Mitch Snyder's efforts helped bring attention to homelessness and inspired others to take action. His work continues to impact the lives of homeless individuals today, and his story serves as a reminder of the importance of compassion and understanding for those in need.