Big Wigs Talk Homelessness: Jon Stewart and HUD Secretary

Written by Erin Murphy, Director of Education and Advocacy Network at the YWCA Seattle I King I Snohomish.

Jon Stewart is a cultural icon when it comes to comedy and media. His spin on reporting news has captured the attention of so many Americans, particularly younger generations. Not gonna lie. I’m a fan as well. So when he conducted an interview with Shaun Donovan, the HUD Secretary, my love only grew.

This particular interview was one in which the conversation was so interesting, Stewart went beyond air time so we could enjoy extra footage shared on the web—hence the Part II video below.

Some things about the interview that jumped out at me:

  • Emphasis on government’s commitment to ending veteran’s homelessness. Recent reports shared that the number of veterans experiencing homelessness has decreased by 20% and there was a lot of tweeting and other buzz about this.
  • Donovan mentions 15% increased funding for homelessness programs next year. Interestingly, I thought this was still only a proposal in the Obama administration’s budget? Yet it seemed to be mentioned as fact. Perhaps a little misleading and overlooking an excellent opportunity for encouraging people to advocate for the passage of this proposed funding, so that it can be a factual claim.
  • Donovan claims the Recovery Act “saved 1.2 million people from homelessness.” While I’m not doubting this claim, I am very curious to know what it means exactly. It is a broad statement with little context or explanation.
  • Discussion of the $25 billion mortgage settlement with the banks. Donovan stated “[The money] helps a bunch of renters who are living in homes that have been foreclosed on,” and once again my curiosity kicks in–just how exactly does this work?
  • Point in Time Homeless Count references. Having very recently participated in local counts myself and writing about them, it’s pretty cool to have it referenced in this larger context.

Stewart states at one point that “people just don’t know what is going on” which speaks to how important it is that he is helping to grow awareness by conducting this interview. Education is an important part of advocacy, so I say to Stewart, thanks for being a Big Wig that talks about homelessness!

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