Sunday, December 30, 2007

Tent City in Suburbs Is Cost of Home Crisis

By Dana Ford

Thursday 20 December 2007

Between railroad tracks and beneath the roar of departing planes sits "tent city," a terminus for homeless people. It is not, as might be expected, in a blighted city center, but in the once-booming suburbia of Southern California.

The noisy, dusty camp sprang up in July with 20 residents and now numbers 200 people, including several children, growing as this region east of Los Angeles has been hit by the U.S. housing crisis.

The unraveling of the region known as the Inland Empire reads like a 21st century version of "The Grapes of Wrath," John Steinbeck's novel about families driven from their lands by the Great Depression.

As more families throw in the towel and head to foreclosure here and across the nation, the social costs of collapse are adding up in the form of higher rates of homelessness, crime and even disease.

While no current residents claim to be victims of foreclosure, all agree that tent city is a symptom of the wider economic downturn. And it's just a matter of time before foreclosed families end up at tent city, local housing experts say.

"They don't hit the streets immediately," said activist Jane Mercer. Most families can find transitional housing in a motel or with friends before turning to charity or the streets. "They only hit tent city when they really bottom out."

Steve, 50, who declined to give his last name, moved to tent city four months ago. He gets social security payments, but cannot work and said rents are too high.

"House prices are going down, but the rentals are sky-high," said Steve. "If it wasn't for here, I wouldn't have a place to go."

"Squatting in Vacant Houses"

Nationally, foreclosures are at an all-time high. Filings are up nearly 100 percent from a year ago, according to the data firm RealtyTrac. Officials say that as many as half a million people could lose their homes as adjustable mortgage rates rise over the next two years.

California ranks second in the nation for foreclosure filings - one per 88 households last quarter. Within California, San Bernardino county in the Inland Empire is worse - one filing for every 43 households, according to RealtyTrac.

Maryanne Hernandez bought her dream house in San Bernardino in 2003 and now risks losing it after falling four months behind on mortgage payments.

"It's not just us. It's all over," said Hernandez, who lives in a neighborhood where most families are struggling to meet payments and many have lost their homes. She has noticed an increase in crime since the foreclosures started. Her house was robbed, her kids' bikes were stolen and she worries about what type of message empty houses send.

The pattern is cropping up in communities across the country, like Cleveland, Ohio, where Mark Wiseman, director of the Cuyahoga County Foreclosure Prevention Program, said there are entire blocks of homes in Cleveland where 60 or 70 percent of houses are boarded up."I don't think there are enough police to go after criminals holed up in those houses, squatting or doing drug deals or whatever," Wiseman said.

"And it's not just a problem of a neighborhood filled with people squatting in the vacant houses, it's the people left behind, who have to worry about people taking siding off your home or breaking into your house while you're sleeping."

Health risks are also on the rise. All those empty swimming pools in California's Inland Empire have become breeding grounds for mosquitoes, which can transmit the sometimes deadly West Nile virus, Riverside County officials say.

"Trickle-Down Effect"

But it is not just homeowners who are hit by the foreclosure wave. People who rent now find themselves in a tighter, more expensive market as demand rises from families who lost homes, said Jean Beil, senior vice president for programs and services at Catholic Charities USA.

"Folks who would have been in a house before are now in an apartment and folks that would have been in an apartment, now can't afford it," said Beil. "It has a trickle-down effect."

For cities, foreclosures can trigger a range of short-term costs, like added policing, inspection and code enforcement. These expenses can be significant, said Lt. Scott Patterson with the San Bernardino Police Department, but the larger concern is that vacant properties lower home values and in the long-run, decrease tax revenues.

And it all comes at a time when municipalities are ill-equipped to respond. High foreclosure rates and declining home values are sapping property tax revenues, a key source of local funding to tackle such problems.

Earlier this month, U.S. President George W. Bush rolled out a plan to slow foreclosures by freezing the interest rates on some loans. But for many in these parts, the intervention is too little and too late.

Ken Sawa, CEO of Catholic Charities in San Bernardino and Riverside counties, said his organization is overwhelmed and ill-equipped to handle the volume of people seeking help. "We feel helpless," said Sawa. "Obviously, it's a local problem because it's in our backyard, but the solution is not local."

Article from:

Friday, December 28, 2007

Trying To Shine A Little Hope In Rural PA.

Three houseless veterans from three wars live together under bridge, and a few programs helping to raise a little hope for ending homelessness. Full Article

Friday, December 21, 2007

Beggar or Businessperson?

There are a million of these out there, but we found this one to be quite funny.


December 21, 2007
By Anat Rubin
Daily Journal Staff Writer

LOS ANGELES - Leonard Woods is tired of fighting for his home. Woods has lived at the Alexandria, a Skid Row residency hotel, for a decade. But the 53-year-old, who depends on a motorized wheelchair to get around, doesn't know how much longer he'll be able to stay. "They've worn me down," Woods said, crying. "It's one thing after another, and I'm falling apart." Everything was fine, he said, until the city of Los Angeles gave a for-profit affordable housing developer substantial funding last year to purchase and renovate the Alexandria, which has long been home to some of the city's poorest residents.

Since then, more than 80 of the hotel's tenants, many of them disabled, have been evicted, according to court records. Some now live on the street. Others are in emergency housing. Many remaining tenants, like Woods, say they are barely hanging on. Woods, a carpenter who suffered a spinal injury eight years ago, said the hotel's managers have made every effort to get him to leave. They refused to accept his medications and disabled bus pass when they arrived in the mail, he said. They told him he had to give up two-thirds of his living space, refusing to accept his rent payment for two of the three small adjoining units he has been living in for years, he said, "They say, 'If we can make their lives miserable, maybe they'll leave,'" Woods said. "I'm tired of being stepped on."
Over the last six months, Woods and many other residents have made numerous complaints to the Community Redevelopment Agency, which helped San Diego-based Amerland Group secure $35 million in state bonds to renovate the building, and committed $11.9 million in city funds to keep the units affordable and prevent displacement.
Residents complained of harassment, discrimination and poor living conditions. Disabled tenants said they have been stranded on their hotel floor for days because the elevators break down. They said they have had to go without water for days and without hot water for weeks. They said management was refusing to take their rent checks and then trying to evict them for not paying rent. They said they were being relocated to smaller, inadequate rooms without notice. And they made it clear it was the elderly and disabled who were being pushed out of the building.
"I spoke in all of those [community redevelopment] hearings and guess what? Nothing happened," Woods said. "Nothing changed." Attorneys for Amerland were unavailable Thursday, but the company has repeatedly denied allegations of discrimination and said tenants who were being evicted were not paying rent.

Now Woods and other Alexandria residents are suing the developer, the Community Redevelopment Agency and the city, alleging widespread race and disability discrimination and rampant violations of state relocation and redevelopment laws. "The city is responsible for approving the expenditure of public funds for this project and not ensuring those funds were put to the use the people of the city intended: to provide low-income housing," said Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles attorney Louis Rafti, whose organization filed the lawsuit in federal court Thursday, along with the Western Center on Law and Poverty, the Disability Rights Legal Center and McDermott Will & Emery. "This project was intended for people who cannot afford to live anywhere else. There's no more affordable housing. There's no place for these folks to go. They're losing housing at $300 to $400 a month and there's absolutely nothing available for that right now."

A recent boom in development has turned downtown residency hotels into prime real estate. The gentrification that has swept the area caused city officials to declare a moratorium on residency hotel conversions to stop landlords from evicting tenants and turning their affordable units into high-end lofts. But affordable housing is exempt from the moratorium and other tenant protections.
"This was an intentional strategy to let this developer do whatever he wanted to," Rafti said. "The agency just turned their heads. If the developer told them these are bad people, they assumed they must be. Even if a third of the building has been evicted, they thought, 'These people must not be important enough for us to deal with.'"
In a press release, the Community Redevelopment Agency said Thursday it "shares the concerns expressed by tenants at the Alexandria Hotel regarding health and safety, habitability and tenant rights issues." The agency said it has no regulatory or legal jurisdiction over many of the claims. But, according to the press release, the agency expects "the developer to comply with all laws related to health and safety, discrimination, and tenant rights and will continue to work with the parties to resolve these issues."
Some board members had raised concerns about the project before it was approved, and after tenants and community groups began to complain. They were especially troubled by the broken elevators and lack of running water. One member voiced numerous concerns about the rate of evictions. But those members were outnumbered on the board and their concerns, residents said, did not translate into action.
Attorneys for the residents point to the Alexandria's Web site as evidence of the developer's plans to get rid of older, disabled people of color. The site looks like an advertisement for a college dormitory. Photos feature shaggy-haired boys lounging on modern couches and hip girls in bright rooms gazing into laptop screens.
"Their planned new tenants don't look like the tenants who live there now," said McDermott attorney Matt Oster, whose firm is handling the case on a pro bono basis. "They're cleaning house."
There are no photos on the Web site of anyone who looks like Hilda Quintana, a 71-year-old American Indian woman who has lived at the Alexandria for more than 25 years. Quintana, a plaintiff in the case, is disabled and walks with a cane. She said she came home one day to find she was shut out of one of her two adjoining rooms. The entrance to the second room, she said, was boarded up, and her belongings and furniture were haphazardly thrown into the remaining room. Quintana said she was told not to congregate in the lobby, where she had been sitting on the old Alexandria benches and talking to neighbors for decades.
"It's just to get out of the room. You don't want to watch TV all day," she said. "But they want you to stay in your room. They don't want you down there. It doesn't look good [for the newer tenants]. They look at you funny, like you might drop bugs on them or something."

Management eventually tore out the old benches, saying ongoing construction made the lobby a hazard for the tenants. In protest, Quintana now takes her own chair downstairs to sit for an hour or two each day. Also missing from the Web site is anyone who looks like Joseph Bell, a 72-year-old black man who suffers from seizures and has lived at the hotel for 11 years.
Bell, also a plaintiff, suffered a seizure Sunday, three weeks after his county-funded home health care worker was refused access to the building. When she tried to get in to see him, she said, she was escorted out in handcuffs. "She does the grocery shopping for me. She cooks for me. She soaks my feet. She cleans," Bell said after returning from the hospital Monday. "I just can't do things like cook. My legs give out on me sometimes. I forget to take my medication or I forget that I took it and take it twice."
Bell suffered another seizure Tuesday, after management again refused to let his caretaker in, his attorneys said."They identify their weakness, usually related to a disabling condition, and exploit that weakness as a means to evict them," Rafti said. That makes people with mental disabilities, he said, especially vulnerable. Before Amerland took over the building, LAMP Community, a housing and health care organization for homeless people with severe mental disabilities, had 60 clients in the Alexandria.
"It was considered to be one of the best, if not the best, privately owned single-room occupancy hotels to work with," said LAMP executive director Casey Horan. "The average length of time our clients would stay at the hotel was five years. The staff had an understanding of mental illness and we were able to work closely with them. It was a great relationship. "LAMP Community now has only five clients in the building. "The majority left and chose homelessness over the Alexandria," Horan said. "They were in a state of fear. One of our clients wouldn't leave her room for three months for fear of being locked out. People were being detained and interrogated by security in the building. Anyone who exhibited unusual or bizarre behavior was accused of being a drug dealer or a drug addict."
These were formerly homeless, mentally disabled people who found stability at the hotel and were receiving mental health treatment, Horan said. "We got to point that we could not say to them in good faith that everything was going to be alright because everything was not going to be alright," she said. "We saw our clients deteriorating. Instead of working to engage them in treatment, we had to go into crisis mode. We said 'These people are going to end up on the street again.' And some of them did." Oster said management took mentally disabled people who could not defend themselves to unlawful detainer court, seeking eviction.
"They didn't know they have a right to replacement housing, to relocation benefits," he said. When Amerland secured state bonds to buy and redevelop the building, the company said it could keep the units affordable for people who earn up to 60 percent of the area's median income. But most of the Alexandria's tenants are at 35 percent of the median income. In response to community outrage, the Redevelopment Agency brought down the affordability levels of close to half of the units. But the agency did not demand a relocation plan for residents of the units that would remain less affordable. Oster said the city is required, by state and federal law, to adopt relocation and replacement housing plans, give proper tenant notices and provide relocation assistance. None of the tenants displaced from the Alexandria has received relocation benefits.

Tenants and community activists say they are especially angry with their council members, who have supported Amerland since the developer first announced plans to take over the building.
"We have rattled the trees and city government turned their backs," said Pete White of the Los Angeles Community Action Network, a downtown tenant advocacy group that's also a plaintiff in the case. "The only thing left for us is to attempt to get some justice."
Council members Jan Perry and Jose Huizar, whose districts include parts of Skid Row, came out to support Amerland when the company, already mired in controversy over its handling of the Alexandria, asked for city money to take over another downtown building. "After they knew what was going on at the Alexandria, they gave them an additional $8 million to take over another downtown hotel," said Legal Aid Foundation attorney Barbara Schultz. "It's time for the city to reconsider how it uses public funds." Perry and Huizar were not available for comment. Attorneys for the plaintiffs are demanding that the city fulfill its obligations to provide replacement housing and relocation benefits, and to closely monitor the developer and ensure the well-being of tenants. They want the developer to restore basic amenities at the Alexandria and provide plaintiffs with units comparable to the ones they lived in prior to the ownership change. "Those people who have been evicted are not easily located," Oster said. "But we're hopeful we'll get remedies for everyone in the end."

For now, Woods would like some hot water. "I've been boiling water to take a bath," he said. "But my inconvenience doesn't mean anything. And it should mean something."
Becky Dennison of the Community Action Network said the emotional toll on tenants like Woods and the community organizations who care for them has been unbearable. "These are folks that have been through a lot in life. And they can't take this anymore," she said. "They're breaking down."

Conn. State Sen. Wants More Affordable Housing

Conn. State Minority Leader John McKinney, son of Stewart B. McKinney, has a proposal in the Senate that will increase the affordable housing stock in the State. (Full Article)

Related Article- Westport News

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Mayor of Boise to give scrap cash to homeless fund

The Boise City Council has voted to approve $2 million to fight homelessness.

The money comes from about $12 million in end-of-year surplus dollars.

Boise Mayor Dave Bieter says the money will be used to create a trust fund that will pay about $100,000 a year as part of the "10-Plan to Reduce and Prevent Chronic Homelessness."

The council adopted the 10-year plan last month.

The plan emphasizes finding permanent housing for homeless people and bringing in additional social services.

The council approved the money yesterday.

S.H.S.D, City Councilman Speakout For Sweeps

Seattle City Councilman and Human Services Department Director speak against policies that police and city park agents have been using to dismantle homeless encampments.(Full Article)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Homelessness rising

Smaller communities around large cities seeing increase in homelessness. Organizations are telling the same story of the lack of affordable housing as the culprit.
Article from Conroe, TX.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Doubled and Tripled-Up On The Reservation

From the Minn. Public Radio.
Homelessness has always been a enduring problem on reservations around the nations. Minn. has released some tough numbers a recent report.
MPR Article

Friday, December 7, 2007

Removing homeless from sight doesn't make them go away

Friday, December 7, 2007

The insatiable appetite to see homeless people disappear from our parks, streets, business districts and tourist areas requires us all to go back to one of the very first lessons we are taught as infants. Just because you can no longer see it, doesn't mean it no longer exists. Think of this the next time you play peek-a-boo with a toddler. Now you see the homeless. Now you don't. But either way, we're still here. Peek-a-boo!! When city government talks about closing our parks at night and establishing expanded camping and cooking restrictions, and when Chronicle columnist C.W. Nevius writes about the parks, we often hear the phrase, "This is not about homelessness. It's about the parks." While this phrase is a great tagline, it is also blatantly untrue.

Park sweeps, police outreach teams and the busting up of encampments in China Basin and along the freeways has EVERYTHING to do with homelessness! Our parks, our freeway underpasses and our streets have been around a lot longer than the very recent advent of closing and fencing them off has. In fact, a direct correlation can be made between the massive increases in homelessness in the early 1980s and the park closures, police programs with both old and new vagrancy laws, and the fencing off of open space. Prior to Mayor Frank Jordan's Matrix program, all of San Francisco's public parks were open 24-hours-a-day. Now, Golden Gate Park closes at 10 p.m. and other parks at dusk or midnight.

Prior to the federal cuts to affordable housing programs - from $83 billion in 1978 to $18 billion in 1983 - contemporary homelessness did not exist. Public parks were open for stargazing (and necking) and panhandling was around but not that big of a deal. After the cuts in government funding for affordable housing, Disney moves into Times Square and Union Square, million-dollar lofts are built in what was once skid row, the public parks are all closed at night, and practically every store front has a "no trespassing" sign in its window. For homeless people, the end result is almost everything other than walking and breathing can get you a ticket, which then lands you in jail.

We need to rediscover what we learned when we were infants: People still exist even if we don't see them. It's called object permanence. Maybe if we remembered this lesson, we would choose to do something about the increasing number of families and individuals living without housing in the United States and begin to fund housing programs again. Maybe we could find a unified community voice for restoring the governor's recent (in a long series of) mental health funding cuts instead of constantly reading about the potential dangers those scary crazy homeless people impose on the rest of us.

When local government is allowed to play peek-a-boo with people's lives, when it is given the authority to make people disappear from society's consciousness, the result is inevitable - incarceration. After all, removing people's presence from society pretty much requires you put them somewhere. As the federal and state governments abandoned all pretense of responsibility for the health and housing needs of people who may be poor and/or disabled, local governments increasingly turned to laws and policing programs to mitigate the damage.

In response, jails are overflowing and municipal courts have established "special courts" along social, as opposed to criminal, lines to deal with this influx. Drug courts, mental health courts and homeless or community courts are all, at their core, manifestations of a criminal justice system overwhelmed by a society that attempts rid itself of poor people rather than attempting to rid itself of poverty.

Just as sweeping dirt under the rug doesn't really clean the floor, sweeping disabled and homeless people from public view or into jail doesn't really address homelessness. They are still disabled and homeless when they are released. It is ineffective as hell, but local governments keep trying and we keep letting them.

It has been 25 years since the re-emergence of massive homelessness in America. It is time we stop trying to recreate Jim Crow and start trying to recreate the New Deal. After all, the New Deal didn't build prisons. It created jobs building Hospitals, Schools and Homes.

Paul Boden is the director of the Western Regional Advocacy Project and

Jennifer Friedenbach is the executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness, San Francisco.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

NAEHCY honorees

NAEHCY conference honors OR. homeless students liaisons

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Obama stands-up for down and out vets

Obama has a new committee that will be looking into the way veterans are being treated in the United States. Article

The American "Nightmare"
Veterans pursue the dream, but don't have a place to live. Article

Serving your country may get you served. Article

Bush set to veto veterans funding? Article

New generation faces homelessness Article

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Lying liars and the lies they tell

A fact check on HUD’s “News Release” Wednesday 11/7/07

Today Alfonso Jackson, Secretary of HUD, borrowed a few pages from Interagency Council on Homelessness Executive Director Phil Mangano as he released a HUD report claiming an 11.5% decrease in the numbers of chronically homeless people from 175,914 in 2005 to 155,623 in 2006. He claimed 20,000 people moved into transitional and permanent housing between 2005 and 2006. This is directly attributed to HUD and local continuums of care creating more supportive housing units and, “breaking the vicious cycle of homelessness for those who have lived on the streets as a way of life,” as well as better data collection. He further claims HUD awarded “$286 million to 1,100 programs that house and serve individuals experiencing chronic homelessness… creating 4,000 new units of permanent supportive housing.” (You might be tempted to ask how 20,000 people fit into 4,000 units but wait we’ll get to that.) He also claimed that since 2001 the Bushies, “have awarded $9 billion to support thousands of local housing and service programs throughout the nation and is seeking a record $1.6 billion… for FY 2008.” He says this is a 41% increase compared to 2001. He then refers to the, “comprehensive shelter and street point in time snapshots,” as a, “powerful tool to gauge the progress in meeting the homeless challenge and creating innovative housing solutions in response.” He then repeated the mantra of, “754,000 persons homeless on any given night.” Note that the last two sentences are the only ones that say “homeless” with the chronic label in front of it.

So, now a little fact checking:
HUD’s mission statement says they are, “the nation’s housing agency”..”… creating affordable housing opportunities for low-income Americans.” So let’s start there.
We’ll use the 2001 timeline that is referenced in the press release since that is when Bush took office:

  1. Since 2001 HUD has spent $0 dollars on the development of new public housing units while 100,000 units of public housing were lost to demolition, sale or other removal between 1996 and 2006.
  2. While many readers will think that this report means that homelessness has decreased by 12%, in reality HUD is only talking about people considered “chronically” homeless—a subpopulation the Department estimates to comprise 10% of the entire homeless population—meaning that we’re really talking about a 1.2-2.7% change.
  3. While HUD maintains that 754,000 people total are homeless on any given day the Department of Education documents that 904,000 children alone attend public school everyday that do not have housing. While HUD’s number is based on a point-in-time count, wherein volunteers scramble to count all the people they see and think might be homeless, the DOE’s number comes from actual documentation of names and Social Security numbers. When HUD’s numbers are so far off, an apparent decrease of 1-3% means more or less jack.
  4. 22 of the continua of care that applied for funding from HUD this year got no assistance whatsoever, meaning that all new chronic homelessness programs came at the expense of these communities.
  5. No amount of data shuffling and reprioritizing of the homeless populations will ever change the fact that we need to restore the $52 billion a year we were spending on affordable housing before HUD become so damn proud of how great it was doing in ending chronic homelessness. We didn’t have any such thing as chronic homelessness…we had housing.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Paradise And Poverty

Most people look at Hawai'i and think, what a wonderful place to visit.
On the other hand, there are those who live there who see the other side of paradise. With poverty and homelessness being the "eyesore" most mainland cities cite as problems, the islands are violating McKinney-Vento laws. (FullArticle)

Related Articles:
Hawaii plans $20M homeless shelter

Monday, November 5, 2007

Congress play numbers game

WRAP's Paul Boden latest column for Street Roots in Portland, Oregon, and the Street News Service

  • Congress play numbers game
  • Homeless Youth Documentary Wins Award

    N.U.I. Professor and Hear Us INC. president National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (N.A.E.H.C.Y.) annual award for Outstanding Media Presentation.

    Full Article

    Monday, October 29, 2007

    L.A.'s Homeless Prisoner Release Program

    A program to help inmates get into housing, when most landlords
    refuse to rent to people with criminal records!

    All San Franciscians Treated Equal?

    With out cash, housing or restroom facilities San Francisco is about to spend more money on poor people: TO PROSECUTE THEM!!

    Wednesday, October 17, 2007

    S.F. cop uses free speech, faces suspension

    One S.F.P.D. officer in trouble for letter about Golden Gate Park sweeps.
    (First story only.)

    Tuesday, October 16, 2007

    Legislative Update: HUD Definition of Homelessness


    The "Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing Act (HEARTH)," H.R. 840, reauthorizes the McKinney-Vento Act’s HUD Homeless Assistance Programs. H.R. 840 provides greater decision making at the local level and more closely aligns the HUD definition of homelessness with other federal agency definitions (including the U.S. Department of Education).

    In contrast, the Senate bill, S. 1518, the Community Partnership to End Homelessness Act (CPEHA), contains a complex, restrictive definition of homelessness that requires those who are doubled-up or in motels to make multiple moves in order to gain eligibility and codifies permanent housing set-asides that deny communities the ability to meet the needs of all homeless populations that they identify.


    Two new documents are now available regarding the HUD McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act reauthorization. Please find attached:

    1. A "Fact Check" on the HUD definition of homelessness. This document sets the record straight on the effort to update HUD definition of homelessness.

    2. An organizational sign-on letter of more than 40 child and youth organizations supporting an updated HUD definition of homelessness.

    NPACH Alert: Support the HEARTH Act - House Hearings Held, New Materials Available

    Yesterday, the Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity of the House Financial Services Committee held its second hearing on reauthorization of the HUD McKinney-Vento Act Homeless Assistance Grant Programs.

    Four new documents are now available regarding the HUD McKinney-Vento Act reauthorization:

    1. NPACH testimony from the October 4 McKinney-Vento reauthorization hearing.

    2. A "Fact Check" on the HUD definition of homelessness. This document sets the record straight on the effort to update HUD's definition of homelessness.

    3. A "Fact Check" on HUD funding and the "chronic homelessness initiative" that clarifies key points in the debate.

    4. An organizational sign-on letter from 44 child and youth organizations supporting an updated HUD definition of homelessness.

    These materials, along with a brief comment on the hearing, are available at the NPACH website, at:


    Please ask the House to take action on the HEARTH Act, H.R. 840. To find out if your Member of Congress has signed on to H.R. 840, visit: H.R.840

    If your Representative is a co-sponsor, please call their office to thank them, and ask that they urge House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank and Housing Subcommittee Chairwoman Maxine Waters to pass the HEARTH Act and bring it to the House floor.

    If your Representative is not a co-sponsor, please ask them to become one - the more co-sponsors we have, the more likely it is that HEARTH will move forward. Contact information for all House Members is available at If your Representative is interested in co-sponsoring HEARTH, they should notify Kathleen Taylor in the office of Representative Julia Carson or Lauren O’Brien in the office of Representative Geoff Davis.

    For more information, visit

    Monday, October 15, 2007

    Waco Homeless Administrator Does Overtime For Local Efforts

    This article highlights the work of one Waco Administrators dedication to put forth efforts beyond the job description.
    Full Article: Waco woman finds fulfilment helping area homeless

    So. Ill. tries to eleviate "homeless student" sterotype

    While the federal law describes them as children "who lack a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence," the Illinois State Board of Education further defines them as children sharing housing with others because of a lack of housing, economic hardship or other reasons.
    Full Story:
    Program to help schools educate homeless students

    Friday, October 12, 2007

    L.A. County Homeless Down, Skid Row Up!

    The County of L.A. claim decrease in homelessness, But Skid Row
    sees an increase! (Story) (Report)

    Breaking down Bennington's VT. data further. (Story)

    Thursday, October 11, 2007

    W.V. Discusses H.E.A.R.T.H. Act!!

    Advocate says legislation needed to help homeless in rural areas:
    This article(in full) is a start of a new line of talks between D.C. and local advocates.

    Friday, October 5, 2007

    Filmmakers Document Homelessness In Austin

    As the Austin City Council reviews a measure to ban panhandling, some local moviemakers are looking into the issue of homelessness and solicitation in their documentary.

    Full Story:
    "Under the Bridge"

    New bill addresses homelessness

    BENNINGTON, VT. — The Douglas administration is aware of a spike in homelessness in Bennington County, which is one reason officials say they are pushing hard for a new housing bill in the Legislature.

    Full Story:

    Bennington area — a scarcity of affordable housing.

    Thursday, October 4, 2007

    Skid row crime drops 35%, but the program is faulted

    "There have been unintended consequences that have negatively impacted the homeless and mentally disabled people, with unpaid citations for jaywalking leading to people going to jail and a focus on small-quantity drug buys ending up with ordinary addicts being sent to state prison,"

    Full Story:
    The Safer City Initiative has added police but few social services.

    Providing housing to homeless saves money

    AUGUSTA, Maine --Providing housing for Maine's homeless costs money, but it results in overall savings thanks to the reduced cost of social, medical and other services, according to a study commissioned by the Maine State Housing Authority.

    Full Story:
    Cuts the average costs of services they receive in half.

    Suit alleges Hawaii fails homeless kids

    The state has failed so badly at helping homeless children get to and from public schools that federal courts should intervene in the situation, according to a class-action lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and two other parties.

    Full story:
    Hawaii fails homeless kids

    Suit: State denies homeless kids equal access to public education

    A class-action lawsuit has been filed against state officials, claiming they are failing to provide homeless children with equal access to public education.

    Don’t let red tape deny homeless children their education
    The prospect of federal intervention should prompt the state and the Department of Education to resolve quickly.

    Wednesday, October 3, 2007

    Support the HEARTH Act

    Support the HEARTH Act: Congressional Hearings Oct. 4 and Oct. 11


    The "Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing Act (HEARTH)," H.R. 840, reauthorizes the McKinney-Vento Act’s HUD Homeless Assistance Programs. H.R. 840 provides greater decision making at the local level, more closely aligns the HUD definition of homelessness with other federal agency definitions (including the U.S. Department of Education), expands resources for emergency shelter and supportive services, provides a framework for greater homeless prevention activity, allows communities the flexibly to implement a range of housing solutions, and makes HUD policy more sensitive to the needs of children, youth, and families.

    In contrast, the Senate bill, S. 1518, the Community Partnership to End Homelessness Act (CPEHA), is flawed. It contains a complex, restrictive definition of homelessness which requires those who are doubled-up or in motels to make multiple moves in order to gain eligibility; it codifies permanent housing set-asides that deny communities the ability to meet the needs of all homeless populations that they identify; and it excludes community planning provisions that would ensure participation by homeless education liaisons and also help ensure that homeless children and youth are able to exercise their educational rights.

    Legislative Update:

    The House Financial Services Committee, Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity, will hold two hearings on reauthorization of HUD's McKinney-Vento homeless assistance grant programs. The hearings will take place on Thursday, October 4 at 10am, and Thursday, October 11 at 2pm.

    Ms. Pittre Walker, NAEHCY Board Member and Homeless Liaison for Caddo Parish Schools in Shreveport, Louisiana, will testify at the October 4 hearing. Her testimony will be available from the NAEHCY web site prior to the hearing. Diane Nilan, President of HEAR US, will testify at the October 11th hearing. Other partners, including the National Policy & Advocacy Council on Homelessness, the National Network to End Domestic Violence, and the National Network for Youth, also will provide testimony. Both hearings can be viewed via webcast, by going to:

    Recommended Action:

    Please ask the House to take action on the HEARTH Act, H.R. 840. A list of the current 78 co-sponsors can be found here:

    If your Representative is a co-sponsor, please call their office to thank them, and ask that they urge House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank and Housing Subcommittee Chairwoman Maxine Waters to pass the HEARTH Act and bring it to the House floor.

    If your Representative is not a co-sponsor, please ask them to become one - the more co-sponsors we have, the more likely it is that HEARTH will move forward. Contact information for all House Members is available at If your Representative is interested in co-sponsoring HEARTH, they should notify Kathleen Taylor in the office of Representative Julia Carson.

    SoMa patrols to shepherd homeless away from tourist areas

    The city will send teams of outreach workers and police officers to offer social services to any homeless person caught littering, camping, trespassing, urinating, defecating, blocking sidewalks or publicly intoxicated.

    If the homeless people refuse the services, they will receive a citation and will be told to appear in traffic court in 45 days. If a person is caught committing another quality-of-life crime within the same 8-hour period, he or she will be taken into custody.

    Check out full story:
    Robbing Peter to pay Paul, everyone else goes to jail

    Friday, September 28, 2007

    H.R. 840 – The HEARTH Act of 2007


    On Tuesday, February 6, the “Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing Act (HEARTH Act), H.R. 840, was introduced by U.S. Representatives Julia Carson (D-7th/IN), Geoff Davis (R-4th/KY), Rick Renzi (R-1st/AZ) and Barbara Lee (D-9th/CA). The HEARTH Act reauthorizes the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Programs that are administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HEARTH now has 75 co-sponsors.

    The HEARTH Act provides greater decision making at the local level, more closely aligns the HUD definition of homelessness with other federal agency definitions (including the U.S. Department of Education), expands resources for supportive services, provides a framework for greater homelessness prevention activities, and allows communities the flexibility to implement a range of housing solutions. A summary of key provisions is included below.


    • Consolidates all HUD McKinney-Vento housing programs (except Emergency Shelter Grants) into one competitive program with a broad set of eligible activities, including homelessness prevention, permanent or transitional housing for any homeless population, and supportive services.

    • Allows communities to prioritize particular housing and services initiatives based on demonstrated local need, not because of national priorities set by HUD that often do not match local needs.

    • Aligns the HUD definition of who is homeless more closely with the definition used by the U.S. Department of Education by including people who are living in doubled-up situations or in hotels / motels. This change will make many more children, youth, and families eligible for HUD homeless assistance, providing communities with the flexibility to serve the people who are homeless within their borders.

    • Protects victims of domestic violence by prohibiting the disclosure of any information collected by a housing or social service provider that could identify them, and prevents homelessness by permitting victims of domestic violence who may be in danger to immediately move to a safer living situation.

    • Ensures that communities wishing to prioritize housing and services for homeless persons living on the streets for a long period of time are free to target dollars to that population, without codifying a definition of “chronic homelessness” or a set of incentives designed to end “chronic homelessness.”

    • Requires a 25% match for all housing and supportive services, but permits the match to be met either in cash or with an in-kind contribution.

    Brother, can you spare a dime?

    panhandlers in Las Vegas are rumored to do surprisingly well. Legends abound: They live in mountain-side mansions and drive BMWs;

    Full article:
    Recently released study busts some myths about panhandling in Las Vegas

    Thursday, September 27, 2007

    Refining McKinney

    Room for Improvement in Senate Markup

    Mobilizer readers know that 2007 marks both the twentieth anniversary of the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act, the first major federal legislation directed towards ameliorating homelessness, and the time to reauthorize HUD-administered McKinney Homeless Assistance programs. Regrettably, despite the availability of McKinney resources, more people now experience homelessness than when the act first was authorized in 1987. Although McKinney alone will never end homelessness (only dramatic changes in the nation’s housing and health care policies will accomplish this goal), the legislation is important and must be strengthened. Last Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs unanimously passed S.1518 – the Community Partnership to End Homelessness Act (CPEHA) – which would reauthorize and amend McKinney Homeless Assistance programs. Several results of the Committee’s mark-up session require action from advocates.

    Defining McKinney

    The Senate markup would expand HUD’s definition of homelessness to include certain individuals and families living in hotels or motels along with those “doubled up” due to economic hardship. Though this expanded definition is welcome, there is still room for improvement. The new definition would only permit doubled up families to be considered “homeless” (and thus eligible for McKinney resources) if they have moved three times in the past year or twice in the past 21 days. The specificity of this language no doubt will prove difficult for communities to measure and enforce and could prevent many eligible individuals and families from accessing HUD’s homeless assistance programs. A less restrictive definition would reflect more accurately the realities of homelessness and very precarious housing.

    Realigning McKinney

    More than five years ago, the Administration announced the laudable goal of ending chronic homelessness by 2012 – without appropriating resources sufficient to support this noble effort. In FY2007, Congress appropriated $1.442 billion for McKinney programs – an increase over the previous year, but hardly the investment necessary to end homelessness. The current markup of S.1518 would increase the authorization level to $2.2 billion. In addition to this increase, the bill rightly requires thgat funding for permanent housing subsidies created through the McKinney Act be renewed through the Section 8 account rather than through McKinney – thus reserving a greater portion of McKinney dollars for new supportive housing and new and on-going services. Although a step in the right direction, the proposed increases are not sufficient to fund existing projects working to end and prevent homelessness let alone important new projects necessary to get people off the streets and back into the mainstream. The National Council calls upon Congress to appropriate at least $3 billion for McKinney Homeless Assistance programs.

    House Reauthorization

    In contrast, the House of Representatives is considering a different piece of legislation to rewrite the laws of McKinney—one that the Council and other national homeless advocacy organizations have endorsed because it is more comprehensive and better equipped to address the complicated task of ending and preventing homelessness. Introduced by Congresswoman Julia Carson (D-IN), H.R. 840, the Homeless Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act contains an expanded definition of homelessness that includes individuals and families living in hotels or motels and “doubled up” situations without the restrictive language that defines how often a person must move to be considered homeless, such as the language that exists in the Senate bill (CPEHA- S.1518). In addition, HEARTH reauthorizes McKinney Homeless Assistance programs at $2.5 billion and provides communities with flexibility in using their McKinney funds to address their community’s needs, rather than allowing HUD to dictate how the money must be used, provisions that are not include in the Senate bill. The House Committee on Financial Services subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity has schedule two hearings, beginning next week, to discuss McKinney reauthorization.


    • Read the National Council’s policy statement on Housing (HERE)

    • Call your Senators TODAY to enlist their support to strengthen McKinney and to back other measures necessary to end homelessness. Urge them to pass language more accurately reflecting the number of homeless Americans by including everyone lacking a place of their own due to financial hardship. Ask your Senators to support increasing McKinney authorization to $3 billion. Find your Senator at or call the Capitol Switchboard 202-224-2131.

    • McKinney alone will never end homelessness. As you encourage your Congressional representatives to pass as strong a homelessness assistance package as possible, be sure to communicate the need for broader national policies promoting access to affordable housing, comprehensive health care, and livable incomes for all. Only through these measures will we prevent and end homelessness for good.

    • For more information contact the National Council’s Health Policy Organizer, Adrienne Breidenstine at or 443-703-1337

    President Bush Discusses No Child Left Behind Reauthorization

    The federal government invests money and education, and we ought to expect results in return for that investment. It's a pretty simple principle. If you're a taxpayer and you're spending your money, you want to make sure that money gets good results. And the best way to determine whether you get good results is to measure.

    Full Article:
    THE PRESIDENT: Good morning.

    Newly Formed Organization Gives the Homeless a Stronger Voice

    Press Release:
    Father Bill's Place and Mainspring Coalition for the Homeless Merge to Focus on Ending Homelessness in Southeastern Massachusetts.

    Full Article:
    Newly Formed Organization Gives the Homeless a Stronger Voice

    Wednesday, September 26, 2007

    Health Care for the Homeless Mobilizer

    The National Health Care for the Homeless Council
    P.O. Box 60427
    Nashville, TN 37206-0427
    Telephone 615/226-2292
    Fax 615/226-1656
    Vol. XII No. 11 9/20/07

    Civil Rights Jeopardized As Homelessness Grows

    The continuing demand on HCH providers and our observations of our communities suggest that homelessness continues to grow, despite some bold claims to the contrary. The core causes of homelessness – dire shortages of affordable housing, accessible health care and livable incomes –steadily worsen, as witnessed most recently by the sharp increase in uninsurance last year (now 47 million of us). As the ranks of homeless people swell on our streets, understandable frustration on the part of powerful interests is resulting in negative and reactionary measures, such as “sweeps” of public areas, the passage of “public nuisance” laws, the enforcement of local curfews, and requiring the provision of an address as a prerequisite for services. The civil rights of people without homes are more and more frequently violated. The National Health Care for the Homeless Council calls upon advocates to react vigorously to reverse such developments.

    Sweep Dust Bunnies, Not People.
    The practice of “sweeping” away homeless encampments constructed in out-of-the-way areas is a growing and disquieting trend. Recently, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued the town of Elkton following a high profile 2006 case in rural Maryland in which town leaders bulldozed an occupied homeless encampment in wooded public land as residents attempted, unsuccessfully, to retain their belongings. A similar lawsuit was filed by the ACLU in 2003 when the Pittsburgh Department of Public Works entered an encampment to confiscate and destroy personal property including medications, identification, family photographs, clothing, and blankets. The ACLU and others have investigated similar “sweeps” in Atlanta, Chicago Cleveland, Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco and other communities.
    Clients of HCH projects commonly report routine “sweeps” (of lower profile though no less damaging) at the hands of law enforcement organizations or business groups. Last month in Baltimore, employees of a downtown business association discarded personal property at an encampment under a highway overpass while being videotaped by the local media. Hardly a new experience for the individuals asked to “move along,” many recounted being relocated from place to place throughout the City. One individual’s asthma medications were thrown away, resulting in a three-day stay in the hospital. Aside from damaging the relationships being established by local outreach workers, such practices seriously prolong homelessness. The loss of ID alone can disrupt for months the process of obtaining public benefits, health care, employment, and housing.

    A Crime to be Homeless
    Service providers observe that people experiencing homelessness more often are the victims of serious crime than they are the perpetrators of it. According to Hate, Violence, and Death on Main Street USA, a report from the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH), 26 states reported assaults or murders of homeless people in 2006. Unfortunately, recent experience suggests that when individuals without stable addresses voluntarily come forward with information about crimes they’ve witnessed, they may themselves face incarceration solely because of their homelessness. In Medford, Oregon where three individuals without stable housing went to the police with eyewitness information regarding a homicide. They were not charged with any crime, but they were jailed after a prosecutor argued that because they lacked stable housing, they might prove difficult to locate at the time of the trial. As a result of the advocacy of committed court appointed local defense attorneys with help from WRAP two of the three were released but required to report to the probation department everyday. In Scranton PA a homeless man witnessed a brutal murder and called police to provide a statement, only to be incarcerated for four weeks before being placed on a house arrest program. In both cases, justice system officials violated the civil rights of witnesses who simply lacked a regular place to stay.

    Homelessness: It’s Criminal
    The examples above only hint at the extent to which the experience of homelessness is criminalized in contemporary society. Removing homeless individuals from public spaces, incarcerating homeless witnesses, the passage of “sidewalk” or “no panhandling” legislation, and other similar discriminatory measures are ineffective and inappropriate responses to the problem of homelessness; ultimately, such actions remain counterproductive to the goal of ending and preventing homelessness. As housing becomes less affordable, health care less available, and incomes less livable, we will continue to see an increase in the number of our neighbors who sleep on the streets. Unfortunately, continuing increases in homelessness will prompt ongoing reactionary responses. Mobilizer readers have an opportunity to redirect public attention toward the social crime of homelessness itself and the underlying conditions that cause it.


    • Write a letter to the Editor. Contact your local paper’s news desk or editorial board to inform them of the injustices experienced by individuals without homes. Write a letter to the editor in response to the criminalization of homelessness in your community and to discuss the ultimate solutions to homelessness.

    • Contact your local American Civil Liberties Union to inquire about active cases in your community involving the violation of the civil rights of homeless individuals. Begin a dialogue about the ACLU’s interest in investigating local violations. To identify the ACLU chapter representing your community, visit

    • Attend the 2007 National Forum on the Human Right to Housing. Over the next two months, the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty offers two audio and video opportunities for advocates to explore issues of homelessness and criminalization within a human rights context. For details and registration information, visit

    Tuesday, September 25, 2007

    Atlanta Housing Authority moves to demolish housing projects!!

    As the Atlanta Housing Authority moves to demolish another wave of housing projects, what does that mean for the city's poor?

    Published 09.19.07

    Ray and Sandra Sellers were displaced from their apartment in Capitol Homes in 2002, when the dilapidated public-housing complex was slated for demolition.
    It's been five years since Sandra and Ray Sellers stepped out of their tattered apartment in an inner-city project — and into the brave new world of Atlanta public housing.

    Their first stop was a house in Decatur, paid for with a federally subsidized voucher, where they watched the walls crumble and the ceiling fall in. From there, they used the voucher to move across town, to a gated community near the last stop on MARTA's western line. It's the nicest place they've lived – though they had to send their rebellious teenage son to live with a family friend, because they say their new neighborhood "is still drug-infested."

    The Sellers had once been hopeful that they'd return to the site where their old apartment once stood, in Capitol Homes. They'd lived there for 15 years, until the housing project was torn down in 2002 to make way for a mixed-income community called Capitol Gateway. The Atlanta Housing Authority promised that many residents would be able to move back into the new development, on Memorial Drive between Grant Park and downtown.

    But even then, the Sellers were skeptical about their odds of re-entry. "My own personal belief is that they wouldn't let us back," Sandra Sellers said at the time. "They're looking for people who can pay top dollar."

    The Sellers were among six displaced public-housing families interviewed by CL in 2002, when Capitol Homes was the city's ninth housing project to have been scheduled for demolition. Two more were around the corner. At that point, the numbers of original residents trickling back to the first of the redeveloped communities were low, hovering around 10 percent.

    Today, of the approximately 5,000 families who ultimately were displaced in the public-housing demolitions, only 332 live in the new mixed-income communities that went up in their place.

    One of the reasons why so few residents returned was the housing authority's strict terms. The Sellers, for example, say they were turned down because they'd been late paying their utilities at the house in Decatur. Families also can be barred from re-entry due to a drug conviction (past or present), unemployment (unless you're disabled, which the Sellers are) and poor credit history – some of the most common misfortunes that plague the poor.

    Now, on the eve of the city's second major wave of public-housing demolitions – a mass razing of 12 more projects that will reduce the number of public-housing units from a former high of 14,800 to an unprecedented low of 4,800 – the fate of families such as the Sellers could be a harbinger for the thousands that will follow.

    Surprisingly, the Sellers' situation mirrors that of a majority of public-housing families who used a voucher in the wake of displacement: The home they've found away from the projects is superior to the one they were forced to leave.

    At the Peaks at Martin Luther King, many of the Sellers' neighbors pay full rent. The grounds are well-manicured. There's a pool. The train is a five-minute walk. The Sellers even have their own washer and dryer.

    "I don't look to move no time soon," Sandra Sellers says.

    More than a decade ago, the Atlanta Housing Authority took a dramatic turn in philosophy: It decided to start razing its housing projects and scatter the residents throughout the city using housing vouchers to help them pay their rent.

    Starting in the early '90s, the AHA began to amass more than $200 million in federal grants, mostly through the now-discontinued HOPE VI program. The grants were used to tear down blighted projects and partner with private developers to build properties where residents paying full rent live alongside government-assisted tenants. To date, Atlanta lags behind only Chicago in the amount of HOPE VI grant money received and the number of public-housing units razed.

    For the AHA's new public-housing vision to work, it needs residents who share the Sellers' experience. But distrust among residents – including a formal complaint that the agency is pushing low-income blacks out of the city in violation of the Fair Housing Act – still stands in the way.

    "It's an agenda to gentrify the city," says Terence Courtney, who works with low-income families through the nonprofit Atlanta Jobs with Justice. "The housing authority has done whatever it could to create a justification for mixed-income communities that aren't really mixed-income. They just keep a few token folks."

    In the first decade after the housing authority announced its intention to tear down the first of what will be 23 housing projects by 2010, there was scant evidence to show what happened to the displaced residents. Did their lives get better or worse? The answer to that question would help determine whether spending millions of federal dollars in the name of breaking up concentrations of poverty and inching low-income families toward self-sufficiency actually worked.

    The more obvious upshot of the demolitions has been unprecedented economic growth in the city's urban core. The Atlanta Housing Authority makes no bones about having shifted its priorities from serving the poorest of the poor – the traditional role public-housing authorities have played – to improving communities. Thus, in some ways, the housing authority now performs less like a social-services agency and more like an economic-development one.

    The shift in philosophy echoes back to Washington, where federal housing policy has backed away from serving the lowest of low-income families and moved more toward leveraging federal funds with private dollars. Not everyone is a fan of that model.

    "The results ... were not met with unanimous approval," according to a 2005 Brookings Institution study that looked at HOPE VI projects across the country. "In particular, questions arose over the extent to which the original public housing families had benefited. ... Evidence was limited and inconclusive [as to] whether their life situations had improved."

    Or, as Courtney puts it, "Private corporate forces want to take control of the city's assets to benefit themselves, rather than the people who need them."

    In the past two years, however, there have been a handful of other studies – including one focused solely on Atlanta public-housing residents – that analyzed what happened to the displaced families. The findings suggest that families in Atlanta fared surprisingly well.

    When a resident was relocated to demolish public housing and rebuild a market-ready development with a reserve of low-income units, the resident was given two options: move to another public-housing community or accept a voucher for subsidized rent, called Section 8, which can be used at any eligible property in metro Atlanta.

    Critics argue that the use of Section 8 vouchers is troubling. If residents who rely on vouchers can't find a willing landlord, for instance – or if they're convicted of certain crimes (including any drug conviction) or fall too far behind on rent or utilities – they will lose housing-authority assistance. And once lost, it's nearly impossible to get back.

    The vouchers also offer an opportunity for slumlords to be guaranteed a steady, federally funded rent check by coaxing Section 8 voucher holders into substandard properties. Those who hold vouchers pay only 30 percent of their income for rent, which seldom covers even a third of what they owe; the government picks up the rest. And though annual property inspections by AHA are supposed to weed out the worst Section 8 rentals, that hasn't always happened.

    In an attempt to figure out how displaced residents with vouchers were faring, Danny Boston, a professor of economics at Georgia Tech, set out in 2001 to track 1,235 families who had lived in three demolished housing projects: Clark Howell Homes near downtown, John Egan Homes on the Westside and East Lake Meadows just beyond East Atlanta. Boston compared the fates of those families with the fates of another 1,483 living in traditional housing projects.

    And he found that the demolition of public housing actually improved the lives of residents who once lived there.

    While some of the displaced families he tracked did wind up losing public-housing assistance, they lost it at the same rate – roughly 50 percent – as families who remained in housing projects. What's more, those who moved away from the projects with the help of vouchers were more likely to find a job (17 percent were employed before they moved, versus 45 percent six years after), to earn higher incomes (median salaries nearly doubled, to $14,000), and to live in at least a slightly better neighborhood (as measured by poverty and employment rates), according to the study, published two years ago in the Journal of the American Planning Association.

    Boston also cites recent research showing that families who used vouchers saw improvements in other significant areas: health, happiness and safety. In Chicago, for instance, residents who left public housing with the help of a voucher experienced lower rates of obesity and depression.

    "There are psychological and physiological changes taking place as a result of being relocated," Boston says. "Most of the families who had vouchers didn't want to come back."

    Critics of the AHA's demolition plans say the new public-housing model isn't as promising as it might seem. To them, the use of so many vouchers puts public housing in a precarious balancing act.

    Larry Keating, an emeritus professor of city planning, also at Georgia Tech, has published several studies on the early effects of HOPE VI in Atlanta. He says replacing hard public-housing units with vouchers endangers the future of government-assisted housing – at a time when rising property values, which can be attributed in part to the revitalization of old housing projects, have made it more difficult to secure housing for the poor.

    By some estimates, the city is suffering a shortage of 81,000 affordable housing units (those with rents less than $600). What's more, the Atlanta Housing Authority's waiting list for a Section 8 voucher has been closed since 2001 – meaning that the newly poor, or those new to Atlanta, have almost zero chance of getting one. Over the past five years the list has only decreased from 24,000 names to 22,000. (Displaced housing residents get to bypass the list.)

    And while the neighborhoods in which vouchers are being used are often a step up from the neighborhoods the families left, the improvement is not always vast. Boston's study found that the mean poverty rate in neighborhoods where vouchers were used was still 28 percent, and the employment rate was only 38 percent.

    Nor are vouchers working to spread low-income families across the city. Not even close.

    Nearly 8,000 of the 9,600 vouchers being used in the city are located in just 10 of the city's 100-plus ZIP codes. Those 10 ZIP codes are clustered in neighborhoods in south and west Atlanta, where there are immense pockets of poverty. Not surprisingly, there are no vouchers being used in upscale neighborhoods such as Buckhead, Druid Hills and Ansley Park.

    Some housing-authority critics, including state Rep. and Clark Atlanta University professor Bob Holmes, fear Atlanta's housing crunch is pushing voucher holders into the suburbs.

    "Several thousand low-income African Americans have been relocating outside the city as a result of the Atlanta Housing Authority's HOPE VI revitalization," Holmes wrote in the preface to 2005's Status of Black Atlanta.

    Yet the housing authority provided CL with statistics showing that only 12 percent of the vouchers it oversees are being used outside the city of Atlanta. But those stats don't take into account that when a voucher holder moves to another jurisdiction, the voucher sometimes transfers to that jurisdiction's housing authority. AHA spokesman White couldn't say how often those transfers might occur.

    In addition to Keating's belief that vouchers are taxing the city's supply of affordable housing, he also is skeptical of the decision to swap standing housing units with vouchers, which he believes are more susceptible to federal funding cuts.

    "Since we got started with this [public-housing] program in the '30s, we had accumulated almost 15,000 units," Keating says. "Those are real assets that can provide housing for lots of people for a long time. It's just tragic to throw that away."

    Both Boston and White say there's another way of looking at the equation.

    For years, the feds have been cutting funding for traditional public-housing units, leaving crumbling and sometimes abandoned apartments in their wake. Rather than perpetuate that blight, the housing authority replaced those communities with ones that have drastically altered urban life.

    Take Centennial Place, the former site of Techwood and Clark Howell Homes. Violent crime in that neighborhood – which Boston says once measured 37 times the national average – has been slashed to below-average rates. Boston points out that the revitalization cleared the way for neighboring attractions such as the Georgia Aquarium and the new World of Coke. And according to White, the first-ever public-housing child from the neighborhood is in this year's freshman class at the university a few blocks north: Georgia Tech.

    "People can sit there and criticize what might happen, but they need to look at what is happening," White says. "It's not even a philosophical disagreement. Congress could just as easily stop funding the hard units, and we would be right back to where we were. So you tell me: Which is the better approach?"

    Unlike the residents of the 11 public-housing projects to have been torn down since 1994, those in the 12 projects currently on the chopping block will have one fewer option for relocation: They aren't being given the opportunity to move back into the revitalized communities.

    That's because neither plans nor funding for new construction at those sites exists.

    Instead, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is allowing the demolitions to go forward with the confidence that the Atlanta Housing Authority will be able to shop the empty lots to developers – and eventually partner to build communities that contain some low-income housing. In the past, the new developments set aside 40 percent of units for public housing, though not exclusively for original residents.

    That's one of the things that really riles Shirley Hightower. She's losing the community where she has spent the past 14 years so the land can be developed by the best bidder.

    Hightower was 18 when her parents moved her and her 11 siblings to Bowen Homes, off the old Bankhead Highway on the western edge of the city. At the time, the project was only six years old – and Hightower was eager to get out. She married soon after moving in, and eventually bought a house in Decatur with her husband.

    Nearly 20 years later, in the early '90s, Hightower fell on hard times, and she and her five children moved back to Bowen. Since then, she has become president of the Bowen Homes tenant association. She has worked to stave off evictions, which she says spiked after the housing authority adopted a voluntary federal initiative requiring all able-bodied residents to either hold a job or be enrolled in school or job training if they're under the age of 62. The rule applies to those with vouchers, too.

    The federal Moving-to-Work program (or CATALYST, as it's called in Atlanta) has proved challenging, particularly for single mothers with young children. Hightower says it's easier to live in a housing project than to hold a voucher under the CATALYST program. That's because in the projects, there's a strong network of friends and family who can help watch each other's children. The demolition of the projects will eradicate that social network.

    "Where will our people go and where will they be when all this is over and done with?" Hightower asks. "How many of our children and our parents are going to be homeless? There's not enough affordable housing in Atlanta for them."

    Last month, Hightower and Diane Wright, president of the Hollywood Courts tenant association, enlisted the help of Emory University law professor Lindsay Jones. Together, they sent a complaint to HUD alleging that the AHA's practice of demolishing public housing and replacing it with mixed-income communities amounts to discrimination against black residents, in violation of the Fair Housing Act.

    "The intentional elimination of useful public housing projects occupied almost exclusively by African American families would be a double insult to the civil rights of African Americans," the letter states. "The Atlanta Housing Authority has engaged in the de facto demolition of its remaining stock of public housing projects ... [while] denying the affected tenants, who are almost exclusively African American, the opportunity to meaningfully assert and protect their rights to equal opportunity in housing."

    The letter asks HUD to place a moratorium on the housing authority's demolition plans.

    Jones says he's not yet received a response. Nor has he received records he requested on Wright's and Hightower's behalf from the housing authority in July. He says he was trying to obtain documents that would give an indication of the health of the Section 8 program in Atlanta.

    "The lack of transparency," Jones says, "is likely to cultivate an environment of fear and distrust between the residents and the AHA."

    Yet AHA spokesman White says he believes public-housing residents have newfound trust for the housing authority.

    He offers as proof a recent survey of residents living in all 12 projects scheduled for demolition. When asked if they would like "the opportunity to receive a Housing Choice voucher," an average 96 percent of those who responded said yes. White says that's evidence the families want to leave the projects, and that they trust the housing authority will treat them fairly.

    "I think this is actually a reflection of the sea change that has occurred," he says.

    Other evidence that families are faring well can be found in Boston's research. But like some of the housing authority's claims, Boston's findings also have been questioned.

    In a published response to Boston's study, University of Minnesota professor Ed Goetz challenges the merits of the research. He describes the AHA's revitalization efforts, as well as the efforts of other housing authorities across the nation, as "the highly intrusive and expensive process of forcible relocation." And he calls the improvements in the lives of former residents "modest."

    Revitalization has been most successful, Goetz writes, in "reclaiming particular neighborhoods, reducing criminal activity in those areas, and significantly upgrading the physical environment." He also describes the redevelopments as having "spawned or facilitated gentrification, or served other interests of local governments" – including Atlanta's desire to clean up downtown in anticipation of the 1996 Olympics.

    "What has not yet been demonstrated," Goetz states, "even by Professor Boston's study, is that the original households experience their share of benefits in the process."

    Boston stands by the strength of his numbers that show improvements in the lives of families displaced from public housing. But he agrees that the impact of revitalization "is a blessing and a curse."

    "As the community is improved, the property values increase," Boston says, "and it becomes much more difficult for low-income residents to maintain ownership and control."

    The phenomenon can be summed up in a single word: gentrification. And Boston and others believe there are ways to offset it.

    To some -- including Keating at Georgia Tech -- the only solution to tearing down public housing is to replace every unit that's destroyed with another public-housing unit. Vouchers, he says, shouldn't count.

    "You don't have to build it new," Keating suggests. "Go buy some properties – they're out there – and fix them up."

    The housing authority actually is proposing something similar to that. While the agency doesn't intend to buy properties, it is working on obtaining long-term leases on 5,000 units of "workforce" housing throughout the city. The apartments would be available for minimum-wage earners, all the way up to families of four who earn less than $40,000.

    White points out that since public-housing residents are now required to work, the new units are comparable to those lost to in the demolitions.

    The addition of the 5,000 units would bring the city's total number of public-housing units, after the upcoming demolitions, to nearly 10,000. That's about 1,600 shy of the number of inhabitable units that existed before the first wave of demolitions.

    Boston says the city should take this model a step further and offer all developers incentives to set aside a certain percentage of units for low-income families. The city saw a huge surge in tax revenue as a result of the gentrification that stemmed from the housing authority's new communities. "It's literally hundreds of millions of dollars," Boston says. "That, I argue, is sufficient enough to address the people who are being adversely affected by revitalization."

    Earlier this year, legislation to create those kind of incentives was introduced before Atlanta City Council. But Andy Schneggenburger, executive director of the nonprofit Atlanta Housing Association of Neighborhood-based Developers, says the incentives aren't persuasive enough.

    AHAND looked at hundreds of other cities and counties that passed similar legislation, and found that voluntary ordinances "typically aren't successful at all," Schneggenburger says.

    "They just don't produce the kind of numbers you need," he continues. "You can't afford to have just a slight increase. You need major production."

    He's now advocating that a mandatory 10 percent of new development be set aside for low-income units – with benefits to developers to help offset the cost.

    One thing is for certain: Something has to happen to stave the loss of affordable housing in Atlanta, and soon.

    "Obviously, everybody wants to live in a better neighborhood," Boston says. "But we've got to do that in a way that everybody can win. And I think everybody can win, if we address specifically those who are likely to lose."

    For those likely to lose – particularly the residents of Atlanta's ill-fated public housing – action will have to come fast. Or it will come too late.

    "What happens when the people all come together and realize the trick that was played on them?" Hightower asks. "Why aren't people concerned? Why can't they see what's going on?"

    More H.U.D. changes:
    SF Housing Authority Director Resigns

    Monday, September 24, 2007

    Use the Homelessness Curriculum this Fall

    By Orion Lumiere

    Educators are invited to check out Sisters’ curriculum on homelessness and download it from our web-site on the “PhotoVoice/Curriculum” page listed under our Programs. Educate youth K-12 about homelessness; use by itself or in conjunction with our traveling PhotoVoice exibit.

    With an emphasis on dispelling stereotypes, the curriculum combines lesson plans created by advocates around the country and unique activities sreated by Sisters geared toward particular age groups, such as;

    • Writing, art projects& recommended reading
    • How youth can help end homelessness
    • Statistics and information on homelessness
    • Service learning opportunities for youth

    High school activities incorporate critical thinking questions the Western Regional Advocacy Project’s eye-opening report, Without Housing, which looks at the root cause of homelessness, the las of affordable housing.

    If you use the curriculum, Please take the time to fill out the curriculum evaluation form, also on the web-site. This will help continually improve it.

    Please contact Devin at (503) 222-5694 Ext.#16 or

    Friday, September 21, 2007

    Georgia homeless providers find home!

    Snellville Mayor Jerry Oberholtzer said the city did all it could to help the Southeast co-op. Oberholtzer said he made some calls, but couldn't find a new location. And, he said, the agency couldn't stay in its old location because the building had leaks and other problems.

    "We are open to any kind of service that provides help to our less fortunate," Oberholtzer said. "But we are limited to what we can do as a city. We couldn't give them property rent free. ... Our long-term plan was to take that building down."

    Click below for full article:
    Snellville shelter finds home after year of homelessness

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    "Rising Homeless In N.D./MN."

    A survey released Thursday shows a 49 percent increase in Fargo-Moorhead’s homeless population from three years earlier, though those involved with the study say part of the increase can be attributed to better search efforts.

    Click below for full article:
    F-M homeless population goes up

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    Number of homeless families rises

    Subject: Senate Banking Committee Passes McKinney-Vento Legislation

    NPACH Statement: Senate Banking Committee Approves McKinney-Vento Legislation

    Yesterday, the Senate Banking Committee approved S. 1518, legislation to reform HUD's McKinney-Vento homeless assistance programs. If enacted, the bill would make important improvements to current federal policy on homelessness. Many of these positive changes are part of the legislation thanks to the hard work of advocates and service providers from around the country who provided comments and recommendations to Senators and their staff members. Without grass roots efforts, we would not have seen these gains.

    Unfortunately, S. 1518 continues to inadequately address our concerns in three fundamental areas.

    • Definition of homelessness - the bill's language requiring multiple doubled up or motel episodes in order to be considered homeless would be difficult for local communities to implement, and as a matter of policy would unwisely prevent many children, youth, and families without homes from accessing HUD homeless assistance.
    • Set-asides and priorities - the bill is overly prescriptive in continuing to dictate to communities how funds should be spent, rather than allowing local advocates, service, providers, and government agencies to make these decisions.
    • Community participation - an amendment to the bill deleted language to ensure that traditionally underrepresented stakeholders -- such as education liaisons, domestic violence program staff, and youth service providers -- are present "at the table" when homeless assistance grant applications are prepared. In addition, language specifically requiring the needs of homeless veterans to be considered in developing these local applications was removed from the bill.

    Before the Senate passes S. 1518, improvements should be made in these key areas.

    Next week, we will circulate a detailed analysis of S. 1518 as amended. Timing for the bill's consideration on the Senate floor remains uncertain. We believe that opportunities to make changes will be available, and will continue to inform you of those opportunities as they arise.

    We, and many of our partners, believe that the HEARTH Act - H.R. 840 - provides a significantly better framework for McKinney-Vento reauthorization. We look forward to working with all of you, and with key House Members, to ensure that HEARTH's important provisions become law.

    More HUD articles below:


    Wednesday, September 19, 2007

    County: Scrap Thomas J. Pappas schools

    The Thomas J. Pappas schools for homeless kids are no longer needed, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors decided Friday, and the students should be mainstreamed into public schools in their communities.

    Click below for full story:

    More Articles:
    Fewer attend Pappas schools
    Plan for Pappas: Close schools, move students

    Thursday, September 13, 2007

    Education - The number of homeless students rises as Oregon's stronger economy fails to lift poorer families

    Despite a rebounding economy, Oregon schools report a continuing surge in the number of their students who are homeless.
    The latest count of 15,517 homeless children and youth, released Wednesday, is 18 percent higher than a year ago and 37 percent higher than two years ago

    Click below for full article:
    More kids have a school but not a home

    Urban districts tend to have the highest numbers of students who are classified as homeless. The Portland school district, the state's largest, has 1,513 homeless students, followed by Medford — a district with a high population of students from migrant worker families — with 1,168.

    Click below for full article:
    Homeless student numbers jump

    Click for related article:

    More homeless students identified in Oklahoma
    More than 8,200 Oklahoma students were identified as homeless during the 2006-2007 school year, according to a state report.

    Needing assistance
    Ten ECISD students, three adults live to-gether, struggle

    More homeless students, or just logistics?
    Racine - The numbers of homeless students in Racine Unified begs the question: Is poverty really worse in the Racine area than in surrounding Kenosha and Milwaukee?

    District's coordinator identifies those in need-When the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act was broadened under No Child Left Behind in 2002, school districts nationwide were mandated to hire someone to identify and serve the needs of homeless children.

    Other articles about Medford, OR.
    Oregon's "Homeless" Witness Program

    Homeless man who witnessed murder under house arrest: PA
    Judge says homeless witnesses must stay in jail: OR