Thursday, May 29, 2008

National Housing Crisis Scapegoats: Renters

Even after paying your rent does NOT insure your living space!! (Full Article)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

NO more jails; NO more lies; NO more deaths

May 23, 2008

Dear Activist,

Save the date: Camp4Unity, Sunday, June 8th

The Mayor's protocols outlining how the city will conduct encampment clearances were released last month, and there is no substantial improvement. During a City Council committee meeting in early May, councilmembers in attendance listened intently while a dozen homeless advocates from the Real Change Organizing Project spoke from the heart on matters of loopholes, lack of oversight, criminalization of the poor, and many other concerns with on-going homeless sweeps. No changes are expected.
While the new protocols slightly improve provisions for notification, outreach, and storage of possessions, new loopholes were introduced that undermine the protections offered by severely limiting their application.

- Protections are denied to those who are not camped in groups
- Entire areas will soon be defined as permanent no-trespass zones where, again, the protocols will not apply.
- There are no external oversight and accountability measures.

Don't believe the City spin. These protocols are unacceptable and illegitimate. Resist the criminalization of survival in a time of growing homelessness and inadequate resources. Join the Real Change Organizing Project to Camp4Unity! No more sweeps. No more jails. No more lies. No more deaths.

Help us show the Mayor that we want all Seattle citizens to be safe - especially the most vulnerable. We demand a stop to the sweeps until the protocols have been rewritten to remove the loopholes, ensure access to services for anyone who needs them, and provide real oversight. Join us.

Sunday, June 8th - Monday, June 9th
Come for part of the event or for all of it!

Sunday, June 8th:
6 pm - 7 pm
Refreshments and setup

7 pm - 10 pm
Among friends and allies: A time for talk.

Monday, June 9th:
8 am - 9 am
Breakfast and visibility

9 am - 10 am
Memorial service for those who have died while surviving outside

For more information or to register contact Natalie
206.441.3247 X 206

Mission Accomplished, American Style

The current hot trend in addressing homelessness in America’s cities is, once again, to remove panhandlers from downtown corridors. Lately the Bush administration – through their Interagency Council on Homelessness – has lauded Denver, Colorado and its 10-year planning process for coming up with one of the 20 Major Innovations this year. This major innovation that President Bush is so enamored with? Have people put change in old parking meters that the City then collects for United Way, rather than giving alms directly to people who are panhandling.

Clearly another case of “Mission Accomplished!!”

These panhandling meters are to homelessness what weapons of mass destruction were to the invasion of Iraq: a public relations ploy to achieve a government policy objective. Just as the Iraq invasion was really about oil for multinational corporations, these dumbass meters are really about removing poor people from downtown commercial areas. Denver officials told the SF Chronicle that the meter program there has not been lucrative, but panhandlers have seemed to disappear where they went up. Not to be deterred by facts, Team Bush has declared amazing results in Denver: $15,000 raised and a 92% reduction in panhandling. Plans are to get “more businesses to adopt meters” (at $1,000 a pop) and to hire local artists to spiff them up and make them more “visible and attractive,” which – when you think about it – raises an interesting question. If the initial crop of meters got rid off 92% of the panhandlers, why do a nicer, prettier version? Wouldn’t a pit bull design be more appropriate for that hard core 8% with the audacity to still be in public space?

Not concerned with contradictions and illogical facts, other cities are following suit. Baltimore installed some panhandling meters with similar “no money but damn, those immobile inanimate objects sure do scare away panhandlers!” results. And now San Francisco has announced plans to launch yet another in a long line of anti-panhandling campaigns, following this “innovative model.”

Cities and people are vexed with the realities of increasing income disparities and homelessness, but has the Bush administration developed any meaningful or substantive policy plans to address either income disparity or homelessness? Besides spending the past 7 years requiring local communities to write 10-Year Plans to End Homelessness while gutting funding for affordable housing and treatment services, what the fuck have these guys done?

They write blank checks to the military-industrial complex, putting us all in massive, never-before-seen levels of debt. They dole out Corporate Welfare that would require all of us spending 24 hours a day 7 days a week 365 days a year putting all our money into panhandling meters to match even a fraction of it. They are currently working in Congress to redefine the federal definition of who is homeless, so as to reduce the US population of homeless people DOWN to the 700,000 people they claim it to be (the 900,000 children listed as homeless in our Public Schools by the Department of Education will disappear quicker than the panhandlers in Denver), and they bail out the bankers while millions of middle- and low-income people are losing their homes to foreclosure.

Team Bush praises spare change panhandling meters as an “Innovative Solution” to homelessness, and they spend millions of dollars flying their henchman around the country to promote this and other “Innovative” ideas like using Police Officers as Outreach workers. It’s ironic. The feds created homelessness with draconian cuts to subsidized housing, and now it’s the local governments that are panhandling with meters and arresting homeless people for sleeping outdoors.
San Francisco is faced with a $300 million deficit, and has told service and treatment providers to anticipate a 20 to 30 percent reduction in the number of clients they will be able to serve next year. Many public health and homeless programs that have been serving thousands of poor people every year will be forced to close. Yet 6 months ago the Mayor found $200,000 to invest in a Homeless Coordinator who needed to do something or risk being seen as irrelevant in the face of these serious budget cuts. Presto, an innovative new idea “to see if we can save some lives out there.” Panhandling Parking Meters!! Now the Mayor’s office wants another $500,000 for 2 holding cells (ie, jail cells) in a new “Community Justice Center” to detain people arrested for minor nonviolent offenses (ie, panhandling).

Don’t believe for a second poor people just suddenly “disappear” with these seemingly innocuous little anti-sleeping, anti-panhandling, anti-loitering programs. Local jail cells are overflowing with them.

“Mission Accomplished,” my ass.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Support the HEARTH Act!

Maxine Water’s Housing committee staffperson
Jonathan Harwitz
(202) 226-3503
(Copy & Paste into e-mail)

Subject: Support the HEARTH Act!

Join Six National Organizations to Support the HEARTH Act!

In June, we expect the House Financial Services Committee to consider the HEARTH Act (H.R. 840). HEARTH is strong legislation that will re-write the rules governing HUD's McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grant programs, better enabling urban, suburban, and rural communities to end homelessness.

NPACH, First Focus, the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, the National Coalition for the Homeless, the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, and the National Network for Youth support the HEARTH Act as introduced. However, we understand that some changes will be made as the bill is considered by the Financial Services Committee. Unfortunately, Congresswoman Maxine Waters of Los Angeles is proposing a broad set of alterations to HEARTH through a "manager's amendment." The changes being supported by Congresswoman Waters would turn HEARTH into a bill that is almost identical to the Community Partnership to End Homelessness Act (S. 1518) - Senate legislation that NPACH has opposed.

Please call House Members and urge them to support HEARTH as it is - legislation that provides a reasonably expanded definition of homelessness, permits greater local flexibility in addressing homelessness, and ensures broad community participation in local planning to end homelessness.

Read NPACH's Full Response to the HEARTH Managers Amendment (Here!)

Click Here to Call Your House Member and Support HEARTH!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Panhandling VS. Panhandlers

San Francisco is panhandling to put panhandlers out of business (Full Article)

Other Cities doing same game (Full Article)

Monday, May 12, 2008

Sisters Of The Road leaves SAFE committee

Sisters Of The Road Announces Decision to End its Participation in
the Mayors Street Access for Everyone (SAFE) Workgroup

Portland, Oregon (May 8, 2008)  Sisters Of The Road (Sisters) Community Organizer Patrick Nolen and Associate Director Michael Buonocore announced the decision that Sisters would not continue as a member of the SAFE Workgroup at its May 8 meeting.

We were assured that the enforcement of the SAFE sit-lie ordinance would not target homeless individuals. It has been shown to do exactly that said Nolen.

The SAFE Workgroup was established by the Portland City Council on May 24, 2006 , developing Five Strategies for a More Livable Portland. According to the Executive Summary of this process on the Mayors website, The Workgroup emphasized that consensus around this strategy would not endure unless all five parts are implemented together.

Sisters staff representatives on the SAFE oversight committee noted that the services associated with these strategies, including day access center space, public restrooms and benches, have not been implemented in a timely and adequate manner. In deliberating whether Sisters would continue to participate in the oversight committee, it was highlighted that the future day access center is two years from completion and the current interim locations do not have the capacity
described in the Mayors Executive Summary of SAFE (Dec. 2006). It was also noted that the strategies for providing adequate public seating and restrooms are not met.

By contrast, the strategy of a High Pedestrian Traffic Area (or sit-lie) ordinance that prohibits anyone from sitting or lying on a
public sidewalk between 7 am and 9 pm has been fully implemented.

Most importantly, this sit-lie ordinance strategy has amplified the tragedy of the existing anti-camping ordinance, which also
criminalizes those who have nowhere to sleep at night. Between these two laws, it is effectively illegal to be homeless in Portland, a city in which our elected officials acknowledge that there are not enough shelter beds, day access, transitional and affordable housing for all of our citizens said Buonocore.

Added Monica Beemer, Executive Director of Sisters Of The Road, We appreciate the work and good intentions of those involved in the SAFE Workgroup. We agreed to participate in the process in the spirit of collaboration, to ensure that the aforementioned services were implemented and that homeless people were not targeted by the ordinance. That has clearly not been an effective use of our time, which we now recognize would be better spent advocating for the repeal of the unjust anti-camping and sit-lie ordinances.

Sisters Of The Road has called on Portlanders to immediately contact their elected officials and demand the repeal of these ordinances, which is punishing to thousands of Portlanders who lack adequate, safe and affordable shelter.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Homeless rise up on the streets to fight anti-camping and sit-lie ordinance

Individuals experiencing homelessness and activists have been camping on City Hall for nearly three-weeks. The group is calling itself the Homeless Liberation Front.
  • Portland Homeless Liberation Front

  • The group has ranged from 10 to 70 individuals who have been sleeping on the sidewalk in front of City Hall demanding an end to the anti-camping and sit-lie ordinances. The camping ordinance is used to clear camps out throughout Portland, while the sit-lie ordinance criminalizes sitting or lying on a public sidewalk from 7AM to 7PM.

    In late April, a group of individuals were swept from under the Burnside and Morrison bridges in downtown Portland. The group marched to City Hall in the dead on night in defiance of the ordinances.

    On Monday, May 5, four individuals from the camp met personally with the Mayor. Protestors demanded an end to the ordinances. The mayor declined. No resolution was reached.

    The city has opened more than 100 emergency shelter beds until June in response to the protestors. Both individuals on the streets and homeless advocates say that's not enough.

    On Saturday, May 10, seven individuals were arrested – six for interfering with a police officer and one for resisting arrest.

    Patrick Nolan, community organizer with Sisters Of The Road caught the arrests on film.

    Shortly after the arrests an illegal camping notice was posted in front of City Hall, giving protesters until Tuesday, May 13, to clear the area or risk arrest.

    On Sunday, May 11, the group formally signed a letter asking the Mayor to meet again this week.

    More to come.

    Note: Street Roots has been following the protests and is working on an in-depth news story for the Friday, May 16, edition. The newspaper also came out against the camping ordinance on May 5, asking City Hall to “suspend the camping ordinance in designated regions of the City of Portland until all nine-action steps have been implemented, and the 10-year plan to end homelessness is complete. 

Street Roots believes it is cruel and unusual punishment to continue to criminalize individuals experiencing homelessness from sleeping on public property when the City of Portland can’t offer any real, concrete solutions to the crisis until a projected 2015.”

    Both Street Roots and Sisters Of The Road, both WRAP members have officially asked for the suspension of the anti-camping and the sit-lie ordinance.

    Posted by Israel Bayer

    Photo by Kristina Wright

    Wednesday, May 7, 2008

    Homeless, Tired of foreclosures, Reclaim Vacant Government Homes

    Wednesday May 7th

    NHPP led a march of poor and homeless families for housing, Wednesday which culminated with the takeover of vacant HUD homes. The march began at 1:00 p.m. in front of the Metro Court House then proceeded to Dickerson Road, an area that has been recently rezoned for luxury development. The homeless group is concerned that redevelopment will again prioritize luxury over necessity and may push poor families out of the area. “In this time of foreclosures, many of us are facing homelessness. We need our city to prioritize poor and working families above luxury development. Despite repeated promises from local government the homeless are left the die in the streets while their demand for housing is ignored” said Clemmie Greenlee, formerly homeless grandmother and organizer with the Power Project.

    The march then became a caravan and participants were driven to Tom Joy Elementary School where the group held a brief prayer vigil for the estimated 1,800 homeless school children in the Nashville area. The march ended where one of the vacant HUD homes has been reclaimed. Homeless people vow not to leave the homes voluntarily.

    Cheri Honkala, National Organizer of the Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign, also participated in the march and takeover and cited the City of Nashville for “ their failure to address the homeless crisis and rise in foreclosures. “ Representatives of the power project vow that the May 7th march and takeover is the next step in a fight that will not end until everyone has access to safe and affordable housing. Jeannie Alexander, program director of the Power Project further stated that the takeover was the first public takeover of a vacant HUD home by the Power Project but that the organization has “covertly taken over more than a dozen other vacant houses in the city” and will continue to take additional houses “as long as there are people who do not have homes.”

    Thursday, May 1, 2008

    Violent Crimes Against Homeless People on the Rise

    Washington, DC, April 29, 2008 – Today the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) and the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (NLCHP) released the 2007 numbers on the epidemic of hate crimes and violent attacks against homeless Americans.