Thursday, July 31, 2008
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
The Housing and Urban Development released a report today claiming that “chronic” homelessness in America is down 15 percent - that’s 52,000 fewer Americans on the streets.
The report captures street counts in 3,800 cities and counties around the country from October 1, 2006 to September 30, 2007.
Beyond the fact that it’s actually July of 2008 and street homelessness is visibly on the rise, it’s actually 2008 - 10 months after the fact! Haven’t I been hearing about a housing and banking collapse? That must be in my head. After all, I’m just another one of those crazy west coast housing activists. Really, I don’t know shit.
“At the beginning of his Administration, President Bush set a goal to end chronic homelessness in America,” said a statement released by the White House Press Office. “Today, Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Preston reported that the Administration has continued to make progress on this goal.” The statement further noted that the new results demonstrate that “targeted, focused resources can achieve measurable results.”
I’m amazed that more insiders and local governments have not spoken out on the truths of the 10-year plan to end homelessness. Of course, honesty does mean dollars - or the lack there of. What gives?
Back in 2007 I was slapped on the wrist by advocates claiming that I was fucking up their political will to end homelessness when I spoke out of turn to the Portland Tribune. But the reality is, street homelessness was no more on the decline then as it is now - it’s just in how the establishment spins and frames such figures.
Tim Harris, the Director of Real Change up in Seattle wrote a great piece this week - where the spin factor is in full effect.
The reality is things are not quiet on the western front. In fact, it’s a bit noisy and hard to concentrate.
The problem we find ourselves faced with is that when the federal government says jump, we all get in line to jump. The spin rolls downhill - from the Beltway to state and local governments, to affordable housing and homeless advocates, we all have to swallow the hard pill, fix the numbers and make it look like we are somehow winning the war on poverty - horseshit.
Chronic homelessness is a term used for individuals that have been on the streets for more than year. It does not include anyone that is doubled-up, children, families, etc. It more or less is a way to target the hardcore - which is fine so long as we don’t exclude thousands of individuals falling into homelessness and individuals living on the fringe of society - fading in and out of a stable living environment.
The failure of the 10-year plan also lies in the idea that homelessness is an individuals fault and not a byproduct of any number of things ranging from the war on drugs, mental health, domestic violence, post-traumatic stress disorder, addiction, on and on and on. My good friend Paul Boden captures this reality in a story that appeared in Street Roots in early July.
Finally, we have failed to recognize how much criminalization of people experiencing homelessness has played into the failure of addressing the problem at hand. On one hand we are told the 10-year plan to end homelessness is helping those hard to reach individuals that find themselves fallen through the cracks time and again through the criminal justice system, while on the other we enforce BS laws that create thousands upon thousands of individuals forced to live with criminal records and no way to gain access to housing. Bassackwards.
In short, regardless of the spin coming from Washington D.C., the federal governments 10-year plan to end homelessness is fucked. And I’m an optimist. And it’s as simple as that…
Friday, July 25, 2008
Punitive Measures for Officers Who Use Force
On the morning of July 24, 2008, LAPD officers brazenly assaulted a homeless man in front of scores of witnesses. The incident, partially videotaped by the Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA CAN), is yet another example of the brutality experienced by Skid Row residents under Mayor Villaraigosa’s highly publicized “Safer City Initiative.” The graphic video shows police officers kneeing the man in his mid-section and striking him forcefully in the head with clenched fists. Screams can be heard in the background pleading for the officers to stop. After at least a dozen additional officers and paramedics arrive on the scene, the man was taken away in an ambulance. Witnesses stated that the man was simply eating sunflower seeds on the sidewalk when police approached him and started assaulting him.
Notably, this unnecessary use of force came just two days after the Police Commission approved Chief Bratton’s proposal to reduce discipline and oversight in “use of force” incidents.
In an attempt to stop the ongoing human rights violations in downtown LA, including unnecessary use of force, LA CAN has empowered residents with video cameras and legal information regarding their right to document police officers in the course of their duty. While this Community Watch program has been instrumental in reducing civil rights violations by LAPD, this latest incident shows that there is still much work to be done in ending the longstanding oppression of the Skid Row community.
Please visit the link below to view the video part of the beating and a witness statement on youtube. Copies can also be obtained from LA CAN, as well as additional witness statements.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
On the second day, the reality almost visibly dawned on his face. Agents had asked about his links to al-Qaeda, about his friends and family in Afghanistan, about whether he really thought dozens of black-eyed virgins awaited him in janna, or paradise.
(Watch video here)
Friday, July 11, 2008
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Video Clips of Mayor Bloomberg's Trial; Major Legislative Victory on Vacant Property at the State Level!
We have posted 12 video clips from last week's trial on YouTube! For those of you who couldn't make it, we have all the highlights - the verdict! the sentence! the heart-rending testimony! the dazzling costumes! the flashy props!:
They can also be viewed, along with 40 other excellent videos from Picture the Homeless, at our YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/picturethehomeless
The excellent blog OnNYTurf.com ran a great piece on the action, along with photos from our Flickr stream...: http://www.onnyturf.com/
AND! on June 20th, both chambers of the New York State legislature passed a groundbreaking piece of legislation that eradicates a major incentive for landlords to keep property vacant as a means of real estate speculation. The bill removes the current special tax treatment for vacant land north of 110th Street in Manhattan... Taxing these properties at normal rates will produce an estimated $5 million in new revenues. The bill also features a component to incentivize the development of affordable units on these sites.
This legislation is a direct result of our Housing Campaign's work to stop landlords from keeping buildings empty. The bill was developed at the behest of Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, after his collaboration with Picture the Homeless in developing and executing the first-ever Manhattan Abandoned Building and Vacant Lot Count. Following this count, which revealed enough potential apartments in vacant buildings and lots in Manhattan alone to house the entire homeless population of New York City, six separate city and state legislative initiatives were introduced to tackle the
problem... including the "Housing, Not Warehousing" Legislation, written by Picture the Homeless and Council Member Tony Avella: http://www.picturethehomeless.org/housing
For more details on the State legislation: http://www.nyssenate28.com/28/news/08-06-20/serrano_and_farrell_pass_vacant_properties_bill.aspx