Saturday, June 07, 2014

If homeless people had a safe place to live,
taxpayers could save millions

In a world where money talks, evidence that putting a roof over someone's head is a boon to city budgets could be the incentive cities need to build housing for the homeless.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina–Charlotte's Department of Social Work have found that housing constructed specifically for homeless people saved the city millions.

Providing housing at an 85-unit facility called Moore Place resulted in 447 fewer visits to emergency rooms and 372 fewer days spent in hospitals. That alone saved the city $1.8 million -- which makes plenty of sense. When people aren't exposed to danger from criminals or animals, and they don't get sick from sleeping in a doorway on a cold night, they're bound to be healthier.

Law enforcement costs were also reduced. Providing housing to Moore Place residents resulted in an incredible "78 percent drop in arrests and 84 percent fewer days spent in jail."

Although other housing facilities often require tenants to be sober before moving in, Moore Place is grounded in the "housing first" concept. The idea is that individuals with mental health or addiction issues are more likely to be able to deal with those issues if they have a stable home base.

Read the Christian Science Monitor report here.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Almost half of homeless men had a previous brain injury

A new study of homeless men found that 45% of the subjects surveyed had experienced traumatic brain injuries in the past.

“You could see how it would happen,” says Jane Topolovec-Vranic, a researcher in trauma and neurosurgery at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. “You have a concussion, and you can’t concentrate or focus. Their thinking abilities and personalities change. They can’t manage at work, and they may lose their job, and eventually lose their families. And then it’s a negative spiral” — a spiral that, for the men in the study, ends up in a homeless shelter.

There’s no clear data on how prevalent TBI is in the general population, which makes it difficult to say for sure whether the homeless men in the study were injured at an unusually high rate.

Read the Time article here.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

A Kissimmee native's view of homelessness

"Really it’s just a roll of the dice when you think about it, what separates you from the family living in the hotel room down the road," writes Samantha Stonebraker-Bailey. "When you can humble yourself to think about it, it’s very little. I am not too proud to say that there is nothing that separates me to the families who are homeless, what happened to these families was hardships, and could happen to my family too."

Read the rest of her comments in the Osceola Woman Newspaper here.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Los Angeles police arrest grandmother 59 times

Ann Moody believes that she has a right to be wherever she chooses to be.

According to a federal appeals court, she is absolutely correct. The ruling, made in 2006, stated that due to the extreme lack of provided shelter, the city of Los Angeles could no longer arrest people for sleeping and sitting in public.

The city does not agree. In that same year, Los Angeles began a program called the Safer City Initiative. Based on the idea that when petty crime is punished, more serious crime is prevented, in its first year, the program racked up mostly pedestrian violations. About 12,000 citations were handed out. However, some say the initiative is a clever system for unfairly targeting homeless people.

With 59 arrests (Ann Moody now holds the distinction of being the most often arrested person in the city of Los Angeles) the homeless grandmother has been jailed for 15 months after 14 convictions. Approximately $250,000 of the taxpayers money has been spent on keeping Moody from sitting down (there have been some arrests for selling cigarettes.)

Read the AlterNet article here.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Americans are deeply divided
over what causes poverty in the first place

The belief that people are poor more through their own lack of effort than their circumstances is widely held by large segments of the population, including 51% of Republicans, and 46% of people in the highest income group (which is not that high). If you fall into this category, then it clearly doesn't make sense for society to try to solve a problem that it had little hand in creating.

The Pew Research Center has a new survey which confirms what you may already suspect: Democrats are much more likely than Republicans to believe the government should try hard to reduce poverty and inequality.

Part of this gap is explained by basic differences of belief in what the government can do (never mind what it should do). If you don't believe Washington is very effective at a lot of what it tries to accomplish, then you're not likely to think it can pull many impoverished families into the middle class, or lift up the entire bottom end of the income spectrum.

Read The Atlantic report here.

Monday, January 20, 2014

“What good is having the right to sit at a lunch counter
if you can’t afford to buy a hamburger?”

Over the years, Martin Luther King’s more controversial edges have been smoothed over. He was a strident critic of capitalism and materialistic society. Referring to the now iconic Greensboro Lunch Counter sit-ins, he asked, “What good is having the right to sit at a lunch counter if you can’t afford to buy a hamburger?”

King also explicitly linked the problem of capitalism with the problem of racism. “When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered,” he argued in a speech at Riverside Church in 1967. He was very aware that this kind of challenge was even more dangerous than his work on segregation and civil rights. “You can’t talk about solving the economic problem of the Negro without talking about billions of dollars. You can’t talk about ending the slums without first saying profit must be taken out of slums,” he warned his staff in 1966. “You’re really tampering and getting on dangerous ground because you are messing with folk then. You are messing with captains of industry. Now this means that we are treading in difficult water, because it really means that we are saying that something is wrong with capitalism.”

Read "4 Ways Martin Luther King Was More Radical Than You Thought" here.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Recently homeless older adults have different needs
than those who have been homeless for a long time

In addition to the lifelong elderly homeless population, there are now elderly people who are becoming homeless for the first time in their lives. Recently homeless older adults have different needs than those that have been homeless for a long time, according to the study "Living on the Margins: Older Homeless Adults in Toronto," published in Journal of Gerontological Social Work.

However, current homelessness services tend to treat them as if they had been homeless a long time. Recently homeless older adults lack experience finding support for their recent needs and have trouble navigating their way through complex social service programs. Once homeless, older adults have a difficult time improving their situations.

The researchers found that the biggest difference between the two groups was that recent older homeless people struggled with a lack of information about the homeless service system. Consequently, they used services that offered housing support, while the long-term homeless people tended to rely on temporary services like food banks and drop-ins.

Read a summary here.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

As homelessness increases across Massachusetts,
downtown Boston feels the surge

Local, state, and federal officials have reported record numbers of homeless people in Massachusetts, especially families and youths. In late 2012, city officials counted 6,992 homeless men, women, and children in Boston, 5% more than the year before and 17% more than in 2001.

The increase has been highly visible in the city’s commercial heart.

Officials at the Downtown Boston Business Improvement District have reported a rise in calls about homeless people panhandling and sleeping in the area. As a result, this summer they began conducting monthly counts. In October, they found 40 people sleeping in the street around Macy’s.

With several shelters, soup kitchens, and a range of other services in the area, the homeless have long taken refuge in the alleys and alcoves from Boston Common to the Greenway. What’s changed are the expectations of new residents, business owners, and others who now frequent the neighborhood, said Rosemarie E. Sansone, president of the district.

“What’s happening is that property owners are seeing improvements in investments, and the area has become cleaner,” she said of an area that was once called the Combat Zone. “They’re seeing all these improvements and wondering why we haven’t made an impact with homelessness.”

Read the Boston Globe article here.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Florida can't drug test people simply because they’re poor

Citing the 4th Amendment's protections against unreasonable government searches, a federal District Court handed down a blistering decision in the final hours of 2013 that knocked down a Florida law mandating that all applicants for the state's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program submit to suspicionless drug tests.

In the order, Judge Mary Scriven of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida rejects the state’s arguments and evidence defending the constitutionality of the suspicionless search program, stating that the court “finds there is no set of circumstances under which the warrantless, suspicionless drug testing at issue in this case could be constitutionally applied.”

Governor Rick Scott campaigned hard for this law, making the dubious claim that applicants for public assistance are more likely than the general population to be drug users and therefore that they should be subjected to mandatory and suspicionless searches of their urine. It turned out that so few applicants for public assistance actually tested positive for drugs – during the short period of time during which this law was operational – that Florida ended up shelling out thousands more dollars reimbursing those who tested negative than it saved on public assistance payments to those who tested positive.

Read the post at the ACLU Blog of Rights here.

Friday, December 13, 2013

"We are this close -- this close! -- to losing
our democracy to the mercenary class"

Award-winning journalist Bill Moyers says America's social contract has to cover everyone, not just the wealthy.

He quotes Justice William J. Brennan, who said:
"We do not yet have justice, equal and practical, for the poor, for the members of minority groups, for the criminally accused, for the displaced persons of the technological revolution, for alienated youth, for the urban masses .... Ugly inequities continue to mar the face of the nation. We are surely nearer the beginning than the end of the struggle."
Read the Brennan Center's full transcript of the speech here. A portion of it also appeared as an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times.