Homelessness and Governing
Recently, the city council of Madison, Wisconsin has passed legislation to prohibit discrimination based on housing, which the mayor vetoed. However, homeless people were added to the list of protected classes by the city council overriding the mayor’s veto.
San Francisco just opened America’s first LGBT homeless shelter. Though it is not big enough to address the whole community, it is a step in the right direction. The Jezzie Collins Shelter is one of the few new shelters created in the United States after huge federal cut backs over the last three years.
An innovative plan in Hawaii plans to renovate 70 retired buses into homeless shelters. However, with the highest per capita homeless population in the US, it is time for Hawaii to evaluate what the real problems are in their state.
Activists are asking that Hawaii work to solve homelessness, not make it harder for individuals. A new study by the University of Hawaii says that homeless sweeps are more harmful than good. "They found that the people living there suffer property and economic loss, physical and psychological harm, and possible constitutional violations," according to the KHON TV report.
Public Defender, Robert Wesley near Orlandoand Orange County Florida stands up against the criminalization of homelessness, and, to an extent, the city is finally listening. He said that these arrests were "a revolving door" for homeless people. Wesley specifically wants to revamp the arrest procedures for violating local ordinances — including urinating in public, having an open container, trespassing and sleeping in public — that almost exclusively affect homeless people. Instead of being taken to jail, officers would give violators a "notice to appear" in court, according to a story in the Orlando Sentinal.
In St. Cloud, Minnesota, high schoolers and the local Coalition for Homeless Men built the state’s first tiny house. Yet, it still has a long way to go until someone can live there. Many zoning and safety laws can prevent someone from having their tiny home.
Cuts to ‘Food Stamp’ funding has caused nearly 255,000 people in Wisconsin to survive on 1 meal a day. A disproportionate amount of these people are elderly or disabled. One Congressman was surviving on Food Stamps and had their benefits cut down to $16 because they did not submit a utility bill as verification.
No longer are cities merely criminalizing homelessness, but also criminalizing helping homeless people. San Antonio’s law costs one woman up to $2,000 just for feeding homeless people out of her truck. She is fighting the ticket and the law.
Individuals Making a Difference
A Washington D.C. teen transitions from homelessness to finishing her first year at Georgetown. She discussed the difficult transition and disadvantages she faced compared to their wealthy classmates. This Washington Post article talked to other young people who got out of homelessness.
One former homeless veteran in Portland, Maine decided to give back to other homeless veterans. He founded the Maine Homeless Veterans Alliance to connect homeless vets to the services that are available to them, and for those that do not desire the services, he helps in any way he can.
A Seattle man is trying to change the stereotype of homelessness, largely through Facebook. Rex Hohlbein started a non-profit called Homeless in Seattle, where he takes photos of homeless people and writes short stories about them in, while also operating a Facebook page that allows every day citizens to help with the needs of the homeless.
In Ann Arbor, landlords are helping to end homelessness by doing what all landlords should do, accept housing vouchers. In response, the Washtenaw Housing Alliance is honoring these individuals. (nice pic of a homeless couple in a tent with their dog--all things not welcome in shelters).
by Dan the Intern
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