A Reflection on Michael Stoops of NCH

The first thing I did when I became the Director of NEOCH in 1995 was call Michael Stoops at the National Coalition for the Homeless and talked to him about civil rights for those who did not use the shelters.  We were engaged in a series of lawsuits that began before I was a member of the Coalition, so I needed a tutorial.  Michael was a quiet man who was a peacemaker.  He never asked for the spotlight but accepted it to save the National Coalition for the Homeless.  Sitting down and looking for a solution with a group of persecuted homeless people was the way he wanted to spend his afternoons.  Michael Stoops passed away on May Day 2017 after a two year struggle following a stroke.

Stoops grew up in Indiana and moved to Portland, managing a shelter in the 1970s.  Stoops loved sitting in the office and helping to distribute the donated food on Sunday afternoon to the forgotten and downtrodden.  He helped organize the Housing Now march in DC, provided input on the McKinney Vento national funding of shelters, and helped found the National Coalition for the Homeless.  Stoops was a community organizer with a keen ear for listening to homeless people. He had experienced homelessness and hunger and slept at the CCNV shelter in DC in the past.  He knew what it meant to be swept off the streets, and he cared about the intrinsic value of every human being.  He understood that each person had their talents and a place in our society.  He rarely wore a sport coat and was often confused for the homeless individuals that City Councilmembers and Congressional staff walk over on their way into their offices. 

Michael loved bringing people together and working to raise the voice of those who slept outside with his quiet but powerful voice.  He stepped up to write grants, send in payroll, complete the 990 tax return and manage a VISTA program because he had to in order to keep the organization functioning.  Stoops met with funders and in his soft spoken style asked them to open their checkbooks to help in a non-traditional manner.  It was not money to buy food, housing, a shelter bed or clothing; he was asking for a donation for social change.  That is the hardest thing to try to get across in an elevator speech, but Michael never lost his thirst for righteousness.

 Michael took on the executive director position at NCH when I was a board member.  It was a temporary interim appointment for the summer that lasted for years.  He testified before Congress, always yielding time to others who had slept on the hard sidewalks of America's streets.   Stoops worked for NCH when it was a large vibrant organization with 20 staff and he helped to unionize that staff.  He saw it crippled by the downturn and the loss of  prestige and influence.  Michael put in place a speaker's bureau that has become a mainstay of NCH programming.  The speakers under Michael's guidance taught other formerly homeless people to overcome their nervousness to talk at colleges, high schools and religious gatherings to put a face on homelessness.  We will never know how many shelter workers, volunteers, health care professionals or housing developers were inspired by Michael to work to reduce poverty in the United States.   I met a doctor at the CDC in Atlanta who was inspired to work in the area of TB after listening to Michael Stoops at a college class.

Stoops loved the street newspaper movement and helped to keep many street newspapers in business, planting the seeds of a few others.  The best street newspaper in the United States, Street Sense in DC, was founded by Stoops and NCH's director at the time, Donald Whitehead.  The paper has remained close to Michael and he continued to act as a mentor to Street Sense and many of the vendors in our nation's capital.  There are thousands of newspaper vendors who were able to make the rent or pay for dental work because of Michael.  He loved to empower individuals willing to try to sell free speech on the cold, rainy, harsh mean streets of America. 

Michael came to Cleveland on a few speaking engagements and to help with the North American Street Newspaper Association conference at Case Western Reserve University in the late 1990s.  He helped to get the Canadian and US papers together and host listening and learning sessions in various cities.  He organized newspaper conferences in Seattle, San Francisco, Cleveland, Boston, Montreal, Edmonton, and Chicago that I was able to attend.  He always helped homeless people attend the conference and hosted a series of vendor competitions to see which vendor would sell the most papers in a foreign city. One of our vendors dressed as a cow (with cow head) on the plane to fly to Edmonton to get that extra edge in the vendor competition. This was pre-September 11th.  You can't dress as a cow on a plane anymore, but she won.  Even back in the late 1990s and early 2000s it was hard to get homeless people with problematic backgrounds across the US/Canadian border, but Michael handled it.  

He lived, breathed and voraciously ate up the news about homelessness and poverty from around the US.  Michael would read nearly every major newspaper everyday and that dramatically expanded when he got access to the internet.  He knew as much about the sweeps taking place in San Diego as the local Coalition just from the news accounts and the telephone.  Stoops would call us in the field and get an update on the status of a lawsuit or negative encounters with the police when he heard about a problem.  He knew more about the struggles facing homeless people in America than every board member in the 30 year history of the Homeless Coalition in Cleveland combined.  

Michael would put us in contact with a homeless person in some of the rural communities two or three hours outside of Cleveland who happened to call the NCH office for help.  Homeless people, advocates and service providers could call Michael day or night and they would get a response.  They could call about being arrested or threatened by the police and he would get them a local contact who might help.  The religious groups would call to tell Michael that the police did not want to serve a hot meal to a homeless person and he would hook them up with a lawyer friend of his. Michael worked with health care advocates to read the names of those who had passed away on the first day of winter.  That somber service is done at every major city in Ohio and hundreds of cities in the United States thanks to Michael and the National Health Care for the Homeless.

This is a great picture shared by Jerry Jones, former director of NCH on TwitterStoops heard about those horrible videos (remember video tapes?) of homeless people fighting that were being sold at major retailers and went to war.  In the most meek and understated way possible, he successfully fought to get every major retailer to stop selling for profit these horrible tapes.  He asked Sean Cononie of Florida to take on Dr. Phil and condemn the awful people who were making money off other's mental health or addiction issues.  This was one of the benefits of Michael's long career; he had allies who would support him throughout the country.  Michael appeared on the Colbert Report, CNN and many other news programs.  He was the reluctant face of national homeless advocacy in the United States. Stoops understood the tremendous weight on his shoulders to carry the horrific stories of violence, crime, poverty and a lack of education that people overcame in order to find stability.  I never knew if he was mourning or praying or just trying to process the tragedy that he saw on a daily basis, but he was a deep thinker.

Michael would fly to Florida to testify against a restriction on churches serving food on the beach and then to Austin to argue that disabled people should be able to rest on park benches, then to San Francisco to try to breathe some compassion into a City Council trying to restrict begging for money.  Homeless people living in the big shelters in Boston or St. Petersburg knew of Michael's efforts, and he tried to bring justice to Covington Kentucky with the forgotten homeless guys sleeping in abandoned farms who were finding it impossible to get into housing with their criminal background.  He gave of himself everyday to help those forgotten by capitalism.  Michael was poor of spirit, and was always trying to lift those around him. He did not raise his voice and was merciful even to those he disagreed with or those who he felt were doing harm.

I think that the most significant legacy from Michael's work came toward the end of his career in 2014: after years of Hate Crimes reports published; after years of publishing Criminalization reports documenting all the municipal laws passed to hide homeless people; and after all the meetings with hundreds of Congressional staff members, the Justice Department added their voice to a police sweeps case out of Boise Idaho. This was important because for the first time someone in the national government put down on paper what we in the field have known for decades: local policies on homelessness are crazy.  How can a city not offer enough beds to everyone who shows up for help, and then turn around and give a ticket to those who sleep on the streets?   The Obama administration said it was immoral to not offer enough shelter and then paradoxically arrest those who cannot find a shelter bed. This was the Bell vs. the City of Boise lawsuit over the police sweeps of homeless people, but it should be called the life's work of Michael Stoops. 

I will miss Michael everyday.  The struggle to end homelessness has taken a hit that will be take years to recover. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

PS: Here is a video of Michael being interviewed

Hate Crimes Report Issued by NCH

The National Coalition for the Homeless has recently published No Safe Street: A Survey of Hate Crimes and Violence Committed Against Homeless People in 2014 & 2015. The report finds that over the last 17 years, at least 1,657 people experiencing homelessness have been victims of violent hate crimes, including 428 people who were murdered. In 2014-2015 alone, there were 192 documented violent hate crimes against homeless individuals, with 58 incidents being fatal. No Safe Street demonstrates a clear correlation between laws criminalizing homelessness and the increase of hate crimes against homeless people. California and Florida's cities have passed the most laws criminalizing homelessness in recent years, and also experienced the highest numbers of hate crimes against homeless individuals in 2014-2015. 

We've looked at the National Coalition's report and taken out the relevant information regarding anti-homeless hate crimes in Ohio. In the past 17 years, there have been 85 documented incidents of violence against people experiencing homelessness in Ohio, with 5 of those incidents occuring in 2014-2015. Ohio has some of the highest levels of hate crimes against homeless individuals, behind only California, Florida, and Texas. 

In Ohio:

Years

Number of Documented Incidents

1999-2015

85

2014-2015

5

 

Narratives of Hate Crimes against the Homeless in Ohio:

Columbus, Ohio

***September, 19th: “Carl Quiller, 19, is charged with murder after shooting three homeless people, killing one. He shot Carlos Aguilar, 48, in the arm, and Gertrude Hall, 51, in her face and back, before shooting and killing Thomas Henson, 63, who was sleeping in his truck. Quiller was arrested after making a call to 911, claiming he found Henson. During the call, he sounded like he was trying to save Henson’s life, saying, “Stay awake man…There’s a big hole in his pillow laying up against his head. So, I’d imagine he got shot in the head.” The police who found a gun and ammunition that matched those used in both crimes searched Quiller’s home. Quiller was also found to have had a violent crime history: at 13, he was arrested for assault, rape at 14, robbery at 15, and another assault at 16.”  

Dayton, Ohio

****October, 1st: “Earl Horn was on his way to a shelter when a pair of dogs viciously attacked him, and the owner took off and left him in the field. He was walking through the park when he noticed the two dogs, one brown and white, the other black, running through the field. He called to the owner and asked if the dogs were okay, but “before (he) knew it they charged (him)”… Horn was able to call 911 and ask for help. The dogs and owner are still unidentified.

****March, 7th: Ronald Baird, 51, was attacked by three teenage boys, 14, 15 and 17 years of age.”

Cincinnati, Ohio

****July 27th: Three individuals assaulted John Hensley, 49, with one of the assailants later stating that he committed the attack because he was bored. The attack happened, as Hensley was exiting a drop-in center and lasted for 15 minutes. A staff member of the drop-in center alerted police officers and all perpetrators were detained and charged with misdemeanor assault.

Zanesville, Ohio

****February 12th: Two homeless individuals were assaulted by Estep, 27. Estep faces ten years in prison after taking a plea bargain.

National Statistics:

National Groups Cold Response to Loss of Funding

NCH Board/staff meet with HUD officialsHere is the take from the National Alliance to End Homelessness on the recently announced HUD funding cuts. NAEH has sadly turned into the leading public relations firm for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. 

"Overall, more people will be housed instead of homeless due to these results. More new projects than usual got funding, and more existing projects than usual lost funding. As a group, the newly funded projects will house more people than the projects that lost funding, because of more focus on exactly that outcome – housing people. The wellbeing of homeless people and the desire to solve the problem of homelessness are driving this change."

In Cleveland, we unexpectedly lost Y-Haven serving 113 people two weeks ago.  We have heard a great deal of anger around the country from groups in Indiana, Florida, Baltimore, Mississippi, and Mesa ArizonaNew York City has been overwhelmed with family homelessness leading to record numbers, but they were cut.  Honolulu declared a "state of emergency," but they were not immune to the cuts for those with a disability.  This was the result of HUD prioritizing housing over transitional shelters.  It is the opinion of the "experts" that transitional housing programs screen out too many homeless people and they take too long to place people into housing.  This is another step toward HUD funding exclusively housing programs while no other federal agency (Health and Human Services) picks up the slack to fund the emergency of being homeless in America.  It is cold comfort to the man who loses housing on the rainy streets of Cleveland that they are stuffed into a church on a mat on the floor because the transitional shelter beds have lost funding. 

We found out the Y-Haven will be able to survive the loss of federal funding.  They are moving to Medicaid funding and have received a lot of support from admirers since the story appeared in the Plain Dealer.  The director has assured advocates and Cuyahoga County that the program will survive after the ADAMHS Board, YMCA, and other local groups have stepped up to help.   The reason that they were cut was that they honestly completed their application claiming that the shelter focused on recovery so had a screening process for those who are working on alcohol and drug issues.  This eliminated some of the homeless population from entering and HUD objected to this screening tool or degree of specialization.  The Salvation Army PASS program is the last standing in Cuyahoga County to receive federal dollars.  We hope that they are preparing for a 2017 budget cut.  

The statement from the National Alliance was heartless and misguided.  There was this loud cry from the field from around the Country asking, "Why did HUD cut our local homeless programs?"  NAEH shot back don't worry the new funding will help more people in the local community.  It was like a federal agency commenting on the impacts of global warming on cities which will most likely flood, "Don't worry, we have planes ready to transport your most vulnerable to Omaha or Topeka."   Thanks, but that is not what we need.  HUD funded rapid rehousing programs which give short term rental assistance and intake centers throughout the country instead of existing transitional programs.  The disabled guy in a wheel chair with a criminal background needs a place to sleep tonight not after a couple of weeks of paperwork, finding a landlord and hoping that accept a voucher for only three months guaranteed rent.  Yes, you will serve more people, but not with the type of service that the local community needs.  The family with two young children or the youth who is couch surfing every night needs a bed to sleep in tonight not a promise for rental assistance in three weeks. 

Yes, there was more competition for the limited dollars, because once again our Congress is not doing its job. They are creating more problems then they are solving.  They delay, deny and put demands on the local community that is only exacerbating the problems of poverty.  In the past, communities had to pit shelters, services and housing programs against each other locally to receive their full allocation.  They ranked the programs and those at the bottom were lost.  Communities got smart and figured out how to play this game, and so now programs were forced to compete against programs at the national level with this horrible tiered funding system.   It certainly does not promote cooperation or solving homelessness as a community.  It promotes distrust and local programs distorting their programs to meet national goals while dismissing local priorities.  It does not matter that Cleveland is seeing opiate deaths or more people released from prison who cannot go back to their houses and need more time to find stable places to live.  We have to skip the shelters and move people into housing.  It does not matter that our family and women's shelter are seeing huge numbers, HUD and their public relations firm NAEH know best. 

The homeless veterans programs have made tremendous progress over the last five years by doing exactly the opposite of how HUD is working on addressing homelessness. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

 

Local Reports from National Coalition Meeting

 The best part of the National Coalition for the Homeless meeting is hearing from other communities what is happening locally.  There are a lot of tremendous ideas and amazing advocacy going on in the local community.  This last meeting was held in Denver and we already posted some observations about Denver and Colorado.  Here are some highlights from what is going on around the country from NCH Board members. 

Minnesota

  • Struggling with trying to maintain state funding for homelessness and affordable housing with a tough budget.
  • Activists are working on fair housing issues within the state to rebalance the home ownership rate in Minnesota which is one of the lowest in the Country for African Americans.

Chicago, IL

  • The Homeless Bill of Rights passed the State (one of only three).
  • Agreement on sweeps by the police that resulted in throwing items away for those resistant to shelter.  Police will give one week notice before a "clean-up."
  • Working with re-entry folks on human trafficing issues.  Pilot program with the housing authority for trafficked women to get into housing.
  • Working on additional funding for affordable housing.
  • They had a setback in an SRO law passed which makes it difficult to transfer ownership because of neighborhoods gentrifying and wanting to eliminate low cost housing.
  • Fighting for a $13 minimum wage.

Indiana

  • Indianapolis Mayor vetoed their bill of rights passed by the City Council.
  • Large HIV outbreak in the southern part of the state--started an emergency needle exchange program and are working with trafficked women to try to limit spread. 

Sacremento, CA

  • Increase city trust fund to $25 million
  • Working on coordinated exit planning from various publicly funded programs.  They also have an employment collaboration working with homeless agencies.
  • Working on a better system for serving those addicted with a more "on-demand" system.
  • Statewide homeless bill of rights did not have the votes will be re-introduced in January 2016.
  • They did the DC criminalization survey  and found 75% of those surveyed had been arrested or threatened with arrest for purely innocent behavior of being homeless.
  • 2,900 anti-camping citations issued in Sacramento from 2012 to 2014.

Sentencing Project (national)

  • US leads the world in incarcerated individuals by large numbers. 
  • They have become involved in the Black Lives Matter campaign because of the relevance to their goals of bringing justice to the judicial system especially in cities. 
  • There is a true bipartisan effort to reform sentencing esp. for drugs.  The right wants to look at cost savings and the left is looking at justice.  Trying to limit excessive sentencing and look back at previous over sentencing.

Arkansas

  • The Coalition in Little Rock is barely hanging on and trying to speak up when necessary.

Austin, Texas

  • Gathering stats around the interaction between police and homeless people.
  • Sued the City over landlords not taking Section 8 voucher program under anti-discrimination law.

Atlanta, GA

  • 250 beds closed over last four years.
  • Now the men's shelter has had to serve 60 to 100 families every night with mats on the floor.
  • No new housing being developed locally, and last year 30,000 applied to the housing choice voucher program.
  • Working on fair housing complaint against HUD over loss of shelter locally.
  • Still working to resolve the ownership of the big shelter
  • Working with LGBT you to expand access to shelter.

Florida

  • No Medicare expansion and the indigent care has created a huge hole in the state budget.
  • Serious funding problems for services to the mentally ill.
  • Housing Trust fund is raided every year. 
  • Orlando has a new commission on homelessness that is working on putting together funds for Permanent Supportive Housing.
  • Working with the Veterans Administration on their "vulnerability index."

Mississippi

  • Formed a new regional Continuum of Care with the Mayors around the City of Jackson.
  • Purging the Public Housing Waiting list to get rid of the names that have been on there for seven to nine years and they are starting fresh.
  • Creating food gardens with some of the social service providers, and more groups are using food bank assistance to get fresh food.

Puerto Rico

  • The territory or commonwealth is nearing bankruptcy, which puts a strain on all public services.
  • They are trying to encourage billionaires to live in Puerto Rico and pay taxes.
  • The Bloomberg consulting group has been working with cities on urban issues including San Juan, and has a draconian approach to serving homeless people.  Basically involves shipping them out.
  • Trying to reform the police and teach them how to not violate the rights of homeless people. 
  • Ever increasing numbers of homeless people seeking help. 
  • Talked about the WBEZ/This American Life radio program about the relocation of addicts to non-licensed facilities in Chicago, Philadelphia and New York City.  These men get stuck in the cities and have no way to return to the island.  

Denver

  • The Right to Rest bill has galvanized Denver's homeless population around this law.
  • The Denver auditor criticize the City for not meeting its goals to end homelessness that they signed 10 years ago.  Declared that there were not measurable outcomes and little progress.  Also criticized the city for enforcing a "no camping" ordinance as more costly than effective.
  • Denver increased population and no vacancies has created a rental crisis and causing rents to increase.
  • Denver is trying out social impact bonds with 300 frequent flyers in the jails to provide housing alternatives and any savings in law enforcement/court fees would go to the investors in the bonds.   

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Bill Introduced to Change the Definition of Homelessness

In an effort to capture the number of young people who do not go into shelter, the Senate has proposed a new bill to reform the way homeless people are counted.  Al Jazeera America did a really nice story about the issue.  We had this fight 10 years ago when the HEARTH Act was being debated.  Advocates from the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Association for the Education of Homeless Youth  wanted to align the definition of homelessness with the Department of Education definition. 

The DoE uses a standard definition that we all think about when we think of homelessness.  The HUD definition does not include those doubled up, coming out of jail, those within a few days of homelessness or those who regularly staying in a motel.  Advocates from the National Alliance to End Homelessness, the Corporation for Supportive Housing and staff of HUD hated this idea to have one broad definition of homelessness.  They felt that it would triple the population of homelessness overnight. It would make it impossible to count during their annual point in time counts.  All the successes claimed by the Permanent Supportive housing movement would be lost with the stroke of a pen.  What administration wants to be in office and preside over a time when homelessness increased by 200 to 300 percent in one year? 

A compromise was struck by maintaining the HUD definition for most of the programs with additional hoops to jump through in order to be able to use a small piece of the federal funding to serve young people or families.  This compromise is obviously not working, and so now Congress has proposed a change. NEOCH supports this change in the law to align the definitions of homelessness across the federal agencies.  We oppose the Point in Time count as a huge waste of time, and we are not sure that the 100,000 homes created over the last five years are meeting the need of our most disabled and long term homeless people. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Ft. Lauderdale: Center of Hate Toward the Poor

Ft. Lauderdale officials are taking heat world wide for the arrest of a 90 year old chef and two religious leaders for the crime of feeding low income and homeless people.  They approved a series of anti-homeless measures with the most prominent outlawing the serving of food outside without a permit.  Comedian Stephen Colbert roasted the City last night mocked the Mayor for arresting this "perp", Arnold Abbott, for carrying the dangerous weapon of food.

  "So clearly he knows what Jesus said in Matthew. 'For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat.  I was thirsty and--look out! The cops are here! Hide the Loaves and Fishes!' And I am glad...they eventually caught up with him."

The National Coalition for the Homeless Sent a letter to the Mayor asking for a re-evaluation of the legislation. 

[Full Disclosure:  I helped in the drafting of the NCH letter.] Most are focusing on the anti-feeding law and that is appropriate, but there are four other laws including the prohibition against a homeless person to sit down in the public space that are just as offensive.   These laws go back to the 1990s when cities were using law enforcement to try to "solve" homelessness.  They have failed and in fact, most cities found it only increased the number of homeless people.  Repeatedly ticketing homeless people make them unemployable and unable to engage a lease for housing.  We have also seen the correlation between a rise in hate crimes directed at homeless people when cities begin to pass laws directed at those without housing.  Ft. Lauderdale, by preventing people from being able to eat, goes to the front of the line in legislating hate against a fragile population.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

By the way if you want to express your concern over these extreme laws here is the Mayor's e-mail: jack.seiler@fortlauderdale.gov.  Send us a copy of the e-mail if you decide to write neoch (at) neoch (dot) org. 

Hate Crimes in Ohio

The National Coalition for the Homeless issued a report in June on hate crimes against homeless people in America.  The report is entitled "Vulnerable to Hate" and is available on the front of their website.  We pulled out the specific incidents in Ohio below, but first a few facts from the report:

  • 23% increase in the number of hate crimes in the report in 2013 when compared to 1999.
  • There were 109 attacks in 2013 documented in the report.
  • 18 of the 2013 attacks resulted in the death of the homeless victim.
  • 85% of the perpetrators were under 30 years old.
  • 93% of the perpetrators were male.
  • 65% of the victims were over 40 years old
  • 90% of the victims were male.
  • Ohio has seen 80 attacks since 1999 putting the state in the top 5 in the United States.
  • There were seven attacks documented in Ohio with four detailed below

Dayton, Ohio

Dayton homeless man stabbed to death

Oct. 10 – Daniel Mooty, a 51-year-old homeless man, was found dead behind a vacant house after being stabbed by 27-year-old Curtis R. Gray. Police responded to a call they received about a man screaming when they arrived on the scene, they witnessed the suspect standing over Mooty’s body. The murder weapon, a knife, was found at the scene. Gray was charged with give felony counts and $500,000 bail.

Cincinnati, Ohio

Homeless man assaulted after talking with suspects

Robert Warden, a 48-year-old homeless man living at a homeless camp in Cincinnati was approached by two young men. They sat and talked with him before striking him in the head with a calf prod “He hit me eight more times. I was blocking with my arms and kicking him and stuff.” A fellow homeless man took out his phone, which caused the two students from the University of Cincinnati to flee. The homeless man did not seek treatment at the hospital or file a report with police.

Canton, Ohio

Homeless man assaulted

January 13 – Jason P. Doty, 34, was found lying in the roadway with a visual wound on his head by Canton city police officers. The local hospital caught video surveillance footage of the attack and of the assailants running away. Doty had been punched several times and hit his head on the ground. He was transported to the nearest medical center. Officers believe he may have been assaulted by two males. Investigators have no further leads.

Newark, Ohio

Gang members beat up homeless man

April 6, 16, 26 – A 47-year-old homeless man was beaten multiple times by gang members under the Route 16 overpass. Members of the Ohio Boyz gang planned these attacks. The victim suffered severe injuries including several broken bones. Dustin Nelson, 25, one of the perpetrators faces 8 years in prison for assault and participation in a gang that commits criminal activities.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Does Institutional Violence Provide Cover to Hate Crimes?

Over the weekend the Albuquerque police made an arrest of three young people accused of killing two homeless people.  This after police shot a homeless person who was giving himself up earlier this year.   It seems that cities that mistreat homeless people or pass laws directed at homeless people are also the cities that have higher numbers of hate crimes directed at homeless people.  Albuquerque police have a large number of officers involved in shootings (40) of which 26 were killed since 2010.

The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty just released a report on the large number of laws directed at homeless people.   The Law Center details the surprising rise in cities which have made it illegal to feed people outside.  There are panhandling laws, anti-sitting laws, anti-"camping" laws, loitering, and no feeding laws.  These "quality of life" ordinances are on the rise, and there are consultants sitting in hotel conference centers crafting new ways to hide homeless people.  Then there are police actions to arrest and hide homeless people.  These include private security for Business Improvement Districts harassing homeless people to go into hiding.  Then in those cities that use law enforcement to solve homelessness there is a corresponding increase in attacks on homeless people

In the 1990s, when there were routine arrests of homeless people for sleeping outside in Cleveland we also saw regular attacks on homeless people.  We saw the stun gun attacks and bricks being thrown from motorists.   We have not seen the level of hate crimes that they see in Cincinnati, which still has not worked out how they deal with a growing population.  If government targets homeless people with laws or arrests it seems to give cover to violent or fringe elements of society to attack fragile populations.  If you place the National Coalition for the Homeless hate crimes report on top of the National Law Center criminalization report you see some huge overlapping cities especially in cities in Florida. 

We have been dealing with homelessness for 40 years, and it seems as though cities have not learned anything.   They still try to deal the problems associated with homeless people instead of dealing with the root cause of homelessness: housing.  They are still trying to regulate homelessness out of existence instead of providing affordable housing and behavioral health services.  Fair share development laws, minimum wage increases, universal access to treatment are sure fire ways to end homelessness.  Passing "quality of life laws" are sure fire ways to prolong homelessness. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Spice Alert Issued for the Shelters

The National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Health Care for the Homeless Council has issued a warning for the shelters to be aware of a dangerous new drug that is sending homeless people to the hospital.  Two weeks ago, hundreds went to the hospital in Austin and Dallas Texas after using these synthetic drugs.  Please distribute this in the shelters and social service providers.  We have included a pdf version that you can print out and distribute.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of the individual who signs the entry

Discrimination Against Homeless People Report Released

The National Coalition for the Homeless has issued a briefing paper this week in Washington DC on the opinions of homeless people in the nation's capital.  This was a summer project by students at George Washington University to interview homeless people about their treatment that they receive by law enforcement, private businesses, medical services and social services. 

It is no surprise that law enforcement and private businesses were widely described as having discriminating against homeless people.   I find it incredible that more than a third of the homeless people living in Washington felt that they had been discriminated by social service providers and nearly half of those who responded were mistreated by medical service providers.  Much of this discrimination is minor inconveniences like no bags policies at businesses but others were life threatening discrimination in limiting access to emergency rooms or not allowing homeless people to sleep outside when the shelters are all full. 

There are recommendations at the end of the report which includes passage of Homeless Bills of Rights and passing anti-discrmination statutes in municipalities.  There could be better training of law enforcement in how to serve low income individuals and legal cases brought against businesses that routinely deny services to fragile and disabled populations. 

Check out the report.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Ohio Safer for Homeless People in 2012

William Gilmore reading the names at the 2011 Homeless Memorial DayIn the new report issued by the National Coalition for the Homeless they rank the states according to how dangerous they are for homeless people.  Ohio has been in the top 5 for dangerous states for the past 10 years.  Typically, we have had seven to ten attacks with one or two resulting in death.  Cleveland has seen rock attacks, stun gun attacks, rapes and bricks thrown from cars.  Most of the attacks over the last 14 years took place in Cincinnati and the Dayton area.  It is always strange how cities with a great deal of hostility toward homeless programs and people always are at the top of the list of hate crimes directed at the poor. 

50% of the perpetrators of these attacks were under 20 years old.  38% of those who are attacked are older than 50 years of age.  There were a total of 88 crimes against homeless people documented by police or advocates in communities throughout the United States.  Florida with twice as many attacks as the nearest state of California was number one again this year in hate crimes.   There were 15 attacks that resulted in the death of the individual including the serial killer in California who was targeting homeless people in 2012.  

The non-lethal attacks in Ohio included a rape of a teenager in Columbus Ohio in December 2012.  In May 2012, a group of Toledo teenagers beat a homeless person named Todd Swint.  There are resources in the back including local contacts and updates on the movement to pass a homeless bill of rights in states throughout the United States.  Check out the report and support the National Coalition for the Homeless.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

 

National Homeless Group Selects New Director

The Board of Directors of the National Coalition for the Homeless, of which I am a member, announced this week the appointment of Jerry Jones as its new Executive Director. Jones follows the successful work of Neil Donovan, who stepped down from this role in May.

Board President John Parvensky announced the new hire:

"Homelessness in America is a national tragedy that has been tolerated for far too long. We can no longer stand quietly while budgets are cut and our political leaders try to manage the problem rather than solve it. We intend to escalate pressure to demand a response that is proportionate to this crisis, and we have hired an Executive Director with a strong background in grassroots mobilization to lead this effort. We are especially committed to making sure that the voices of those experiencing homelessness themselves and others living in extreme poverty are heard in this debate."

Jones has a twenty-five year background in community organizing, issue advocacy and national-level campaigns. He is a former aide to the late Mitch Snyder, a prominent advocate for the homeless during the 1980s. More recently, Jones worked with the Center for Community Change, where he has served as the Director of Special Initiatives. His roles there included founding the Center’s electoral program in 2004, helping to launch the National Campaign for Jobs and Income Support, and coordinating a national progressive coalition in response to last year’s Fiscal Cliff.   Jones has experience with community organizing and assisting fragile populations with voting.

For more information about the National Coalition for the Homeless, please visit our website: www.nationalhomeless.org. Look for more information from the new director in mid July.

National Coalition for the Homeless Marks 30 Years

Thirty years ago, the National Coalition for the Homeless was founded after spinning off from the New York Coalition.  I attended the kick off event to mark this historic day in Washington.  I got to talk to Fred Karnas who was a previous Executive Director and has some great stories of building the organization.  It was nice to meet Heather from the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty during the gathering.  I had talked to her on the phone during civil rights conference calls, but never met her in person.  Michael Stoops gave a history lesson on all the work done by the Coalition including the HousingNow march in the 1980s, the McKinney Vento legislation and pushing for additional funding for the homeless programs.  For thirty years the National Coalition has been known to represent the civil rights of those experiencing homelessness. The best part of the evening was hearing from the Speakers, Steve and T.,  who do hundreds of speaking engagements at schools and before religious communities.  I talked to a number of the speakers who attended the event; all had previous experience with homelessness.  It is amazing that some of these people can get up in the morning let alone talk publicly about the trauma they underwent on their path back to stable housing.  They all have tremendous stories about the adversity of living on the streets, fights against bureaucracy, and abuse.  These speakers had found stability and a voice to work out their pain.  It is always amazing that they can put their rough times into perspective that provides a small glimpse into homelessness.

NCH has for 30 years represented the interests of those living without housing and trying to bring those voices to the halls of Congress.  It was great hearing from a professor at Georgetown, Sarah Stiles,  who makes it a point of having her classes hear from people living on the streets.   She talked about the classroom talks and the alternative spring breaks offered to college students from around the country in Washington.  As an aside for the first time a group got in trouble with the police for sleeping outside.   The group never disclosed that they were students on break in DC, and were taken in by the police but not charged. 

Neil Donovan was the Master of Ceremony for the event, and most of the Board were able to attend the anniversary.  We are going to miss Neil, but we know that he left the organization in a better place than he found it.   It is difficult to not have a feeling of remorse that the country has not solved homelessness in thirty years.   How does the group celebrate that they made it through tough times, but not send a confusing message that they are celebrating that homeless people have kept them in business for 30 years? It is a balancing act to not alienate the group you cherish most of all, homeless people, but celebrate overcoming obstacles that would have killed most groups.  NCH has seen some great times when they had staff in all different policy areas and were the foremost expert on the rights of homeless children and youth.   They have made hate crimes against homeless people a national policy issue.  The staff were experts in housing, the rights of homeless people, entitlements, and employment issues.  They wrote white papers every couple of months on policy and legislative issues.  They led letter writing campaigns and pushed local governments to give up on attempts to hide homeless people.  They pushed against Congress and social service agencies trying to mute the social justice aspects of the struggle to find a place for everyone in society.  They worked to make housing a right and not a privilege that only the sobor or mentally stable have access to in our society.

It is a good time to remind supporters of the local Coalitions to contribute to NCH with a donation to assure that they will be around to see this housing crisis to a just end.  We urge you to support a group that has spent 30 years fighting the good fight?  Many who founded the organization are no longer around including Mitch Snyder in DC, buddy gray in Cincinnati, Ellen Daily in Massachusetts, and John Donahue in Chicago.  These four were amazing advocates in the struggle to build affordable housing and provide universal health care in the United States.   NCH has had some amazing advocates associated with the organization over the years including Cheryl BarnesDr. Matt Vega,  Barbara Duffield, Lynn Lewis, Shelia Crowley, Paul Boden, Bill Faith, John Lozier and Chuck Currie.    I am happy to currently serve with John Parvensky of Denver who is the current board president doing amazing work out in Colorado.   Donald Whitehead who cut his teeth in the shadow of buddy gray fighting against the forces who wanted to sweep poor people out of Over the Rhine is a former Executive Director and current board member.  The NCH Board also has Patrick Markee who grew up in Cleveland, but now is a major policy wonk in New York City.  There are powerful voices from the deep rural south, Florida, Indiana, Washington state, Sacramento, and Boston on the current board.

NCH has always had some strong loud voices, but the majority of the people associated with the organization over the years are the people who day in and day out are trying to figure out how to get the food to last for the last 20 stragglers in the soup line.  They work every night to find a bed for the individual forgotten by the rest of society sleeping on a park bench at midnight.  They come to the nation's capital looking for someone else who understands the misery of homelessness and wants to find a long term solution.  They are looking for a plan, resources, or a massive development of housing to keep the children back in their community from facing the fear of not knowing where they will sleep at night.  

Please help the National Coalition for the Homeless as they mark 30 years of survival and 30 years of finding a place in our society for all. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry. 

National Coalition for the Homeless Looking for a Director

The National Coalition for the Homeless Announced last week that they were seeking a new Executive Director for the organization.  They have an announcement on their website here.  I am board member of NCH, so am somewhat biased here.  It is sad to see Neil Donovan leave the organization.  He has been with the organization since 2009 turning the organization around after a rough period.  He worked well with the staff and restored some of the credibility of the organization at the National level.  He always was pushing the views of homeless people to staff at HUD, Interagency Council and in Congress.  He rebuilt a local advisory group in DC to push civil rights issues and make recommendations on local and national policy changes.  

Neil came to Cleveland for a fundraiser in 2011 and we got to hear his strategy for involving homeless people in the struggle to end homelessness in the United States.  This was a comprehensive strategy not to end homelessness for veterans or families or one of the other many most favored populations, but for all homeless people.  He was always inviting those experiencing homelessness to meetings, and had his ear to the ground.  Over the 30 year history of the National Coalition for the Homeless they have become known as the one group to amplify the voice of those on the streets.   There are groups that represent shelters, lawyers or specific populations, but NCH has always tried to represent all different kinds of people from the hated panhandler to the innocent child to the runaways as well as the immigrants.  If they were homeless, NCH represented their interests in Washington.

Neil came out of the Boston shelters and worked for years as a shelter director learning the bureacracy of funding social services as well as the struggles that homeless people face everyday.  He did a great deal of consulting on rural homelessness in Ohio as well as policy work for the National Alliance.  At NCH he took over the organization as it was finding its way after a low point with the financial downturn.  This is one of the hardest groups in the world to work with because of the 30 years of history and the balancing act the director faces.  NCH has board members who have been with the agency for 20 or more years.  They have a community organizing history with staff who have been with the organization since the 1970s.  They have hands in the local DC community with helping to found the street newspaper and the homeless memorial while also working on Congressional issues. We will miss Neil and hope that the Board can find a replacement to continue to rebuild the organization.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinions of those who sign the entry.

Here and Now Discusses Homelessness

There was a nice interview with Neil Donovan of the National Coalition for the Homeless today on the radio program Here and Now out of WBUR from Boston.  The show featured a lengthy discussion about panhandling and some of the disturbing trends in homelessness on the Tuesday Feb. 12 program.  If you can get beyond the Boston heavy accents and expressions, it is a very good program.   This program is nice because they give the guests a chance to talk beyond just the sound bytes.  Neil discussed criminalization of homelessness, the affordable housing crisis, the exploding numbePhoto by Karen St. John Vincentrs at the shelters and plenty of shout outs to Pine Street Shelter system in Boston on this national radio show.  Neil felt that there was a level of compassion that is taken out of the equation when cities pass laws directed at panhandlers or install parking meters to take donations.  He made the point that if municipal governments were going to outlaw panhandling they should also include Girl Scouts, the Salvation Army, and firefighters during Labor Day weekend in that ban.  It was a very good interview and if you did not catch it, you should listen to his interview which was lasts around 16 to 18 minutes. 

NCH Announces 2012 Hate Crimes Report

2011 was one of the most dangerous years for homeless people in the United States according to the National Coalition for the Homeless. The National Homeless Hate Crimes report was issued this last week. 

  • 1,289 reported acts of bias motivated violence have been committed against homeless
    individuals between 1999-2011.
  • 339 homeless individuals lost their lives as a result of the attacks.
  • Reported violence has occurred in 47 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, DC

The violence continues, and with thirty-two known deaths, 2011 ranks in the top-five deadliest years for attacks on homeless people over the past thirteen years, and with one hundred and five attacks, ranks as the sixth most violent year since NCH began tracking the violence in 1999. NCH has found startling data in the number and severity of attacks. However, the reports also acknowledge that since the homeless community is treated so poorly in our society, many more attacks go unreported. Hate crimes against the homeless community is a growing wave in need of public attention.

Ohio was again identified as the third most violent state in the United States behind California and Washington state.  One bright spot was that after many years of leading the national Florida has fallen out of the top five.  There were 32 attacks that led to the death of a homeless person.  Ohio was listed as the fourth most dangerous state over the last dozen years. Fortunately, none of the deaths in 2011 occurred in Ohio.  

The non-lethal attacks in Ohio occured in Enid, Elyria, Columbus, Toledo and two incidents in Cleveland Ohio.   One incident in January 2011 was a library guard attacking a homeless person, and then an incident in July was referenced in which two young people attacked a homeless guy with a shopping cart on Public Square.   The complete report can be found here

There is a renewed effort to get a bill passed in Congress to ask the Justice Department to begin to keep track of these hate crimes and report on those to Congress.  Unfortunately, at this point law enforcement does not report these crimes as a hate crime to the FBI.  Even though the number of hate crimes outpace every other population protected by federal hate crimes, it is not recognized by the US government.   These are terrible crimes in which vulnerable innocent people are attacked just because they are outside and a symbol of our inability in the United States to provide an adequate safety net.  It is a real sign of the violent times we currently live. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of the person who signs the entry

Thursday on NBC's Rock Center with Brian Williams

The National Coalition for the Homeless has worked to assist NBC News with a feature on Family Homelessness in America over the last couple of months ago.   Thursday at 10 p.m. on NBC on the television program Rock Center with Brian Williams will feature an awareness piece on family homelessness. If you paid attention to this website or the Street Chronicle--family homelessness is on the rise and families are the fastest growing population in Cleveland and many other cities.    Here’s a trailer for your viewing - http://video.msnbc.msn.com/rock-center/49981294.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Roosevelt Darby: Philadelphia Advocate

I had the privilege of serving on the National Coalition for the Homeless Board of Directors with Roosevelt Darby Jr. who represented the City of Philadelphia and the state of Pennsylvania.  He had previous experience with homelessness, but that was not what defined him or how he identified himself.  He was an amazing advocate for homeless people, and because of his history he knew what would make things better for those living on the streets.  There was actually a wonderfully written story in the Philadelphia Daily News here.  Watch for a blog entry from the National Coalition about Roosevelt here.  They have a nice profile of a Speaker's Bureau participant Jesse on their site right now.

I did not realize that Roosevelt Darby had a degree in biomedical engineering from Temple until I ready John Morrison's article in the Daily News.  I just knew from sitting next to Roosevelt that he always knew the right thing to do in order to improve the lives of homeless people.  He was quiet and yet resolute in his positions.  He did not want to argue, and was impatient with how slow it took takes to make any progress.  He always wanted to get politicians to see the misery on the streets of America so they would expedite universal access to housing, employment, and behavioral health.  Roosevelt seemed way more comfortable serving the needs of the individuals rather than the needs of the nation as a board member, but he endured the bylaws discussions and policy votes. 

It was nice for the paper to quote Roosevelt and a letter to the editor he sent.  I knew that he had a senior position at the Philadelphia Committee to End Homelessness, but was unaware how many lives he had touched.  During the push by Bush Administration to have every city develop a "plan to end homelessness" during the 2000s that swept the United States, Roosevelt and his agency took on the powers that be in Philadelphia to publish an alternative report that was based on discussions with homeless people.  They pushed a real solution to homelessness, but lost to the power and money in the city pushing a more vanilla plan (which by the way, has not ended homelessness in Philadephia).  His agency fell on hard times as nearly every homeless organization in America struggled.  Roosevelt moved to Atlanta to help out with one of the biggest shelters in the South.  He was always trying to help people with their sobriety and then helping them to find jobs.  He seemed to desperately want to find everyone a place in society and the key was sober living and a job.

Some of how others described him include Barb Anderson of Jeffersonville Indiana who said,

"His passion and his life experience made for a wonderfully humane approach to housing the homeless and truly building community."

Anita of the Metro Atlanta Task Force employed Roosevelt in the late 2000s, and will most remember his "gentle straightforward magic with amazing steady results."  Anita told the board that the leaders Roosevelt nurtured in Atlanta are still making a difference today.  Finally, Richard from Austin worked with Roosevelt on a number of projects  and staid that "He told the truth to anyone who would listen.  He became a street warrior for justice."

Roosevelt Darby Jr. will be missed by the National Coalition for the Homeless, and we can take comfort in the legacy he leaves and the hundreds of lives he helped repair.

Brian

The blog entries reflect the opinions of those who sign the post.

 

Meeting with HUD Secretary

As part of the National Coalition for the Homeless Board meeting, we had the privilege of meeting Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan.  He attended the meeting on Sunday afternoon before flying out of Washington.  Attending with the Secretary was

long time HUD staff member Mark Johnston who is responsible for special populations for HUD.  We have posted a summary of the meeting with the HUD Secretary in our latest newsletter (available on our website to our members on our website). 

Donovan was complimentary of the work of the advocates and social service providers from around the country.  He firmly believes that with a renewed commitment to prevention and moving people quickly into housing, we can end homelessness in America.  We thanked him for the lengthy discussion with Jon Stewart on homelessness on the Daily Show.  We do not hear much about homelessness on a national television show so this was a treat for advocates to see in early March.  Donovan indicated that unlike most HUD programs there is bi-partician support for homeless programs.  While homeless programs have faced level funding for the past two years, every other program has seen cuts.  The President has proposed an increase in homeless funds for the 2013 budget in order to implement the HEARTH changes. 

Shaun Donovan touted a HUD plan to address the mortgage crisis and provide resources for the National Housing Trust Fund.  All of this was spelled out in testimony before Congress on March 21.  He acknowledged the tough environment in Congress, which is making it difficult to serve all parts of the United States with housing assistance.  Donovan agreed that HUD was a long way from implementing the goals contained in HEARTH especially those goals for rural housing.   He said that HUD was doing all it could to get every subsidy fully utilized, and was urging the local communities to focus on providing those in need of the deepest subsidy.  Donovan also had sent out a memo to the field asking the Public Housing groups to re-evaluate their policies around those re-entering.  It seemed that there was a myth that HUD was pushing a policy to erect strict barriers to those with previous experience in the criminal justice system.  This was not the case and the HUD Secretary's letter has resulted in many jurisdictions changing their plans to allow those re-entering after serving their time to find housing in the local community. 

Donovan is looking at avenues for collaboration especially with the Department of Health and Human Services.  He was hopeful that the new health care law would withstand challenge, because he indicated that it would go a long way to reducing homelessness.  If those struggling with behavioral health can find a home to receive treatment, they are many steps closer to finding a residential home. 

NCH members asked for a similar letter to the field from the Secretary about the importance of shelter.  In a time of huge increases in need, some communities seem confused by the focus on prevention.  Many are withdrawing funding for shelter to redirect resources to housing first initiatives.  No matter how many times, Mark Johnston and other HUD officials say that shelter is still critical, cities are not hearing the message.  We believe that a letter from the HUD Secretary clarifying that we need shelters as part of the strategy to end homelessness would go along way toward providing support for the shelters.  In addition, we asked that homeless people be more involved in how funds are distributed.  We want to see local officials meet with those living in the shelters to talk about funding priorities and strict oversight of the resources provided by HUD.  Finally, we asked that the HUD Secretary put in a word with the President for a White House conference on homelessness. 

 Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinions of those who signed the post.