News Briefs for the Week

Chef Arnold Abbott named Advocate of the Year by National Coalition for the Homeless.  He stood up to the bullies in Florida who were holding food hostage down in Ft. Lauderdale.  He is 90 years old and has been repeatedly ticketed for following his religious belief to give out food to homeless people.  He was ticketed on a regular basis after trying to distribute food to homeless people as he had done for over a decade.  Chef Abbott appeared on national news programs regularly to demonstrate the injustice of not being able to get food to its people.  He also challenged the law in court and was able to get a stay of the tickets until a judge makes a decison.

More Republican Governors are opting to expand Medicaid.  This is free money from the health care reform to get the lowest income residents to access affordable health care and it is 100% paid by the federal government.  It is purely political to not accept these funds.  We provide a chart of the amount of money being lost by the states refusing to accept Medicaid expansion

Number of homeless families increasing in the Bay area. As in the Cleveland and many other communities, there is a sharp rise in the number of homeless families.  We have focused our attention on the long term homeless, and families have suffered.  

NBC News covers large number of homeless families.  This is one of the typical stories during the holidays when we turn our attention to those struggling with housing.  It is especially accute this year when families are overwhelming the system or when we have so many kids sleeping in a church floor in the overflow shelters.

National Alliance to End Homelessness has a good summary of the results of the budget compromise on homelessness.   It is $271 million less than the President had requested.  This will keep funding level for the homeless programs and only the housing vouchers for veterans will increase.  It is an amazing change in Washington when advocates are championing that "at least the government will not shut down" as good news. 

Finally, some good news out of Washington with the funding of the National Housing Trust Fund.  The program was created in 2007, but the housing market collapsed and so no funding was ever delivered.  This fund should create and preserve affordable housing in the United States.  Ohio has a state Housing Trust, but Cuyahoga County does not have a local resource to build new housing

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Updates of Homeless News Stories

Akron man convicted of murdering homeless individual. Dimitry White killed Anthony Thomas because he was angry that Thomas was charging $5 to enter a house.  Amazing, that a person is killed over trying to make a buck or actually five bucks. 

A judge has prevented enforcement of the Ft. Lauderdale feeding ban.  This is great news for the social justice crowd.  The city has received international bad press for the feeding ban including a threat from the hacker group Anonymous. 

Madison Wisconsin officials are struggling with how to shelter all those who request shelter.  They are also struggling with opening of a day center.  There are issues that the shelters do not open until it gets below 21 degrees and there are capacity issues.

Chicago has an out of control waiting list for housing.  The waiting lists have not been open since 2008 and 2010 for the voucher and public housing.  They have combined the two lists into one application and 282,000 asked to get a spot on the wait list.

Hospitals in Texas are struggling with how to serve homeless people.  They often put people back in the woods and they show up in the emergency room within days.  Texas is one of the states that have not expanded Medicaid that would provide incentives to get the lowest income enrolled in health insurance.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Articles in the News Around Homelessness

WEWS-TV 5 had a nice story on family homelessness and the overflow problems in Cleveland. We have had seven months of overflow shelter for families.  What month do we say this is no longer an overflow problem, but a lack of family bed problem.  We closed Continue Life earlier this year, and West Side Catholic reduced the number of transitional beds for family.  This is what happens when you cut back on beds available to families, you have to pay to transport and open up church basements for these emergencies.

The New York Times had a strange story about the feeding program.  I understand presenting a balanced story, but this is just strange.  The proponents of the law do not have any evidence or proof that feeding programs are "counterproductive."  It is one side saying that laws against feeding are morally bankrupt and lead to unnecessarily going to jail for purely innocent behavior while the other side is saying, "but we don't like to see poor people lining up to eat."

A positive story from Vox media about the decline in uninsured individuals in the Lesbian and Gay community.  Health insurance will also reduce homelessness in America when people aren't forced to decide between rent or medicine or food.  

The National Center on Family Homelessness has found that one in 30 children are homeless in America.  Since Ohio was right in the middle for the states around the national average, this would mean that 9,137 children were homeless in Cuyahoga County in 2013 and 88,323 were homeless in Ohio during the same time.   NCFH uses the Department of Education definition of homelessness which includes those sleeping in garages and friend's basements while they search for housing.  

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

Questions Not Asked on Weekend Edition on NPR

There was a toxic individual on Weekend Edition Sunday on November 9, 2014 who tied anti-feeding programs with "enabling" homeless people.  The worst was his controversial theory was unchallenged by the host.  He provided facts not supported by academic evidence.  We have a lot of experience with this matter having negotiated an agreement between the local churches and the City of Cleveland.  Robert Marbut who sells these controversial policies by claiming that church feeding programs are enabling homeless people to live outside.  "And if you give food on the street, you end up in a very convoluted way, but still an important way, you end up preventing people from going into 24/7 programming," Marbut said on the show.  This is a fundamental misunderstanding of what the church groups are doing and a huge misunderstanding of homeless people in the community.

Despite his claim to have spent time on the streets visiting homeless people, he does not understand addiction, mental health issues or poverty.  He is not advocating for a massive infusion of funds to build more affordable housing, he is proposing rearranging the deck chairs to force more people into treatment.  No city has reduced homelessness or those living outside by 80%, so his numbers are bogus.  There is no treatment on demand in most cities, and so cracking down on food distribution and quality of life issues only makes poor people into criminals. There are decade long waiting lists for affordable housing, so that even people who work full time at minimum wage cannot afford the market rate for housing.  You can't make laws that reverse decades of neglect of affordable housing.  Finally, the churches are not feeding outside because they are trying to make it easy for homeless people to live on the streets.  They are following Biblical passages to go to where the poor live and minister to them.  They are not looking to end homelessness or even to end hunger, but to proselytize to those in need of spiritual help by breaking bread with those without a home. 

Government should never get in the business of regulating the harmless activities of a church and feeding hungry people is life sustaining not enabling. There was no discussion of the other four pieces of legislation passed in Ft Lauderdale which makes it illegal to be homeless (no sitting, no camping, etc.)  We have reduced the number of people sleeping downtown for a number of reasons including a compromise with the church groups.  We did not ask the City to use law enforcement for regulating social services.  We are not under the delusion that we reduced homelessness.  We just moved the population to another area of town.   The distribution of food does not have anything to do with homelessness.  By reducing the amount of food prepared by churches does not force people to go into a shelter or a treatment center.  It forces them to move out further from the downtown or resort to criminal activity in order to get food. 

Reuters did a nice job with a feature on the cook who was arrested, which was far superior to the interview conducted on NPR.  Here are the questions that Ms. Martin missed when interviewing this homeless whisperer for cities:

  1. Who is verifying the numbers you claim with your plan to not enable homeless people with food results in fewer homeless people? 
  2. Isn't it cruel to withhold food from humans who do not have a place to store food safely?
  3. If government is allowed to restrict the distribution of food by a religious groups can they also demand membership roles in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings who are not keeping sober or bar them from giving out clothing to those who spent their money on lottery tickets instead of winter clothing?
  4. Aren't you proposing a massive expansion in affordable housing and treatment for all the people seeking food? Are there beds going to waste because church groups are enabling people with food? 
  5. You claim to be staking out the middle ground here, but the advocates who fight these ordinances claim that they do not want feeding programs.  They want housing, but do not want to restict access to a life sustaining activity until America provides universal access to housing.  Shouldn't cities be creating the sober housing and residential treatment programs for the thousands living outside and then ban feeding outside?

It is a shame these questions were never asked of this broker in human misery.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Feeding Restrictions Sweep the Country

Both Philadelphia and New York City mayors have announced plans to restict access to food for hungry residents. The Philadelphia Mayor announced in mid March that he was going to try to restrict distribution of food in parks. New York City officials are restricting access to donated food to the shelters. Both these efforts will fail, and we know in Cleveland the pitfalls of trying to bring some order to the chaotic world of food distribution.
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