National News Briefs

Chicago Killer Captured on Video:

        A nicely dressed man was caught by surveillance video killing a homeless man as he slept. Floyd Mummert, 64 was killed by a white male who stabbed him in the head. Mummert was a former oil company worker who was homeless for the last eleven years. Police suspect that the individual was either a “thrill killer” or was attempting to kill a witness to some other crime seen by Mummert. Chicago Police have circulated the grainy photo to neighbors and other homeless people.

Bring America Home Act to be Introduced

        The National Coalition for the Homeless has assisted in the drafting of language to move toward ending homelessness. John Conyers of Michigan and Julia Carson of Indiana will introduce legislation in January called the Bring America Home Act to move huge numbers of people into housing. The bill is expected to state that housing is a basic human right, and would dramatically expand resources for affordable housing and homelessness. The bill would expand health services and provide protection to day laborers. It would provide greater income and work support to people experiencing homelessness. There are also expanded civil right’s protections for people experiencing homelessness. The Grapevine will have more information in coming issues.

Bum Fights Video Director’s Arrested

        As the Grapevine reported in the past, Las Vegas producers sold hundreds of thousands of copies of a video depicting homeless people fighting. The team were trying to raise money to produce a Hollywood motion picture by filming homeless people engaged in dangerous activities and fighting in bloody battles. Police and FBI officials in San Diego made arrests of the directors of the bum fights video who had recruited and paid homeless people in the San Diego area to be a part of the project. The men who appeared in the video were given small donations and are planning a civil lawsuit against the filmmakers. The video is no longer available for sale by the Las Vegas film makers.

Tree Dwellers Homeless Again

        For a dozen years, Besh Serdahely and Thelma Caballero have lived in San Mateo County in the shadow of Silicon Valley in a tree. The pair constructed a series of huts in a public park far away from civilization. The County were given the couple eviction orders, and the couple lost a court battle to continue to live among the trees. They had hosted elementary school children and taught them about alternative life styles. They were well known within the County, and did not bother neighbors or other citizens. The judge ordered them off of the land, and a community development organization was trying to relocate them.

Forced Mental Illness Treatment Passes California

        A controversial law in California would allow mental health workers to ask courts to force those with a mental illness to receive treatment. It is unclear the success of the project since there is no money attached to the initiative. The bill would allow a judge or magistrate to order a mentally ill person into outpatient treatment and force medication on them. Current California law is similar to Ohio law that allows committal for those who are a danger to themselves and/or others or they are so disabled that they cannot eat or shelter themselves. This expands that authority to not just stabilize the individual, but requires treatment to individuals with repeat hospitalizations.

        Parents of mentally ill people lobbied for the legislation, while homeless activists fear that it will be used to target homeless people. Without an expansion of money for mental health treatment, it is unclear how this law will be implemented.

New York City Again Outside the Law

        A judge has ordered the city to provide “medically appropriate” housing to homeless people with AIDS who activists say were living in deplorable conditions. Justice Eileen Bransten issued the temporary restraining order in September when a group of people with AIDS complained that the city was sending them to filthy, rat- and roach-infested hotel rooms that lacked heat, hot water and electricity. The issue centered around the question of whether a person with a compromised immune system can survive in such deplorable conditions.

        The City of New York also was forced to close an old jail that was used as a shelter after outcries from the homeless community. A young boy committed suicide while waiting to get into a real shelter, which expedited the closure. New York City signed a consent degree to guarantee shelter to all families in need, but has had a difficult time living up to this agreement.

Irish Citizen’s Support Housing As A Right

        An opinion poll reveals that 71% of people in Ireland believe housing should be a constitutional right and 42% believe homelessness is a disgrace to society. Simon Communities of Ireland surveyed likely voters in Ireland who said that the responsibility for solving the homeless problem lies with the Government. More than three-quarters (76%) of poll participants said the Government should take the lead role in eliminating homelessness. Just 6% pointed the finger at local authorities and 1% at charities.

        Government officials had promised a 50% reduction in homelessness over the next five years, but have failed to act. Activists want a detailed plan using accurate data. The issue many groups are concentrating on include discharge planning especially from mental health institutions.

Santa Cruz continues to Battle Homeless People

        Coming on the heals of a court victory which allowed the police in Santa Cruz to arrest people for protesting using sidewalk chalk art, they have now extended a ban on asking for money after dark. Some panhandlers converted to street musicians to get around the panhandling law, but the ban was quickly extended to those who play music. City Council has banned Hackey Sack, sitting on the sidewalk, and placing personal items on the sidewalk. The City has also extended no-panhandling zones significantly within the downtown.

        Published in the November 2002 Homeless Grapevine Cleveland Ohio Issue 57