National Homeless News

San Francisco War Continues

            For the past two decades, homelessness is the dividing line in San Francisco mayoral politics. That tradition continues with an assault on panhandlers and the defeat of the Care Not Cash ballot issue. Supervisors in San Francisco voted down an initiative passed by voters in 2002 to remove cash assistance from homeless people and instead provide additional services. The courts in San Francisco ruled much of the initiative to be illegally passed. The judge ruled that welfare policy must be voted and passed by the Board of Supervisors, and not by ballot issue. While Care Not Cash fell, supervisor were working on placing a new ballot issue that would severely limit the ability for people to ask for money on the streets of San Francisco.

            A new medical examiner’s study was released in August that shows a dramatic increase in the number of homeless people who died in San Francisco. The study found that 169 homeless people died between July 2002 through June 2003. The medical examiner had found 71 had died in the year that began in 2001 and 135 homeless people had died in the year that began in 2000. The figures from the medical examiners office do not handle every death in the city, and so is not a comprehensive study of homeless deaths.

            In a small bit of good news in San Francisco, rental rates have dropped significantly over the last two years after the collapse of the tech stocks. During the height of the “dot com” businesses flying high on wall street it was difficult to find housing or even to find a landlord that was willing to accept a housing voucher backed by the Federal government. Since 2000, rents have dropped by 40%. Before 2000 only 150 landlords listed their properties with the Housing Authority as accepting a voucher, while in 2003 there are 4,000 landlords listed according to the Los Angeles Times. The National Low Income Housing Coalition still lists San Francisco as one of the most expensive rental market in the United States with a one bedroom apartment averaging $1,482 per month or a family seeking a two bedroom apartment must earn $34.13 per hour in order to afford the fair market rent.

Cincinnati Escalating its War on Homeless People

            The Cincinnati City Council Passed a resolution to put signs under all the freeway underpasses declaring “No Trespassing.” This all but kills the settlement talks between the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless and the City of Cincinnati over the sweeps of homeless people. City Council passed voted 5-4 to post the signs and begin to clear away the camps 72 hours after the sign goes up. The effort was led by Council member Chris Monzel, who complained that he and his family witnessed a homeless person performing natural bodily functions in public under an overpass.

            There were protests at the Council meeting, which had recently passed an anti-panhandling ordinance. The National Coalition for the Homeless had listed Cincinnati as the sixth meanest city toward homeless people in the United States.

San Antonio Women Denied Shelter Over Religious Beliefs

            A Muslim women and her children were reportedly denied shelter by the San Antonio Salvation Army shelter. She told a San Antonio television station that officials from the Salvation Army told everyone after a meal that they needed to join a Bible study class. Nadia Auxila informed the staff that she was Muslim and could not attend the Bible class, and the staff at the Salvation Army said that the family would have to leave. The family packed their clothing and left the shelter. Officials at the Salvation Army are investigating, and claimed that Bible class was not required for stay at the emergency shelter.

Chicago Teens Video Tape Beatings of Homeless People

            A week after the stun gun attack in Cleveland, Chicago teens were apprehended kicking and beating homeless people in Downtown Chicago. The Chicago teens also videotaped their activities for a documentary that they were making. The teens were charged with mob action and assault. Two adults and one juvenile were arrested after a routine traffic stop raised questions about the videotape.

Massachusetts Cuts Funds for Mentally Ill Homeless

            On the heals of release of national study on the poor care toward mentally ill people in the United States, another state is cutting the budget to assist homeless people with severe mentally ill. The state is cutting $1.5 million, which will also result in the loss of $3.5 million in federal matching dollars to the beleaguered state agency. The anticipated effect of this budget cut is 80 to 100 people with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder who will discharged from group homes and other housing units.

Glendale Bans “Camping” Among Homeless People

            It sounds so innocent and has this connotation of very American past time of “camping.” In reality, the City of Glendale Arizona has not outlawed the great American past time of camping, but has outlawed people without homes sleeping outside in public spaces. Many are priced out of the private housing market, and in Glendale, Arizona are prevented from using the public space. Police will be patrolling parks looking for people with bedding, tarps, extra clothing and other sleeping items to issue tickets.

More African Americans Will Enter Prison

            One in six, African American men were current or formerly incarcerated by the state according to a 2001 study by the United States Justice Department. According to the report, Black men born after 2001 will have a 32.2 percent chance of going to prison in their life time, while Hispanics have a 17.2 percent of going to prison, while Whites only have a 5.9 percent chance of going to prison. The number of incarcerated African American males in 2001 were 818,900 while only 600,000 African American’s were in college in 2001.

Sequel to “Bumfights” Video Goes on Sale.

            In previous issues of the Grapevine, there were details of criminal prosecution of a group of young aspiring movie makers who paid homeless people to fight and hurt themselves. A new sequel to that video, Bumfights 2, which reportedly features outtakes from the original went on sale in September. The original producers were brought up on criminal charges, but those were reduced to what activists have called “slaps on the wrists”. There is still a civil lawsuit proceeding in San Diego, California. The video is being sold by the same company as the original for $20 per copy. The civil lawsuit seeks damages for exploiting vulnerable populations and paying people food and a small amount of money to fight and hurt others.

Copyright of the Homeless Grapevine Cleveland Ohio September 2003 Issue 62.