Wednesday, April 25, 2007

National Homeless Picture

Things are Bad All Around

I attended the National Coalition for the Homeless Board meeting this last weekend. They do this segment of the Board meeting in which each city, state or national organization gets the opportunity to say a few words about how their city is addressing homelessness. Cleveland and Ohio certainly have problems, but nothing compared to some of the cities in the United States.

Atlanta is at all out war against homeless people. They have closed most of the shelters and are trying to make it as difficult as possible for homeless people to survive in the city. They have one of the most restrictive laws regarding identification and voting that has faced repeated challenge in court. Currently, the City of Atlanta is trying to kill all affordable housing in the community. There is a plan to close 5,000 units of public housing by early next year. They are illegally providing housing vouchers for people and telling them that they can only use those vouchers outside the City.

The Washington DC Mayor has turned out to be a disappointment after having run on a friendly homeless platform. In the transition, Adrian Fenty, appointed a commission to look at homelessness in the District, and seemed to be very interested in the issues of affordable housing. Instead, Mayor Fenty has continued to try to close shelters and has not provided adequate resources to the existing shelters.

Los Angeles is also a city that the new Mayor had promised change with the introduction of a huge plan to “end” homelessness. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has also disappointed advocates with criminalization efforts and doing little to address the problem locally. We have discussed in this space the dumping of disabled homeless in Los Angeles’ Skid Row, but the City has seen huge reductions in resources for services as well as housing.

Baltimore is unveiling its plan to end homeless in June. Let’s hope that they do not bring the Bush Administration official, Phil Mangano to town to kick this effort off. It is hypocritical to have the Bush Administration on the one hand cut affordable housing resources then claim to want to end long term homelessness in 10 years. It is almost like claiming to want a quick end to a war while sending more troops to a foreign land to occupy another sovereign country. Wait...never mind.

Texas is trying to get a homeless hate crimes bill passed to have stepped up sentences if a homeless person is attacked and targeted because of his or her homeless status. The City of Austin has exhausted every possible anti-homeless ordinance they can think of including anti-panhandling, anti-sleeping, and loitering ordinances. One new dangerous trend that cities in Florida and the West Coast are passing is “No Feeding Ordinances.” These make it illegal for churches to go into the Downtown and provide food to hungry and homeless people or they will set tight restrictions like only one time a year and no more than 25 people fed at a time. These are crazy, mean spirited and violate the separation of church and state, but the cities have exhausted every other way to make it illegal to be homeless and yet there still are homeless people.

Denver is still having huge battles over identification. Homeless people are caught in the middle of a right wing agenda to restrict immigrants from getting services or any help with a policy to limiting access to identification. Philadelphia and a few other cities are fighting over the creative use of statistics that "show" we are making progress in solving homelessness. Solving homelessness on paper seems to be the new trend by local and federal government agencies. This way they get to send out a press release congratulating themselves for figuring out how to spin data to show progress.

I will post the Cleveland report in the near future in addition to a report from the State housing and homelessness conference this week in Columbus. The COHHIO Conference heard from all the top elected officials in Ohio including Governor Strickland.


Posts by Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless staff and Board.

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