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Archive for December, 2009

‘Out Of Sight’ No Homeless Solution
Susan Campbell, Hartford CT

December 27, 2009

The poor will always be with us, says one of the less utopian verses in the Book of John, but that doesn’t mean the poor should have to sleep outside.

If we were serious about eliminating homelessness, we’d stop arguing about where the homeless should be temporarily housed in Hartford, and we would start looking at the bigger picture.

Solving homelessness is not just providing beds for the night. It’s providing jobs, affordable housing, mental health services, substance abuse services, services for veterans and victims of domestic violence, and many other services that are in short supply these days. Some organizations — such as Hartford’s Commission to End Homelessness — get it. Others? Well …

The cold fact is that having people out on the streets costs too much in terms of social services and emergency medical care. We build more prisons, hire more police, and the dam still leaks. In the end, we all pay.

The capital city is bending under the weight of so many homeless people vying for too few services. Shelters are full, temperatures are plummeting, and a recent dust-up over where to put people who might otherwise be curled up under a bridge showed our ugly underbelly.

The homeless are our canaries. They are a prime indicator of just how bad things are. At Hartford’s Trinity Episcopal Church on Monday, about 200 people gathered to read the names of and light candles for homeless people who died in the previous year. I expected two, maybe three names, but by the service’s end 20 candles flickered in the nave.

Twenty. 2-0.

The next night, activists fought a bitter wind to set up a tent in front of Hartford’s Municipal Building. They held signs and served hearty soup and rice and beans to protest earlier protesters who didn’t want the city’s no-freeze shelter at a church downtown. In response to those concerns, the no-freeze shelter was moved to an abandoned church building owned by the state just a few blocks away.

Problem solved? Hardly, but it’s what we do with our needy. We move them like figures on a chessboard with the hope that Things Will Get Better Soon. A new regime will take over, a wealthy donor will give money, the economy will recover and we’ll all join hands and dance in the sun. And every year we let the seasons do our solving. April brings warmer temperatures and we move on to other issues until it gets cold again, and the holidays roll around and we are once again reminded of those who live without.

At last year’s point-in-time census, surveyors found 4,154 homeless people in the state, including 801 children. Seventeen percent of the single adults surveyed were on probation. From an 2008 Office of Legislative Research report, nearly half of Hartford’s homeless say they are without an address because they were released from jail and had nowhere to go. So there’s a place to start.

Tuesday’s protest included representatives from, among others, Food Not Bombs, the Connecticut AIDS Resource Coalition, the Charter Oak Cultural Center, and HartBeat Ensemble. Hartford council member Luis Cotto was there, and he brought students from the city’s Law and Government Academy. Greg Tate of the theater group said that not everyone downtown was angry about the original site of the no-freeze shelter. Some people understand that until we talk about the big picture, homeless people need to be indoors. If we are upset by them when we see them downtown, all the better. That discomfort might move us to do something.

In the end, we’re all on the same side. It is possible to talk about economic development and taking care of the homeless in the same breath. We can bring to our long-term decisions the understanding that we sink or swim together. As David Rozza of Food Not Bombs said, “We want people to start getting their empathy back. We want to redirect the conversation and bring it back to humanity.”

Amen. And onward.

• Courant staff writer and columnist Susan Campbell can be reached at scampbell@courant.com.

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Check out this new blog from folks in Oregon.

Right 2 Survive
http://www.right2survive.blogspot.com/

Right 2 Survive = r2s = a collection of homeless people, formerly homeless, and their allies. We are determined to assert and strengthen the human rights to survive, to shelter, to safety, and to self-support.

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Remember? Jesus was HOMELESS! (some people may even say that, at times, he was “homeless by choice”)

Check out these sites:

http://jesuswashomeless.com/

http://www.awip.us/jesushomeless.htm

http://www.jesuswashomeless.org/

http://adventure.wrecked.org/?filename=homeless-jesus&redirected=wreckedfortheordinary.com

http://blog.abibleaday.com/2009/12/15/homeless.aspx

http://mindprod.com/politics/laser/jesus.html

http://www.kitchentablemedicine.com/nickelsville/

http://www.oc-reachout.org/

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For the past two years, PEOPLE PROJECT has utilized the meeting and resource space at the PARC office [Peoples’ Action for Rights and Community]. PARC is run solely on donations and volunteer work. We would like to gather donations for rent and other supplies which allow the space to keep going . PARC is available to all- and especially welcoming to people who have very few places to go and who are harassed and criminalized.

Donations can be given through paypal on the PARC webpage, http://parc.2truth.com/ or other arrangements to receive donations can be made by calling (707) 442-7465 or emailing peopleproject@riseup.net.

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Church vigils get homeless out of the cold

Prayer provided shelter for some of El Dorado County’s homeless residents during a recent snowstorm and frigid nights.

After zoning issues prevented several churches from starting a rotating overnight shelter program, some congregations opened their facilities for all-night prayer vigils and invited people who were homeless to join them.

If some folks happened to doze off during the vigils, well, “people fall asleep in church all the time,” said <a href="”>Frank Gates, a pastor at <a href="”>Cold Springs Community Church in Placerville.

Gates said the churches are not flouting the law. They are working with the county Development Services Department to identify obstacles they must overcome to operate a rotating shelter.

In the meantime, he said, “This is certainly a legal and viable way to do it.”

Gates said the vigils likely would occur on nights that are extremely cold or wet.

Mark Haas, pastor of First Lutheran Church in Placerville, said his congregation held a vigil Dec. 7. With the city blanketed in snow, volunteers in four-wheel-drive vehicles picked up people camping out around Main Street and Broadway and brought them to the church.

The following night, he said, people were directed to the better-equipped county-sponsored warming center at Placerville’s Town Hall.

Shelter for homeless families on the county’s west slope will continue to be available through a motel voucher program. William Roby, director of the El Dorado Community Foundation, said the foundation last week awarded a $20,000 grant to United Outreach of El Dorado County. The grant is expected to sustain the voucher program through April, Roby said.

For single people, however, a rotating shelter program appears to be the most promising option, said Roby, who is helping coordinate the efforts of various groups that serve the homeless.

Gates said county staff members also are assisting the churches to develop the rotating shelter program.

“They recognize that something needs to be done,” he said.

http://www.sacbee.com/ourregion/story/2418392.html#mi_rss=Our%20Region

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This is from an event posting by Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom (HUFF) on Indybay, December 22, 2009: http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2009/12/19/18633184.php
The dangerous behaviors of Santa Cruz government and businesses is common in other places, too… This is an important read

Unsafe to be Homeless in Santa Cruz
Tuesday December 22
1:30 PM – 3:30 PM

—HUFF caroling
—HOT nourishing VEGAN soup for free
—COLD, HARD FACTS for the public to ponder in the Christmas season

Every year, the Homeless Persons Health Project issues a report documenting those who have died on our streets while homeless.

Inclement weather, violence, suicide, overdose, and disease take their toll each year. In 2008, 20 homeless people died on our streets. Earlier in the day at the Homeless Service Center at 115 Coral St., a 10 a.m. ceremony will mark the Homeless Deaths of 2009.

HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom) feels the harsh laws of the City have contributed to homeless hardships and violate basic human rights.

The DOWNTOWN ASSOCIATION backed ordinances which expand forbidden zones. These zones severely restrict where one may sit, beg, play music for donations, or set up a political table.

Homeless people who are targeted for enforcement, can neither afford the fines, nor fight the banishment they represent. Ill health, depression, isolation and death are the result.

HUFF deplores that the City of Santa Cruz in conjunction with the Downtown Association, has systematically destroyed the physical, mental, emotional, and social health of homeless people by making the following innocent behaviors illegal:

— to stand, sit, or socialize in a downtown parking lot or garage unless specifically parking or retrieving a car or bike (and then only for 15 minutes).
— to sit, beg, play music for tips, or set up a political table within 14″of a statue. The City setup a for-profit art gallery on public property with the intent to eliminate peaceful public assembly near these statues.
— to smoke anything on Pacific Ave, Beach St, the Municipal Wharf, and the entire length of W. Cliff Drive. Homeless people report being cited selectively.
— to park longer than 20 minutes in the 3-Trees Parking Lot on W. Cliff Dr

The City has used public funds to launch civil suits against homeless people on behalf of anti-homeless downtown merchants.

The City spent over $5000 needlessly to move the planter railing outward in front of the New Leaf Market in order to prevent sitting.

The City has removed bench after bench so that seniors, disabled folks, and poor people are unable to find a place to sit down on Pacific Ave.

The City has made 95% of the Pacific Ave. sidewalks a “forbidden zone” for sitting, sparechanging, tabling, or performing. 100% of sidewalks in all other business districts are now forbidden zones.

The City Council has bypassed both the Downtown Commission and the Parks and Rec Commission to jam these anti-homeless laws through with little public scrutiny and close other public spaces targeting homeless survival sleeping.

STILL ILLEGAL AFTER ALL THESE YEARS:

— to sleep at night anywhere out of doors or in a vehicle with few exceptions in a city with shelter for less than 10% of its homeless population
— to use a blanket between 11PM and 8:30AM out of doors
— to set up a survival tent against the cold and rain on any public property.

The political table HUFF will be setting up will be less than 14″ from The Tom Scribner Statue–and hence illegal if it weren’t for the “free-speech” zone located there

For more information call: (831) 423-HUFF

To get HUFF e-mail, contact rnorse3@hotmail.com

More on this subject on Free Radio Santa Cruz at 101.1 FM (http://www.freakradio.org) Sundays 9:30 AM – 1 PM, Thursdays 6-8 PM.

More info on recent anti-homeless activity downtown:

“WARNING SIGNS”
http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2009/12/16/18632781.php?show_comments=1#18632839

“Downtown Association Holiday Parade”
http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2009/12/08/18631869.php

“After 15 Months, Drum Circle Defenders Case Resolved”
http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2009/12/04/18631446.php?show_comments=1#18632701

Join Us Singing Out Against Stupidity on December 22nd !

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GOOD DEED STIRS LEGAL WRANGLING
from SacBee — Top Stories by efletcher@sacbee.com (Ed Fletcher)

David McCauley and his wife, Karen Burkett, stand on their vacant quarter-acre lot across the street from their Loomis home, where they had allowed a needy Elk Grove family with two children to stay with their trailer. Last month, however, Placer County officials cited McCauley and Burkett for multiple violations and ordered the site cleared by Dec. 29. The needy family then moved.

A Loomis couple’s act of benevolence has landed them in hot water with Placer County and put the homeless family they tried to help back on the road for the holidays.

After collecting blankets, toys, strollers and hundreds of other contributions for victims of last summer’s 49 fire, David McCauley and Karen Burkett decided they could do more for people in need.

The couple own a quarter-acre lot across the street from their modest home on Maple Lane in Loomis. The property is vacant, they said, but connected to electricity, well water and a septic tank.

“We were trying to do a good deed,” said Burkett.

In late October, McCauley placed an online classified ad offering free water, electricity and a sewage connection to a family in need that had a travel trailer. The ad quickly generated 12 responses. After interviewing several people, the couple agreed to let an Elk Grove family with two children use the property.

On Nov. 6, within days of the family making Maple Lane its new – if temporary – home, McCauley received formal notification from the county that camping was not permitted on the site.

He responded with a letter to the county asserting his belief that his property was in compliance with the law and asking that, in any case, an accommodation be made.

The Elk Grove couple had lost their jobs in industries battered by the economic downturn – his in construction, hers in real estate, McCauley said. They had lost their home and were in the midst of a rough patch, he said.

On Nov. 17, county officials cited McCauley and Burkett for unlawful land use, illegal camping, illegal storage of a vehicle not owned by the property owner, unlawful sewage disposal and illegal use of a storage container.

“Immediately discontinue use and occupancy of recreational vehicles,” the Dec. 1 notice of code violation states. The deadline for clearing the violations was set for Dec. 29.

The family of four since have moved. McCauley said he’s lost touch with them and has no idea where they might be.

“They are displaced once again,” McCauley said. “They are in grave need.”

Tim Wegner, chief of Placer County’s building department, said his department doesn’t patrol neighborhoods looking for violations, but rather responds to neighborhood concerns.

Wegner said it’s illegal to camp or live in a travel trailer in residential areas of Placer County, except by special permit.

And while the property may have a sewer, well and electrical connections, they have to meet county standards, Wegner said.

As of Wednesday, Wegner and McCauley were trading faxes and e-mails regarding a face-to-face meeting. Both seemed a bit put off by the exchange.

Wegner said his staff tries to be flexible but has to uphold public health and safety standards. He added that McCauley has been unwilling to meet with county staff to see if a deal could be reached.

“We are not trying to be unreasonable here,” he said. “If they don’t sit down with us, we can’t work those things out. We can’t compel them to come in to meet with me.”

McCauley bristled at the assertion he’s been unresponsive. He said he wants their exchanges put in writing.

Burkett lamented both that a neighbor apparently filed the complaint and that it has spiraled into a conflict with the county.

“We were trying to do something nice,” she said.

A travel trailer belonging to an Elk Grove family that lost its home took up temporary residence on the property of David McCauley and Karen Burkett. The Loomis couple placed an online classified ad offering the space in late October.

A notice of code violations from Placer County shot down the plan of David McCauley and Karen Burkett to allow a needy family to stay on their vacant property.

The Loomis couple and Placer County officials have yet to meet over the matter.

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‘The Battle for the Commons’
Right of homeless to camp in parks is focus of landmark Victoria court case.

*City of Victoria’s Anti-camping laws struck down*
By Andrew MacLeod October 14, 2008

The City of Victoria has lost its appeal of a 2008 court ruling that struck
down the city’s anti-camping bylaws while the number of people who are
homeless exceeds the number of available shelter beds.

“The court has made it clear they are going to take the rights of homeless
people, the most marginalized people in the city, seriously,” said Catherine
Boies Parker, a lawyer who along with Irene Faulkner represented a group of
people who were forced out of a tent city set up in a city park in 2005.

“We hope now the city will sit down with everyone and try to come up with a
reasonable accommodation,” she said, noting that it’s rare for cases
involving the rights of people who are homeless or living in poverty to be
heard in court.

A message to a city spokesperson was not returned by publication time.

Madam Justice Risa Levine, Madam Justice Kathryn Neilson and Justice Harvey
Groberman ruled that Madam Justice Carol Ross who heard the original case in
the Supreme Court of B.C. was correct in her ruling and did not intrude
improperly on the policy decisions of elected officials.

“We agree with the trial judge that prohibiting the homeless from taking
simple measures to protect themselves through the creation or utilization of
rudimentary forms of overhead protection, in circumstances where there is no
practicable shelter alternative, is a significant interference with their
dignity and independence,” the appeal court justices wrote.

Boies Parker said the ruling will make it harder for governments to pass
similar laws in the future without taking the dignity of the people they
affect into consideration.

The appeal judges also ruled that the city would have to pay the costs Boies
Parker and Faulkner incurred to fight the appeal. This is on top of the
$200,000 the court required the city to pay for them to fight the original
case, plus the city’s own costs.

Since the original ruling the city has adjusted its bylaws to allow
overnight camping but requires tents to be removed during the daytime. The
appeal is silent on the constitutionality of the new bylaws, but Boies
Parker said she expects they will also be struck down if and when they are
tested in court.

UPDATE: Victoria’s city council decided after being briefed by municipal
lawyers Dec. 10 that it will not appeal the ruling.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. You can reach him here.

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An Open Letter to President Obama: From Hill 57 to the White House
Melinda Gopher
Ojibwe Native, Political rights activist
Posted: December 10, 2009

Montana. I lived in a two room house, more like a shack. It was put together with scrap lumber, Hill 57 was a collection of such ramshackle homes strung together with dirt roads. The bitter Montana winds feel merciless when you are a child living in these conditions. Still, our home was warmed by a wood stove. Hill 57 existed due to federal denial of a trust obligation owed the Ojibwe people; we were allies of George Washington’s forces. We were and still are; proud people. Hill 57 epitomized Indian poverty in America. Hill 57 was rivaled only by the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation; a contest with no winner.

Our historic alliance with the French paved the way for the assertion of American independence. As our tribe lost more and more lands, with each successive treaty, our people were pushed deeper into land dispossession, deeper into an inescapable poverty. If the Ojibwe are a tribe on the winning side of a revolution; I cannot imagine losing. I can only envision that would entail total extermination. This is an ugly and undeniable skeleton in the American closet.

The historic Migisew clan of the mighty Ojibwe tribe were reduced to a small square of land; less than a half mile total. Eventually the county tax collector got that too; as the federal government provided no trust oversight. This defined my existence growing up. It took me a lifetime of effort to understand and study the origins of the Ojibwe-French-Colonial relationship in the context of Revolution. America has never been a nation of fairness. Our democratic ideals are just that–empty ideals. The course of history has proven the American system to be grossly out of sync with the lofty ideals of liberty, freedom–and the principal of equality. This is not to diminish the worthiness of these ideals; indeed, we must strive for our perfection now more than ever. We as a nation are now forced to look at our collective face in the mirror. It is not a pretty site.

We are at an arc in time, whose arrival is unprecedented and pregnant with incredible timing; this momentous point in our collective existence screams “teaching moment.” This arc finds American society reaching the ideological, economic, and spiritual limits of our dysfunctional democracy. We can see the situation unfolding in Afghanistan after eight long years–the waste of throwing more human lives into this abyss makes our hypocrisy inescapable.

Draping the Obama change mantle over this protracted conflict does not make a troop increase acceptable, ethical or moral. Some of us have not forgotten, this war was never a legal war in the sense of engaging a state actor who engaged in an act of war against us. The difference between a terrorist act and an act of war is not nuanced and subject to interpretation. Foundational principles of international law were thrown out the window by then-President Bush, and it is these laws that govern the global community. We are a pariah, it is as true then as it is now. As a woman candidate for the U.S. House, I am proud to carry Jeannette Rankin’s tradition of pacifism. This is rooted in my upbringing.

In a sense, those of us who embraced the Obama change mantra have had a bruising coming of age this past year. It is clear the hopeful campaigner has fallen short of his change message. We need to look at the reasons why, so that we can course correct. It was hard to attack a message of hope, indeed my own campaign is premised on the hope message. There is nothing wrong with hope, in fact, sometimes that is all we have. It is wrong to abandon hope, to curtail change that is within our grasp, largely due to our own internal conflict, fear, and unwillingness to evolve. This describes the Democrats in Congress. I dare say, Congressional Democrats are still stuck in the Bush era group think of the fear-mongering past. Bold actions are needed now, self doubt is not a luxury we have. We all know action to fix the economy is needed now. Jobs are needed now.

People are homeless and hungry right now.

Roughly half a year has been consumed on the health care debate, this is a time waster of poorly thought out priorities in the face of unprecedented job losses. This is a mismanaged effort–because of the manner in which the Senate Finance Committee and its Chairman Baucus–have mishandled this legislation. American families awaken every day and look at their credit card debt, dwindling resources, foreclosure, homelessness, joblessness and hunger. This IS the fierce urgency of now.

Campaign for America’s Future blogged about the dim prospects surrounding the jobs summit, and the apparent unwillingness of your White House to expand the stimulus. If your administration has another strategy, such as supporting the Dorgan-Durbin jobs bill–please by all means clue us in. The American people need to know now.

Doing nothing is not an option. Hosting a jobs summit, while leaking the White House’s limited efforts, and announcing an Afghanistan troop increase in the same week is poor planning, it reflects the hope train has flown off the tracks. I am worried. Here in Missoula, I have never seen people living out of their old RVs, pitching tents out of sight in the trees along the Clark Fork River, to the extent as I have this year. It is not uncommon to see bedding stashed off beside this city’s busy walking trails.

Winter is here, along the bottoms of Waterworks Hill hiking trail, just off I-90, the homeless pitched their tents in the trees earlier this fall. On a recent hike, I glanced to see them sleeping on the ground in sleeping bags, huddled against the brisk evening air of Montana. People are living in their vans and cars in Missoula, Montana. This city has an unprecedented number of homeless children in the school district. One recent day, my family member wandered into a local church to find out this church’s pews overflow at night.

People have nowhere else to sleep; a good number of these homeless are Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. It makes no difference to them that our ranking Senator is Chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, and our junior Senator is on the Senate Committee on Veteran Affairs. Their stature has not provided this city and other cities in Montana, with the means to address growing homelessness, poverty, and despair. This is America of 2009. America: 2009 is your Hill 57. Please, Mr. President–you must do more right now.

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Defend the lives of people who are homeless.

HOMELESS PERSONS’ MEMORIAL DAY
December 21st
The Peak of Winter. The Longest Night of the Year.

Homeless people die from systemic violence.

Homeless people die from illnesses that affect everyone, frequently without healthcare.

Homeless people die when government policies deprive them of everything.

Homeless people die from exposure, unprotected from the heat and cold.

Homeless people die at the hands of police and civilians, in unprovoked hate crimes.

Helathcare is a human right.

Housing is a human right.

Physical safety is a human right.

Sleep is a human right.

Remember our neighbors and friends who have died without homes.

Remember why they died.

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