These kinds of proposals are happening more and more around the country. But to me, all of these ordinances and policies just redistribute homeless persons. They don’t solve the problem of homelessness. You can’t jail people out of homelessness.
Recognizing what homeless really means
During the recent storm, thousands and thousands of people lost their homes either permanently or for an extended period of time. These people span the socioeconomic spectrum; many have assets, good jobs, and degrees from a university. They are, by definition, homeless.
The HUD definition of homelessness includes:
- People who are living in a place not meant for human habitation, in emergency shelter, in transitional housing, or are exiting an institution where they temporarily resided. The only significant change from existing practice is that people will be considered homeless if they are exiting an institution where they resided for up to 90 days (it was previously 30 days), and were in shelter or a place not meant for human habitation immediately prior to entering that institution.
- People who are losing their primary nighttime residence, which may include a motel or hotel or a doubled up situation, within 14 days and lack resources or support networks to remain in housing. HUD had previously allowed people who were being displaced within 7 days to be considered homeless. The proposed regulation also describes specific documentation requirements for this category.
- Families with children or unaccompanied youth who are unstably housed and likely to continue in that state. This is a new category of homelessness, and it applies to families with children or unaccompanied youth who have not had a lease or ownership interest in a housing unit in the last 60 or more days, have had two or more moves in the last 60 days, and who are likely to continue to be unstably housed because of disability or multiple barriers to employment.
- People who are fleeing or attempting to flee domestic violence, have no other residence, and lack the resources or support networks to obtain other permanent housing. This category is similar to the current practice regarding people who are fleeing domestic violence.
It is not only after environmental destruction that “stable” individuals enter homelessness. Anything could be a trigger: a health problem, a dangerous or failed relationship, poor investments, landlord issues… you name it. Homelessness is very real. It has a bad rap - homeless individuals are often called lazy, unmotivated, stupid, a waste of public dollars - that is not fair. Sure, some people are absolutely those things, homeless or not. But for most, homelessness was not an expected consequence of actions nor a desirable place to be. It removes stability, reduces quality of life, increases reliance on a system that is far from perfect, and makes maintaining a routine challenging. There are fewer comforts and luxuries, and it’s a downward spiral to staying afloat.
Supporting stronger housing infrastructure and nonprofits working to combat homelessness has always felt important to me, and I think a silver lining of widespread housing disaster is that the problem is more vividly illuminated. Empathy and withholding of judgement, at the very least, towards folks who are considered homeless is non-negotiable.
If you want to learn more about homelessness and initiatives to combat it, the National Alliance to End Homelessness, HUD, BRC, and the Somerville Homeless Coalition (a favorite organization of mine) are great places to start, or feel free to email me.
Homeless people have become Internet hotspots at SXSW through a partnership between the festival and Front Steps. They can make money through PayPal donations, and the idea behind it is that it’s more useful to attendees than selling newspapers. It’s edgy and certainly controversial.
I like it*. Each hotspot’s success - like any other enterprise - is largely determined by the money it nets and the function it serves. The money earned is currently unknown to me, but the purpose of the business is completely viable. Ethics are also an important determinant of sound business, and despite criticisms that this partnership is dehumanizing and horrifying, it doesn’t feel nearly as second-class as dudes in Rx costumes outside of pharmacies at flu season waving people inside AND nobody is forced to participate! Plus, for people who enjoy interacting with people and are good at it, this certainly could be both financially worthwhile and enjoyable. I’m curious what these employees have to say about the experience when it’s over, but I am comfortable with this innovative approach to helping homeless people productively earn money.
What do you think?
* based on what I know about it; I am not experiencing this in person
Good. This sounds exactly like the type of voice that SHOULD be on a City Council. I hope he gets elected just for that diversity of background. If it can happen anywhere, it can happen in Boulder.
Why don’t cities spend more money making sure everyone, including homeless folks, had food, clothing, and shelter and less money on arresting people trying to help?
The next time you consider complaining about a pothole on a New York City street, maybe you should check Tumblr first. The NYC Department of Transportation has just launched a new Tumblr called The Daily Pothole, to keep Gotham citizens updated on its pothole progress. The blog posts photos, maps and graphs of street repair around the city, plus a daily count of how many have been filled each day (lately, over 3,000!).
We all know that media outlets and fashion brands have been jumping on the Tumblr bandwagon lately, but I love the idea of using it for government transparency (maybe this has something to do with the city’s new Chief Digital Officer?). As Cory Booker’s snow-shoveling livetweets showed, people may like to raise their fists and curse the city for inconveniencing them, but they tend to relax once they see there are people out there doing their best to fix any problems as fast as they can.
This is pretty solid. I like it. Next city-led Tumblr: Daily Homeless Count…. make the problem visible and find solutions! Watch the numbers decrease daily!
Today’s give is in honor of Carl D, this guy is a prime example of paying it forward. Carl washes dishes part time at a restaurant in Billerica, MA to earn extra money to donate to charity as part of his spiritual path for lessons in humility and sacrifice. He is a true everyday hero and…
Fantastic choice again today! Hope some folks who read my blog are inspired to #giveeveryday too!
The homeless women veteran population is completely underserved, and we need to try to strengthen our support for them, especially because they risked their lives to support us. At the very least, please be sensitive that this population exists.
Read a great interview with Sky Soleil, the guy in the video, here. An excerpt:
I think people feel nothing can be done to solve [homelessness] so they don’t try. “There will always be homeless people.” “Some people are just built that way.” Reading about Mark Horvath I discovered that about 30 percent of homeless people are under the age of 18. That blew me away. Where are all these kids? Those statistics are alarming.
Glad this has gotten such an overwhelming response. Think on it, will ya?