Archive for Poverty

In 37 States, 180,000 Female Ex-drug Offenders, Particularly Minority Women, are Subjected to a Cruel Lifetime Embargo on Welfare Benefits

English: Logo of the .

English: Logo of the . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 12 states, felony drug offenders face lifelong exclusion from most public benefits, even after serving prison time.   In 25 other states, women incarcerated for drug offenses are subjected to a partial embargo of benefits.

This is because of a hastily added provision to the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), also known as the Welfare Reform Act, which aimed to reduce welfare dependence. Not only are women with drug convictions unlikely to get the help they need before or during their incarceration, but thanks to this provision many of them, after serving their time, will also face being barred for life from receiving most forms of public benefits—including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families.

The purpose of the prohibition, supposedly, is to deter drug use and the criminal behavior that sometimes arises from it by making it harder for addicts to trade food stamps or use cash benefits for drugs. However, a new report by the nonprofit Sentencing Project, titled “A Lifetime of Punishment,” examined the impact of the PRWORA provision and found no evidence that this goal was being achieved. On the contrary, by denying benefits to those most in need, the ill-conceived embargo may be having a particularly devastating impact on women and children of color and is more likely to perpetuate the cycle of poverty and addiction that leads people to abuse or sell drugs in the first place.

Minority women are feeling the brunt of the prohibition. Today nearly one-third of women in state prisons are incarcerated for drug offenses, and approximately two-thirds of them are black or Hispanic, even though data collected by the Department of Health and Human Services have shown that white women use drugs at roughly the same rate.

Over the past 30 years, the female prison population has increased at nearly twice the rate of the male prison population, an unprecedented development primarily attributable to the war on drugs.

A policy that denies those with drug convictions access to food and cash benefits for life starts to look especially cruel when you examine the lives of women who end up in prison. As of 2003, 74 percent of women in state prisons had substance-abuse issues, 57 percent reported having been sexually or physically abused prior to their incarceration, about 73 percent had some kind of mental-health problem and almost a quarter suffered from a psychiatric disorder. Sixty-four percent of women in state prisons did not graduate from high school, almost half were unemployed a month prior to their arrest and nearly two-thirds were mothers of minors.

Marc Mauer, a co-author of the Sentencing Project’s report and an expert on criminal-justice policy reform, comments:

It’s really irrational for Congress to have passed something as significant as this ban is for re-entry and life prospects of prisoners and not to have allocated any funding to evaluate its impact or to see if the legislation is meeting its goal.

The provision allows states to opt out of the prohibition if they wish, but so far, only 13 have done so. Twenty-five states have modified embargoes that either impose time limits or allow benefits contingent on completion of drug-treatment programs. Twelve states—including ones with high poverty levels and large prison populations like Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Texas—still have outright lifetime embargoes in place.

Bills have been introduced in Congress to repeal the prohibition, but none have gained enough support to change the policy. Meanwhile, a recent Farm Bill amendment introduced by Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter that sought to expand the scope of the embargo to retroactively include other felony convictions was approved by the Senate. Congress has yet to realize that in helping prisoners reintegrate into society, especially the most vulnerable among them, the carrot approach is much more beneficial than the stick.

When Martha Stewart left prison in 2004 after serving a five-month sentence for conspiracy and obstruction of justice, she issued an emotional plea on behalf of the women she did her time with, many of whom were locked up for nonviolent drug offenses:

I beseech you all to think about these women. They would be much better served in a true rehabilitation center than in prison, where there is no real help, no real programs to rehabilitate, no programs to educate and no way to be prepared for life out there.

Stewart realized that many women with drug convictions were victims of lives crippled by poverty and hardship and that a little assistance from the state would be much more beneficial to them than a heavy dose of punishment.

PRWORA was a cornerstone of the Republican Contract with America and was introduced by Republican Rep. E. Clay Shaw, Jr. Bill Clinton signed it into law on August 22, 1996, fulfilling his 1992 campaign promise to “end welfare as we have come to know it.” Immediately, three assistant secretaries at the Department of Health and Human Services resigned to protest the law.
They believed that the 1996 welfare reform law destroyed the safety net, increased poverty, lowered income for single mothers, put people from welfare into homeless shelters and left states free to eliminate welfare entirely. It forced mothers with children from welfare to work, but many of them did not earn enough to survive. Many were just pushed off welfare rolls because they didn’t show up for an appointment, could not get to an appointment for lack of child care or were not notified of the appointment.

Feminist critic Barbara Ehrenreich charged:

PRWORA was motivated by racism and misogyny, using stereotypes of lazy, overweight, slovenly, sexually indulgent and ‘endlessly fecund’ African-American welfare recipients. PRWORA dismissed the value of the unpaid work of raising a family and insisted that mothers get paid work, no matter how dangerous, abusive, or poorly paid.

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“Housing First” Approach is Saving Money and Providing Homes for the Most Vulnerable Homeless People

English: A homeless man in New York with the A...

A homeless man in New York with the American flag in the background. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the early 1990s New York University School of Medicine prof Sam Tsemberis and the Gotham organization Pathways to Housing pioneered the “Housing First concept” which focuses on the chronically homeless, without requiring them to first give up alcohol or substance abuse.

Housing First is an alternative to a system of emergency shelter/transitional housing progression. Rather than moving homeless individuals from the streets to a public shelter, from a public shelter to a transitional housing program, and then to their own apartment in the community, Housing First moves the homeless individual or household immediately from the streets or homeless shelter into their own apartments.

Housing First, when supported by HUD, does not only offer housing but also provides wraparound case management services to the tenants. This provides stability for homeless individuals, increasing their success, accountability and self-sufficiency. The housing provided through government supported Housing First programs is permanent and “affordable,” meaning that tenants pay only 30% of their income towards rent.

With Obama Administration support (and 30% of HUD homelessness funds), Housing First resulted in an unprecedented 29.6% drop in the number of chronically homeless living on the streets (175,914 to 123,833 people)—from 2005 to 2007 alone. Today, Housing First programs successfully operate in New York City, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Denver, Seattle, Philadelphia, Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles and smaller cities, such as Anchorage AK, Plattsburgh NY and Quincy MA.

Housing First is currently endorsed by the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) as a “best practice” for governments and service-agencies to use in their fight to end chronic homelessness. These programs are all parts of the communities’10-year plans to end chronic homelessness, as advocated by USICH.

In Los Angeles County, the Home For Good project hopes to house all the area’s chronic homeless by 2016. Robert Harper and Charles Miller of Americorps make daily rounds of LA’s Skid Row seeking the most vulnerable homeless and working with other agencies to find them housing fast.

Harper declares:

A person is out here about to die and you tell them ‘Sign a waiting list and wait for a year? Come on, now. We’re known as the 90-day people.

When Home For Good case managers meet someone on the street, they create a vulnerability score from items like income, medical history, substance abuse and usual whereabouts. That info is computerized and made available to all participating agencies.

Considerable research has shown that the Housing First approach can save lots of money by keeping the chronically homeless out of jails, shelters and emergency rooms.

Housing First is now growing in popularity in Canada and is in many communities’ ten year plans to end homelessness. In Calgary, fewer than 1% of existing clients return to shelters or rough sleeping, there are 76% fewer days in jail and there is a 35% decline in police interactions This demonstrates improved quality of lives for those in the program, along with a huge cost savings on police, corrections and shelters

The Denver Housing First Collaborative, serving 200 chronically homeless, found a drop of 34.3% in emergency room visits, a 66% decline in inpatient costs, an 82% plummet in detox visits and a 76% reduction in incarceration days. Two years after entering the program, 77% of participants were still housed through it.

In Seattle, the Housing First program for alcoholics saved taxpayers more than $4 million in its first year. Thanks to Housing First, Boston was able to close some homeless shelters and reduce the number of beds in others.

The US Congress appropriated $25 million in the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants for 2008 to show the effectiveness of Rapid Re-housing programs in reducing family homelessness. On May 20, 2009, President Obama signed the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing Act, which allows for the prevention of homelessness, rapid re-housing, consolidation of housing programs and new homeless categories.

The Housing First methodology is also being adapted to decreasing the larger segment of the homeless population, family homelessness, such as in the LA-based program Housing First for Homeless Families, which was established in 1988.

Dennis Culhane, a University of Pennsylvania homeless researcher, says:

There’s a lot of policy innovation going on around family homelessness, and it’s borrowing a page from the chronic handbook—the focus is on permanent housing and housing-first strategies.

 

 

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The Words of Dr King

Four days before a bullet took his life Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr delivered his final speech. The place was the  National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. The date was March 31, 1968. The subject – poverty.

(The full text of Dr. King´s sermon entitled “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution” containing the quotes below can be read here.)

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Cover of Martin Luther King, Jr.The full text of Dr. King´s sermon entitled “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution” containing the quotes below can be read here.)

Great documents are here to tell us something should be done. We met here some years ago in the White House conference on civil rights. And we came out with the same recommendations that we will be demanding in our campaign here, but nothing has been done. The President’s commission on technology, automation and economic progress recommended these things some time ago. Nothing has been done. Even the urban coalition of mayors of most of the cities of our country and the leading businessmen have said these things should be done. Nothing has been done. The Kerner Commission came out with its report just a few days ago and then made specific recommendations. Nothing has been done.

And I submit that nothing will be done until people of goodwill put their bodies and their souls in motion. And it will be the kind of soul force brought into being as a result of this confrontation that I believe will make the difference.

Yes, it will be a Poor People’s Campaign. This is the question facing America. Ultimately a great nation is a compassionate nation. America has not met its obligations and its responsibilities to the poor.

One day we will have to stand before the God of history and we will talk in terms of things we’ve done. Yes, we will be able to say we built gargantuan bridges to span the seas, we built gigantic buildings to kiss the skies. Yes, we made our submarines to penetrate oceanic depths. We brought into being many other things with our scientific and technological power.

It seems that I can hear the God of history saying, “That was not enough! But I was hungry, and ye fed me not. I was naked, and ye clothed me not. I was devoid of a decent sanitary house to live in, and ye provided no shelter for me. And consequently, you cannot enter the kingdom of greatness. If ye do it unto the least of these, my brethren, ye do it unto me.” That’s the question facing America today.

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Ending Homelessness: Kobe Bryant’s New Mission

Funny how we all look up to our heroes. For some of us they are captains of industry, for others they are comic book characters, and for a vast swathe of the American public they are sports stars. The non-fictional ones can often be found espousing causes they find important, whether out of real altruism or because they are seeking the limelight. Either way they can often provide a boost in awareness on the issues they publically endorse.

Kobe Bryant is one of those everyday heroes who comes from the world of basketball, and he is doing just that. Wednesday saw the release of a series of videos that he created in partnership with TakePartTV. The subject? Homelessness.

Take a quick look at the Intro Video in the series and then we will move on (the rest are embedded at the bottom of this post).

The Hufffington Post tells us a bit more about Kobe’s perspective on the subject:

This web series is a part of Bryant’s ongoing effort to fight homelessness in LA County, which is home to about 254,000 homeless individuals — more than any other city in the U.S.

In September, the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation completed renovation of My Friend’s Place, a drop-in center for homeless youth in Hollywood. Bryant will also be the honorary chair for “HomeWalk in LA” on Nov. 17. You can sign up to join Kobe’s team here .

‘There has to be something else bigger than just yourself and what you leave out on the basketball court. You have to use that to affect change and affect change in a serious way,’Bryant said in ‘Mission.’

The videos themselves take a page from our strategy: personal narrative. After the introductory videos, the rest are Kobe’s conversations with the homeless of Skid Row. Four residents of the Los Angeles Mission are interviewed. Anonymous faces resolve into: Anthony , Dennis , Kenneth , and Reggie (videos embedded at the bottom of this post).

These are real human beings who are actively trying for something better in the face of terrific odds and obstacles that change almost daily. It is hard to look into these all-too-human faces as they report from the trenches of human adversity. While you would probably pass any of them by without notice on the street, seeing these videos leaves you wishing you knew them better.

Eric Freeman on Sports.Yahoo.Com helps us keep Bryant’s efforts in perspective:

It’s important to temper our praise for what Bryant is doing here — it’s not as if he spends his off-hours volunteering at the mission or is single-handedly taking people off the streets. But appearing in this series is still very meaningful, because it ensures that more people will see this series than if he’d merely lent his name to the project or provided narration. Basketball fans follow the events of Kobe Bryant’s life. By interacting with the homeless himself, Kobe knew that he’d reveal the experiences of the homeless to an audience that may not have encountered them otherwise.

Take a few minutes and watch these videos. Meet some of the people who have slipped off the radar and see that they are not that far from you and me.

First off is Kobe’s impression of the Mission and Skid Row after walking the streets and talking with the people living rough there.

Meet Anthony

Meet Dennis

Meet Kenneth

Meet Reggie

Homeless Bloggers: Carey Fuller

keyboardCarey Fuller is a homeless mother of two who lives out of a van in the Pacific Northwest. She is also a blogger.

One of the amazing things about the modern day is that communication and information are so ubiquitous. Because of the spread of smartphones and laptops combined with the proliferation of free wi-fi, even some of the homeless can get online.

What results is an intensely personal portrait of life among society’s discarded.

To quote one of Fuller’s pieces on The Huffington Post:

My name is not hopeless and neither is yours. Regardless of how you came into homelessness, you are still a human being. Keep sharing your experiences until the truth about homelessness becomes common knowledge — because the way things are going, it might as well be. Let’s face it. Homelessness and poverty aren’t sexy subjects to present, yet they are a growing epidemic everywhere!

What’s sad is how much the public doesn’t know about homelessness. Like the fact that there aren’t enough resources to prevent homelessness for everybody, yet most people won’t do anything about it until they experience a “qualifying event” that forces them into the ranks of homelessness or close to it.

Now here’s the kicker: once you know you can no longer keep a roof over your head, you cannot wait until eviction day and assume you can just go into a shelter for “emergency housing.” There’s no such thing because there are waiting lists and a process you have to go through to determine whether or not you qualify for help. That’s right; you have to qualify for assistance. If you don’t, there’s a big hole in the safety net you thought would be there. So be prepared to hit the cement!

Her narrative of day-to-day life as a modern, involuntary nomad is striking. From horror stories about the red tape involved in getting almost any sort of assistance to recipes for eating dandelions (commonly found as weeds in the wild) her posts take you into a world inhabited by more and more modern Americans.

Check out Tales From The Driver’s Side, her blog, or her regular contributions to The Huffington Post. It will change your perspective.n

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Special Report: An interview with Dana Kaplan of the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana

Today Humane Exposures brings you a special report from New Orleans, Louisiana. Today we interviewed Dana Kaplan, the executive director of the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana.

In a city with a history of poverty and violence the challenges facing those in the field of juvenile justice are massive but not, as you will see, insurmountable.
Humane Exposures- Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana: An Interview with Dana Kaplan by socialgumbo

About Executive Director Dana Kaplan

Since becoming the Executive Director in the fall of 2007, Dana Kaplan has been steadfast in her dedication to the reform of Louisiana’s juvenile justice system. Prior to joining JJPL, Dana Kaplan was a Soros Justice Fellow at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) in New York City, focused on detention reform. At CCR, Ms. Kaplan worked with community groups and government on developing alternatives to detention and downsizing local jails in states including Tennessee, California, Ohio, New Orleans, and New York. She was also the State-wide Organizer for the New York Campaign for Telephone Justice, a partnership between CCR and two prison family organizations that successfully reduced the cost of all phone calls from New York State prisons by fifty percent. Ms. Kaplan has also been on staff at the Brooklyn-based Prison Moratorium Project, where her efforts helped stop the construction of a youth prison in upstate New York and two youth jail expansions in New York City. She has consulted with national organizations including The National Resource Center on Prisons and Communities and the National Education Association (NEA), developing a curriculum for teachers on “Education not Incarceration”. Dana holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California at Berkeley and was a recipient of the John Gardner Fellowship for Public Service.

About JJPL
When the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana (JJPL)  first opened our doors in 1997, our state was acknowledged to have one of the country’s worst systems to treat and prevent delinquency. In July of that year, the New York Times called Louisiana home to the “most troubled” juvenile public defender’s office in the country.1 That same month — after earlier reports in 1995 and 1996 by Human Rights Watch and the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) — the DOJ detailed brutal and inhumane conditions in Louisiana’s juvenile prisons, bringing international shame to the system. Louisiana’s juvenile justice system provided virtually no representation for children accused of crimes and then placed them in hyper-violent prisons where they regularly suffered bodily and emotional harm. The large majority of these children were African-American.

JJPL’s mission is to transform the juvenile justice system into one that builds on the strengths of young people, families and communities to ensure children are given the greatest opportunities to grow and thrive. We have three key program objectives to achieve this mission: to reduce the number of children in secure care and abolish unconstitutional conditions of confinement by improving or, when necessary, shutting down institutions that continue to inhumanely treat children; to expand evidence-based alternatives to incarceration and detention for youth; and to build the power of those most impacted by the juvenile justice system.

JJPL litigates on behalf of youth both locally and statewide. Additionally, we educate policy makers on the need for reform, coordinate with parents, youth and other concerned citizens to ensure their visibility and participation in the process, and actively implement media strategies to hold the state accountable for the treatment of its youth. By coordinating our diverse abilities in strategic campaigns to engage policy makers and organize community members and youth, JJPL continues to work on improving the lives of Louisiana’s most vulnerable children. In the past fourteen years of our existence, we have accomplished many achievements.

Born, Not Raised – The First Review on Publisher’s Weekly

bornnotraisedAs you are probably aware Humane Exposures will be releasing it’s most recent book in the next few months. Today we are pleased to announce that Born Not Raised: Voices From Juvenile Hall has garnered it’s first review from none other than Publisher’s Weekly!

Disputing the notion that delinquents are beyond repair, Lankford argues that most inmates can transform their traumatic histories into productive maturity if sustained by just one “good enough” adult. Questionnaires and interpretations of artwork, published in the inmates’ raw penmanship, convey nuanced perspectives of dreary inevitability, level-headed insightfulness, and hope. Lankford’s earnestness is on display in her humanizing conversations with a handful of girls, including the game-talking yet vulnerable Hui and the unguarded Sands.

Look for more announcements about the third volume in our award winning social justice trilogy!

The Second Chance Women’s Re-Entry Court: Choosing Treatment Over Incarceration

Maggots in My Sweet Potatoes: Women Doing TimeJudge Michael Tynan’s fourth-floor courtroom in downtown L.A.’s Criminal Courts building is in our spotlight today. It’s a room that’s usually packed with people that are often discarded by society: the addicts, the mentally ill or disadvantaged, the homeless, and, more recently, the female parolees.

Victoria Kim, a reporter for The Los Angeles Times, writes:

The Los Angeles County Superior Court judge oversees a number of programs known as collaborative or problem-solving courts, designed to address the underlying issues — addictions, mental health, poverty — that lead to repeated arrests and prison terms.

For this, we applaud Judge Tynan. One of the biggest flaws of the current system is that it’s like an over-the-counter medicine that treats the symptoms but often not the ailment itself. This pattern of issues has an amazing impact on the lives of those who experience them firsthand, almost always to their own detriment as well as the society’s. Tynan has a solid understanding of this, and has steadily worked to address these social ills.

Kim brings us a thumbnail view of Tynan’s most recent program, a three-year-old effort that aims to help transition women inmates to appropriate treatment rather than use traditional incarceration:

Since 2007, Tynan has been running the Second Chance Women’s Re-entry Court program, one of the first in the nation to focus on women in the criminal justice system. Through the court, women facing a return to state prison for nonviolent felonies plead guilty to their crimes and enter treatment instead.

Although women make up only a small fraction of prison inmates, their numbers have been climbing for decades at a far steeper rate than men’s. Women are also more likely to be convicted of nonviolent drug or property crimes motivated by addictions or necessity.

As a publisher, we have examined these underlying factors and their influence on the individual and on society. Our award-winning documentary, It’s More Expensive to Do Nothing, addresses them, and looks at both the social and financial cost of not going after the root causes.

Tynan’s work is yet another proof that our assertions are correct. The women in this program are housed in a Pomona drug treatment facility for women called Prototypes. If accepted, the women live there for six months while their schedules are filled with job-skills classes, therapy, support-group meetings, and  chores. Incarcerated mothers and their children are reunited, and the mothers both undergo counseling and attend parenting classes. Pretty comprehensive, isn’t it?

Let’s take a look at Kim’s article once more and evaluate the cost factor:

The treatment, currently funded through a grant from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and donated services from Prototypes, costs about $18,000 for each woman per year. But compared with keeping them in prison and their children in foster care for years, the state is saving millions of dollars, the program’s organizers say.

All of our studies indicate that this is not a fluke, but rather is representative of the savings that can generally be attained once a more proactive social stance is adopted. In short, if we fix the societal ills that lead to incarceration or recidivism directly, it will have more impact for less monetary expenditure than simple imprisonment. Remember, it really is more expensive to do nothing!

Source: “Court program helps women turn their lives around,” The Los Angeles Times, 10/18/10
Image copyright Susan Madden Lankford, from the book “Maggots in My Sweet Potatoes: Women Doing Time.” Used with permission.

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Homelessness: Facebook Resources

HUMANE EXPOSURESHere at HUMANE EXPOSURES, we believe in the power of the Internet to inform and mobilize people. This is one of the reasons that this blog exists.

Since we have just launched our new Facebook pages, we thought this would be a good time to share some of the groups and organizations on Facebook that also champion the cause of those discarded by society.

So, here, in no particular order, is a list of Facebook pages that you may find informative. Please visit them. (And, if you like our work, we would really appreciate it if you “Like” our new pages and help them start off on the right foot.)

We’re going to list our own new pages first and move on from there:

  • Humane Exposures Publishing — The main Facebook Page for our company. Updates on new films and books as well as a variety of new  items and resources. The books of HUMANE EXPOSURES PUBLISHING take a penetrating look at society’s disenfranchised, questioning how long we can ignore the broken segments of our population, and at what cost. If you stop by, please tell us what kind of content you would like to see more of!
  • downTownUSA: A Personal Journey With the Homeless (book) — Author and photographer Susan Madden Lankford kept a journal during her daily encounters with the San Diego’s street people, observing how even the defeated, or seemingly so, share many of our hopes and dreams.
  • Maggots in My Sweet Potatoes: Women Doing Time (book) – Through thought-provoking photographs and interviews, the author explores the kaleidoscope of alienation, personal despair, and fragile hopes of women caught up in the state’s zeal for incarceration.
  • It’s More Expensive to Do Nothing (film) – Important documentary film questions how long society can ignore the broken segments of our population and advocates for public awareness, correcting the underlying social issues, and improving the essential parenting skills.

The following is a list of other resources. All descriptions are quoted directly:

  • Feeding Pets of the Homeless — Feeding Pets of the Homeless is a nonprofit volunteer organization that provides pet food and veterinarian care to the homeless and less fortunate in local communities across the United States and Canada. How? Our volunteers collection sites receive donated pet food and deliver it to food banks and/or soups kitchens which have agreed to distribute the food to the homeless and impoverished.
  • PATH (People Assisting The Homeless) — In 2004, PATH reached its 20th year of existence. From a small program operating out of a church basement, PATH has now become a large regional agency serving over 1,800 people each month. The agency has developed a model of integrated services that communities from all over the state, the nation, and even internationally have looked to for replication.
  • InvisiblePeople.tv — Dedicated to capturing real stories by real people bringing visibility to the issues of homelessness. Our goal: for homeless people to no longer remain invisible. The stories are told by real people in their own very real words. They’re raw, uncensored and unedited. CAUTION: Some content may be offensive. Our hope is that you’ll get mad enough to do something. (Note: We’ve covered the InvisiblePeople.tv in an earlier post.)
  • Let’s get 1,500,000 people to support the 1,500,000 homeless kids in the US — This page was started by a small group of people committed to raising awareness and providing solutions around a problem we feel is not being properly addressed. It began with a question: “How is it that the wealthiest country in the world has well over a million of its children living on the street, not knowing where they will sleep tonight?”
  • The National Coalition for The Homeless — A national network of people who are currently experiencing or who have experienced homelessness, activists and advocates, community-based and faith-based service providers, and others committed to a single mission. That mission, our common bond, is to end homelessness. We are committed to creating the systemic and attitudinal changes necessary to prevent and end homelessness. At the same time, we work to meet the immediate needs of people who are currently experiencing homelessness or who are at risk of doing so. We take as our first principle of practice that people who are currently experiencing homelessness or have formerly experienced homelessness must be actively involved in all of our work. Toward this end, the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) engages in public education, policy advocacy, and grassroots organizing. We focus our work in the following four areas: housing justice, economic justice, health care justice, and civil rights.
  • Real Change Homelessness Empowerment Project — Real Change exists to create opportunity and a voice for low-income people while taking action to end homelessness and poverty.
  • National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV) – A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization governed by a 17-member board of directors… is the resource and technical assistance center for a national network of community-based service providers and local, state and federal agencies that provide emergency and supportive housing, food, health services, job training and placement assistance, legal aid and case management support for hundreds of thousands of homeless veterans each year.
  • Breaking Night: My Journey From Homeless to Harvard (book) – In the vein of The Glass Castle, Breaking Night by Liz Murray is the stunning memoir of a young woman who at age 15 was living on the streets, and who eventually made it into Harvard.
  • Healthcare for The Homeless, Inc. — For 25 years, HCH has provided comprehensive health care, mental health services, case management, addiction treatment, and housing assistance for tens of thousands of Marylanders experiencing homelessness.
  • Horizons for Homeless Children — Horizons for Homeless Children strives to improve the lives of homeless children and their families by providing the nurturing, stimulation and opportunities for early education and play that all children need to learn and grow in a healthy way.

So there you have it, please let us know if you would like to see more roundups of this nature. If so, we could make it a regular feature.

Source: Facebook.
Image copyright Susan Madden Lankford, from the book “downTown USA: A Personal Journey with the Homeless.” Used with permission.

Visit Us on Facebook: Humane Exposures Publishing, downTownUSA, Maggots in My Sweet Potatoes, It’s More Expensive To Do Nothing.

Oprah Should Revisit the Homelessness Issue

OprahOprah Winfrey has become a household name, there is no mistake about that. Over the course of her career, she had experienced success in a wide variety of arenas ranging from the big-screen movies to her rightfully famed talk show. This is exactly why we feel that she should revisit the topic of homelessness in the U.S.

This would be familiar territory, after all. In June 2009, Lisa Ling did a special report on tent cities in Sacramento, CA., that helped put a human face on the issue. [Video: “Lisa Ling Goes Inside a Tent City”]

While it has only been 15 months since Ling’s report, in those 15 months we have experienced major housing and economic upsets — the circumstances that have created a huge influx of new faces on the streets. There are also new initiatives popping up across the country that attempt to find ways to reintegrate the homeless back into society. (Back On My Feet is only one of many examples.) In addition, there have been disasters such as the BP oil spill and the recent wildfire in Colorado that have contributed their own brand of socioeconomic chaos to the mix.

On “Inside a Tent City,” Ling presents a number of interviews with those who were living in the tent city at the time, such as this one with a woman named Tammy:

Tammy is a 47-year-old who says she has been living with her husband in this tent city for a little less than a year. ‘My husband’s job fell through,’ she says. ‘He was a tile setter … [but people] weren’t buying houses anymore, and there was no need for tile setting. We lost our car and our home, our apartment. We lost everything we had.’

Though Tammy and her husband are both actively looking for work, they say it feels impossible in this economy. ‘That’s where we’re going this morning,’ she says. ‘To get cleaned up and go out and try to make our best appearance.’

The hardest part about living in a tent city is losing the everyday amenities most people take for granted, Tammy says. ‘Taking a shower when I want, walking into my bathroom, turning the light on. Fixing my hair and doing my makeup,’ she says. ‘I miss looking like a girl.’

It’s one of those things that often slides past notice. Without regular access to a shower and other amenities, it is hard to pull oneself out of the homeless situation once one has fallen into it. Even if you are dead sober, skilled, and willing to work, it rapidly becomes hard to make yourself presentable for a job interview, especially in these tight financial times.

Shortly after Ling’s work aired, the tent city was shut down by the city of Sacramento. The time since then has been filled with tumultuous changes on all levels of society. We believe that this alone makes it a topic worth returning to. So many people follow Oprah’s work that putting this in front of them will go a long way towards raising the awareness needed to effect change.

So please, Oprah, cast your attention once more to the plight of those who inhabit the streets of our country. There are more of them every day. You have the ear of the world.

Source: “Inside a Tent City- A Lisa Ling Special Report,” Oprah.com, 06/19/09
Source: “Lisa Ling Goes Inside a Tent City,” Oprah.com, 02/23/09
Image by Alan Light, used under its Creative Commons license.

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