Tag Archive for New York Times

Wyoming: economic migrants and homelessness

Map of USA with Wyoming highlighted

Map of USA with Wyoming highlighted (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wyoming is notable for how well it has weathered the recession. It has as strong economy and a low unemployment rate, both of which are attractive to those who have suffered in the current economy. This means an influx of new residents seeking jobs, far more of them than there are homes available for.

Jack Healy of The New York Times reports:

There is a surprising downside to Wyoming’s economic resilience and its 5.1 percent unemployment rate: a sharp rise in homelessness.

As another winter settles in, many people who moved here fleeing foreclosures and chasing jobs in the oil, gas and coal industries now find themselves without a place to live. Apartments are scarce and expensive, and the economy, while strong, is not growing at the swift pace of drilling towns in western North Dakota, where cashiers can earn $20 an hour and fast-food workers can be paid thousand-dollar signing bonuses.

As homeless rates held steady nationwide last year, federal data show that Wyoming’s homeless population soared by 67 percent, to 1,813 people from 1,083 in 2011. Advocates attribute the surge in part to a more aggressive attempt to count the state’s homeless.

That is an amazing spike, sixty-seven percent in one year! While more accurate counts of the homeless can surely account for a portion of that rise, there must be other factors involved. This is where a sort of “gold rush” mentality comes into the equation, people are flocking there for the jobs.

As in any other place in the country, many homeless people in Wyoming have lived on the streets for years or suffer from mental illness or drug and alcohol addictions. But social service workers say they have seen a growing number of economic migrants from Florida and Michigan, Wisconsin and California, with nowhere to settle.

“They’d pack up their pit bulls, their children and they’d move to Wyoming with nothing, just the clothes on their backs,” said Lily Patton, a housing counselor with Interfaith of Natrona County, a nonprofit group. “They keep saying, ‘I’ve never been in this situation before.’ ”

Economic fallout from the past few years has forced many families across the nation into homelessness, and as times have gotten harder many have been forced to seek better opportunities elsewhere. This is exactly what we are seeing in Wyoming, and the available housing stock is not up to the challenge of the new population. As noted above, a good economy does not necessarily denote a growing economy.

As I noted in my last post, many elements of the homeless picture are constant – the need for substance abuse and mental health care options for instance – but there are others that are specific to any given community. As 2013 progresses we need to pay attention to both.

Every state can benefit both socially and fiscally from enacting rehabilitative and skill-development programs, and these are vital things to fight for, but vigilance and engagement are required on the local level in order to deal with the specific dynamics of their communities.

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Hangout On Air with the National Juvenile Justice Network!

HangoutWe are proud to announce a new Humane Exposures Hangout! On October 9 at  11 am PST / 1 pm CST / 2 pm EST we will be joined by several of the driving forces behind the National Juvenile Justice Network. We will be discussing the recent  release of an amazing resource they have compiled: Advances in Juvenile Justice Reform: 2009-2011, a compendium of youth justice reforms from across the country. This is an elegantly crafted document that provides capsule summaries of the changes in juvenile justice organized by topic area, state, and year. It covers a broad array of significant new laws, administrative rule and practice changes, positive court decisions, and promising commissions and studies.

I would cite this as a useful resource for advocates, juvenile justice system employees, legislators, and those who simply wish to become more informed on the subject. In it you can learn about recent reforms in other states, find tips on connecting with allies and other advocates, generating ideas for change, and ways in which to educate policymakers or journalists.
Our panel for the day will be comprised of the following people:

Abby Anderson is executive director of the Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance, an advocacy organization that consistently wins major victories for at-risk youth. She has served as co-chair of the Executive Committee of the National Juvenile Justice Network since 2007 and was formerly on the Executive Board of the Coalition for Juvenile Justice. In naming her to its prestigious “40 Under 40” list, Connecticut Magazine said: “She has reframed  juvenile justice as a mainstream issue by stressing the savings achieved by getting timely services to kids before their behavior becomes a public-safety concern.”

Jim Moeser is the Deputy Director of the Wisconsin Council on Children & Families, a multi-issue state advocacy organization promoting the safety, health, and economic stability of Wisconsin’s children and families. Jim is currently a member of the Federal Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice for OJJDP. He co-chairs the Executive Committee of the National Juvenile Justice Network.

Sarah Bryer, NJJN’s Director, has been working in the juvenile and criminal justice fields for more than twenty years. Prior to joining NJJN, she was the Director of Policy and Planning at the Center for Alternative Sentencing and Employment Services (CASES), an alternative-to-incarceration program serving more than 10,000 misdemeanor and felony-level, court-involved youth and adults per year. Before that, she was Manager of Youth Programs at the Center for Court Innovation and has been a victim-offender mediator for court-involved youth in California.

Benjamin Chambers has been writing professionally for over 20 years, and has over 10 years of experience in the field of juvenile justice. Between 2000 and 2007, he worked for the Multnomah County Department of Community Justice in Portland, Oregon, where he was involved in improving youth drug treatment and served on the management team. Between 2008 and 2011, he launched and edited the Reclaiming Futures blog and social media channels, which he built into premier venues for juvenile justice news and resources.

George “Loki” Williams Our own Humane Exposures blogger will be moderating the discussion. Loki has blogged for clients including the National Association of Broadcasters and Kaiser Permanente as well as the Webby Award-winning KatrinaMedia.com. He is one of the organizers of the Rising Tide Conference in New Orleans, and his work has been seen or written about in The New York Times, The BBC, The New Yorker’s New Orleans Journal, and NOLA.com, among others.

Tune in Tuesday on our Google+ Page! See you there!

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