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Homelessness

When You’re Unsheltered, ‘Public Safety’ Doesn’t Include You

I’m going to tell you something you already know: Every human being is entitled to a roof over their head and a place to sleep at night. This is an indisputable truth, part of the catechism of humanistic virtue. In a world that lived up to its self-professed ideals of opportunity, any condition of homelessness would be rare, brief and non-recurring. The reality is cultural attitudes toward impoverished people – fueled by toxic portrayals, fear mongering in the media and systematic dehumanization – have made homelessness not a community problem to be solved, but an individual offense to be punished, and defines those who suffer this condition as enemies to the idyllic peace of ‘good (read: housed and well-fed) people’.

SCOTUS Is Set To Make A Watershed Ruling On Homelessness

This month, the Supreme Court will begin to hear one of the highest-profile court cases about homelessness in generations. City of Grants Pass, Oregon v. Gloria Johnson considers whether a local government can outlaw sleeping outside if adequate shelter is not accessible. If the Court sides with Grants Pass, cities will be able to rely on punitive policies that do little to nothing to decrease homelessness and often cause worse outcomes for unhoused people in the process. If it favors Johnson, local governments will be required to demonstrate adequate shelter is available for an individual before resorting to harsh enforcement tactics.

I’ve Been Unhoused; It Could Happen To You, So Let’s Stop Criminalizing It

For a period in 2005, I was one of the more than 740,000 people who were experiencing homelessness at that time in the U.S. On an eastern section of Sunset Boulevard where tourists never venture, there’s the Hollywood Sunset Free Clinic — less chic than it sounds. Still, they had services ranging from medical care to showers, and for those seeking the latter, they’d give away those little test packets of shampoo and conditioner that used to come in magazines and in the mail. Herbal Essences was a favorite. After a quick rinse and a change of clothes, I could walk out of the clinic being treated like a real person until some indication of my situation betrayed me.

Denver City Council Upholds Mayor’s ‘No Freezing Sweeps’ Veto

On the afternoon of February 12, the Denver City Council again voted on the “No Freezing Sweeps” bill in their chambers, but this time the vote was to potentially override Mayor Mike Johnston’s veto of the Council’s passage of the bill. When the roll call took place, each council member voted exactly as they did on January 29 — seven ayes, six nays — yet this time, that vote count resulted in the official failure of the bill. At least nine “aye” votes were needed for a successful override. “Each and every one of ya’ll that voted ‘no,’ ya’ll just voted to kill people!” Jerry Burton of Housekeys Action Network Denver (HAND), a local advocacy group for houseless people and their rights, was one of a few people who stood up and yelled at the City Council after the bill was officially voted down.

An Upcoming Supreme Court Case Threatens To Criminalize Homelessness

As America’s affordable housing crisis grows, especially for those of retirement age, Black folks continue to be pushed into homelessness at a disproportionate rate. Advocates argue that an upcoming U.S. Supreme Court ruling may make it even more dire. Earlier this month, the court announced that it would hear a case that will essentially decide if people experiencing homelessness can be issued jail time, tickets, and fines for sleeping on the streets — even if there are no shelter alternatives available for them. The case will be heard either this spring or in the fall.

Our Housing Crisis Is Literally Killing People

Last week, my students and I worked with several unhoused persons who had been recently living in dangerous, unhealthy apartments or homes in our community of Indianapolis. One, a young mother of a toddler with another baby soon on the way, had just left a home where eight people across three generations were living. The house had no central heat, so space heaters were the only source of warmth during a month when the temperature dipped below zero for several days. Those heaters and everything else electrical in the house were linked to a complex web of extension cords connected to a solitary working outlet.

A Beacon Of Hope To The Unhoused Faces Eviction

Minneapolis, MN — Camp Nenookaasi is throwing the subject of Minneapolis’ encampment policies into the spotlight again as it faces eviction on December 19. The camp’s supporters are waging the latest skirmish in a longer fight between the city’s prohibition of encampments and those who claim that allowing encampments to remain intact is the most humane approach to the issue, as well as a crucial first step toward getting people into stable housing and recovery programs. On Dec. 8, a group of activists arrived at Mayor Jacob Frey’s office to deliver an eviction notice to his door, symbolically evicting him from the city in an attempt to draw his attention to the issue and sway his decision to further displace the unhoused.

The Squatters Asking Why Chicago’s Public Housing Is Filled With Vacancies

In late August, a group of Chicago residents were forcibly removed from a building they called home, a longtime-vacant property owned by the Chicago Housing Authority. The residents were part of a rotating group of squatters who had occupied the home for 20 months, a group that included a housing activist and people who had been living in tents in a nearby homeless encampment. For two years prior to the occupation, the home—a picturesque two-story property in the quickly gentrifying Humboldt Park neighborhood—had been vacant. It’s one of more than 2,000 housing units under the Chicago Housing Authority’s ownership that lie empty, according to city data.

Massachusetts To Launch Push To Fill Vacant State-Funded Apartments

Massachusetts housing officials announced Friday that they are launching a “90-day push” to reduce the number of vacancies in state public housing by the end of the year. The initiative comes after an investigation by WBUR and ProPublica found nearly 2,300 of 41,500 state-funded apartments were vacant at the end of July — most for months or years — despite a housing shortage so severe that Gov. Maura Healey called it a state of emergency. Massachusetts is one of only four states with state-subsidized public housing, and about 184,000 people are on a waitlist for the units.

Massachusetts Has A Huge Waitlist For State-Funded Housing

In a state with some of the country’s most expensive real estate, Libby is among the 184,000 people — including thousands who are homeless, at risk of losing their homes or living in unsafe conditions — on a waitlist for the state’s 41,500 subsidized apartments. As they wait, a WBUR and ProPublica investigation found that nobody is living in nearly 2,300 state-funded apartments, with most sitting empty for months or years. The state pays local housing authorities to maintain and operate the units whether they’re occupied or not. So the vacant apartments translate into millions of Massachusetts taxpayer dollars wasted due to delays and disorder fostered by state and local mismanagement.

It’s Time For Cities To Extend And Expand Sanctuary

Ellis Island was once the border of New York City, a gated drawbridge for millions of immigrants to what would become their new homeland. But today, when New York’s border is at the Rio Grande, that checkpoint is beyond its control. From the perspective of necessity, prudence and even justice, cities must expand their policies of welcome to match their extended borders. Months have passed since Mayor Eric Adams declared that there was “no more room at the inn” for asylum seekers arriving in the city. Invoking, perhaps inadvertently, a Biblical metaphor, the mayor suggested that New York City’s shelter system was at capacity.

Homelessness Crisis Exacerbates As Leaders Look The Other Way

A quick trip through any major American city and you can see it for yourself – “tent cities” underneath highways or alongside parks, people sleeping on the sidewalk, overcrowded and resource-stripped shelters. It is estimated that there are nearly 600,000 homeless people across the US, marking the highest yearly surge since the government began tracking the data in 2007, according to the Wall Street Journal. Major cities like Los Angeles are seeing homeless populations spike almost 10 percent from last year. This problem has been deeply exacerbated in the post-pandemic era. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, rent was already skyrocketing due to inflation levels as well as “development projects”, forcing long-time residents, mainly minorities, out of their own neighborhoods.

Why Are There No Slums In China?

With over 20 million inhabitants each, Shanghai and Beijing are among the “hypercities” of the Global South, including Delhi, São Paulo, Dhaka, Cairo, and Mexico City, far surpassing the “megacities” of the Global North like London, Paris, or New York [1]. Walking the streets in China’s cities, you will however, quickly notice one marked difference – the absence of large slums or pervasive homelessness that is so common to most of the rest of the world. Slums were not uncommon in Chinese cities a few decades ago, from the precarious working class districts of 1930s Shanghai to the shanty towns of British-occupied Hong Kong in the 1950s onwards.

LA Failed To Stop Landlords From Turning Low-Cost Housing Into Hotels

By law, the American Hotel in downtown Los Angeles is supposed to be reserved for residents who can’t afford to live anywhere else. For decades, the building was a haven in the city’s sky-high housing market, where artists, musicians and people down on their luck could rent rooms for about $500 a month. At the end of the day, longtime tenants would hang out at Al’s Bar, a legendary punk and alternative rock venue on the ground floor where bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers played long before they sold out stadiums. But amid the largest homelessness crisis in the nation, the American’s owner has turned the building into a boutique hotel where tourists can book rooms for as much as $209 a night.

‘Pop-Up Care Villages’ Bring Joy To Community-Led Homelessness Services

A celebration with guests, volunteers and partners sharing conversation, hugs, love and laughter isn’t what most people associate with programs for unhoused people. But joyous gatherings may be the secret to creating trusted relationships that restore dignity, rekindle optimism and fuel a sense of opportunity for community members experiencing homelessness. Local government agencies years ago recognized the need to bring services for unhoused people together in a central location. One solution in use across the country is periodic Homeless Connect events, like the Los Angeles County series organized by council members.
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