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Archive for September, 2010

The Ongoing Business of Harm and Neglect: DHS’ Experimentation with NYC Families

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Advocacy, Awareness

by Neil Donovan, Executive Director

200 families in New York City are part of a new draconian experiment cooked up under the supervision of the new and troubling commissioner of the Department of Homeless Services, Seth Diamond.  The two-year test, under controlled conditions, divides 400 families into “haves” and “have-nots”. 200 families who “have” are enrolled in the Homebase project, receiving rental assistance, job training and other “wrap-around” services. The 200 families who “have-not” are required to manage without help. (http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/2010/09/30/2010-09-30_city_cruel_test_for_poor_families.html)

The mission of the NYC Department of Homeless Services is to “…prevent homelessness wherever possible and provide short-term emergency shelter and re-housing support whenever needed.” DHS should not be in the business of social experimentation. This type of testing has grown over the past quarter century, with mounting concerns about the lack of public debate on research ethics prior to testing. This valid concern is glaringly evident in DHS’ Homebase project.

Experimenters should be troubled by numerous past studies that produced little to no usable qualitative data, but produced negative effects for participants that exist far beyond the studies. Project Access, a multistate mental health study (1992-97), which provided housing and mental health services to one group of mentally ill individuals living in persistent poverty versus another group that were left to fend for themselves, had insubstantial findings that were never published. Hundreds of thousands of tax dollars were spent affirming the common wisdom that housing the “Haves” helped. But, the tragic lasting toxic effects on the “Have-nots” are still evident, persistent and measureable today.

DHS’ experimentation is fraught ethical lapses, void of the basic application of social justice principles and guilty of infringing on the civil and human rights of 200 families. Nothing shy of the stoppage of this experiment and the immediate and full relief of the 200 “have-not” families will suffice. Those with the least among us, families living in persistent poverty, deserve our cries of outrage and our insistence that DHS get out of the business of harm and neglect and return to its core mission.

Get Out the Homeless Vote in 2010

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Advocacy, Awareness

by Michael Stoops

In the early 1980’s there were successful lawsuits on the right of homeless people to vote in New York City, Philadelphia, Santa Barbara and Washington, DC.

Many groups worked successfully in getting the National Voter Registration Act (commonly referred to as the motor voter law) passed in Congress and signed into law in 1993 by President Clinton.   This required that welfare, motor vehicle divisions, and other state agencies to make voter registration forms available to their clients.

In 1992, the National Coalition for the Homeless launched You Don’t Need A Home to Vote voting rights campaign.   The name was chosen because we wanted to get the word out to homeless people that they can vote, even if they lacked a home.  And we wanted candidates for office to know that homeless people vote .

The National Coalition for the Homeless has sponsored the You Don’t Need a Home to Vote project every election cycle, holding National Homeless and Low Income Voter Registration Week to encourage voter registration and education (Sept. 26 – Oct. 2, 2010).  Bills have been introduced and passed in a dozen states, re-affirming and clarifying the right of homeless people to vote.

Many states still require a traditional mailing address and a few have passed laws requiring a government issued photo ID in order to register.  We’ve tracked these rules and have listed them in our Voting Rights Manual .

Please join NCH this week in making voter registration available to homeless and low income individuals in your community.  Check out our website for materials and more information on how you can help our democracy.

5 Tips for Winter Planning

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Advocacy, Awareness

by Megan Hustings

In DC, we’re trying to squeeze the last days of warmth and sunshine out of the summer, and the last thing we want to think about is the temperature dropping more.  But winter is on its way.  Did you know that hypothermia, a life-threatening condition due to body temperature falling below 95 degrees, can occur when the outside temperature is as high as 50 degrees?  Wet clothes or socks can exacerbate already difficult weather conditions to make the risk of hypothermia greater.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors has reported for years that the number of requests for shelter beds far outweighs the actual number of emergency shelter beds available, and this is especially the case during periods of cold weather when it is just not healthy to remain outdoors.

Cities around the country are finalizing plans to provide warming centers and additional beds in emergency shelters when temperatures drop this winter.

It is never too late, or too early, to plan how your community can help those who do not have a warm place to call home this winter.  From out report on Winter Services , here are 5 things to be sure to include while you are planning for this winter.

5 Tips for Winter Services Planning:

  1. Increased Outreach – Talk to people who stay on the street to help you locate camps and common sleeping areas.
  2. Stock up on Blankets and Warm Clothing – Wet clothing will not keep anyone warm and can lead to greater risk of illness.
  3. Emergency Transportation – Does your city have vans or shuttles available to transport people to shelters that may be across town?
  4. Day Centers – Make sure there is somewhere people can go, at least when the temperature falls below 40 degrees F.
  5. Low Barrier Nighttime Shelter – Any past bans or other restrictions should be waived on nights when the temperature is lower than 40 degrees F.  If needed, people who are violent or under the influence can be separated, so long as they can remain warm.

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