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Archive for June, 2011

Jazz Musician Sings for Change

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Awareness

Jazz singer, Madeleine Peyroux, is a long time advocate and philanthropist of organizations fighting to end homelessness. She was born in Georgia, but grew up in the cities of New York City and Paris. She was inspired to start singing at age 15 after being inspired by the street musicians in the Latin Quarter of Paris. One year later she joined the Lost Wandering Blues and Jazz Band and toured Europe. In 1996 she released her first album, “Dreamland” and since then has released an addition three albums.

To pursue the playing of music as a career soon after, was for me a continuation of my time in those streets, with the families I had created and the echoes I had left behind.”

The singer, songwriter and guitarist has been compared to the likes of Billie Holiday. She has preformed all around the world. She has toured with big names, like Sarah McLachlan, but has also headlined her own tours around the country and world. Starting in 2005, Peyroux began adding a $1.00 surcharge to her concert tickets to raise money for local homeless organizations. Her efforts have raised thousands for organizations like Real Change in Seattle, Street Roots in Portland and the Emergency Family Assistance Association in Boulder, among many others. She is a strong supporter of the work of the National Coalition for the Homeless.

In addition to her philanthropic commitment, she was recently featured on a CD compilation called “Give US Your Poor.” The album features musicians, such as Bruce Springsteen, and collaborations with currently or formerly homeless musicians. The proceeds from the album benefit the national awareness campaign, Give US Your Poor. Madeleine Peyroux is a musician dedicated to making real change.

By Samantha McClean, Former NCH Intern

*Photo used with permission from Madeleine Peyroux

California Bill Would Help Protect Homeless People from Hate Crimes

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Civil Rights, Hate Crimes, Policy Advocacy

The National Coalition for the Homeless firmly believes in protecting homeless people against hate crimes committed by housed persons simply because of the victim’s real or perceived homelessness. Through legislation, the state of California has been working to pass important legislation in order to advance this effort. Assembly Bill 312, introduced by State Representative Bonnie Lowenthal (D-54), is being considered by the State Legislature, and just two days ago it passed the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill would specify that crimes against the homeless rendered because of the person’s real or perceived homeless status would be considered a crime discriminatory in nature so victims would have the ability to sue in civil court for increased reparations. In short, the bill would add homelessness as a characteristic to the Ralph Civil Rights Act, which now protects from hate crimes those targeted for factors such as race, sexual orientation, and political affiliation, but not housing situation.

History

AB 2706, introduced last year by Bonnie Lowenthal, was a very similar law, which last year the California Assembly and Senate passed, but Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed it. He stated, “Poverty unlike race, gender, national origin and disability, is not a suspect classification” (see Senate Judiciary Committee bill analysis below). However, under California law, political affiliation was already protected on the same level as race, religion… in the Ralph Civil Rights Act. Political affiliation, like homelessness, tends not to be an inherent characteristic like race or religion, so homelessness should be a protected status as well.

One of the reasons the homeless should have further protection is because of the demonstrated necessity to it. Prior to AB 2706, California in 2001 passed SR 18 which required an examination of hate crimes against the homeless. The results of it, along with our report of “Hate Crimes Against the Homeless,” pointed to many ruthless hate crimes against the homeless. Because of this, along with Democratic Governor Brown in power, it seems more hopeful for the bill to be ratified this year.

Process

In order for the bill to go into effect, it must pass through all of the various levels in the California State Assembly and Senate. The bill has already passed through the Assembly, and two days ago the bill passed, by a 3-2 vote, the Senate Judiciary Committee. The committee referred the bill back to the Senate Appropriations Committee, where it now awaits passage. If this happens, the bill must then pass the Senate floor and Assembly floor in order to go to Governor Brown. Last year, AB 2706 passed the Senate with a 21-13 vote and a 51-26 vote in the Assembly.

Effect

The bill, if passed, would not only help to increase reparations for homeless people who are attacked, but it would also serve as a deterrent to those housed individuals committing the crimes. Though some debate exists over whether violence against the homeless should be put on the same plane as violence against homosexuals or people of a certain race, we believe that crimes against the homeless, committed because they are homeless, deserve to be treated more seriously than crimes without aggravating circumstances.

Take Action

Read the bill and follow its status.

Read the Senate Judiciary Committee bill analysis from June 7, 2011.

Contact members of the Senate Appropriations Committee about the bill.

Laura Epstein, Staff

The District’s Dizzy With the Heat

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Advocacy, Awareness

“At what temperature are cooling centers required to be opened?” A homeless woman from the District asks one of my colleagues early Tuesday morning, with temperatures forecast to be near the century mark. A quick Google search and I was at the D.C. government’s website: It says in extreme heat, avoid encountering heat stroke, dehydration, and other medical problems associated with extreme temperatures. Cooling centers will be open at four government buildings… If temperatures hit or exceed 95F, cooling centers and select (8) homeless shelters will be available from noon until 6pm. Got it, easy enough!

Question answered? Not in the District. The answer turns out to be more complicated. Let’s check the hotline listed on DC.gov “311 – The District’s Service Request Center”.  It says, cooling centers aren’t open today. However, when I call the D.C. Emergency Management number, also provided on the DC.gov website, I’m told that cooling centers no longer exist, as of last month. Another colleague calls Tommy Wells’ office, at the D.C. City Council, to find out what’s what. No specific answer, but a commitment to contact the Committee on Human Services. They’re the ones who said that cooling centers do in fact exist, listing four government buildings as de facto centers.

With too much conflicting information, I call back the D.C. Emergency Management number and speak to an assistant to the Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. He says cooling centers no longer exist, but that people can go into public buildings and use the water fountains. The director called a little later with a “clarifying” follow up call. She explained that the Office on Aging, D.C. public libraries, and the Department on Parks and Recreation have teamed up to provide relief from the heat. But unfortunately, cooling centers no longer exist and water stations, in public building marked as cooling centers, were closed. Too many government employees were taking all the bottled water. Seriously? Seriously!

During the past few hours, The District removed incorrect information about the four government buildings that were not cooling centers – good start. But, the website still provides incorrect information: the description of heat relief services is wrong, select homeless shelters, listed as emergency centers, are closed or do not provide heat relief. This remains a totally unacceptable level of response. This summer has not even begun and we’re already facing dangerous heat conditions. Let’s not let the warning, provided by this recent experience, go unheeded and hope that this is not a sign of things to come.

To see the D.C. Government page on extreme heat, visit www.dcema.dc.gov, and click on “Extreme Heat” on the left-hand sidebar.

Laura Epstein, Staff

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