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Senator Robert Byrd, Homeless Advocate Too!

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Advocacy, Awareness, Policy Advocacy

By Michael Stoops, Director of Community Organizing

The McKinney Act was the first major federal program to provide funds for people experiencing homeless and inspired bipartisan support from both the House and the Senate. The current McKinney-Vento Act remains a tribute to the work of one of its chief Senate sponsors, the late Robert C. Byrd. Byrd considered the act a “conscientious and realistic emergency approach to dealing with the problems of homelessness” and was one of the chief sponsors of the Senate Bill in 1987. Because of Byrd’s’ leadership, along with Senate Minority Leader Robert Dole, the Senate passed the House Bill 85-12. Together their support ensured enough votes to override a Presidential veto, and President Reagan reluctantly signed the bill into law on July 22, 1987.

NCH fondly remembers Senator Byrd’s legacy. Both a leader for West Virginia and the nation as a whole, Byrd appreciated the potential and fallibility of humans, and the need for the government to look after its poorest residents.

Read more about Sen. Byrd’s legacy at the Wash Post.

We are Still the Same

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Advocacy, Awareness, Civil Rights, Criminalization

Here at the National Coalition for the Homeless, co-workers and I were discussing the laws against panhandling that have recently been passed in St. Petersburg, Florida and other cities across the country.  These laws against panhandling impose criminal penalties upon anyone who asks a fellow citizen for money.  This article further explains this attack on charity that is indirectly being launched:

http://www.tampabay.com/news/localgovernment/panhandlers-say-st-petersburg-street-solicitation-ban-will-make-things/1099981.

These panhandling laws are quite similar to the “no beggars allowed” notices that were posted around England in Oliver Twist’s world.  Charles Dickens, author of Oliver Twist, documented such a loathsome attitude towards the poor and homeless over 100 years ago.  There are claims that society’s ethical standards have evolved since then.  Have they?  An increase in homelessness has, now, in 21st century America, provoked the same response from government that poverty had provoked in 18th century England.  It’s rather disappointing that cities throughout the nation are required to represent the interests of minority groups but still decide to treat those who want to escape poverty the same way.

How unfair is this?  People can’t find a job after they look for one, and, now, they can’t even ask for money if they need it to survive.

This is as cruel as English warning-out laws that were imposed upon citizens in previous centuries, condemning anyone who could not provide for themselves to poverty.  Researchers explain this relationship between the cruelties of the past and present: http://0-find.galegroup.com.allecat3.allegheny.edu/ips/retrieve.do?contentSet=IAC-Documents&resultListType=RESULT_LIST&qrySerId=Locale%28en%2C%2C%29%3AFQE%3D%28ke%2CNone%2C32%29hate+crimes+against+the+homeless%24&sgHitCountType=None&inPS=true&sort=DateDescend&searchType=BasicSearchForm&tabID=T002&prodId=IPS&searchId=R1&currentPosition=1&userGroupName=alleg_main&docId=A138811123&docType=IAC&contentSet=IAC-Documents.

We should all think about the progress that has not happened.

By Anna Mackiewicz

Homeless Hate Crime Legislation Gains Momentum

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

By Michael Stoops, Director of Community Organizing

On April 20, FL/H-11 (Crimes Against the Homeless) was passed 80-28 in the Florida House of Representatives.   H-11 will add “homeless status” to hate crime legislation, reclassify offenses fueled by prejudice based on homeless status, and deliver stricter penalties to perpetrators. A companion bill (SB 506) is now before the Florida Senate.  This is the fourth time the Florida Legislature has attempted to pass similar legislation. When he was running for the job, Governor Charlie Crist (R) indicated that he would support the bill if it were presented for signature.   “I’d be open to that,” was Crist’s response when asked if he’d support homeless hate crimes legislation.

If the Florida legislation passes and becomes law, it will follow the lead of other states/jurisdictions (Alaska, California, Maine, Maryland, Puerto Rico) and cities (Cleveland, Los Angeles, Seattle, Washington, DC,) who have passed various versions of homeless hate crimes legislation/resolution.   Bills are also pending in:  Illinois, New York State, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Washington State.

In Congress a homeless hate crimes statistics reporting bill has been introduced in the both the U.S. House (H.R. 3419). and Senate (S. 1765).   The House bill has 13 co-sponsors and the Senate bill has 12 co-sponsors.

Show your support and sign our petition at Change.org!

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