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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.

US 2009 Poverty Rate Jumps to 14.3%: Census Omits Vital Data from Rise in Poverty Rate

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

by Neil Donovan, Executive Director

The US Census Bureau announced the finding from its annual report: Income Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2009. The Census reported a poverty rate of 14.3% or 43.6 million Americans, slightly lower than the grim predictions of 14.8 to 15 percent. The 14.3% poverty rate jumped from last year’s 13.2 and is the highest rate since 1994.

The new poverty rate is the clearest indicator-to-date to prove that social constraints prevent those living in poverty from working and just as clearly refutes the notion that those living in poverty choose to not work, though given the opportunity.

The 2009 report will be the last year, since the reporting began in1959, when only certain categories of under-reporting will occur. Beginning next year, the Census will publish figures that take into account the rising costs of medical care, transportation and child care. National poverty figures will certainly show an ever higher poverty rate after factoring the new supplemental data.

The Census further omits the impact of significant elements of the Recovery Act. While factoring household cash income received through unemployment insurance benefits, the Census leaves out household assistance received from tax credits and other non-cash benefits, such as food stamps.

Given the proposed changes to future annual reports, it is evident that the Census Bureau has wrestled with establishing a truer measure of poverty in America. However, the Census fails to address the critical importance of poverty, as a fluid and dynamic condition. A weakened economy almost assures a continued rise in the poverty rate next year, unless the soon to be expiring Recovery Act’s substantial benefits and tax credits for workers are renewed. The poverty rate is useful only in so far as it relates to other socio-economic rates and conditions. Announcing the poverty rate alone perpetuates the unexplained bifurcation of the American populous: the widening socioeconomic gap between rich and poor.

Read more at Change.org

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