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Yet another organized encampment is uprooted

Written by admin on . Posted in Awareness, Civil Rights, Criminalization, Tent Cities

In recent years, as the fashion of criminalizing the people experiencing homelessness in the United States by local governments has grown more popular, the nation’s capital, Washington, DC, has largely respected the rights and needs of its poorest residents. Unfortunately, it seems that even as the city’s new mayor has publicly dedicated her administration to giving those experiencing homelessness within her jurisdiction the supports they need, her office is moving to displace the small number of men and women who have formed their own refuge from the city’s dangerous streets and chaotic shelters. A very troubling way to celebrate National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week (Nov. 14-22).

Postcard FrontErected atop an empty stretch of grass in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of Washington, co-existing alongside foreign embassies and luxury hotels, a small community of tents serves as home for a tight-knit, diverse community of unhoused Washingtonians. In recent weeks, that community has had to face the possibility of dislocation, despite the fact that many of the camp’s housed neighbors support them. According to WTOP, a local news station, Marina Streznewski, who serves as president of the Foggy Bottom Association, believes homeless residents are better off where they are than in the city’s notoriously overcrowded shelter system. “It may be cold out here, but it’s safer.”

By the time you read this, these men and women may already have been relocated. The city moved on Monday to close down the camp, but media attention and an alleged refusal by local law enforcement to assist the mayor’s office in the tear-down has meant that many of the tents remained in place at noon of the following day. However, members of the besieged community believe it’s only a matter of time before they and their belongings face an uncertain future back out on the street. Worse yet, vans sent to relocate residents have reportedly refused to tell them where they’d be taken if they complied with the city’s order.

If you are a resident of the District of Columbia, or if you care about the plight of these and other people experiencing homelessness in the most powerful city in the world, we encourage you to contact Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office by phone (202-727-6300), email (eom@dc.gov), or on social media (tweet @MayorBowser), and remind her that all of her constituents deserve to be treated with respect, and to be sure these and all unhoused residents of the area are offered safe and accessible shelter or permanent housing.

While you’re at it, you can sign our petition asking the District government to join Rhode Island, Connecticut, Illinois, and Puerto Rico in enacting legislation to end legal discrimination against our unhoused neighbors.

National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week 2015

Written by admin on . Posted in Awareness

Awareness Week Logo '14Today kicks off our annual week of raising awareness and taking action against on our ongoing homeless crisis.

Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week originated 40 years ago, in 1975, at Villanova University in Pennsylvania. From the school’s website, “The initiative began when a group of Villanova students, recognizing the power education could play in the fight against homelessness, decided to coordinate a week of activities around the issues.” The National Coalition for the Homeless has since partnered with the National Student Campaign Against Hunger & Homelessness to bring greater awareness of the effects of poverty to communities nationwide. Annually, at least 750 schools and community groups take part in the week.

Though we are thrilled with the ongoing participation in National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week, we also wonder how much longer we will have to keep building awareness before as a country, we enact policies that house and support our neighbors. Join us over the next week to continue our fight for greater investment in affordable housing, to support our labor through living wages, to listen to the struggles of those who are currently unhoused, and those who are at risk of losing their homes and to work in partnership with our neighbors and policy makers to protect our basic human rights and dignity.

Be sure to register your event, look for an event nearby, or find out more at http://nationalhomeless.org/about-us/projects/awareness-week/

Some more highlights over the coming week:

  • NCH’s Faces of Homelessness Speakers’ Bureau will be traveling to six states and the District of Columbia to share personal experiences with homelessness.
  • For the second year in a row, Storied Streets will be hosting free screenings of this powerful documentary November 13-15, with a live Twitter chat on Sunday, Nov. 15th at 8:30pm EST. Be sure to follow @StoriedStreets to take part.
  • Faith leaders will be holding town hall meetings on homelessness in Washington, DC on Sunday Nov. 15 and Monday the 16th. See the Presbyterian Network to End Homelessness for more.
  • We will be posting lots of great information about poverty, hunger and homelessness to our social media, as well as highlighting others doing great work. Be sure to follow and share on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, hashtag #NHHAW.
  • We will be releasing an update to our report on feeding restrictions, one of the more disturbing efforts by cities to move homelessness out of sight.

Stay tuned for more, and thank you for being a part of the movement! Together we can end homelessness.

Homeless State of Emergency

Written by Kyra Habekoss on . Posted in Advocacy, Awareness, Uncategorized

Local officials of Seattle and King County, Washington have declared a civil state of emergency for homelessness this week. Seattle follows Los Angeles, Portland, Oregon and the state of Hawaii, who have made similar proclamations likening the seriousness of homelessness with the aftermath of natural disasters. Unlike a natural disaster homelessness is not a new phenomenon, it has been prevalent for almost 40 years, but is being exacerbated with growing economic inequality and lack of affordable housing, etc. Homelessness is not contained to these areas either; it is widespread across the United States. It is safe to say that our country as a whole is in a state of emergency!

The recognition of epidemic levels of homelessness is long overdue. According to Mayor Ed Murray of Seattle, “More than 45 people have died on the streets of the city of Seattle this year and nearly 3,000 children in Seattle Public Schools are homeless,” In Hawaii, there were 7,600 people experiencing homelessness and only room for about 3,800 people in shelters or housing programs; among these unsheltered individuals were 439 children. The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority counted more than 44,000 individuals experiencing homelessness in the county. Likewise, Portland, Oregon, officials counted 1,800 individuals including 566 women experiencing homelessness while unsheltered.

Further, as the value of our wages continues to decline, renters across the country are finding themselves paying 50% or more of their income on housing. 20.7 million households are housing-cost-burdened. Add to that the 1.5 million households living on $2.00 a day, the number of workers who can not afford fair market rents working 40 hours a week, etc. All further exasperating decades-long de-investment in affordable housing production and assistance to create growing homelessness.

Although these proclamations of emergency will enable regions to receive millions of dollars in crucial funding, these funds alone are not enough to prevent homelessness long-term. The allocation of emergency funds is fundamental to the effectiveness of local programs in preventing and ending homelessness. Hawaii has claimed they plan to use the funds toward the rapid construction of temporary shelters, increase of existing homeless services, and funding for housing first programs. Portland has stated that they will waive portions of state building codes to convert private and city-owned buildings into shelters, as well as build housing for people who will be served by the future psychiatric emergency center. While specific spending plans are in the process being negotiated, it seems that the common focus is the development of shelters. Even though shelters could reduce the amount of deaths on the street it is only a short-term solution that will not prevent homelessness and extreme poverty.

For long-lasting change we must focus on long-term systemic solutions, such as affordable housing, rent control, jobs that pay a livable wage, healthcare, and adequate funding for services like social security and disability, and so much more. The big picture response that we advocate is not easy, but it is necessary to correct the structure that has produced inequality and vulnerability for the last few decades. Homeless shelters alone will not remedy the factors that have produced homelessness in epidemic proportions.

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