NATIONALHOMELESS.ORG
Twitter Facebook Facebook Facebook Facebook

2016 Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week

Written by admin on . Posted in Advocacy, Awareness, Community Organizing, Criminalization, Hunger, Toolkits

hhaw-logo-websiteToday, hundreds of colleges, churches, community groups, and service agencies across the country announced the start of Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, an annual week of action where people come together to draw attention to poverty in their communities. Participating organizations will spend the week holding educational, community service, fundraising, and advocacy events to address these critical issues.

“This is the time of year when we all reflect on our lives, finding gratitude and peace in where and who we are,” said Megan Hustings, Director of the National Coalition for the Homeless. “But there are so many families that will not be able to come together during the season, strained by poor paying jobs, the lack of affordable housing, and even destitution. Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week brings communities across the country together to educate ourselves and our elected officials about what is really happening in our communities.”

H&H Week: A Quick Reference Guide

Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week is co-sponsored by the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness. The event originated at Villanova University in 1975, and now takes place in nearly 700 communities across the country.

“Hunger and homelessness are epidemics that sadly affect every community across America,” said James Dubick, Director of the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness. “Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week gives local groups a collective opportunity to tackle these issues head on, rally public support, and call for solutions.”

Let us reiterate, it is imperative that we let our voices be heard that homelessness and hunger need to be addressed in real ways. We need to hold our elected officials and communities accountable to ensuring that all of our neighbors have access to safe, affordable housing, and the supports needed to maintain that housing.

Ideas for raising awareness

Swept Away: Reporting on the Encampment Closure Crisis

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

National data suggest that only 75% of the need for emergency shelter is being met. As a result, encampments of people experiencing homelessness have sprung up as homelessness has become more visible.

With everything from sleeping bags, tents and camp stoves to tiny homes, makeshift communities are attempting to fill important gaps in shelter, housing and other social services. Homeless encampments also serve as a point of access for outreach workers and others looking to engage those experiencing homelessness.

Unfortunately, these encampments have been met with varying levels of hostility by the wider communities in which they are located. The National Coalition for the Homeless’ new report, Swept Away: Reporting on the Encampment Closure Crisis, examines the disturbing trend of forced removal of outdoor sleepers by law enforcement, city workers, or even private contractors.

“We understand that municipal governments are trying to respond to a difficult situation,” says Megan Hustings, Director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, “But further displacing people who have nowhere else indoors to go is an inhumane response.”

In cities where well-publicized events are being hosted, the sweeping of homeless encampments is particularly aggressive. In the run-up to San Diego’s recent Major League Baseball All-Star Game, camp residents across the city were threatened with fines and destruction of property if they did not relocate within 72 hours, an effort repeated during the popular Comic-Con international convention. San Diego has continued to disrupt encampments on a regular basis, seemingly copying a much criticized similar effort in Denver, Colorado.

In San Francisco, California, where current law already prohibits the building of encampments, a ballot initiative with the somewhat misleading title, “Housing Not Tents,” has been introduced with the intention of allowing authorities to remove encampments with as little as 24 hours written notice and the offer of a shelter bed or the acceptance of a bus ticket. The initiative would empower the city to seize residents’ personal property and dispose of it after a set period of time.

Despite efforts to the contrary, encampment residents regularly lose life-sustaining materials like tents and blankets, but also personal property, including valuables, identification, and medications. Swept Away looks more closely at the causes behind the rise of encampments, the way various communities have chosen to confront the issue, and recommendations for how our unhoused neighbors deserve to be treated in their own communities.

Proponents of measures aimed at facilitating the removal of encampments have suggested that allowing the existence of such camps somehow enables homelessness — a notion unsupported by the lack of affordable housing nationwide. Additionally, breaking up homeless communities can leave individuals more vulnerable to those who prey upon them, as outlined in our recent report, “No Safe Street: A Survey of Hate Crimes and Violence Committed Against Homeless People in 2014 & 2015.”

While dedicated to ending homelessness, the National Coalition for the Homeless also recognizes the need to protect the lives of those currently experiencing homelessness, especially during times when they cannot all be housed. Cities considering urban camping restrictions should follow the lead of a select few that have already passed more humane laws regarding encampment sweeps, such as Indianapolis. Encampment residents should be given ample warning prior to a sweep, and it is imperative that cities do not immediately discard the belongings of homeless residents. Most importantly, sweeps should not be conducted without available housing and supportive services for those who are displaced as a result.

At a time when those experiencing homelessness far outnumber the number of shelter beds allocated to them, we must find a better way to serve our unhoused neighbors without destroying the camps they so often call home.

 

Read the full report.

Learn more about the Criminalization of Homelessness.

No Safe Street: A Survey of Violence Committed against Homeless People

Written by admin on . Posted in Awareness, Civil Rights, Hate Crimes, Violence Against the Homeless

The National Coalition for the Homeless is deeply saddened by the recent senseless attacks on men sleeping outdoors in San Diego that have left three dead and one more critically injured.

But we are not surprised.

Over the last several months, San Diego has been sweeping homeless encampments, constantly displacing residents who have nowhere else to go and disposing of items of personal and survival value. Quietly, the city laid down boulders beneath an overpass, on a side walk often used by houseless folks to rest.

Should any of us be surprised that a high school cheerleader was recently charged, along with two teenage brothers, in the beating death of a homeless man just outside of the city?

In the early 1990’s, the National Coalition for the Homeless noticed that a growing number of cities were passing ordinances banning everyday activities carried out by people who were homeless. Bans on panhandling, camping, or even sharing food in public places have since become common place in cities across the country, just as poverty and homelessness have been increasing.

No Safe Street: A Survey of Violence Committed against Homeless People a new report published by the National Coalition for the Homeless finds that over the last 17 years, at least 1,657 people experiencing homelessness have been the victims of violence perpetrated for the sole reason that they were unhoused at the time. This number includes 428 men and women who lost their lives for being homeless, and in the wrong place at the wrong time.

It is easy to see a correlation between the appearance of laws criminalizing homelessness, and the increase of hate crimes or violent acts against homeless people. A 2014 report from the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty found that out of 187 cities that have enacted some type of law criminalizing daily activities often carried out by people without stable housing, 21 cities were located in California (11%) and 17 were in Florida (9%). No Safe Street finds that out of 199 attacks against homeless persons in 2014-2015, the largest share of incidents took place in California (43 attacks) and Florida (18 attacks).

One possible explanation for this is the message that criminalizing homelessness sends to the general public: “Homeless people do not matter and are not worthy of living in our city.” This message is blatant in the attitudes many cities have toward homeless people and can be used as an internal justification for attacking someone.

No Safe Street cites more than double the number of fatalities from bias motivated violence against people who are homeless than the FBI has tracked for all federally protected classes combined. Professor of Criminal Justice at California State University San Bernardino, Brian Levin, finds that “the characteristics of bias attacks against the homeless are very similar to that of hate crime in general. As with other hate crimes, offenders fit a pattern: typically, young male “thrill offenders” acting on stereotypes, seeking excitement and peer validation.”

Moreover, in communities across the country (except for a handful of progressive cities and states), it is perfectly legal to discriminate against someone who is unhoused in employment, housing, or even in delivery of health or social services. What message are our municipalities sending to their residents?

As we have attempted to legislate homelessness out of sight in our communities, we have created a hostile environment for people who fall on hard times. Social services have not kept up with the pace of need, and in many cases have been cut or restricted. Instead of responding with compassion and generosity, on the whole, our communities have responded with prejudice and judgement.

Study after study has found savings for public services when someone is housed versus homeless. In fact, the University of Denver’s School of Law released a report earlier this year which found that just six Colorado cities have spent more than five million dollars enforcing 14 anti-homeless ordinances over the last 5 years through policing, court and incarceration costs.  Our failure to end homelessness has only brought financial and human costs to our communities.

As we look towards a change in our federal leadership, the National Coalition for the Homeless calls on our fellow citizens to prioritize compassion over comfort. The solution to homelessness, and the best method for preventing further violence, is simple: housing.

 

Read the full report.

View more about Hate Crimes against people experiencing homeless.

NATIONALHOMELESS.ORG

National Coalition for the Homeless | 2201 P St NW, Washington, DC 20037 | (202) 462-4822 | info [at] nationalhomeless [dot] org
© 2014 National Coalition for the Homeless | Private Policy
Powered by Warp Theme Framework