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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

Tourism vs. Homelessness

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

by Michael Stoops, Director of Community Organizing

Each summer I notice how tourism and homelessness do not get along very well.

Rather than providing day and night shelter services during the summer months, tourist cites do their best to move out homeless out of visible downtown locations. Homeless people are seen as bad for both tourism and economic development.

I been struck recently by the number of anti-homeless laws being proposed/implemented.

In Citrus Heights, CA the City Council is expected to pass an anti-panhandling law this week.

Salt Lake City is also heading down the same path.

And in America’s oldest city, St. Augustine, FL is considering ordinances restricting panhandling in certain locations and against aggressive panhandling.

And on the East Coast, Virginia Beach has found its solution by installing Donation Meters as a way to discourage panhandling. The monies collected will go to the middle man—that being agencies serving the homeless. If you donate a $1,000, your individual or corporate name will be affixed to the Meter.

We have been documenting this trend for many years and have produced five criminalization of homelessness reports this past decade complete with a bi-annual ranking of the meanest cities. See Homes Not Handcuffs: The Criminalization of Homelessness in U.S. Cities. July 2009 for our most recent findings.

These tried and failed ordinances have not stopped panhandllng or ended homelessness.

The musings of a Hunger Fellow

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Advocacy, Awareness, Criminalization, Speakers' Bureau

Steph Whitaker has been with NCH for the past 5 months as the Bill Emerson Hunger Fellow. Her time here has been invaluable, taking the lead to pull together our Criminalization and Hate Crimes reports.
Below she reflects on her time in Washington…

As my time wraps up here at NCH, I realize that I’ve encountered many unique experiences. I’m not entirely sure where 3 out of my 5 months went… but I imagine that means they were well spent.

Top 5 things I’ll miss about NCH:

5. Speaking engagements with the Speakers Bureau: it’s really great to witness the “ah-ha” moment of others when they finally realize that homeless people are not just a stereotype. An added bonus is that its fun to get to know the speakers and their quirks.

4. Laid back atmosphere and entertaining co-workers: it’s easy to focus on your work when you don’t have to worry about office politics and whether or not your belt is accurately coordinated with your shoes… or in my case if your earrings are too big and loud. It always helps to have friendly banter and people you know you can go to for help when things get confusing. They also make great company for #3.

3. POTLUCKS! Must I really elaborate? These are the best goodbye anyone could get, going out with a party and pasta salad is far more exciting than a handshake and a fancy dinner.

2. Civil Rights: Working on the Criminalization Report (documenting all cases that make it illegal to be homeless) and the Hate Crimes Report (violent acts committed against homeless people for no logical reason) have really given me insight into the problems faced by homeless people every day.

1. Advocacy WITH homeless people: I think many social movements have a tendency to forget who they advocate for. When you lose track of the who, its easier to forget why, and even how to help. Its so much better with the words and advice from individuals who are or have experienced a problem.

Just as a wrap up, I plan to return to my home in Kentucky and hope to use my skills and experiences to educate others and advocate for change. My current plan of action is to return to school in the spring to work towards getting a M.A. in Public Health.

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