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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.

Illegal to be a Good Samaritan

Written by admin on . Posted in Awareness, Civil Rights, Criminalization, Food Sharing, Hunger

When did we start expecting that sharing a meal with the hungry and homeless is illegal?

Homeless People Deserve Food TooNCH often receives calls from generous individuals and organizations who wish to feed the homeless in their city.  They call with reasonable questions, aware of the potential illegality of helping others, to ask about food distribution bans or restrictions in their area.  Within the last two years (2013-2015) over 26 cities and communities have passed laws restricting the distribution of food to the homeless, and the number is growing every year.  Those kind enough to want to feed the hungry must jump through hoops and navigate red tape simply to share food with others.

Food-sharing restrictions do not address the root causes of homelessness and poverty in the United States.  Instead, they create barriers for those trying to help.  And yet, over time, these restrictions on food sharing have become the norm.  The idea that sharing meals with others should be regulated by the law is no longer a surprise to most people, in fact, it is expected.

Our societal entrenchment in rules and regulations slows our ability to express kindness and generosity for others.  In order to address poverty, hunger, and homelessness, we must find a way to break free of this attitudinal obstacle and take thoughtful action, free of restraint.

Take a look at our October, 2014 report “Share No More: The Criminalization of Efforts to Feed People in Need” for more details on the state of bans in the country.

-Kara Kennedy
NCH Summer Intern

Putting our heads together to find the Criminalization of Homelessness

Written by admin on . Posted in Advocacy, Civil Rights, Community Organizing, Criminalization, Food Sharing, Hate Crimes, Policy Advocacy, Tent Cities, Violence Against the Homeless

Thirty eight grassroots organizations from around the nation gathered in Denver last week to discuss the criminalization of homelessness. NCH helped fundraise for the event, one of the largest strategy sessions with our field partners in many years. A growing trend of criminalization laws have made it illegal for homeless people to eat, sleep or even ask for help. As a consequence, those who inhabit public spaces have their lives constantly interrupted by law enforcement, racking up arrest records for petty crimes that exist only as penalties for being homeless. Advocates came away from the Denver strategy session with renewed energy to fight these policies and protect the civil rights of those experiencing homelessness.

Advocates from across the country show their fighting spirit

Advocates from across the country show their fighting spirit

 

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