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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.

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

 

Protecting Our Country’s Homes

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Criminalization, Tent Cities

To each person, the word “home” carries a different meaning. For some, it is simply a roof over one’s head. To others however, the word “home” carries greater significance: it implies a certain sense of comfort provided not only by the protection of having a physical shelter, but also by the support given by a person’s family or loved ones. Thus, having a “home” can also mean having a community to rely upon.

This is exactly what the word “home” meant to the residents of Camp Take Notice (CTN) in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The camp was a grassroots tent community of homeless people who worked to create a safe and sober atmosphere in which they could receive food and shelter. CTN partnered with Michigan Itinerant Shelter System-Interdependent Out of Necessity, an organization that facilitates tent communities for the homeless, to create the camp.

Photo by Michael Dietsch

Unfortunately, the Michigan Department of Transportation ordered the eviction of the camp, stating the residents of CTN were trespassing. Homeless persons were forced to move out of the area on June 22nd, 2012 and abandon the community they called home. An eight-foot wall is now being built around the area in order to prevent the establishment of any other encampments.

Of the 68 camp residents, only 33 qualified to receive one-year housing subsidies; the others were left to fend for themselves. In a situation like this, real sustainable solutions for every resident need to be provided. Unfortunately, this rarely occurs when dealing with criminalization of the homeless. Many simply believe that by implementing camping bans and similar laws, the homelessness issue will disappear. Yet, without sustainable solutions attacking the root of the problem, the homelessness issue will still remain widespread.

Michigan Senator Rebekah Warren has worked tirelessly to delay the eviction, and help create alternative solutions to the problem. “I am deeply concerned for the well-being of the residents of this camp and I believe that all people deserve basic necessities like shelter, running water and electricity.”

Senator Warren sought another property that could serve as a new location for the camp but was regrettably unsuccessful in her attempts due to MDOT’s unwillingness to delay the eviction. Consequently, there was insufficient time to find another location. Despite these setbacks, she remains committed to the issue by continuing to look for long-term solutions to the homelessness issue.

While Senator Warren’s work is inspiring, too few public officials champion the issue of homelessness. In fact, many support criminalization efforts that negatively target the homeless in an attempt to “deal with the homeless problem.” Everyone deserves to have a place they can call home. Creating barriers to housing not only violates basic human rights, but it also counters the better interests of our society. It is thus imperative that more actions be taken to prevent such criminalization laws from being put into place.

By Sahana Malik, NCH Summer Intern

See NCH Staff talking more about Home and Homelessness. (Special thanks to Speak For We for the insights, platform and innovative thinking!)

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