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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

 

Congress Takes a Stand against Youth Homelessness with Reauthorized Bill

Written by Je'Lissa on . Posted in Policy Advocacy, Youth

On January 27, 2015, Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced a bipartisan bill co-sponsored by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) to expand programs for vulnerable youth who are homeless and on their own. The National Coalition for the Homeless strongly endorses this legislation.

This bill would reauthorize and expand the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act, a law that expired in the last Congress. The new bill, titled the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act (RHYTPA), will continue programs for unaccompanied homeless youth with increased funding for services such as transitional housing and street outreach. Expansion of RHYTPA also ensures LGBTQ youth are granted access to services free of discrimination. It also expands support for survivors of human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

The National Coalition applauds the work of Senators Collins, Leahy, Ayotte, and Booker on this important piece of legislation. We urge Congress to pass this legislation without delay.

Growing Crisis in D.C.

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Awareness, Families, Housing, Policy Advocacy, Prevention, Shelter

Growing Crisis Takes Over D.C. – Auburn Trotter, NCH Intern

When I moved to DC to intern with NCH, I knew that I would gain a new perspective on the housing policies in America, but never did I think that the nation’s capitol would be suffering from such a crisis. In January 2014, a Point-in-Time count showed that a total of 7,748 people experienced homelessness  in the District of Columbia. This number increased 12.9%  from the previous year’s count. While cities surrounding the metropolitan area have decreased their homeless populations, the District has not seen much change. In fact, D.C.’s homeless population continues to rise at an alarming rate.

It’s important to first recognize that there are city officials who have fought hard to push forward possible solutions to this issue. It wouldn’t be fair to say that our officials haven’t done anything to try and curb this issue. Legislation has been introduced and passed. Plans to transition families from shelters to permanent homes are being strategized. Our leaders have the will to address the issue but even with these efforts the problem has continued to spiral out of control. So the lingering question becomes, why does homelessness continue to exist at a crisis level in the nation’s capital? The answer is two simple words: affordable housing!

There are many reasons that people find themselves homeless, but the lack of affordable housing remains one of the leading causes. With rents rising all around the city, what are people left to do? Some would say “go live with friends or relatives,” but a majority of the time families do not have room to accommodate others in their living space. So the next natural answer would be to report to the Public Housing Authority (PHA) and seek assistance. Thanks to the 2013 sequester and budget cuts, this has become a dead-end option. With funds being cut by 5%, PHAs across the country encounter difficulties trying to serve those in need. In fact, DC’s housing authority closed its Section 8 voucher wait list, which contained 70,000 people at the time, in April of 2013 and has not re-opened since.

After being told “NO” on several instances, the next and last resort for many people is a shelter. Many of the residents at D.C. General emergency shelter, the area’s largest family shelter, will tell you that they are thankful for the shelter and for having a roof over their heads, but it is not a place where they want to be raising a family. Many have jobs where they work long hours, just to receive a poverty level income. City officials want them to apply for assistance programs where, after their time in the program has ended, they face a rent payment of $900-$1200 depending on the size of the apartment.

Homelessness and increasing rents are serious issues that need an urgent response.  Ultimately, the homeless crisis will continue to get worse unless the city invests in sustainable, affordable housing for its residents. A strong housing policy could significantly reduce the size of our current homeless population and prevent thousands of others from losing their homes. There is no reason that we cannot decrease homelessness in our city. But we must all take action.

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