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Statement Rejecting Trump Administration Efforts to Criminalize Homelessness – Call for Significant New Investment to End Homelessness Now!

Written by admin on . Posted in Advocacy, Civil Rights, Criminalization, Housing, Policy Advocacy, Press Releases

In an act of hypocrisy that is extreme, even when compared to the serial outrageousness we have come to expect from Washington in recent years, the Trump Administration has taken initial action seeking to criminalize homelessness by relocating people experiencing homelessness from the streets of Los Angeles and other California cities to federal facilities.  While appropriate federal investment is desperately needed to address the growing crisis of homelessness in cities across the nation, federal efforts to criminalize homelessness, or to create warehouses to move the homeless out of sight and out of mind are clearly not the answer.

The Trump Administration is complicit in the continuing growth of homelessness.  While it did not start under its watch, the administration has offered no positive proposals to address homelessness nor its main underlying cause — the lack of affordable housing.  Rather, the administration has proposed significant budget cuts to HUD’s affordable housing and homeless funding every year.   Other actions, such as repeated attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, cuts to SNAP benefits, and cuts to housing assistance for undocumented individuals in public housing, all undercut state and local efforts to end homelessness.

The growth of mass homelessness beginning in the 1980’s began with massive cuts to federal housing assistance for public housing and the Section 8 program.  Federal funding to specifically address homelessness has never been at a level commensurate with the need nor adequate to end homelessness.

Currently, HUD holds a yearly national competition for funding to award its Homeless Assistance grants to local communities.  In January, HUD announced the distribution of $2.2 Billion in such grants.  However, the vast majority of HUD funding was needed just to renew existing projects housing formerly homeless persons.  Nationwide, 91.3% of projects funded were renewal projects, with only 5.8% ($126 million) being new housing or service projects.  Of these 71% of renewals (totaling $2 billion) were for permanent supportive housing – applications to keep those who were housed through those projects remain housed.

In California, only 4.5% of the $415 million of HUD grants funded new projects to house those currently on the streets or in shelters – the remaining funding was needed just to keep those previously housed from losing their housing. 

Meanwhile, California has committed $1 billion of state funding, and Los Angeles voters approved two $2 billion bonds to address homelessness.

If the Trump administration was serious about ending homelessness in California and across our nation, it would call for a massive new investment of funding for homeless assistance and affordable housing.

We need to demand that the President and Congress significantly increase its funding for homeless assistance programs — to not only continue to house those previously housed who need continued assistance to remain housed, but also to provide new housing those currently living on the streets.  Incremental increases are not sufficient.  

They must also restore affordable housing funding across the board to the levels necessary so that those experiencing homelessness are not continually competing for limited housing with those living at risk of homelessness, on fixed incomes, or working at minimum wage jobs. 

We know how to end homelessness through a combination of affordable housing, health care, and social supports.  Criminalization and warehousing of the homeless are not the answers.

Vulnerable to Hate: A Survey of Bias-Motivated Violence against People Experiencing Homelessness in 2016-2017

Written by admin on . Posted in Hate Crimes, Report, Violence Against the Homeless

The National Coalition for the Homeless has published its annual report on bias-motivated violence against people experiencing homelessness on December 21, commemorated as National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day. Vulnerable to Hate: A Survey of Bias-Motivated Violence against  People Experiencing Homelessness in 2016-2017, outlines the 48 lethal attacks and the 64 non-lethal attacks that occurred in 2016 and 2017 throughout the United States.

The report discusses the structural violence that has created endemic poverty, and proposes legislative solutions to 36 deaths per daylawmakers and advocates working to protect people experiencing homelessness from violence. Combining statistics and narratives, Vulnerable to Hate provides an in-depth look at the types of crimes homeless individuals experienced in 2016 and 2017, from police brutality to stabbings. The report breaks down lethal and non-lethal crimes by state, and each crime is documented by city, date, and description.

December 21, 2018 commemorates the 28th Annual National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day, a remembrance of those who have passed away during the year while unhoused. Events are held nationwide to remember thousands who may not have had memorial services. A growing number of cities have been releasing annual reports on the number of community members who have died while homeless. Vulnerable to Hate only documents a fraction of these deaths. As the National Health Care for the Homeless Council points out, life expectancy for someone who is homeless can be 20-30 years younger than the general population. The National Coalition for the Homeless has estimated that annually, there are 13,000 individuals who die on our streets.

This year’s Vulnerable to Hate report marks the 18th year the National Coalition for the Homeless has analyzed bias-motivated violence that leads to many deaths among the homeless community. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has documented increases in reported Hate Crimes against federally protected classes since the 2016 elections. The numbers of attacks reported against people experiencing homelessness have decreased during this time. It is likely that as political views have bifurcated, bias against federally-protected classes has become more accepted or promoted in the mainstream culture. Still, the data collected by the National Coalition for the Homeless demonstrates that bias-motivated violence against homeless persons continues to be highly prevalent in our communities.

California saw the most crimes against people experiencing homelessness in 2016 and 2017. In particular, a series of violent crimes in San Diego were committed by serial perpetrator John D. Guerrero, who was arrested for the murder and attempted murder of several homeless individuals. In one instance, a 23 year-old man, Dionicio Derek Vahidy, was doused in accelerant and lit on fire by Guerrero. This example highlights the randomized nature of the hatred homeless individuals experience.

Federal and local legislation could help to prevent bias-motivated violence against people experiencing homelessness, adding housing status as a protected class under hate crimes statutes or vulnerable victims sentencing guidelines. However, as evident from the crimes outlined in Vulnerable to Hate, a cultural shift is needed to change how US society treats and values our homeless population, in order to prevent hate crimes and to build healthy and compassionate communities.

 

Read the full report.

Remembering those lost to Homelessness

Written by admin on . Posted in Advocacy, Awareness, Hate Crimes, Mortality, Violence Against the Homeless

For nearly three decades, advocates for people experiencing homelessness nationwide have taken one day out of the year to remember those who have passed due to the trauma of homelessness. Symbolically commemorated on December 21st, the winter solstice and longest night of the year, National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day serves as a reminder of the daily violence experienced by those who are without permanent housing.

Every year, we mourn those we have lost and bemoan persistent homelessness that does not seem to be getting better. DC memorialWe have lost so many of our neighbors due to violence perpetrated by those who see people experiencing homelessness as less than human, or the structural violence that exacerbates easily preventable disease or shortens life expectancy by 20-30 years. I remember my fellow AmeriCorps volunteer and colleague Jesse, whose heart gave out after only a handful of years off the streets. I remember Cliff, the talented photographer and vegetarian, conscripted to eating American cheese sandwiches in the shelter, even as his health failed due to cancer. These, and so many others, were our friends, our colleagues, our family members, who became victims of a lack of affordable housing.

The fact remains that a lack of housing is unhealthy, traumatizing and significantly shortens an individual’s life expectancy. People who experience homelessness have an average life expectancy of around 50 years of age, almost 20 years lower than housed populations. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) states that people experiencing homelessness are at a greater risk of infectious and chronic illness, poor mental health, and substance abuse

They are also more susceptible to violence once experiencing homelessness, a fact confirmed by over 20 years of reports on bias-motivated crimes against people experiencing homelessness showing 1,769 reported acts of violence against people experiencing homelessness, 476 of which were lethal.

In 2017, there were 22 cities that reported the number of people experience homelessness who lost their lives without a place to call home. Out of those cities that reported, 2,525 homeless community members passed away. Consulting reports about deaths of people experiencing homelessness in 2016, we estimate that at least 13,000 people pass away each year while without housing.

Homelessness is the most extreme expression of structural housing poverty. This form of extreme poverty hasn’t always existed at the levels we see today, and doesn’t have to be a permanent state in all of our communities. We need to invest in our shared humanity through investment in publicly affordable housing. We need to build healthier and more compassionate communities, that ensure all residents’ basic human needs are met. May this Memorial Day be a reminder to all of us that working together, we can build our housing infrastructure, and reinforce our safety net of food, cash, medical and housing assistance, so we don’t lose another brother and sister to the streets.

We invite all of you to register your Memorial Day events at https://nationalhomeless.org. If you are not able to host your own event, please participate in a nearby event to memorialize our fallen community members that passed away without the dignity to have a place to call home. Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day is co-sponsored by the National Health Care for the Homeless Council and the National Coalition for the Homeless.

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