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Posts Tagged ‘Awareness’

NCH Responds to Fallacious White House Report on Homelessness: Calls for Significant New Investments to End Homelessness NOW!

Written by admin on . Posted in Blog, White Paper, White Papers

In what appears to be an escalation on the White House’s war on the homeless, rather than a righteous war on homelessness, the White House Council of Economic Advisers released an unsigned report this week on “The State of Homelessness in America” that is on its face absurd, and uses faulty logic, statistics and policy prescriptions to give cover to the President’s recently stated desire to crack down on the homeless by criminalizing and warehousing people experiencing homelessness – not to help end their misery, but to alleviate the impact of street homelessness on real estate investors and businesses.

The report claims that homelessness is caused by 1) the higher costs of housing due to overregulation of housing markets, 2) permissive policies increasing the “tolerability of sleeping on the streets”, 3) the supply of homeless shelters, and 4) the ineffectiveness of previous federal policies in reducing homelessness.  Finally, in heralds the Trump Administration’s actions to reduce Homelessness without offering any evidence to support the impact of such actions on the reductions of homelessness.

“This report seemingly attempts to give cover to the President’s recent attacks on cities experiencing the crisis of increased homelessness without taking responsibility for the Administration’s own actions which undercut state and local efforts to end homelessness through a combination of housing and health care”, said John Parvensky, Executive Director of the National Coalition for the Homeless.  “The report purports to be an economic analysis of homeless, but instead uses misleading statistics, faulty analysis and spurious conclusions to blame homelessness on those experiencing it, rather than on failure of the housing market and government policy to provide real solutions at the scale necessary to truly end homelessness.”

The report’s simplistic analysis of the effect of regulations on the cost of housing ends with the startling conclusion that a “1 percent reduction rental home prices reduces the rate of homelessness by 1%.”  While the regulatory environment may have a marginal impact of the cost of building housing, the actual cost of rental housing is dictated by the laws of supply and demand (something you would think a council of economic advisors would understand).  The cities with the highest rates of homelessness also have the greatest shortage of affordable housing with rents low enough for those experiencing homelessness to afford. 

When there is a shortage of housing units, owners will set the rents as high as the market will allow, which puts the cost far above what people experiencing homelessness can afford.  The report itself acknowledges that the mean incomes of people experiencing homelessness is about one-half of the poverty level – which equates to $6,445 for a single individual and $12,375 for a family of four.  Yet the 2019 fair market rent in Los Angeles is $1,158 for an efficiency apartment and $2,401 for a three bedroom apartment.  Thus, the average homeless persons in Los Angeles would need spend twice their income to rent an average apartment.  A 1% reduction in rent prices would have no impact on reducing homelessness.  Even a 50% reduction in rent due to deregulation (which even the report’s authors don’t suggest is possible) would mean that the average homeless person would still need to spend all of their income for an apartment.   The solution to high rents is not deregulation, but increased governmental subsidies to bring those rents within the reach of all Americans.

The report’s contention that tolerating people living on the streets increases homelessness is equally absurd.  Talk to any person living on the streets of Skid Row or in any city and you will discover that it is the lack of available, accessible and affordable alternatives that drive people to find refuge on the streets, not tolerance of such refuge.  Alternatively, criminalizing homelessness through camping bans, sweeps, and other means does not reduce homelessness – it only moves people from one place to another and makes it more difficult for outreach workers to engage and connect these people to the limited housing options that may be available to them.

Similarly, the report’s claim that the supply of shelter increases homelessness is laughable.  Building shelters, which are in already in short supply in most communities, no more increases homelessness than building hospitals increases those who are sick.  While building quality shelter may be one effective strategy of reducing street homelessness by providing realistic alternatives to those sleeping on the streets, few people would choose shelter over safe and affordable housing.

Fourth, the report’s critique of previous federal policies does raise serious questions about whether HUD’s contention that homelessness is actually declining in most communities is accurate due to methodological problems and changes in definitions.  However, it’s contention that evidence-based practices of “housing first” and permanent supportive housing are ineffective in reducing homeless is flawed.  Those interventions are designed to end the homelessness of those who have access to such housing, and numerous studies have documented that these approaches do in fact end homeless for 90% of those housed through these approaches.  The problem isn’t the policy intervention.  The problem is that the Federal government has never funded these interventions to the level needed to dramatically reduce homelessness nationwide.

The growth of mass homelessness in our cities did not occur overnight.  It is the result of nearly four decades of federal budget cuts to affordable and public housing programs under both Republican and Democratic administrations beginning in the 1980s.  Indeed, the Administration’s recent budget proposals have called for reductions in funding for strategies that work, not increasing funding to the level needed to truly end homelessness.

This year, HUD provided only $415 million in homeless assistance grants to California, a paltry sum compared to the number of people experiencing homelessness in that state.  Furthermore, only 4.5% of this funding was available to fund new projects to house those currently on the streets or in shelters – the remaining funding was needed just to keep those individuals previously housed through federal support from losing their housing.

Meanwhile, California has recently committed $1 billion of new 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 – not increased efforts to criminalize homelessness or warehouse those currently on the streets.

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.

 

#TBT – Hoboes, bums, tramps: How our terminology of homelessness has changed

Written by admin on . Posted in Blog

Resentment and fear of the homeless is nothing new. Vagrancy was criminalized in England four centuries before the American Revolution; in 1547, England began branding those arrested for vagrancy with a “V” for “vagabond”. Those arrested a second time could be executed.

Attitudes have shifted over time, as has terminology. While “bum” is a derogatory term for someone without a fixed residence and regular employment, terms like “hobo” and “tramp” conjure up nostalgia that belies the difficulty in their wandering lifestyles.

Copied from the Hobo Times' Hobo Travel Guide by Bobb Hopkins

Copied from the Hobo Times’ Hobo Travel Guide by Bobb Hopkins

“Hoboes” emerged in the U.S. after the Civil War, when many men were out of work and their families displaced. The term emerged in the American West around 1890, though its origins are hazy. Some say it was an abbreviation of “homeward bound” or “homeless boy”; author Bill Bryson wrote in his 1998 book “Made in America” that it may have come from “Ho, beau!”, a railroad greeting.

“Tramps” also came out of the Civil War era, with the term, originally from England referring to “tramping about”, becoming Americanized as a term for a long war march. While the term came into use around the same time as “hobo”, they means different things. Depression-era writer H. L. Mencken wrote, “Tramps and hobos are commonly lumped together, but see themselves as sharply differentiated. A hobo or bo is simply a migratory laborer; he may take some longish holidays, but sooner or later he returns to work. A tramp never works if it can be avoided; he simply travels.”

After their post-Civil War emergence, hoboes and tramps became prominent again during the Great Depression. While we may today think of a hobo as a laid-back free spirit riding the rails with a bindle for a pillow, the mass migration of these laborers was born of destitution and desperation, akin to the life of the Joads portrayed in John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath”.

In a 2003 interview, Todd DePastino, author of “Citizen Hobo: How a Century of Homelessness Shaped America”, said, “One famous quip had it that the hobo works and wanders, the tramp drinks and wanders, and the bum just drinks. More accurately the tramp, the hobo, and the bum represent three historical stages of American homelessness. … Hoboes were by and large more organized, militant, independent, and political than [tramps]. The widespread use of the word ‘bum’ after World War II signals the end of this colorful subculture of transient labor.”

The terms “homeless” and “homelessness” came into lexicon in the 1970’s and 1980’s, when modern homelessness began to appear. Terminology used to denote persons living outdoors or in inadequate or inappropriate dwellings continues to evolve, as many in the service sector now choose to say “people experiencing homelessness” or “persons with lived experience.” Whatever the terminology, no one should have to experience homelessness, especially in a country as wealthy as the United States.

hobo poem and other books

**Special thanks to Michael Stoops for helping us to remember our history**

#TBT – National Union of the Homeless

Written by admin on . Posted in Advocacy, Awareness, Blog, History

Art thanks to WRAP and artist Art Hazelwood

Art thanks to WRAP and artist Art Hazelwood

Modern homelessness, as we know it today, began in the 1970’s. During the Reagan Administration, affordable housing dollars were cut but almost 75%, leading directly to poor working families experiencing homelessness at alarming rates. Folks began to organize in the 1980’s, this was when our organization was formed. At the same time, a group called the National Union of the Homeless (NUH) developed out of the first resident-run shelter in Philadelphia.

Read more about the NUH:

“In the late 1970s and early 1980s the United States economy underwent a series of changes that led to a sharp rise in homelessness. Homelessness was no longer characterized by down and out individuals living on skid rows. For the first time in US history, families were increasingly becoming homeless, and the shelter system was created to house them.

Out of this common experience of dislocation and dispossession grew a national organization of homeless people that mobilized thousands throughout the US in the 1980s and 1990s. At its height, the National Union of the Homeless (NUH) had over 20 local chapters and 15,000 members in cities across the US.

Most importantly, it implemented a model of organizing involving the poor and homeless thinking for themselves, speaking for themselves, fighting for themselves and producing from their ranks capable and creative leaders. This was contrary to the prevailing stereotypes and misconceptions about homelessness. Almost twenty years after the decline of the NUH, its history offers important lessons for building a movement to end poverty today, in the midst of continuing concentration of wealth among a few and expanding poverty for many.”
(Copied from The National Union of the Homeless: A Brief History, Published July 2011, https://homelessunion.wdfiles.com/local–files/curriculum/BriefHistoryPamphlet.pdf)

The NUH was active between 1985 and 1993. During this time, NUH mounted several campaigns, first aimed at overcoming stereotypes of who was homeless, then later focused on appropriating housing for its members. Their actions used slogans like “Homes and Jobs: Not Death in the Streets” and “Homeless Not Helpless.” They mounted civil disobedience like the Tompkins Square Tent City (detailed in Tent City Blues, an article in the Sept-Oct 1990 issue of Mother Jones), a national series of housing takeovers (watch in the documentary, The Takeover, from 1990), and the Union organized and participated in the Housing Now March along with the National Coalition for the Homeless and several others.

We encourage anyone reading this to learn more about where our collective work has come from by checking out the above links, and also visiting the Homeless Union History Project and the National Union of the Homeless Wikipideia page.

 

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