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Posts Tagged ‘Civil Rights’

Criminalizing poverty during a public health crisis

Written by admin on . Posted in Blog

By Annie Leomporra

Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) came out with their recommendation on how to address homeless encampments during the COVID pandemic. The CDC statement read that

… if individual housing options are not available, allow people who are living in encampments to remain where they are. Encourage people living in encampments to increase space between people and provide hygiene resources in accordance with the Interim Guidance for People Experiencing Unsheltered Homelessness

Image by Western Regional Advocacy Project

For advocates and people experiencing homelessness, this was an exciting statement that spoke to what we all know to be the truth, that homelessness is a public health emergency and that sweeps exacerbate health risks for those living outdoors. The CDC recommended providing access to clean water, hand washing stations, bathrooms, and regular trash pick up for people living outdoors. We thought maybe this would be an opportunity for communities across this country to re-think encampment sweeps, and the criminalization of homelessness. For a little while, in many communities, that is what happened. 

Meanwhile, due to funding cuts and social distancing restrictions, massive congregate shelters had to downsize their occupancy. Some people got transferred to hotels/motels or other services while others went outdoors. Further, as the pandemic economic downturn started to cause real hardship, more folks were forced to seek emergency housing assistance. With shelters at capacity, more people were forced outdoors and after just a few short months, municipalities across this country resumed encampment sweeps, going against CDC guidelines. 

Encampment sweeps aren’t the only thing that continued, the criminalization of ‘quality of life crimes’ came back in full force. In Hawaii, the Civil Beat, reported that the city of Honolulu received $38 million in CARES Act, and the Honolulu Police Department received at least $16 million of that for overtime pay. This overtime pay is suppose to be used to enforce they current mayor’s pandemic rules, however those who were most cited happened to be people experiencing homelessness.

One man has been cited nearly 100 times since March for 199 supposedly pandemic related violations. He has also received 37 tickets for quality of life crimes. Once someone receives a citation they are required to appear in court. A missed court appearance can turn into a bench warrant and lead into an arrest. In citing people experiencing homelessness for little else than not having anywhere to quarantine or social distance, the city of Honolulu not only is being incredibly cruel, but it is creating a dangerous situation for health of the entire community. 

The National Coalition for the Homeless urges localities put into practice the CDC guidelines on unsheltered homeless, and protect this vulnerable population from unnecessary risk of COVID infection, especially as the weather turns cold. We also demand that cities and states end of the practice of criminalizing poverty and homelessness!

You Don’t Need a Home to Vote: Following up on the homeless vote in 2020

Written by admin on . Posted in Blog

Thank you to all people who have experienced homelessness who took the time to make their vote count in the 2020 elections! Thank you also to the advocates who worked to ensure that voting was accessible to those experiencing housing instability. As our community relies on government-funded programs and services to provide critical needs, it is critical that we all make our voices heard, not just in elections, but in keeping our elected officials accountable to those most in need after being elected!

If you have a few minutes, please share with us what your experience was like voting this year, or in assisting others to register and cast their vote:

Your vote matters

Written by admin on . Posted in Blog, News

We are now only a matter of days away from the November 3rd general election. While registration deadlines have passed in many states, there are still places where you can register in person, and possibly even cast a provisional ballot on election day. There is lots coming out in the news about polling locations, voter suppression tactics, and last minute candidate education efforts. We wanted to be sure that people with unstable housing, and their advocates, have the latest information to ensure that all residents of the country can exercise their right to vote!

We are thrilled to share these state-by-state voting Know-Your-Rights cards that include information directed specifically towards voters who may not have a permanent address. 

While registration deadlines have passed in most states, you still have time to register, in person, in CO, DC, HI, ID, ME, MD, MI, MN, MT, NH, NM, NC, ND, UT, VT, WA, WI, WY; many of which allow same day registration on election day or during early voting periods. Click here to find the latest ID and address guidelines for registering to vote and casting a ballot in your state. You can also find more about mail-in ballot options here

There are reports from communities across the country that voters are being given misinformation in order to suppress or discount their votes. Our Know-Your-Rights cards list state and local election websites. If you are ever in doubt, or have questions about voting, your local government-run elections board or office can always help you out. We also encourage you to contact 1-866-OUR-VOTE, especially if you feel you are being wrongly turned away from voting at the polls. This a well respected and accessible hotline, staffed by lawyers who can directly assist you with casting your ballot. 

Read more about how communities are ensuring those with unstable housing are voting this year below, and Get Out the UnHoused Vote!

Articles:
How Do You Vote In Kansas City When You Don’t Have An Address?
Voting is a challenge for the homeless. Advocates are trying to make it easier.
Community leaders help people experiencing homelessness vote
Voting Is a Right. But for People Experiencing Homelessness, It’s Especially Difficult.

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