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Posts Tagged ‘Criminalization’

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.

 

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.

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