Archive for the ‘Homelessness’ Category

Home for the Holidays

Friday, November 21st, 2014

Thanksgiving is fast approaching and we prepare to give thanks for all that we have, but for many Americans, home is not where they will spend the holidays. Many will spend the holiday season on the streets or in shelters.

Over 600,000 people are homeless on a given night – these people sleep in the streets or in shelters. More than 1.5 million Americans will be homeless at some point during the year. Count the people who stay with family or friends and that number of homeless people jumps dramatically.

The overwhelming majority of poor people do not sleep in the street or in shelters. Most individuals have social safety nets, other than government [safety net] programs, in the form of family, friends and community. When bad things happen, many of us can turn to loved ones for support. For the majority falling from housing into homelessness, 72 percent lived with family or friends before ending up in the shelters or the streets. Homelessness is happens when a person’s safety net disappears.

The outlook for future progress in the war on homelessness is promising. More so than with poverty, local governments, private charities and churches can play a vital and effective role in assisting the homeless. New service models are being tested in different cities and regions of the country so we can figure out what works and what doesn’t. More programs are emphasizing data and performance-based measures of success. Creative new programs are springing up. For example, Appalachian Regional Coalition on Homelessness (ARCH), a nonprofit in Johnson City, Tennessee, continues to help find affordable houses for the chronically homeless with disabilities, many of which are veterans. Housing is paired with meaningful opportunities to connect with community and work.

An important aspect of providing help for the homeless is funding. Some funding is accomplished through government dollars and this is determined by grants to regional areas based on data on homeless numbers. In January, each year, the point in time (PIT) survey is conducted all across America. It occurs on one night, as a directive of HUD and a snapshot of homelessness on a single night. In Northeast Tennessee, ARCH will perform the PIT on January 22, 2015. Volunteers are needed to perform this survey by counting the homeless in Northeast Tennessee. Call ARCH at (423) 928-ARCH (2724).

The future on the battle against homelessness is promising, but we must not lose sight of the real suffering faced by real people – even if they are made invisible by poverty statistics. Our main focus and overarching goal must not only be to put roofs over heads, but to address the complex issues facing some of the worst off among us. The war on poverty will not be won until we also win the war on homelessness. Until then, Home for the Holidays will mean life in the streets for many Americans.

Happy Holidays

Friday, November 29th, 2013

As the holidays approach, many of us have so much to be thankful for. As a nation, we have been blessed with an abundance of food, good health and wealth. Unfortunately, many in our nation are not faring so well.

Over 47 million Americans go hungry daily. Over 101 million Americans currently receive government food assistance. Approximately 40 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed. Over 44 million Americans do not have health insurance but most of these people will be able to get affordable health care on January 1 under the affordable health care act . Millions of Americans are still unemployed. 633,732 Americans are currently homeless. Over 20 million Americans say they have experienced homelessness once in life.

These are sobering facts, and sadly, some try to ignore or gloss over these facts. Millions of Americans are struggling to survive and these people need help.

Some people say it is the place of the church to help these people; but the church does not have the resources to help everyone. Some people say it is up to charities to help; but charities are struggling to stay open. Food pantries are empty. Some people say those in need are lazy or a victim of their own bad choices. These are a few of the excuses used to justify not giving help. In reality, the only entity that is large enough to provide the level of help needed is the federal government.

This was proven during and after the Great Depression, and when it comes to past, the same will be the result in the current economic conditions. This is probably unwelcome news for those who spend their time assaulting the federal government and protecting the 1%.

It seems some who attack the federal government only do so with their party is not in the majority. It is even more interesting that when they are in control of the government, things seem to collapse; the economy fails, financial institutions collapse, greed and self indulgence runs rampant.

Many people have demonized the act of helping those in need by using the word liberal or calling those in need lazy. Greedy people love the word Liberal. Liberalism is what made this nation great. You have your social security benefits, Medicare, Medicaid, disability insurance, Veteran benefits, consumer protection, food protection, food stamps, environmental protection, worker protection, and many other benefits because of the acts of liberalism.

The bankers stuffed their pockets full of taxpayer dollars. Large corporations stuff their pockets full of stolen taxpayer dollars and corporate welfare. Elected officials misuse taxpayer money. Greed permeates our society at every level. The 1% get tax breaks while the middle class is carrying the burden and/or being crushed. Some even suggest that the Bible should be revised to remove the sections that direct people to care for the poor.

How long will we have no compassion or sympathy for those in need? Some people seem to have no problem with fellow Americans having no health insurance coverage. Many have no problems with American families sleeping in tent cities under bridges. Republicans and conservatives have no problem slashing money from the SNAP programs although millions of Americans are hungry and need food assistance.

We have much to be thankful for but how long will it be before we become one of the less fortunate? We are the 99% and many are one pay check away from the streets. If you loose your job, home, health insurance or food, do you want to be told, “I will pay for mine and you pay for yours”?

“Dumping” the Homeless in America

Sunday, May 5th, 2013

“Dumping” the homeless – is this the new American response to homelessness? The growing way we treat and look at those who are homeless in this country is disgraceful. There has been a lot of coverage about the Detroit Police Department “dumpling” the homeless in areas unfamiliar to them, all in an effort to clean up tourist areas.

Recently, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a Department of Justice complaint against the Detroit Police Department. The ACLU has been investigating these reports after receiving complaints by individuals who had experienced this practice.

The officers are approaching, handcuffing and picking up those who they perceive to be homeless, and taking them away in a van or police vehicle. Once in the vehicle, the officers drive to a remote area far away from the familiar surroundings the homeless person is accustomed to. The officers take any money they possess and leave the individual stranded. Without a means to pay for transportation, individuals have no choice but to walk several miles back to their original location, sometimes having to travel at night, during freezing temperatures and through unsafe neighborhoods.

This practice is shocking in how those who are expected to uphold and enforce the law treat those who are most vulnerable in our society.

In 2011, the Tennessee Legislation and Governor took a similar approach to homelessness after being humiliated by Occupy Nashville, when they made it illegal to pitch a tent on publicly owned land. This was simply an attempt to hide the homeless problem in Nashville, at the doors of the state capital. Similar laws are popping up across “red” parts of the country.

When it comes to the homeless, people have the homeless (Not In My Backyard) complex. Countless organizations are increasing as those without homes in our cities, states, and country increase. Some go out of our way during the holiday season to help these organizations so that they will have adequate food, clothing, and monetary resources to provide for those who have fallen on hard times but many of these organizations are falling under increasing difficultly to help those in need.

On the other hand, we do not want these individuals in our backyards/neighborhoods. Just several years ago, the sheriff of Unicoi County had the idea to have inmates have a community garden to help provide food for the area homeless. The response of the citizens of Unicoi County was shameful. There was such uproar over the idea, that every site suggested, drew an increasing outcry from citizens.

They looked at these individuals as being “dirty,” “lazy,” and “dangerous/menaces” to society. Our society increasingly demonizes those in need. We want the homeless to receive help… just somewhere else.

”Dumping the “homeless reveals a disturbing lack of compassion about a growing segment of our society. In 2012, the Housing and Urban Development Department reported that 636,782 individuals were homeless in the United States. These figures show that America has increasing problems with individuals and families becoming homeless.

Is this injustice becoming the “norm” in America in regards to how we address the issue of homelessness?