Homeless Will Now Be Asked: Are You Fleeing Domestic Violence?

A domestic violence survivor sits with her son for dinner in their new apartment in New York. Among the goals of counting people who are homeless because of domestic violence is to understand how best to steer them into permanent, safe housing.; Bebeto Matthews, The Associated Press

January 19, 2018, By Matt Vasilogambros; http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2018/01/19/homeless-will-now-be-asked-are-you-fleeing-domestic-violence

In its annual count of the city’s homeless population, New York in 2015 listed how many people fit into 10 different groups: nearly 4,000 chronically homeless, more than 8,000 severely mentally ill, 1,500 veterans, and so on. But when the list got to victims of domestic violence, the annual federally mandated count showed one striking number: zero.

Far from the reality on the ground — nearly a third of homeless families with children have experienced domestic violence, according to the city’s Department of Social Services — the glaring statistical gap in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Point-in-Time count was a red flag for advocates who work with victims every day.

Without an accurate count of people who are homeless because of domestic violence, communities across the country can’t fully understand and serve their homeless population, said Carol Corden, one of those advocates.

“If you ignore them, you ignore a major part of homelessness,” said Corden, the executive director of New York-based New Destiny Housing, which connects low-income victims of domestic violence with affordable permanent housing.

This year, after lobbying from advocates for homeless women and children like Corden, the annual count will for the first time ask people whether they are currently homeless because of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence or stalking. HUD had previously suggested that communities ask homeless people if they had ever experienced domestic violence, but the narrower question will help paint a more accurate picture, Corden said.

The Point-in-Time count, a one-night survey of the country’s homeless population, includes unsheltered homeless people, such as those living on the streets or in cars, and sheltered homeless people, including those in transitional housing or subsidized hotel stays. (The count does not include people in rapid rehousing or permanent supportive housing programs.) The snapshot is mandatory for communities looking to receive federal grants to help pay for local homeless services.

Communities, led by their local homeless agencies, this year can choose any of the last 10 days of January to conduct the count. In the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, for example, the count is Jan. 24. In the Charlotte area, it’s Jan. 31.

Along with asking about domestic violence, officials and volunteers will scour their streets and shelters, asking homeless people where they are staying that night, how many members of their family are staying in the same location, whether they have HIV or a severe mental illness, and whether they are a veteran, a chronic substance abuser, or chronically homeless. Some participants decline to answer, even though the results remain anonymous. While the survey is not exact, the count provides a general estimate of homelessness in the community.

This year’s question was added because HUD officials determined that asking whether homeless people had been a victim of domestic violence in the past wasn’t telling them whether they were homeless because of that violence. William Snow, who works in HUD’s Office of Special Needs Assistance Programs, made this point clear when, earlier this month, he briefed local officials across the country about the upcoming count.

Read MORE at Pew Trusts.org

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‘Wild’ ideas about how to end homelessness unveiled at USC event

Social workers, tech experts and community leaders note new policy and service initiatives from city, county and state governments; BY Ron Mackovich, USC News, 

Tech, hackathons, housing and empathy were among the approaches to homelessness discussed Wednesday at an event that included service providers, law enforcement officers, community leaders and people who have been homeless.

Panel on stage

Experts from different fields presented ideas. (Photo/Jason Wallis)

“We have the best playing field we’ve ever had to make things better for every human being in L.A. County,” said Marilyn L. Flynn, dean of the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, noting a number of new policy and service initiatives from city, county and state governments designed to help end homelessness.

USC Trustee Dworak-Peck was on hand for the forum titled “Wild Ideas and Innovations: A Radical Conversation About Homelessness” at Town and Gown. Faculty from the USC Price School of Public Policy and the USC Marshall School of Business also took part.

“There’s a tremendous amount of energy and creativity in this room,” said Brenda Wiewel, director of USC Initiatives to Eliminate Homelessness. “This is a topic that’s finally getting the attention it deserves. I don’t see how we can have prosperity and social justice with so many people suffering from housing insecurity.”

Not the only one

“I’m probably not the only person in this room who’s been homeless,” said Gabriel Crenshaw, a psychologist and lecturer at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work.

Crenshaw, who is also a TV personality, talked about the mental siege he suffered while living in his car in Manhattan Beach.

I started to lose my grip on reality.

Gabriel Crenshaw

“I started to lose my grip on reality,” he said. “I was exposed to environmental concerns you don’t think about when there’s a roof over your head. Homeless people appear to be crazy. Impulsive, disruptive behavior is their way of communicating fear. Once we understand that, the urgency to do something about it kicks in.”

Crenshaw, who cited research showing more than a quarter of people living on the streets suffer from mental illness, said the best solution is housing. He also emphasized empathy.

“People aren’t interested in what you know until they know you care,” Crenshaw said. “I don’t have to say a word. They walk into the room and feel support and empathy. The neural pathway has already changed.”

The tech approach

Technological solutions to homelessness were brought up by a several speakers. Flynn spoke of houses that could be built by 3-D printers, while SoCapTech CEO Ellen Sloan proposed a hackathon centering on homelessness.

“Everybody in this room has a smart phone,” Sloan said. “But people in nonprofits are stuck with email, phones, paper forms and legacy software that’s a rat’s nest.”

Sloan believes nonprofits serving homeless populations could adopt free or inexpensive digital platforms to collect and share information, smoothing the process for homeless people seeking services.

Denise McCain-Tharnstrom, who also attended the forum, developed the WIN (What I Need) app to help homeless people find services. She pointed to research by USC Associate Professor Eric Rice that shows a majority of homeless people in Los Angeles have access to cellphones.

We’re working with USC to explore what it would look like … to connect homeless and hungry students with services.

Denise McCain-Tharnstrom

“We’re working with USC to explore what it would look like to incorporate university facilities into our app, to connect homeless and hungry students with services,” McCain-Tharnstrom said. “Each college has unique services that are available for their students. We want the students to know everything that’s available to them.”

A partnership to end homelessness

The “Wild Ideas” event is part of a university-wide effort at USC to end homelessness that includes research and partnerships with community-based organizations.

An interdisciplinary team of USC experts is analyzing data from the 2017 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count. The team is working with the Los Angeles Homeless Services authority to recommend solutions.

Wiewel, who has dedicated herself to programs for chronically homeless persons, believes team research, partnerships and forums like “Wild Ideas” are critical to ending homelessness.

“We really want this to be a collaborative process; we don’t want to talk at people,” Wiewel said. “We’re hoping this will stimulate knowledge and ideas to give us a new perspective and help us frame what we’re doing in new ways.”

The event was sponsored by the Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work’s Department of Adults and Healthy Aging chaired by Suzanne Wenzel.

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January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month

“Human trafficking is a crime against humanity. We must unite our efforts to free victims and stop this crime that’s become ever more aggressive, that threatens not just individuals, but the foundational values of society.” – Pope Francis


Slavery and Human Trafficking Awareness  Month was implemented to raise awareness among Americans that human trafficking happens in states and communities across the United States. Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery and occurs when a trafficker uses force, fraud or coercion to control another person for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex acts or soliciting labor or services against his/her will. Victim identification remains a significant challenge to U.S. efforts to prevent trafficking, prosecute perpetrators, and protect victims. Visit the National Human Trafficking Hotline website where you can learn the signs of trafficking, gain information on the types of trafficking. If you or someone you know is being trafficked, call  1-888-373-7888 or text 233733 for free confidential help.

Human Trafficking Background and Overview Facts about Human Trafficking:

  • There are an estimated 40.3 million victims of modern-day slavery worldwide. Of these, 25 million are victims of labor or sex trafficking and 15 million are people trapped in forced marriages.
  • Unfortunately, stakeholders have increasingly found that individuals in situations of forced migration, such as refugees and unaccompanied children, are particularly vulnerable to labor and sex traffickers.
  • Victim identification remains a significant challenge to U.S. efforts to prevent trafficking, prosecute perpetrators, and protect victims.
  • During Fiscal Year 2016, the Department of Justice secured convictions against 439 traffickers, a significant increase from 297 convictions in 2015.
  • In 2016 the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline had 5,748 cases of trafficking reported in 2016.

To learn more read the anti-trafficking toolkit: http://www.usccb.org/about/anti-trafficking-program/upload/Anti-Trafficking-Toolkit-Final-2018-2.pdf)





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It Doesn’t Make Any Sense To Arrest People Who Are Homeless For one, it’s a surefire way to perpetuate the problem.

By Eleanor Goldberg

published by HuffPost BUSINESS 

12/21/2017 06:30 pm ET Updated Dec 22, 2017

A Los Angles Police officer arrests a man for narcotics possession along Main Street, in LA’s Downtown Historic District Friday June 2, 2006. Los Angeles boosters are in New York this week trying to sell downtown L.A. to investment firms and national developers. A major problem downtown is the homeless population. (Photo by Spencer Weiner/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Homelessness is on the rise in the U.S., partly a consequence of a lack of affordable housing. An increasing number of laws makes it illegal for homeless people to partake in basic functions.

An increasing number of new laws across the United States make it a crime to be homeless. But these laws don’t actually manage to get people off the streets ― they just perpetuate the cycle of homelessness, experts say.

Homelessness has reached such crisis levels that a United Nations expert sent to investigate poverty and inequality in the U.S. included the criminalization of homelessness in an extensive report released last Friday. After spending two weeks meeting with communities facing some of the most dire circumstances, Philip Alston, the U.N. special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, concluded that mistreatment of people experiencing homelessness is one of the key contributors to the stark levels of inequality.

“The way to end homelessness is hardly to arrest people, keep them in prison for a time and then kick them out on the street again,” Alston told HuffPost in a phone interview Friday. “That’s a costly, vicious cycle. What we’re doing is making it worse.”

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Young, gay and living on the street: LGBT youth face increased odds of homelessness

Homeless LGBT students say they often feel isolated and alone, and have a hard time finding a supportive network of peers. PHOTO BY ALISON YIN FOR EDSOURCE



Throughout high school and college, Alicia slept in cars, tents, friends’ couches, benches, on the bus, on the train and in group homes. Almost anywhere but a shelter.

“My experience with shelters is that you’d go when it was raining. You’d go to San Francisco, wait in line and sleep on the floor, if you slept at all,” the serious, soft-spoken Oakland woman, who’s now 22, said last week. “It’s scary enough to be a young person there. But if you’re queer you just feel a lot more vulnerable. You definitely avoid them.”

Alicia is still homeless but lives at a youth shelter in Oakland. She asked that her real name not be used to protect her identity.

As the cost of housing continues to soar in California and elsewhere, an increasing number of young people have become homeless, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. Among those homeless, one group has it especially tough: Young people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

“There’s a myth of San Francisco as the ‘gay mecca,’” said Jodi Schwartz, executive director of Lyric, a nonprofit community center in San Francisco that serves LGBT youth. “It can be. But just for some.”

The reality, she said, is that many LGBT young people end up on the street or in unstable housing. Many are there because they’ve been rejected by their parents, peers or society in general due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.

One measure of how many are affected comes from Lyric. Of the 600 mostly LGBT young people enrolled in Lyric’s programs in San Francisco, 56 percent are homeless or have unstable housing situations and all are low-income.

Across California and the nation, thousands of LGBT young people can be found on the street, in shelters or couch surfing with friends or relatives, said Schwartz and other experts.

LGBT young people ages 13 to 25 are 120 percent more likely to become homeless than their straight peers, according to a national survey of 26,000 young people released in November by Chapin Hall, a University of Chicago research and policy center. And of the nation’s 1.6 million youth 18 and younger who were homeless at some point last year, 40 percent were LGBT, even though they represent only 7 percent of that youth population overall, according to True Colors Fund, a New York nonprofit that advocates on behalf of homeless LGBT youth.

In California, the number of homeless children in K-12 schools overall has jumped 20 percent from 2014-15 to 2016-17, according to data collected by the California Department of Education. Based on questionnaires filed by their families, more than 200,000 young people were living on the streets, in motels, in cars, in shelters or crowded into apartments with other families due to financial hardship.

While state data does not identify whether any of these students are LGBT, youth homeless experts said gay students are disproportionately represented.

What drives LGBT youth to homelessness “is complicated, nuanced and difficult to classify,” said Barbara Duffield, executive director of SchoolHouse Connection, a youth homelessness policy nonprofit in Washington, D.C.

Sometimes LGBT youth are abandoned by their families, or they run away from home because they feel unwelcome or abused after telling their parents they’re gay. And sometimes their sexual identity makes them feel disconnected, which can lead to other contributing factors for homelessness, such as drug abuse, depression, family conflict or chronic absence from school.

According to a 2012 study by the True Colors Fund, Palette Fund and Williams Institute at UCLA, 46 percent of LGBT youth who were homeless or at risk of becoming homeless left home because of family rejection due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Forty-three percent were forced out by their parents because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Thirty-two percent left because of physical, emotional or sexual abuse at home, and 17 percent aged out of the foster system. Neglect, substance abuse, mental illness and lack of affordable housing were among the other reasons LGBT young people became homeless.

Nationwide, 25 percent of LGBT teens are thrown out of their homes at some point after coming out to their parents, according to a 2015 True Colors Fund survey of 138 agencies that provide services to LGBT homeless young people. Although that’s less common in urban, gay-friendly areas like San Francisco and Los Angeles, it still happens, Schwartz said.

But, she added, it’s not sexual or gender identity alone that leads young people to live on the street or in shelters. It’s a kaleidoscope of factors, she said.

“Every young person has a unique set of experiences and realities,” she said. “The more a young person has going on — if they’re poor, homeless, disconnected, feel oppressed because of their race or if they’re LGBT — you’re going to see increased barriers.”

Alicia was in the foster care system starting at age 6 months, when Child Protective Services took her from her mother due to neglect. She was in and out of foster care and group homes in the East Bay Area most of her childhood, running away periodically to avoid abusive living situations.

When she was about 12 years old she felt she might not be heterosexual, but kept it to herself.

“I had to be very calculated about everything, especially about how I presented myself. I wanted to present myself as super tough and not a burden on anyone,” she said. “I didn’t want to give people another reason not to like me. I felt like I could never really be myself…I had to keep my guard up constantly. I felt pretty alone.”

After graduating from an alternative high school, Alicia was awarded a scholarship to study at Mills College in Oakland. At the private women’s school, Alicia said she found a “supportive queer community” and thrived academically, with double majors in history and urban education.

But she kept her homelessness a secret. She couch-surfed, slept in cars and occasionally slept in a tent in nearby Emeryville. Because she never felt safe sleeping outdoors at night, she’d work graveyard shifts at stores and restaurants and sleep on park benches, buses or trains during the day — a much safer option, she said, considering that young homeless people, especially girls, are sometimes sexually assaulted or coerced into trading sex for food or money. Homeless people who are LGBT are especially vulnerable because they’re more likely to be victimized and engage in unsafe sex and have a harder time finding a supporting network of peers, according to the True Colors Fund.

Alicia studied in the college library and computer laboratory, showered at the school gym and generally took life one day at a time. But by last year, the street life began to wear on her health, both physically and emotionally. When a close friend died, she decided she needed a permanent solution. Living on the street would eventually kill her, she said.

She called Covenant House, a youth shelter in Oakland, and after three months on the waiting list was offered a bed. Covenant House is part of a national nonprofit system of youth shelters with several shelters in the Bay Area and Los Angeles. At the Oakland facility, residents can stay up to two years and receive medical and mental health services, job training, help finding permanent housing, links to education, help with financial planning and other services intended to get young people off the streets permanently.

Ninety-four percent of Covenant House residents find stable housing and employment once they leave, said Noel Russell, Covenant House development officer.

“It works,” she said. “But we just need more beds. We have 100 people on our waiting list and there’s thousands of young people in the Bay Area sleeping on the street every night. … No child chooses that. No child deserves that.”

The first thing Covenant House offers new arrivals is sleep and regular meals — two things homeless young people are not in the habit of enjoying. Alicia said she was so accustomed to not sleeping or eating she could barely do either for the first few weeks she was there.

But after a while she settled in, and staff suggested that because she enjoyed studying, she should apply to graduate school. She did and was admitted to the UC Berkeley School of Social Welfare, where she is working toward a master’s degree in social work. Her goal: to become a social worker so she can help other homeless young people.

While she’s proud she survived and feels confident she’ll eventually find a well-paying job and permanent housing, she feels she missed out on a childhood and suffered unnecessarily for years. She can’t ride a bike, she never learned basic things like how to floss and she often can’t relate to her classmates. When they talk about their favorite Christmas rituals, for example, she remains silent.

“Absolutely nothing that happened to me is acceptable, and it shouldn’t happen to anyone else,” she said. “It’s not OK to think a kid can sleep on the street and nothing will happen to them. … We all have a responsibility to do something about it.”

This story originally appeared at https://edsource.org/2018/young-gay-and-living-on-the-street-lgbt-youth-face-increased-odds-of-homelessness/591851 on EdSource.org. EdSource is an independent journalism organization that works to engage Californians on key education challenges with the goal of enhancing learning success.

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Top Ten Homelessness Trends and Issues in 2017

Historians will probably describe what happened in our country this year as unprecedented, historic, extraordinary, perhaps even bizarre. How will historians document 2017’s trends and issues regarding our country’s homelessness issue? Here is my top ten list: TEN: A United Nations report documents extreme poverty in the USA. We typically think of “third world” countries when […]

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