Archive | Homelessness @ Huffington Post
Latest items syndicated in from The Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/) related to homelessness.
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — The lunch rush at St. Vincent de Paul Dining Hall is a snapshot of the changing character of American homelessness.
The first thing that strikes you is the sheer number of people the soup kitchen serves. The line outside starts forming two hours before the food is ready. Diners file in, eat quickly and get up as soon as they’re finished. They know someone is waiting outside for their seat.
Even more striking than the scale of need are the shifting demographics of who is eating here and why. The homeless population is getting younger, staffers say, and more likely to have children and full-time jobs. In one hour, over taco salad and Fanta, I meet fast-food employees, a former car salesman who lost his home in the financial crisis and a pregnant 31-year-old whose baby is due the same month her housing vouchers run out.
But the biggest surprise about St. Vincent’s may be the state in which it’s located. Just four years ago, Utah was the poster child for a new approach to homelessness, a solution so simple you could sum it up in five words: Just give homeless people homes.
In 2005, the state and its capital started providing no-strings-attached apartments to the “chronically” homeless — people who had lived on the streets for at least a year and suffered from mental illness, substance abuse or a physical disability. Over the next 10 years, Utah built hundreds of housing units, hired dozens of social workers ― and reduced chronic homelessness by 91 percent.
The results were a sensation. In 2015, breathless media reports announced that a single state, and a single policy, had finally solved one of urban America’s most vexing problems. Reporters from around the country came to Utah to gather lessons for their own cities. In a widely shared “Daily Show” segment, Hasan Minhaj jogged the streets of Salt Lake City, asking locals if they knew where all the homeless people had gone.
But this simplistic celebration hid a far more complex truth. While Salt Lake City targeted a small subset of the homeless population, the overall problem got worse. Between 2005 and 2015, while the number of drug-addicted and mentally ill homeless people fell dramatically, the number of people sleeping in the city’s emergency shelter more than doubled. Since then, unsheltered homelessness has continued to rise. According to 2018 figures, the majority of unhoused families and single adults in Salt Lake City are experiencing homelessness for the first time.
“People thought that if we built a few hundred housing units we’d be out of the woods forever,” said Glenn Bailey, the executive director of Crossroads Urban Center, a Salt Lake City food bank. “But if you don’t change the reasons people become homeless in the first place, you’re just going to have more people on the streets.”
This is not just a Salt Lake City story. Across the country, in the midst of a deepening housing crisis and widening inequality, homelessness has concentrated in America’s most prosperous cities. So far, municipal leaders have responded with policies that solve a tiny portion of the problem and fail to account for all the ways their economies are pushing people onto the streets.
The reality is that no city has ever come close to solving homelessness. And over the last few years, it has become clear that they cannot afford to.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development proposal is focused on the Equal Access Rule, first published in 2012 to “ensure shelters and programs do not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity,” the National Center for Transgender Equality said Wednesday in a press release calling attention to the proposal.
HUD Secretary Ben Carson told House lawmakers this week HUD was “not currently anticipating changing the rule.”
“He lied,” the advocacy group said on Twitter.
HUD’s proposed change, published this spring, would allow shelter providers to consider “an individual’s sex for the purposes of determining accommodation within such shelters and for purposes of determining sex for admission to any facility.” Providers can consider “privacy, safety, practical concerns, religious beliefs” when making a determination about an individual’s sex, the proposed rule says.
The number of people living in homelessness in Los Angeles increased significantly last year ― echoing a broader rise in people living unhoused across the state in recent years.
The vast majority of those who are homeless ― about two-thirds ― are in the city of Los Angeles, which counted over 36,000 homeless people this year, a 16% increase from last year.
Overall the figures show a dramatic 36% increase in homelessness since 2010 in the county.
“Shame on you!” yelled one audience member at the county board of supervisors meeting when the figures were announced.
Los Angeles’ figures follow even more disappointing ones from areas further north released last month: Homelessness spiked in the San Francisco Bay Area ― with the number of homeless people in San Francisco going up 17% and in Alameda County (which includes Oakland) up 43% since 2017.
“Any increase in homelessness is heartbreaking, and we can see with our own eyes ― on the streets of LA and cities across California ― that the crisis has tightened its grip around the lives of too many of our neighbors,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (D) said in a statement to HuffPost. “These results remind us of a difficult truth: skyrocketing rents statewide and federal disinvestment in affordable housing, combined with an epidemic of untreated trauma and mental illness, is pushing people into homelessness faster than they can be lifted out.”
She went into a church across the street to charge her phone, and that was when she spotted them ― several dozen people getting ready for their weekly choir rehearsal. “I was like, ‘Sign me up right away,’” she said.
Joining a choir had been on Rydiander’s bucket list for years. But the choir rehearsal she stumbled upon that day wasn’t just any rehearsal ― it was for Voices Of Our City Choir, a choir created for people experiencing homelessness in San Diego. Rydiander, at that point, had been homeless for about two months after losing her place to live and struggling with alcohol addiction.
Voices Of Our City, which sings everything from “Over The Rainbow” to Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” was co-founded in the summer of 2016 by professional guitarist Steph Johnson, 38, who set out to do something ― anything ― to address the increasingly evident homelessness crisis in San Diego, where she’d lived her whole life. From 2016 to 2017, the number of people living in tents and hand-built structures in downtown San Diego increased by 104 percent.
“Homelessness had just exploded,” Johnson told HuffPost. “So many more people were on the street. … I saw all these people getting arrested, and all their things getting thrown away.”
It all started for Johnson when she began going out to meet people living on the streets, playing music with them when the opportunity arose. “Just kind of hanging. Getting to know people,” she said. In doing so, she realized she had a lot of misconceptions about what it meant to be homeless. Many of the people she was meeting had jobs that they’d get up and go to every day, and many had kids ― some of whom were living with them on the streets.
Inspired by a woman she met who was part of a choir for homeless people in Chicago, Johnson decided to set up something similar in her home city. She sought out a church willing to host the weekly choir practices, and Voices Of Our City Choir was born. Read more here.