Families: The Homeless You Don’t See

When driving or walking around a city, you know the familiar figures: individuals sitting on the ground, holding out the cup; war veterans in wheelchairs covered by colorful blankets on the street corner; men and women pacing along a major road median. While we might recognize these faces again and again, something seems to be missing.

These are all individuals. Where are the homeless families?

Families are a part of the homeless population that is not always seen. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, the Department of Housing and Urban Development found that in 2015, “206,286 people in families with children were homeless on a single night…making up 36 percent of all homeless people counted.”While this number has been in decline, this is still a big deal, especially when you consider that this number includes children who do not have access to consistent meals, hygiene, or education.

A recent article from the San Francisco Chronicle outlines a new city plan to house homeless families, an interesting development in fighting homelessness. The article notes that “There are 1,303 homeless families in San Francisco’s public schools with a total of 2,097 children, more than double the total nine years ago,” and that “Families are fewer, hidden away and easier to ignore.” In response, the city plans to:

  • Move the families living in dire conditions to emergency shelters
  • Move the families who do have shelter to long-term housing
  • Manage one database for information and one entry point for services

While not perfect (the article details potential challenges of the plan), this is still a new, helpful response to eliminating chronic homelessness and making things better for families. When it comes to homelessness, most people forget that people from all walks of life, backgrounds, and ages can be affected. Hopefully San Francisco’s program, which hopes to be in full swing by 2020, can be a success other cities can emulate. After all, helping homeless individuals find their families is just as important as helping families find a home.

Miracle Messages: Using the Power of Social Media to Bring Families Together

Homelessness can be associated with negative ideas, such as poverty, hard circumstances, substance addition, alcoholism, and more. Given that these have been ingrained in members of society, it comes as a surprise to some when they interact with homeless people, and find that they are “normal” and have feelings, just like any other person.

Kevin Adler, a San Francisco resident, is trying to overcome these social perceptions and the barrier between the homeless and homed populations. In 2014, Adler started Miracle Messages, a project that aims to reunite homeless individuals with their family members. He records short video clips of homeless individuals, and strategically places them on YouTube and social media sites in the hopes that the person’s family will see it. The family is invited to record a video response, and, if willing, can set up a reunion meeting. Adler has traveled to various states, and is now engaging on a cross-country campaign to reunite 100 homeless individuals with their families.

With all of the negative feelings around homelessness, it can be a breath of fresh air and a relief to see an organization actively working to help people find their families and get on their feet again. Miracle Messages was featured in the Huffington Post, as well as other magazines and news sites for their work. Check out their recent video (although it may make you cry!) to learn more about Miracle Messages’ work and see some of their reunions. Let’s hope that Miracle Messages sets a precedent, and that after years of hardship, those who have been without a home are able to come home.

What Happens When Cities Make Homelessness a Crime: Hiding The Homeless

This video accompaniment to our refutative post provides a visual idea of how a growing number of American cities are ticketing or arresting homeless people for essentially being homeless. The new laws ban behavior commonly associated with homelessness like reclining in public, sharing food or sitting on a sidewalk.

Read more – Vice News

The homeless deserve the same basic joys.

Homelessness is a problem in America, which you should know by now, after reading the other wonderful posts on this page. In a society that is driven by materialism, it can be hard for someone who has nothing to feel a sense of worth. However, human beings aren’t actually defined by what they have and own, but by who they are. It is important that we put an emphasis on these characteristics, as the homeless may not have a lot of clothes, food, or any of the other items many are privileged to have. Rather, we should listen to their stories and focus on their qualities because they are people too. It is important to see that in a world, where a lot of power is decided by this buying factor, that there are people who stand up for what is right and see people, all people, for what they are–after all, we all sometimes just need a good cup of coffee.

View story at Medium.com

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U.S. communities turn to alternative policies to address the homelessness crisis

Homelessness is on the rise in the U.S., now largely fueled by skyrocketing rents, gentrification, stagnant wages and an economy that has yet to fully recover from the 2008 recession. But, as FSRN’s Christina Aanestad reports, some communities are looking toward alternative policies to redress the homeless crisis. One is called Housing First. Check out the ideas and download the audio below!

Source: U.S. communities turn to alternative policies to address the homelessness crisis

America, we have a problem: Homelessness is out of control

It’s hard to imagine that the country that controls so much nuclear firepower and drops so many bombs every day is unwilling to educate its children and house its own people. The op-ed below, by Cynthia Kinney of the Green Party, gives a politician’s point of view about homelessness and the current situation.

Source: America, we have a problem: Homelessness is out of control

Regulations on Homelessness: More Harmful Than Helpful

Homelessness has become more prevalent across the United States in recent years, especially in major cities like Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. In addition to implementing initiatives like housing and other programs to help manage the homeless population, some cities have been imposing regulations on both homeless individuals and homed citizens, with the hopes of creating substantial progress.

In Fort Lauderdale, FL, a law was passed in 2014 criminalizing “street feeding,” or passerby being able to give food to homeless individuals, as reported by The Atlantic. In the article, Robert Marbut, a consultant for NPR, states that street feeding is “one of the worst things you can do, because it keeps people in homeless status.” Other laws prohibit loitering or sleeping in certain public places, sleeping outside or in cars, and more. If they are found in violation of these laws, homeless individuals are arrested and face bail or fines they cannot pay. The most extreme cases have to led to death, as outlined in the case of Jerome Murdough, as outlined in this article from the Center for American Progress.

homelessThese articles speak to the motivations behind putting legal restrictions on homelessness: cities want to move people from outside and encourage them to stay in shelters. They believe that shelters are the best option, which is far from true. The Pew Charitable Trusts detailed a report from the National Law Center that found that in many cities there are not enough beds to house the homeless, and that “74% of the homeless population do not know how to find a place where it is safe and legal for them to sleep.” The National Alliance to End Homelessness found that “On a single night in January 2015, 564,708 people were experiencing homelessness — meaning they were sleeping outside or in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program.” This overlooks a very large portion of the homeless population that is not accounted for via a shelter or other program, conveying that the actual total is much higher. The same organization also breaks down the cost for supporting the homeless: homeless individuals can cost taxpayers over $14,000 per year if they are incarcerated, and emergency shelter beds can cost $8,067 more than federal housing. Not only that, but shelters are unable to house large numbers of people, especially if they have stay limits.

As Ryan mentioned in his post, regulations meant to help the homeless can have great benefits. However, there are fewer of those than laws that restrict homeless and citizen activity. Cities need to think about what is most effective—limiting the actions of homeless individuals, or working to invest (and save) money in long-term housing options and treatment? Change is possible, and with homelessness reaching epidemic levels in some areas, it’s time to work to create it.

Legislative Perspective on Homelessness: A Start

For most people it would be a hard sell to try to say that homelessness it not  a problem in the U.S., let alone the world at large. Depending upon where one lives you might merely need to walk down the street to encounter those individuals who have been dealt an unfortunate hand in life. Whether it be from the West Coast in places as shimmering as Silicon Valley or even our nation’s capitol, chronic homelessness is something which impacts all of us.

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Heres the map

Just taking a glance at this interactive map which has data from the : U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the VA National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans we can see that homelessness is assuredly not an isolated event.

With all this being said however, there are as many opinions of how to deal with the issue as there are stars in the sky. While others make the arguments that those who are homeless are simply not willing to work hard and need to “Pull themselves up by their bootstraps.”

We take a different perspective. Laws which provide opportunity and resources to those who have fallen into homelessness are critical to helping those out of homelessness, to us, turning effectively a blind eye to those suffering on the basis that “they are just lazy” is just immoral.dsc02263

To give you a better illustration of the type of framework of legislation we would be in favor of, take a glance at the “Housing First Initiative” which “In the three years since the system launched, the number of chronic homeless in the greater Houston area has dropped from 1,791 in 2011 to 763 today – a 57% decrease.” (http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/08/27/mental-health-homeless-series/14255283/)  The graphic below really does a great job of breaking down how the system works:houstontackleshomelessness2

This more caring approach to treating the homeless doesn’t end with initiatives though, much legislation is currently in effect and working it’s way into the books on the local, state, and national level. Taking one national example signed into law July 22nd not but two years ago the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) which according to https://www.usich.gov/news/the-workforce-innovation-and-opportunity-act-is-law :

“WIOA will help ensure that people experiencing or at-risk of homelessness have improved access to employment opportunities by:

  • recognizing individuals experiencing homelessness as a specific population confronting barriers to employment
  • reinforcing the intent of the workforce system to assist people with significant barriers to employment, with updated performance expectations that remove perceived disincentives for serving those with the greatest needs for support
  • increasing local coordination and flexibility to meet the unique needs of individuals experiencing homelessness and regional job skill demand”

As I assume we all can gather homelessness it not something which any of us can just expect to disappear at the drop of a hat, nor can it be something we just stubbornly ignore. Let’s push for more legislation that helps the homeless and gives them the resources to succeed and, with any luck, little by little we may just see each other as people again.

Best,

Ryan 

Blog Admins: Meet Auris

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Hey, everyone! My name is Auris, and I am a junior communications major with a minor on general business at the University of Maryland. I am  Dominican and fluent in Spanish. My interest varied from video games to art and film. Within my major, I am highly interested in research and social media. I hope one day I can further the research on cultivation theory and expand the dialogue of the theory in video games and their social aspects. I hope I can contribute to the topic of our blog in meaningful ways. Helping anybody in any shape or form gives the world more hope and more love; I hope our blog can accomplish that.