Catchin' up ...I've been really really busy lately, working on a bunch of projects including Orlando's Project Homeless Connect.
A small group of volunteers for Legal Advocacy at Work talked to more than 100 people with a variety of legal problems and questions. But the biggest need -- so big it nearly overwhelmed us -- was from people who had no ID. Without ID, you can't get into a shelter, or get a job, or cash a check. Getting an ID card can very well be the first step in getting off the streets and rebuilding a life.
Here's some stuff that slipped past me, but needs to be noted:
■ The city of Las Vegas cannot make it illegal to feed poor people in city parks, a federal judge has ruled. An injunction prohibits enforcement of an ordinance that bans "providing food or meals to the indigent for free or for a nominal fee" in a city park and defines indigent as a person whom a reasonable ordinary person would believe to be entitled to public assistance. Read the Las Vegas Sun report here.
■ Police in Columbia, S.C., have arrested 21 people at homeless sheters, all for people failing to appear in court on what city officials say are misdemeanor charges such as panhandling and public intoxication. But doesn't checking the shelter sign-in sheets discourage people who need shelter from seeking it and defeat the purpose of having shelters in the first place? Read the Myrtle Beach Sun News report here.
■ Attacking a homeless person would become a hate crime, bringing increased penalties, under a bill filed in the Florida Legislature. A similar measure was filed last year but died without passing the Senate. Read the Gainesville Sun report here. I know some of you out there find it hard to believe, but homeless people are more likely to be victims of crim than perpetrators.
■ More than 4,500 government apartments will be demolished in New Orleans, despite aside an outcry from residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina who said the move was intended to reduce the ability of poor black people to repopulate the city. "This is a government-sanctioned diaspora of New Orleans's poorest African-American citizens," said Bill Quigley of Loyola University's law school, who is representing the displaced. Before Katrina, the Census Bureau pegged the city's racial breakdown at about 67% black and 28% white. A more recent study estimates that the city, still well under half its pre-storm population, is 47 percent black and 43 percent white. Read the Washington Post article here.