Monday, April 04, 2016

Denying housing over criminal record
may be discrimination, Feds say

It may be getting easier for people with criminal records to find housing.

In new guidance, the Department of Housing and Urban Development tells landlords that turning down tenants or buyers based on their criminal records may violate the Fair Housing Act.

People with criminal records aren't a protected class under the Fair Housing Act, and the guidance from HUD's general counsel says that in some cases, turning down an individual tenant because of his or her record can be legally justified.

But blanket policies of refusing to rent to anybody with a criminal record are de facto discrimination, the department says — because of the systemic disparities of the American criminal justice system.

Read the NPR report here.

Friday, December 26, 2014

OMG! Homeless people are sleeping
and bathing at the Orlando airport

Some Orlando airport employees have contacted the media to report that homeless people are using the airport's first level to sleep and even bathe in the public bathrooms -- and that's upsetting travelers.

"It is an issue," said Norma McCann, who's on vacation from West Virginia. "They're going to starting picking up people's things that walk away for a second. It's just extra people being in a place they don't belong."

Airport officials said that although people coming in and sleeping in the airport is not a growing problem, they did see an "increase in instances."

In the past week, four people were asked to leave the airport and given a bus pass to do so.

Read the News13 report here.

Actually, it's been known among homeless folks for a long time that the airport is a pretty good place to clean up and to get some rest, so long as you are reasonably presentable and can pass for a tourist.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Outrage forces Marseille to scrap yellow triangle IDs

Authorities in Marseille were blasted for its plan to issue its homeless with ID cards featuring yellow triangles that detail their health issues.

Although the initiative was aimed at making it easier for health workers to know what they were dealing with in emergency situations, human rights groups and government ministers were equally outraged, comparing the cards to the Nazi-era yellow Star of David that was sewn onto Jewish people’s clothes during the Holocaust.

And the uproar put an end to the scheme on Friday when authorities in Marseille confirmed that they were scrapping the plan.

Read the report in The Local here. And see previous post here.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

French homeless forced to wear 'yellow triangles'

Arnaud, a homeless man, wears the controversial yellow triangle. Photo: AFP/Anne-Christine Poujoul.

Authorities in France’s second-largest city have come under fire for issuing its homeless with ID cards that detail their health issues.

Human rights groups and government ministers have slammed the “yellow triangle cards”, comparing them to the Nazi-era Star of David that was sewn onto Jewish people’s clothes during the Holocaust.

“This is scandalous, it’s stigmatizing,” said Christophe Louis, president of the homeless charity Collectif Morts de la Rue. “Being identified by either a star or a triangle is horrific.”

French human rights group La Ligue des droits de l’Homme said it was troubled by the resemblance “of this card and the yellow star that the Jews had to wear during World War II.” President François Hollande’s government in Paris has also reacted sharply to the initiative.

Read the report in The Local here.

Friday, November 14, 2014

You can't get food in Florida
but you can shower in the Vatican

The Vatican has announced that Pope Francis plans to build showers for the homeless in St. Peter's Square.

The endeavor is a joint project being undertaken by Francis and Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner who, according to Religion News Service, is responsible for overseeing charitable acts on behalf of the pope.

The Vatican's deputy spokesman, the Rev. Ciro Benedettini, said that construction on showers is scheduled to begin next week. The showers would be added to renovated public restrooms located near the marble columns that led into the basilica, which dated back to 1626.

From Talking Points Memo.

Monday, November 10, 2014

California city bans homeless from sleeping outside:
If they leave, ‘then that’s their choice’

Two ordinances aimed at clearing out the homeless population have been passed unanimously by the city council of Manteca, California.

One will ban people from sleeping or setting up encampments on any public or private property as of December 4, although the homeless won’t be jailed or fined. It will, however, allow the police to tear down any homeless sleeping areas as soon as they appear without having to be invited by the property owner, as was the case previously.

Explaining why the ordinance is necessary, Police Chief Nick Obligacion said, “The goal is actually to correct the wrong. So, if the correction is them leaving Manteca, then that’s their choice.” He also opposes any sort of shelter for the homeless.

The other ordinance bans public urination and defecation, but also comes after the city temporarily closed public restrooms in a park, a location often used by the homeless to relieve themselves in private.

Read more at Think Progress.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

“Why do they waste their money on junk food?”
If you've ever said that, you need to read this

As a nation, we’re slowly realizing that whole, fresh foods are good for you and that cooking at home can save you money and provide you with better nutrition.

Overall, this is a great trend. It’s becoming easier and more common to get fresh food, whole foods, local foods, and organic foods.

Unfortunately, though, this shift in culture has also begun to produce a toxic byproduct: better-than-thou attitudes and judgments about low-income people’s decisions about food.

“Why do they waste their money on junk food?” “Why doesn’t she cook for her children?” “Ugh, look, he’s buying his toddler a Happy Meal.”

Many of us have thought things like this or heard other people say things like this. We are very concerned with how poor people (or people we assume are poor) spend money on food.

The truth is, though, we rarely have all the facts when we judge these people. Let’s change that. Read more at everyday feminism.

Friday, June 20, 2014

LA's homeless allowed to live in cars, appeals court rules

A federal appeals court has struck down Los Angeles’ ban on homeless people living in vehicles, declaring that the law “opens the door to discriminatory enforcement” against the poor.

A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that the city’s ordinance, which bans people from living in cars or recreational vehicles on city streets or in parking lots, is unconstitutionally vague.

“This broad and cryptic statute criminalizes innocent behavior, making it impossible for citizens to know how to keep their conduct within the pale,” Judge Harry Pregerson wrote for the court.

The ban “is broad enough to cover any driver in Los Angeles who eats food or transports personal belongings in his or her vehicle,” the court said. “It appears to be applied only to the homeless.”

The ordinance can be violated even if somebody is not found sleeping in a vehicle and even if the car is not filled with loads of personal belongings, the court said. “There is no way to know what is required” to violate it, Pregerson wrote.

Despite attempts by the homeless to comply with the law, “there appears to be nothing they can do to avoid violating the statute short of discarding all of their possessions or their vehicles, or leaving Los Angeles,” the ruling said.

Read the Los Angeles Times report here. Read the court's decision here.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

If homeless people had a safe place to live,
taxpayers could save millions

In a world where money talks, evidence that putting a roof over someone's head is a boon to city budgets could be the incentive cities need to build housing for the homeless.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina–Charlotte's Department of Social Work have found that housing constructed specifically for homeless people saved the city millions.

Providing housing at an 85-unit facility called Moore Place resulted in 447 fewer visits to emergency rooms and 372 fewer days spent in hospitals. That alone saved the city $1.8 million -- which makes plenty of sense. When people aren't exposed to danger from criminals or animals, and they don't get sick from sleeping in a doorway on a cold night, they're bound to be healthier.

Law enforcement costs were also reduced. Providing housing to Moore Place residents resulted in an incredible "78 percent drop in arrests and 84 percent fewer days spent in jail."

Although other housing facilities often require tenants to be sober before moving in, Moore Place is grounded in the "housing first" concept. The idea is that individuals with mental health or addiction issues are more likely to be able to deal with those issues if they have a stable home base.

Read the Christian Science Monitor report here.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Almost half of homeless men had a previous brain injury

A new study of homeless men found that 45% of the subjects surveyed had experienced traumatic brain injuries in the past.

“You could see how it would happen,” says Jane Topolovec-Vranic, a researcher in trauma and neurosurgery at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. “You have a concussion, and you can’t concentrate or focus. Their thinking abilities and personalities change. They can’t manage at work, and they may lose their job, and eventually lose their families. And then it’s a negative spiral” — a spiral that, for the men in the study, ends up in a homeless shelter.

There’s no clear data on how prevalent TBI is in the general population, which makes it difficult to say for sure whether the homeless men in the study were injured at an unusually high rate.

Read the Time article here.