Indianapolis passes law to protect homeless as movement gains steam – by Renee Lewis March 6, 2015 1:47PM ET


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Indianapolis became the first U.S. city to pass a Homeless Bill of Rights measure this week — the latest success for a national campaign to end criminalization of the homeless.

Indianapolis’ proposal, passed on Monday and awaiting a signature from the mayor, would protect the rights of homeless people to move freely in public spaces, to receive equal treatment from city agencies, to obtain emergency medical care, to vote and to maintain privacy for personal property, Indy Star, a local newspaper, reported.

The bill would also require the city to give a homeless person 15 days notice before requiring them to leave a camp, the newspaper said. Authorities would be required to store any displaced person’s property for 60 days as well as refer them to nonprofit organizations that could provide services and transitional housing.

“It is much more cost-effective to provide support services and assistance to those experiencing homelessness in our city than to arrest them,” Indianapolis councilman LeRoy Robinson said. “Sadly, our city had chosen the latter.” Robinson is the sponsor of the legislation in the city council.

Activists are pushing for similar protections in other cities, including Washington, D.C.; Madison, Wisconsin; and Duluth, Minnesota. The laws would guarantee the rights of the homeless to carry out basic human functions such as sitting, standing, eating and sleeping in public areas. Duluth’s city council has passed a measure identifying the need for such a bill, and advocates are working on a bill in for the city of Madison, according to Michael Stoops, director of community organization for the National Coalition for the Homeless. Legislation to add homelessness to Washington, D.C.’s anti-discrimination law may be introduced this spring, Stoops added.

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Where’s the Money? (Excerpt from ‘Fallout in Gaza’) – Vice News Published on Mar 5, 2015


During the devastating 50-day war in Israel and Gaza this past summer, around 18,000 homes in Gaza were destroyed or severely damaged, leaving around 120,000 residents homeless.

Now, with trouble in neighboring Sinai and infighting between Palestinian factions, reconstruction efforts in the beleaguered Gaza Strip are moving slowly. With the UN warning of a growing humanitarian crisis for the people of Gaza, many fear that another armed conflict is imminent.

Six months after the end of fighting, VICE News returns to the region to investigate the progress on reconstruction.

In this excerpt, VICE News correspondent Danny Gold learns of the effects that insufficient aid, coupled with living in temporary or demolished housing, has had on the residents of Gaza.

Trouble in the Tunnel: Fallout in Gaza (Part 2) – Vice News Published on Feb 25, 2015


During the devastating 50-day war in Israel and Gaza this past summer, around 18,000 homes in Gaza were destroyed or severely damaged, leaving around 120,000 residents homeless.

Now, with trouble in neighboring Sinai and infighting between Palestinian factions, reconstruction efforts in the beleaguered Gaza Strip are moving slowly. With the UN warning of a growing humanitarian crisis for the people of Gaza, many fear that another armed conflict is imminent. Six months after the end of fighting, VICE News returns to the region to investigate the progress on reconstruction.

In part two, VICE News correspondent Danny Gold visits the Kerem Shalom crossing with Israel to see what goods are being allowed into the Gaza Strip, and spends time with a resident of Nahal Oz kibbutz, which was attacked by rockets and Hamas soldiers during last summer’s war.

After a War, Still Living in Rubble: Fallout in Gaza (Part 1) – Vice News Published on Feb 24, 2015


During the devastating 50-day war in Israel and Gaza this past summer, around 18,000 homes in Gaza were destroyed or severely damaged, leaving around 120,000 residents homeless.

Now, with trouble in neighboring Sinai and infighting between Palestinian factions, reconstruction efforts in the beleaguered Gaza Strip are moving slowly. With the UN warning of a growing humanitarian crisis for the people of Gaza, many fear that another armed conflict is imminent. Six months after the end of fighting, VICE News returns to the region to investigate the progress on reconstruction.

In part one, VICE News correspondent Danny Gold returns to Shija’iyya, the neighborhood that bore the brunt of last summer’s fighting, and investigates how the closure of the Rafah crossing and demolition of the underground tunnels to Egypt has impacted Gaza’s fragile economy.

VA details plan to eliminate veterans’ homelessness – By GALE HOLLAND Feb 2015


The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs detailed its plan Friday to end veterans’ homelessness in Los Angeles by 2016, pledging to open its West Los Angeles campus to permanent and temporary housing, and to place returning service members and their families in subsidized apartments throughout the county.

A Navy veteran pushes his wheelchair backward in skid row. (Brian van der Brug, Los Angeles Times)

A Navy veteran pushes his wheelchair backward in skid row. (Brian van der Brug, Los Angeles Times)

The VA’s “action plan,” developed as part of a legal settlement, will prioritize severely disabled, mentally ill and women veterans for housing in largely abandoned buildings on its sprawling 387-acre property.

The agency will also develop entertainment and recreation facilities to make it a “place people want to live,” said attorney Gary Blasi of Public Counsel Opportunity Under Law, a civil rights group and part of the team that represented homeless veterans.

Veterans who choose to live elsewhere will receive services from strike teams of social workers, psychiatrists, housing and employment specialists and addiction counselors based on the VA’s West Los Angeles and North Hills campuses, and in offices in West Covina, Hollywood, Watts, Whittier and Carson.

Veterans will live where they want, not where the VA sends them, and the goal will be reunification with family and friends, Blasi said.

“The idea is from the point of first contact … the [housing] process begins and in the meantime they’re not turned back to the street, but basically given a place to stay either on campus or community,” Blasi said.

The plan does not say how much money the VA will spend, or how many veterans it will house, but promises to “allocate available resources as needed.” Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert A. McDonald, on a swing through Los Angeles last month to announce the settlement, said he was sending $50 million and 400 workers to the region.

“We’ve been told … we will have the resources and personnel to get the job done,” said Mark Rosenbaum, the director of the Public Counsel Opportunity Under Law.

The plan also calls for the VA to hire an urban planning firm to draw up a master land use plan for the West Los Angeles property and appoint a special assistant reporting to McDonald to run the effort. The VA will conduct a homeless count in January to gauge its progress.

“This plan demonstrates what can be accomplished for our nation’s veterans when we come together as a community — everyone working together toward the higher goal,” McDonald said in a written statement.

 

Who counts as ‘homeless’ depends on how you ask – by Joanna S. Kao  , E. Tammy Kim , Haya El Nasser  January 31, 2015 5:00AM ET


LOS ANGELES — About two dozen volunteers gathered in a room Wednesday night for their instructions: Don’t shine flashlights at people. Don’t talk to them. Use your judgment when you see a recreational vehicle or makeshift tent. Do not get out of the car alone.

 Clyde Heimer (left) and his friend Bill (who did not give his last name), volunteered in the Los Angeles homeless count Wednesday night. They themselves are homeless and said the tally underestimates the number of people living on the streets.Haya El Nasser / Al Jazeera America


Clyde Heimer (left) and his friend Bill (who did not give his last name), volunteered in the Los Angeles homeless count Wednesday night. They themselves are homeless and said the tally underestimates the number of people living on the streets.Haya El Nasser / Al Jazeera America

It was day two of a three-day homeless count in Los Angeles, the U.S. city with the largest population living on the streets. About 6,000 people had signed up to help. Each was required to attend a 30-minute training session, then paired with another volunteer and provided a map, tally sheet and flashlight.

Leah Hubbard, a graduate student, canvassed a 0.89-square-mile area of the city’s Westchester neighborhood. “Most people think homelessness is confined to Skid Row,” she said. But on the count, she and her teammate looked for homeless people along far less infamous areas.

Counters in some 3,000 cities and counties across the country helped quantify the nation’s homeless population this month. It’s a massive ritual overseen by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD.

Yet critics warn against relying solely on this “point-in-time” method and its underlying definition of homelessness. Last January, HUD counted 578,424 people on the streets and in shelters in the U.S., down 11 percent from 2007 — while the Department of Education, or DOE, which uses a different, more expansive methodology, reported that child and family homelessness doubled over the last decade.

Advocates concerned about this discrepancy are pushing for a legislative fix. On Wednesday, a bipartisan bill meant to enlarge HUD’s concept of homelessness was introduced, for the second consecutive year, in both houses of Congress. The Homeless Children and Youth Act, or HCYA, would force HUD to align its definition with those used by federal programs for low-income families and vulnerable minors and reduce the requirements for proving homeless status, backers say. Esoteric perhaps and, in the context of a new legislature, an unlikely priority. The Obama administration, meanwhile, has stuck by HUD’s current definition and emphasized services for adults. The president’s Opening Doors plan promises to eliminate veterans’ homelessnessby the end of December, chronic homelessness by 2016, and homelessness among children, families and youth by 2020.

This timetable puts a focus on adult homelessness, said Barbara Duffield, director of policy and programs at the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth and an architect of the HCYA. “HUD has essentially forced communities to prioritize adults over kids.”

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