Posts Tagged ‘Homelessness


We’re Finally Stepping Up to the Plate

We’ve advocated Human Rights for years, starting with the Carter Administration, and only now are we beginning to account to the international community regarding our own violations.

The best that can be said is “it’s a start”

Holding America Accountable at International Human Rights Review

Source: ( by Alessandra Soler Meetze, Executive Director, ACLU of Arizona

This Friday, and for the first time ever, the United States will submit to a peer review of its human rights record as part of the U.N. Human Rights Council’s (HRC) Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which is taking place this week in Geneva.

I’m in Geneva as a member of the ACLU delegation to observe these proceedings. Panama and Mongolia were reviewed on Tuesday; dozens of countries submitted questions and recommendations on how well these two democratic nations were promoting and protecting human rights within their borders.

Delegates from Spain, the Netherlands, and Portugal commended Mongolia forissuing a moratorium against the death penalty earlier this year, but they urged the Mongolian government to take it a step further and immediately commute all death sentences. While most countries consider the application of the death penalty a gross violation of international human right norms, the United States continues to apply it in 35 states throughout the country. Just last week,Arizona executed Jeffrey Landrigan using a drug imported from England(according to Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard) and despite lingering doubts surrounding his guilt.

The death penalty is a topic that will surely come up on Friday morning when the United States submits to its review. And given the controversy over S.B. 1070, there’s no doubt that questions regarding racial profiling and immigration enforcement also will be raised during the U.S. review — topics that hit close to home. Although some of the most dangerous provisions of S.B. 1070 were blocked by a federal court judge, federal programs like 287(g) and Secure Communities continue to thrive in Arizona despite concerns over racial profiling and unlawful detentions of legal permanent residents and U.S. citizens. A recent study based on Freedom of Information Act documents obtained by the Center for Constitutional Rights and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network found that these programs target low-level offenders who pose little public safety threats (PDF) and wrongly identified about 5,880 people who turned out to be United States citizens.

In between the country reviews, I attended one of several “side events” held throughout the weeklong UPR session. One side event was organized by the Center for Reproductive Rights and focused on sexual and reproductive health care for marginalized populations in the U.S. Another side event sponsored by the National Law Center for Homelessness and Poverty addressed the lack of adequate housing in United States and the amazing efforts of nongovernmental organizations — or NGOs — in stepping in to address the housing needs of communities across the country especially in the midst of the economic crisis.

These first few days of my weeklong trip to Geneva have been extremely inspirational. I’ve had the opportunity to meet advocates from other NGOs who are working tirelessly to incorporate the human rights principles that are being discussed here in Geneva back home. We oftentimes forget that while we’re among the largest, wealthiest country in the world, we also continue to tolerate and condone violations of international human rights norms. The question is: will the U.S. live to its promise to lead by example and take the UPR recommendations seriously? Let’s hope so!




Discontent Within America


icon_digg4 Over the past eighteen years I have resided, as an expat, in a country where a modern unspoken “Class Society” as existed.  I use the word “modern” to empathize what is currently transpiring within the small social economic middle class and much larger segment of society, the lower income earners.

Recently, since 2002 these two aforementioned groups of individuals have experienced opportunities of social advancement in the country by its elected government, which understood; the uneducated, the economically disadvantaged and the hardcore unemployable would only compound this nation’s problems and bring the country more into an unfavorable focus within the international community, thus limiting foreign investment and international trade.

It is difficult for me to believe the country I departed eighteen years ago, America, has digressed to the standards of the country I came to live in and this new country is currently in the process of eliminating its former “class structure” policies and attitude towards its citizens.

America is my home country, my first and always will be the country I recognize as a loyal citizen of, but when I read and follow up on articles I’ve posted, such as, “Our American Society’s Shameless Crime”, I question where our country lost its meaning, to itself and the world community.

We are a huge land, a continental nation, rich in resources with a core belief that your talents and drive can take just about anyone anywhere.  “In America, at least, we don’t resent the rich … we want to be rich,” said President Barack Obama.

A recent article authored by Jeff Greenfield on CBS News online points out some interesting observations, which are worthy of note and a large amount of self reflection upon ourselves, here is one of many excerpts from his writing’s entitled “Drawing The Battle Lines Of Class Warfare

There is a powerful current of anger that runs from Main Street to the Halls of Congress. And it’s raised once again an argument that’s almost as old as the Republic: Is too much wealth and power concentrated at the top? Should the government try to redress that balance?

We see the excesses of wealth afforded to those on Wall Street, corporate executives, professional sports figures and entertainment celebrities.  I guess I have to paraphrase a saying somewhere spoken in a movie I once saw where I actor said “How much, is enough?”

My personal feelings are a person should not be limited by the money they earn for their respective talents, but more so, how our elected officials manage the taxes collected from their wages.

Or is that idea nothing but “class warfare”?

Two centuries ago, Thomas Jefferson denounced “bankers and speculators” as the biggest danger to the Republic.

President Andrew Jackson waged war against the Second Bank of the United States, and the “elite circle” of financiers.

And Franklin Delano Roosevelt began his Presidency by indicting the “money changers” who he said had caused the Great Depression:

“The rulers of the exchange of mankind’s goods have failed, through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence,” FDR said in his first inaugural address in 1933.

“There was a great deal of cultural as well as political resentment at the rich, for having gotten away with murder in effect for too long,” said Princeton historian Sean Wilentz. “One certainly saw that in the 1930s. You can’t look at a popular movie from the early 1930s and feel that palpable sense that the rich, personified by a fat guy sitting on moneybags with a cigar clenched in his mouth … that they are the enemy.”

Ohio Democratic Senator  Sherrod Brown feels this way regarding corporate America and we the people:

“I think there’s no question that the government sings with an upper class accent,” he told workers in Ohio.

“The government has too often sided with the people with great advantage against the least privileged,” Brown said. “In the last three decades, the five percent at the top have done much, much better than the rest of society.”

Populists like Senator Brown argue that, according to recent data from the Economic Policy Institute, the top one percent of Americans have more than 22 percent of income, a number that hasn’t been matched since 1929.

“Those who have done very well under this system, those who have made huge, huge, huge profits, and not shared those profits with their workers, why should they not pay a higher tax rate?”

While Republican Congressman Jeff Flake of Arizona is a mirror opposite of Senator Brown:

“When you have the top one percent roughly 35 percent of all income taxes,” he said, “it’s tough to make the case that those at the top aren’t paying their share of income taxes.”

America may have a more unequal distribution of wealth than other nations, Flake says, but that misses the point:

“Look eastward to Europe: You have a so-called fairer distribution of income there,” he said. “But it’s a lower income, and it’s a lower quality of life than we have here. And I think it would be tough to argue otherwise.”

But Flake is no apologist for the Wall Street players who put the global economy in danger:

“They knew full well at some point, it would not last. They knew full well at some hint of a bubble bursting in the real estate market that they were gonna be in trouble. But they went ahead knowing they could get theirs and then go away, I guess. And so I think people were justifiably outraged, and still are.”

Again I insert my own personal feelings about the changes occurring in America and will continue to change until a more equal balance is achieved between “rich” and “poor”.  The following are my observations of how we as Americans have divided ourselves into classes:

  • Over the past thirty years we have accept homelessness on our streets and walk by the homeless as if they weren’t there.
  • Accept our elected political leaders as being corrupt by nature, which is acceptable.
  • Given our children hundred dollars bills, which in turn are given to their favorite sports stars for their autographs.
  • Accepted illegal immigrates into our society to perform the work we deem to degrading for us to do.
  • Became more interested individual interests instead of family interests or values.

These are but a few, but I do believe a change in coming and even if it might be difficult to accept, we will all be better off over time.

The following 1957 video represents our class system as it was before when we were a nation of people, not individuals.

1957 Social Classes in America

Social Class In America (1957)
Sponsor: McGraw-Hill Book Co., Inc.
Producer: Knickerbocker Productions

Sociological discussion of ascribed status, achieved status, vertical mobility and horizontal mobility in America. We follow the lives of three men from high school on through their professional lives. Rather pessimistic conclusion on the possibilities of movement across class boundaries.

“These three babies are equal under the law, but they are not equal in terms of class…” This sociology lesson breaks educational film taboo by speaking directly about social class, shocking the ears with its frankness.


Our American Society’s Shameless Crime

Today it was disclosed 1 in 50 children, in America, live in a homeless family!

There’s “No” easy solution to this problem; children cannot be taken away from there parents and we as fellow citizens cannot easily provide homes for these families.  So what’s the solution?

As I see there is no short term fix; homelessness as a whole as been avoided for almost the past thirty years by us, the American people, and at all levels of government providing only token service at best to take care (soup kitchens, old clothing and limited, space available shelter) of the homeless, but “not” to solve the problem(s) of what creates homelessness.

However, as I do see it, there is a long term solution, which complements, but extends our recently passed Stimulus Package in congress last month.  After World War II our federal government provided funding for a number of nation wide housing projects to accommodate lower income family’s homes to temporally live in; until America’s economy recovered from the war effort and industry could re-gear to produce consumer related goods.  A side benefit of this aforementioned program was creating jobs for returning veterans from the European and Pacific theaters of action, which it successfully accomplished.

Today, the housing industry is suffering, thus the lack of “new housing starts”, placing many of our skilled tradesmen out of work (perhaps even homeless); so the question begs to be asked “why couldn’t an extension sum of money be included in the existing Stimulus Package for Federally Funded Housing?”

By now it should be intuitively obvious I’m more or less a Democratic, “left leaning” liberal, which to some means I believe in and support unlimited “welfare assistance”, which is not the case at all.  This “government housing”, I’m suggesting, must have enforceable, stick limitations for the tenants caring to reside in these proposed dwellings, suggested are a few:

  • Employable skills of the bread earners in the family
  • Employable skills available within the community
  • Available and meaningful vocational training within the community
  • Age of children within the family
  • Length of necessary stay by a family
  • Incentives for tenants to relocate to permanent, affordable housing

I’m sure there are additional limitations and conditions to consider, before commencing on such an extreme and expensive program, both these are what comes to mind, which are important to me.  In other words, stated simply, this is not another endless free ride for those who are content to exist on welfare or produce offspring to gain free to low cost housing for life.

I’m not going to invoke a session of preaching within this posting, but experience should have taught us that these homeless kids, growing up on our city streets have one alternative to turn to, which is “gangs, hence crime”; causing an ever worsening condition for our society.  With 1 out of 100 Americans serving prison time, I certainly don’t feel my tax payer dollars should be spent on additional confinement facilities or the expansion of existing prisons.

Below is the article which promoted this posting appearing in TIME and entitled: “Report Says 1 in 50 U.S. Kids Are Homeless”, authored by Steven Gray.

Report Says 1 in 50 U.S. Kids Are Homeless
By Steven Gray / Chicago Tuesday, Mar. 10, 2009

Even before the financial and home foreclosure crisis hit full stride, the number of homeless children in America had reached an alarming level. The National Center on Family Homelessness released a report today that estimates that one in every 50 American children was homeless between 2005 and 2006. That totals roughly 1.5 million kids. While the center provided no previous statistic to compare against that figure, a study conducted with different measures published in 2000 put the total at 1.35 million children living in homelessness each year. The numbers are likely to get worse as the economy continues to decline. “We know the numbers are going to skyrocket,” says Ellen Bassuk, president of the Newton, Mass.-based Center and an associate professor of psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School.

Indeed, a quick survey of the country provides lots of evidence to support those fears. Chicago public school officials report the number of its 405,000 students deemed homeless soared to 11,143 last month from 9,182 in February 2006. School officials in Hillsborough County, Fla., which includes Tampa, have so far counted some 1,700 homeless students — and expect the figure to eclipse last year’s 2,020. Meanwhile, the surge in homeless families has overwhelmed Massachusetts’ shelters, forcing state officials to book motel rooms for the displaced. In January, some 4,600 homeless children were reported in the state’s shelters and motels, up from 3,411 from roughly one year earlier. (See one family’s struggle against homelessness.)

According to the new report, the states with the highest number of homeless children in the period studied were Texas (337,105), California (292,624), Louisiana (204,053), Georgia (58,397) and Florida (49,886). The states reporting the smallest populations of homeless children: Wyoming (169), Rhode Island (797), Vermont (1,174), North Dakota (1,181), and South Dakota (1,545). However, the report also ranks the states according to parameters that go beyond their share of homeless children, factoring in, among other things, incidence of such health conditions as asthma and tooth decay. With that framework, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Hawaii, Rhode Island and North Dakota were rated among states that dealt best with the problem overall. At the bottom of the list: Texas, Georgia, Arkansas, New Mexico and Louisiana.

Families with children comprise roughly one-third of the nation’s homeless population. Poverty continues to be a core reason for the crisis, though the aftermath of Hurrican Katrina combined to swell the numbers in Louisiana, Texas and Georgia. Since the 1980s, single mothers have accounted for an increasing share of the homeless population, partly because of increased divorced rates, gender and wage disparities, and the shrinking supply of affordable housing. Officials believe that the current home foreclosure crisis will be adding a new demographic to these statistics: middle-class blacks and Latinos. “It’s families that were living pretty independently, doing pretty well. And, through just one event, it was, like, a domino effect — if one part of the puzzle breaks off, then everything breaks off,” says Michael Levine, who coordinates social work programs for Hillsborough, Fla.’s 206,000-student school system. (See Cleveland’s woes amid the current foreclosure crisis.)

The nation’s states and cities are awaiting an infusion of $1.5 billion from President Obama’s stimulus package devoted to homelessness prevention programs. Those programs will provide short-term rental and mortgage assistance, as well as security deposits and utility bills. A decade ago, the Department of Housing and Urban Development spent barely $1 billion on all of its homeless programs each year.

Still, measuring homelessness is tricky, partly because of varying definitions of what constitutes homelessness. It is especially difficult to gauge homelessness among children, since many teenagers are reluctant to identify themselves as such, and evade formal counts by living independently on the streets or in vacant apartments with friends. This is compounded by the scarcity of housing options for children over age 12, particularly boys, who are typically barred from entering shelters with their mothers. So any gauge merely offers a glimpse at the problem’s severity. The report’s researchers based their analysis on a broad definition of homelessness that included, for instance, children living in shelters, on the streets, or with other relatives, a practice known as “doubling up.” The findings are no less startling: Roughly three-quarters of homeless children are of elementary school age, and 42% are below age six.

The consequences of homelessness are profound. Homeless children are twice as likely as other children to be “retained,” or held back, one academic year, or to be suspended or, ultimately, to drop out of school altogether. School districts across the country report a growing share of students who are “highly mobile” — who move multiple times within a school year. With each move, experts say, such students are at risk of falling some six months behind, or more, in their studies. Roughly one-quarter of homeless children have witnessed violence. It isn’t surprising, then, that nearly half of such children suffer from anxiety and depression.

It’s the narrative that Trisha Parker, 19, is hoping to avoid for her infant son. Parker can’t live with her mother, who receives federal housing assistance, and neither can she live with her grandmother in the Chicago suburbs much longer. Parker says she completed training to be a medical technician, but couldn’t find work in the field. She was recently hired as a security guard, earning $11 an hour. But that’s hardly enough to afford even a $600 a month studio apartment. Larger units are beyond her reach. “They want the first and last month’s security deposit” which is, she figures, about $2,000, maybe $2,500. “It really is a lot.”

Complementing this story is a YouTube video regarding a program in Massachusetts, Horizons for Homeless Children, which is a good example of what can be done for the less fortunate children in today’s America.

Horizons for Homeless Children Programs

This is a 3.5 minute piece that features Massachusetts-based Horizons for Homeless Children and the programs/services it offers to homeless children and families. For more information, visit

Special thanks to all involved in the production of this video, including Redtree Productions, Jay Williams, Richard Klug, Soundtrack Boston, Alex Lasarenko at Tonal Sound and Mary Richardson. Thanks also to all of the children, families, volunteers and HHC staff who helped share the story.

Newswire Updates:

The New Face Of Homelessness
from | by Kelly Cobiella

When Michael Rotundo finishes school every day, he comes home to a double bed at the Budget Inn – no yard, no neighborhood kids,

“I don’t have a lot of thinking room,” Michael said. “I can’t think straight with math, reading.”

“You’re having a tough time in school?” asked CBS News correspondent Kelly Cobiella.

“Yes,” Michael said. “I almost failed.”

Michael is 12, but talks, acts and worries like an adult.

“We can’t get a home because we don’t have a lot of money left over to rent a house or buy a house,” Michael said. “It’s just so hard for me and my family to live here.”

Michael, his mom and dad have been living in this motel room for 11 months, ever since his dad lost his job. His parents are working again, and they make too much money to qualify for food stamps or Medicaid and live week to week. Sometimes day to day. Mom Julie can see her son changing.

“He worries,” Julie Rotundo said. “He’s afraid to ask me for things. He’s afraid to tell me that there’s a school event that we’re going to miss. And I don’t know what to do. I’m sorry. It’s tough. Just imagine.”

Across the country about one in 50 school kids is living just like Michael in hotels or shelters, or with friends and relatives. And their numbers are growing fast.

Although it’s difficult to get exact figures, nationwide schools reported an 18 percent jump in homeless kids in the 2007-2008 school year. School districts in California and Florida report an even bigger increase this year.

Many kids lost more than just their homes.

“I have like no clothes anymore because I lost them all,” said Breanna Martin, a 13-year-old. “So basically I wear whatever I can find. I’m wearing right now my grandpa’s shirt and my grandma’s pants. It’s really hard not having anything of your own and wearing someone else’s.”

Safe Families For Children In Need

More than one out of three parents told CBS News that the recession had affected their children’s lives in some way. For some children, the impact goes far deeper, and may be to them what the Great Depression was to an earlier generation.

Update 09 May 09:

NYC Charging Rent At Homeless Shelters
from The Huffington Post News Editors

Even the homeless can’t escape the high price of a night in New York City.  City officials this month began charging rent to some families staying in homeless shelters.  The policy applies only to shelter residents who have income from jobs.  They could be expected to pay up to half their earnings.  Some shelter residents say the new rule will ruin their chances of saving enough money to get an apartment.  One single mother living in a Manhattan shelter tells The New York Times she got a letter saying she had to give up $336 of the $800 she makes each month as a cashier.  The city says it is only charging people who can afford to pay.  About 2,000 families are expected to be covered by the new rule.

Update 07 May 09:

3.5M Kids Under 5 In U.S. Face Hunger Risk

An estimated 3.5 million children under the age of 5 are at risk of hunger in the United States, according to a look at government numbers by an anti-hunger group.

Update 13 Mar 09:

A Tent City Near You? Tell Us About It
Arthur Delaney
Huffington Post

There are reports of tent cities popping up across the country as unemployment rises in a worsening economy. The biggest and highest-profile shantytown is in Sacramento, where hundreds of newly-homeless tent residents are cooking soup in old coffee cans.

We want to know where else this is happening.

HuffPost readers: Is there a tent city near you? Have you noticed a newly-formed community of people living together in improvised housing in a public space? Email us! Send any information you’ve got (or pictures) to

Sacramento’s KCRA reported this week that city officials plan to shut the tent city down:

Sacramento’s ‘Tent City’ To Be Closed

Campers in a large tent city at the north end of downtown Sacramento will be told to leave the property with their belongings within a few weeks, assistant city manager Cassandra Jennings said Wednesday.

Schwarzenegger Promises To Help Tent City

California will help Sacramento officials relocate about 150 people from a homeless encampment that put the city in the international spotlight, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Wednesday.

The Month in Review

July 2018
« Dec