Category Archives: homelessness

President Cheapskate and the Amazing Non-Appearing Wedding Gift

One can only hope the gift is “in the mail” as we speak, but I am definitely not going to hold my breath.  As we might expect, the newlywed Duke and Duchess of Sussex ask for charitable donations in lieu of wedding gifts.  Some national leaders donated to local charities promoting causes related to the young people’s interests, others were more creative, and some responses were just heartwarming —  an abused Indian bull rescued, a couple of namesake koalas in an animal shelter with accompanying donations for habitat maintenance, and so on.  And, then there was Donald J. Trump:

“White House spokesperson Lindsay Walters said last week the Trumps will make a contribution to one of the seven charities on the royal couple’s list but did not specify which one. Neither Trump tweeted about the wedding.”  [USAT]

We’ve seen this movie before — and thanks to the intrepid reporting of David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post, we know that ‘the movie’ is an entire series, with more versions than Star Wars and Planet of the Apes combined.   So, the contribution will be made to “one of the seven charities.”  Which one?

“The couple have chosen charities, which represent a range of issues that they are passionate about, including sport for social change, women’s empowerment, conservation, the environment, homelessness, HIV and the Armed Forces. Many of these are small charities and the couple are pleased to be able to amplify and shine a light on their work.” [eonline]

Sport for social change? How likely is it that Trump will donate to a sport for social change charity while he’s busy vilifying professional athletes who are protesting police brutality toward ethnic minorities?  Women’s empowerment?  A donation from a man who has at least 16 public allegations of unwanted sexual conduct against him? Who faces legal actions from Summer Zervos and Stephanie Clifford?

Conservation?  A donation from the father of two trophy animal slaughtering sons? A man whose administration allows the hunting of hibernating bears and their cubs? Allows the killing of vulnerable animals swimming in Alaskan rivers? Who allows the killing of wolf cubs?  Probably not.

The environment?  A donation from the man who won’t fire the egregious Scott Pruitt from his well protected perch at the EPA? From the man who promotes pipelines across sacred lands? From the self-same person who wants to roll back fuel efficiency standards?

Homelessness?  A donation from a man whose administration is cutting funding for programs to help homeless people? [Newsweek]  Whose administration is on track to make the situation worse? [WaPo]  Not much chance for this category to make the cut.

HIV?  Remember the interview with Bill Gates who describes two meetings with the President:

“Both times he wanted to know the difference between HIV and HPV and so I was able to explain that those are things that are rarely confused with each other.” [NBC]

Gates is being entirely too kind,  almost NO ONE confuses the two diseases.  Most people who don’t know, understand the difference when it’s explained ONCE.

Armed Forces?  “Cadet Bone Spurs™”  As he was so aptly described by Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) seems content to lie to newly minted Navy officers about pay increases [MilTimes] and to insure there’s funding for his parade.  Other military and veterans’ issues not so much.

In addition to his endemic lack of interest in social change, empowerment, ecological, and real military issues Fahrenthold’s discoveries should be kept in mind.  Trump will make grand promises.  He will then:

  1. Try to get someone else to come up with the coin of the realm to actually pay for the donation.
  2. Try to avoid payment until there’s so much publicity he can’t stand the spotlight any longer.
  3. Stall until he doesn’t have to actually pay up at all.

Therefore, the best unsolicited advice for the young Duke and Duchess might be to enjoy their honeymoon and not worry about whether the ersatz leader of the US political system will cough up for a wedding gift donation — he probably won’t, and if he does you can be just as amazed as the rest of us.

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Filed under conservatism, ecology, homelessness, housing, Politics, troop pay, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights

Happy Fourth of July: A More Perfect Union

Flag July 4th

It’s a good 4th of July weekend.  The benefits of citizenship have been affirmed for members of the LGBT community, but as the founders told us we’re on a path to create “a more perfect union.”  Therefore, there’s more work to be done to insure that housing, employment, and other areas of American life aren’t stumbling blocks of discrimination. We will have to keep up efforts toward building that “more perfect” union.

Ravenal Bridge

There may be some dead-enders, some battle flag flying remnants of blatant racism, but no matter how hard the Klan and their allies try, their proposed demonstration will be nothing compared to the thousands who walked along the Ravenal Bridge in Charleston, South Carolina.  We’re closer to being a nation of people who are taking Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s message to heart:

“When evil men plot, good men must plan.  When evil men burn and bomb, good men must build and bind.  When evil men shout ugly words of hatred, good men must commit themselves to the glories of love. “

At least two churches in the south have been the target of recent arson attacks, so in order to form that more perfect union it’s time for people of good will to build and bind.   It’s been a long walk from the bridge in Selma to the bridge in Charleston, but we’re getting there.  We still have to acknowledge the often painful accuracy of Winston Churchill’s backhanded compliment, “You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing, after they’ve tried everything else.”  

In a more perfect union, we’d not have maps showing that a person earning minimum wages cannot achieve a point at which only 30% of his income can pay for a one bedroom apartment.

Rent map

The darker the blue the worse the problem.  We’ll have a more perfect union when we address the complications of living on inadequate wages.  It does no good to march behind banners proclaiming that hard working Americans should “save for the future,” – when simply meeting basic needs for food, housing, and adequate clothing consume all the family’s income. It takes us no closer to a more perfect union to proclaim, “if the poor would just work harder they’d get ahead,” when elements of our judicial system, parts of our educational system, and the myopia of commerce combine to force workers into multiple jobs at minimal wages.  We are no closer to forming a more perfect union when we reward those who prosper at the expense of those who produce.

Unassisted graph

In a more perfect union this graph would be significantly lower.  How do we care for the least able among us? The learning disabled young man with nerve damage, but not quite enough to meet disability standards?  Unmarried, with no dependent children, unemployed except for odd jobs paying about $10 per hour?  A victim of child abuse, and now a victim of a system in which he doesn’t qualify for benefits because he’s never been able to find employment which sustains them. [Reuters]

We’ll be a more perfect union when we are more aware that the able-bodied are not necessarily able to fully function in our modern economy.  In a more perfect union there is more educational, job, housing, and food support for those who live on the margins of despair.

I look to the diffusion of light and education as the resource most to be relied on for ameliorating the condition, promoting the virtue and advancing the happiness of man.” Thomas Jefferson to Cornelius Blatchly, October 1822

And yet:

“About seven in 10 (69%) college seniors who graduated from public and private nonprofit colleges in 2013 had student loan debt. These borrowers owed an average of $28,400, up two percent compared to $27,850 for public and nonprofit graduates in 2012.   About one-fifth (19%) of the  Class of 2013’s debt was comprised of private loans, which are typically more costly and provide fewer consumer protections and repayment options than safer federal loans.”  [TICAS]

In a more perfect union, education advances the “happiness of man,” not merely the bottom line of banking institutions, and certainly not the unrestrained avarice of some for-profit operations who once having the federal funds in hand look to more recruitment without much concern for those already recruited.

And, then – predictably – there’s the Wall Street Casino, which has created SLABS (Student Loan Asset Based Securities).  While certainly not in the mortgage meltdown class, these are problematic because:

“What I find most disturbing about SLABS is that they create a system where an increase in tuition (and the debt-burden on the borrower) equals an increased profit for the investor. When you consider the role that unscrupulous speculators played in the mortgage crisis, one can’t help but wonder if a similar over-valuation of college tuition is taking place for the benefit of SLABS investors. With the cost of attending college increasing nearly 80% between 2003-2013 while wages have decreased, it’s no wonder that so many people are having difficulty paying off their student loans.” [MDA]

This situation is NOT the way to “diffuse light and education.”

There are countless other topics and issues on which we might dwell, assistance for the elderly, transportation, trade, economic security, police and community relations, infrastructure issues, voting rights,  domestic terrorism, domestic violence, gun violence, climate change … the list is  as long as the population rolls, as we try to create that more perfect union of imperfect human beings.

What we need is Churchill’s optimism – that eventually, after avoiding problems, exacerbating problems, tinkering with problems – we’ll do the right thing.

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Filed under banking, civil liberties, education, financial regulation, Global warming, homelessness, income inequality, Minimum Wage, poverty, racism

When Johnny comes marching home to homelessness: HUD VA Report Released

There are an estimated 225,822 veterans in Nevada, and approximately 2,526 are homeless.  In other words there are about as many homeless veterans in this state as there are residents in Tonopah or Lovelock.  [NSD pdf]  The Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs released the numbers in their supplemental report to the annual assessment of homelessness for Congress. (1) [HUD pdf] There are at least two results which ought to raise concerns.

“Currently, an estimated one out of every six men and women in our nation’s homeless shelters are veterans, and veterans are 50 percent more likely to fall into homelessness compared to other Americans.” 

The 2010 Vets AHAR found that since 2009 the number of homeless veterans at any given point in time has remained nearly steady at 76,329 veterans. Of that number, 57 percent (43,437) were “sheltered,” meaning they were living in an emergency shelter or in transitional housing; and 43 percent (32,892) were “unsheltered,” meaning they spent the night on the streets, abandoned building or encampments.” [HUD]

Small Comforts

OK, some progress has been made since 2009 — homeslessness among our veterans is down 3%.  And yes, the methodology has improved in the way in which we count veterans among the homeless.  However, we obviously have a long way to go.  Nor is this issue going away any time soon:

“This report shows that a growing share of veterans accessing shelter services are between the ages of 18 and 30, an age group that is overrepresented among the homeless veteran population compared to their share of the total veteran population. The report also shows that young veterans are more than twice as likely to become homeless when compared to young non-veteran adults. These findings are particularly concerning given the anticipated number of new veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq. Homelessness prevention efforts will play a critical role for this youngest cohort of veterans.”   [HUD VA pdf]

That the report was compiled should be another small comfort, since it’s the first in-depth study the departments have made concerning homelessness among veterans.  [HuffPo]  However, these numbers should also be a wake up call for those who wave the flags, beat the drums, and call vociferously for more U.S. military involvement in international affairs — the point is that except for the unfortunate fatalities the young men and women will be coming home as veterans; and, as veterans they are 50% more likely to fall into homelessness than their civilian cohorts.

Little Comfort At All

The odds for these younger veterans aren’t encouraging.

The HUD-VA study noted that while young veterans make up only about 5% of the nation’s veteran population, they constitute nearly 9% of all former servicemembers who are homeless.  The Department of Veterans Affairs blames the rise in young veterans without shelter on a poor economy and an unprecedented pattern of lengthy warfare in which troops are deployed to combat multiple times. [USAT]

When the egregious conditions at the Walter Reed Army Hospital were reported to the country by the Washington Post in 2007 the outcry was voluminous and effective.   However, this recent report from HUD and the VA appears to face the same fate as the 2005 exposé of conditions at Walter Reed in 2005 by Salon.com. (2)  The 2011 homelessness report has been swamped in public consciousness by “news” of a GOP presidential hopeful’s peccadilloes, a doctor’s trial for his role in Michael Jackson’s death, and the incarceration of a troubled starlet.

How many were paying attention last March when CNN reported that House Republicans were proposing $75 million be cut from the housing voucher program for veterans because the vouchers were being issued too slowly?  [CNN] How many viewers were sufficiently outraged to write to a representative in Congress after seeing Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s description of a young veteran’s descent into homelessness on October 25, 2011? How many recall watching reporting of the Los Angeles veterans demanding housing at a Veterans’ Administration facility in California?  (3)

Was anyone watching when a group of veterans sued the Veterans’ Administration “alleging the federal agency failed to provide stable housing at its West Los Angeles facility for vets suffering from mental disorders,” last June.  How many remember the NBC coverage of Lisa Groves’s efforts to get services for veterans in need? ABC aired  reporting on homeless veterans in December, 2010.  (4)

All the previous reporting should inspire someone to ask: What does it take in order for the issues faced by homeless veterans to be of such public concern that we respond as we did in the wake of the Walter Reed scandal?

Sources, notes, and references:

(1) “Veteran Homelessness: A Supplemental Report to the 2010 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress,” HUD VA National Center On Homelessness Among Veterans.  October 28, 2011 pdf.

(2) Tom Bowman, ” Walter Reed was the Army’s Wake Up Call in 2007,” NPR, August 30, 2011.

(3) “Budget Cuts May Hit Homeless Vets,” CNN, March 1, 2011.  “A Veteran’s Descent Into Homelessness,” Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN Video, October 25, 2011.  “LA Vets demand housing at giant VA campus,” CNN, October 24, 2011.

(4) “Homeless Vets Sue VA Over Housing,” NBC, June 8, 2011.  “Helping Homeless Veterans, NBC Video,  Los Angeles, October 13, 2011.  “Fighting Abroad, Homeless at Home,  ABC video, December 26, 2010.

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Filed under homelessness, Veterans

>Amplification: An Immediate Need

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The Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth needs gift and calling cards for its clients, as is explained in this post from The Sin City Siren. The NPHY runs exemplary programs such as Project Safe Place: “On January 2, 2002, Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth launched the nationally acclaimed Project Safe Place in Southern Nevada. Project Safe Place provides access to immediate help and supportive resources for young people in crisis through a network of sites sustained by qualified agencies, trained volunteers, and businesses.”  Organizations attempting to assist the homeless are usually found scrambling to find resources to fund their programs, and the NPHY is no exception. The program assists those youngsters who have been thrown out, tossed away, or have removed themselves from abusive situations. Although foster care is available in Southern Nevada, some youngsters have found “the streets” a preferable option, perhaps in part because the foster care system itself is already under strain.

A 2006 study (pdf) on homeless youth in the region found: A 61.5% increase in the number of referrals to Child Haven facilities between 2000 and 2005; and, Child Protective Services which investigated 6,350 cases in 2000 investigated 9,706 in 2005. The study concluded that there were approximately 1,647 youngsters who were homeless at least part of the year in 2006 in the Las Vegas area. 52% of those young people were between the ages of 15 and 17. Approximately 36% were African America, 28% white, and 20% were Hispanic. About 40% were still enrolled in school, and 78% wanted to finish high school. A majority, 54% had attempted to get help with their education while they were homeless.  When survey respondents were asked why they were not with a parent or legal guardian, 27% cited physical abuse, 4% cited mental/emotional abuse, 2% cited sexual abuse, and 22% reported they had been “kicked out.” 

Interestingly enough, only marijuana use was reported as a common form of drug abuse, (74% had tried it) but only 34% reported using it regularly, among homeless young people in Southern Nevada.  Only 32% reported smoking, and only 28% reported drinking and of that group only 4% used alcohol daily.  As might be expected homeless young people are more likely to engage in self-destructive behaviors like drug and alcohol abuse.  However, in 2010 the CDC reported 24% of high school aged young people nationwide had been involved in binge drinking, and 21% reported using marijuana. 20% of young Americans had experimented with prescription drugs and some OTC products.

The CDC/MMWR report (long pdf) issued in June, 2010 found that nationwide about 46.3% teens had tried smoking, with only 11.2% doing so on a regular basis. About 72% had tasted alcohol at some point in their lives, with the median across the states being 39.3% in the current use category (one drink in the past 30 days). The bottom line appears to be that the homeless young people in Southern Nevada seem to be much like their peers, albeit more likely to indulge in some self-destructive activities; but what we can hope is that the youngsters in the NPYH program are not like those described in the CDC/MMRW report as those who:” During the 7 days before the survey, 77.7% of high school students had not eaten fruits and vegetables five or more times per day, 29.2% had drunk soda or pop at least one time per day, and 81.6% were not physically active for at least 60 minutes per day on all 7 days. One-third of high school students attended physical education classes daily, and 12.0% were obese.”  It’s well noted that among the items sought by the NPHY project are bottled water, Gatorade and Juices.

The NPHY describes its program: “For the past five years, NPHY has been advocating for Nevada’s homeless youth. The organization is dedicated to offering first-time services to an adolescent population that has been either overlooked and/or underserved by the current system. Usually, homeless and transient teenagers do not have the same substance abuse addictions and mental health disorders that afflict homeless adults. Homeless babies, toddlers, young children and adolescents should not have to live in cars and alleys or eat out of dumpsters. The youngest of these children are the true victims of homelessness. They have no voice and are subjected to living conditions that most people cannot comprehend or would even want for their household pets.”  The description makes a crucial point, facilities and programs for ADULT homeless populations aren’t necessarily suitable for assisting young people.

Those wishing to make donations may use this link.  The younsters can always use:  Weather-Appropriate Girl’s & Boy’s Clothing, All Sizes, Hygiene Products, Snack Foods, Bottled Water, Gatorade, & Juices, Back-to-School Supplies, Grocery Gift Cards, Target, Walmart, & Walgreen’s or other such retail outlet Gift Cards. In short, there are approximately 1,647 young people who might be helped by programs such as the NPHY, and a moment of our time, and a bit of our money, would go a long way.

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Filed under homelessness, youth