Homelessness is on the rise. Despite the fact that we have more than enough houses to adequately shelter our population, three and half million homeless men, women, and children live and sleep in the streets. Imagine how it feels to be freezing to death, looking at one of the 18.5 million vacant houses in America . . . homes that are owned by banks that bought the foreclosed properties with bailout money that came from our taxpayer dollars. It rankles the soul. On Occupy Radio this week, homeless advocate Jean Stacey likened the unhoused to the canaries in the coal mine of our nation. They are signs that something has gone terribly wrong. (Listen here) Some argue that the something is the economy, but I’d say there’s nothing wrong with the economy as far as the wealthy are concerned. 95% of the 2009-2012 income gains dove into the pockets of the wealthy 1%. The rest of America saw little sign of economic recovery. For many, poverty is just one step closer.
In the three decades he worked as a software engineer in Silicon Valley, Fred Smith never imagined he would spend his golden years homeless. But three years ago, Mr. Smith could no longer afford an apartment here, so he moved into an aging Winnebago camper. The 70-year-old showers at a gym where he has had a longtime membership. For most meals, he eats $1.20 orders of eggs or fish patties at McDonald’s. As housing costs here have skyrocketed with the latest technology boom, Mr. Smith has found himself among thousands of people in Silicon Valley struggling to afford a place to live. The San Jose/Santa Clara County region’s homeless population—about 7,600 on any given night, the fifth-highest among major metro areas—edged up in 2013, even as the number of homeless nationwide dropped, according to U.S. data.
The idea of having to navigate cockroaches, mice, no heat and sexual predators before you even leave for school is not something any child should go through. Yet, this is the daily life for hundreds of children living in two shelters in New York City and Brooklyn. They are part of the more than 22,000 children that make up New York City’s homeless population. Now, after more than a decade of repeated citations for deplorable conditions, more than 400 children and their families are being moved from the city-owned facilities – all because of a determined 12-year-old girl. Chanel couldn’t afford the luxury of buying water in a bottle. When the water with the fancy name started arriving in the bodegas of her Brooklyn neighborhood, she felt that it represented a certain status in life she could never imagine. When her first child was born a short time later, she gave her the name Dasani, with the hope it would give her a chance in life.
Many in New Mexico have embraced both the ghost of James Boyd, cut down for lacking a home, and the ghost of Tom Joad, a specter of moral action. The group Anonymous called for occupation of Albuquerque police sites in a video statement describing the murder as done in “cold blood”. “This man, who was schizophrenic, obviously had no intention of hurting these police officers, on the contrary, this man looks as if he is simply attempting to protect himself from visually fierce militarized thugs,” said the hacktivist group. A coalition of groups protested over the weekend in an eight-plus hour march. The police shot tear gas canisters at largely peaceful demonstrations. The FBI has opened an investigation into Boyd’s killing, and the Justice Department is continuing their probe into a police department that has fired at 37 people since 2010, killing 23.
On Sunday night, the temperature in Rockford, Illinois is expected to drop below 20 degrees. On Monday and Tuesday, the area could see several more inches of snow. And yet the city has informed leaders at the Apostolic Pentecostals of Rockford church that they are no longer permitted to act as a temporary warming center and homeless shelter because they do not have the adequate zoning permits. David Frederick, the owner of the church, told WIFR that he was warned by city officials that if he kept opening his doors to the city’s homeless, he would be doing so illegally. It’s unclear if the city is prepared to levy any kind of penalty against the church if they ignore the warning.
The apartment complex, called the Fillmore Center, lies just south of Geary Boulevard along Fillmore Street and takes up several city blocks. The complex, which has had numerous owners, was completed in 1991 on land owned by the now-defunct Redevelopment Agency with the guarantee that 20 percent of the units would stay below market rate until 2017. In exchange, the developers received “advantageous financing terms,” according to the City Attorney’s Office. The case, which was heard by Superior Court Judge Curtis Karnow, was originally filed in 2008 by current owners Fillmore Center Associates after they were barred from converting more than 1,000 units into condominiums because the previous owners had relinquished such rights.
Marcin said he first stumbled upon the homeless dwellings as he hiked through the woods bordering the city during hunting season. When he saw a ‘mini-fortress’ made of milk crates just yards from a major thoroughfare, Marcin began searching for other transients ‘living off the grid’. Most were based near railroad tracks, Walmarts, gas stations, and liquor stores. ‘I have always been interested in the unique places people live in, particularly where there exists an element of defiance or desperation, or both. In these situations, a house can often reflect the dilemma of its owner. In the case of the hobo camps, this reflection is quite pronounced for obvious reasons,’ he told The Atlantic Cities.
A group of fired-up activists in Portland, Ore., who were tired of seeing homeless people being mistreated staged the kind of protest that will be difficult for the mayor to ignore. An estimated 4,000 people sleep on the streets of Portland, Ore., on any given night and, since last summer, life has become increasingly difficult for them. So, a group of protesters descended upon Portland City Hall on Tuesday night carrying pitchforks and torches to “shame the mayor into action,” organizer Jessie Sponberg told The Oregonian. Portland appears to be gearing up to revive a bill that would allow police to rouse homeless people sitting on sidewalks, The Oregonian reported at the end of last year. In July, Mayor Charlie Hales launched an effort to clear out homeless campsites,according to the Portland Mercury.
The 2013 law made it illegal to sleep “out-of-doors…adjacent to or inside a tent or sleeping bag, or atop and/or covered by materials such as a bedroll, cardboard, newspapers, or inside some form of temporary shelter.” The initiative referred to homelessness as “camping,” a benign term that minimizes the plight of people lacking reliable access to food and shelter. Yet after a torrent of critical press coverage and a Change.org petition, Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward reversed his previous support for the ordinance and urged the council to amend it “after reflecting and praying on this issue.” Hayward tweeted a picture of himself and his wife supporting a blanket drive for the homeless earlier in the day and posted a photo to Facebook announcing the Council’s vote. Pensacola City Councilwoman Sherri Myers, an original opponent of the ordinance, brought forward the proposal to amend it.
Homelessness is growing rapidly in America, and it’s on the rise in other industrialized countries, too. With fewer good jobs, rising costs, and a disappearing safety net, housing―something we used to take for granted– has become, for many people, unaffordable. A fortunate few can bunk in with relatives, at least for a while. But most of us must sleep in our cars, or pitch a tent, or go to a shelter, or hit the streets. Often, we try several of these options in succession, as our resources dwindle and run out. We keep hanging in there, looking for a real job, searching for solutions, and praying for a miracle. Sometimes things get better, but often they do not. With no roof above us, no walls around us, and no locked door between us and the wide world, we are vulnerable―to the weather, to illness, and to violence.
The operation was announced in a Pastebin November 7, when it became apparent that this season would bring some truly cruel weather to North America, Europe, and Asia. It quickly gained popularity among Anons, many of whom have been itching to get back into the streets for some direct, and positive, action. This kind of do-gooder op is problematic for some older Anons, who remember the days when it was all done with keyboards for the lulz; they call this “moralfagging” with all the contempt they can muster, but since 2008, when Anonymous went up against Scientology in OpChanology, moralfagging has been an important part of the fractious collective.
A 2009 UN report on access to affordable housing painted a grim picture. The report blasted homelessness as a national emergency in Canada. It brought to light the fact that Canada is one of the few countries in the world without a national strategy on homelessness; it also has no enforceable laws on affordable housing, one of the warning signs and indicators of homelessness. “Support services differ from community to community. Some have no services at all and some have unique and varied services to meet the diverse needs of people experiencing homelessness,” says Gulliver. The variation in serves levels makes it difficult to create a lone solution that fits all situations.
Other medical conditions that Withers and his team help the homeless with include frostbite and injuries some homeless people attain from being beaten up. Although Withers says he has lost count of all of the people he has met along the way, he said he is far from the only one doing this work and says there is a global grassroots community actively helping the homeless in about 90 countries.
On Christmas Eve, Linda Austin admired her new home as she set down a box of belongings. A couple of years ago, she faced dark and difficult times. That’s when Camp Quixote, a self-governing tent community for the homeless, took Austin under its wing. The tent camp’s nomadic existence ended Tuesday as residents moved into 30 new cottages at Quixote Village. “Two years ago, I never thought I’d be here,” she said, admiring her heated cottage from the outside. “It gave me a little hope when I thought there was none.” Camp Quixote began in 2007 after a protest in downtown Olympia. The founders envisioned a permanent village where the homeless could escape the woods or streets to find safety and warmth. Residents of this homeless community elect officers and decide who lives there, based on strict criteria. Over the years, local churches have hosted the tent community, which needed to move every six months to comply with municipal codes.
For many couples, the thought of living together in a 96-square-foot house sounds awful. But for Chris Derrick and Betty Ybarra, it’s a Christmas miracle. That’s because Derrick and Ybarra have spent the better part of a year braving Madison, Wisconsin’s often-harsh climate without a roof over their head. They’ll spend this Christmas in their own home, thanks to more than 50 volunteers with Occupy Madison, a local Wisconsin version of the original Occupy Wall Street group in New York. The group, including Derrick and Ybarra, spent the past year on an innovative and audacious plan to fight inequality in the state’s capital: build tiny homes for the homeless. In a city where an average home for sale costs nearly $300,000, many low-income individuals simply can’t afford somewhere to live. Indeed, in January of this year, a citywide count found 831 homeless people living in Madison, a 47 percent increase in the past 3 years.