Tuesday, October 24, 2006

What is A homeless lady to do ...you can only hide so long

Women's shelters fall by wayside
Emergency facilities dry up as city sticks with 'housing first'
By Jennifer Anderson
Portland Tribune 10-24-2006

A year ago, city Commissioner Randy Leonard came to the rescue of the Salvation Army’s Harbor Light Shelter, which was providing the only public emergency shelter access for homeless women in Portland.

Leonard had seen the Salvation Army’s full-page ad in the newspaper, denouncing the city Bureau of Housing and Community Development’s decision not to renew its $164,000 grant to fund the 34-bed dormitory program at the shelter, located at 30 S.W. Second Ave.
This year, however, Leonard isn’t stepping in and the Salvation Army has been left with empty shelter space and a gap in covering its facility costs.
When the city funding ran out in March, Harbor Light Director Lt. Ron Owens kept the shelter going until July, while he looked for other funding sources. There were none.
Now, the city of Portland officially has no public emergency shelter space for women, and Owens finds that troubling.

“Let’s say your boyfriend beats you up, puts you on the street and you’re an active drug user, burned all bridges with your friends,” he said. “You’re on the street. You need a place tonight to stay. You’re not going to find it with a seven-week waiting list” for other available women’s shelters.

According to the city, there are about 750 women classified as homeless in Portland at any one time – sleeping in a car, at someone’s house, under a bridge or in a doorway.
Heather Lyons, the city’s homeless program manager, said it’s true that there are now no public emergency shelters for women, but there are 56 year-round emergency beds for women that are run by nonprofit agencies.
The agencies also provide support including motel vouchers and help finding and retaining permanent housing.

But Lyons acknowledges it’s not enough. The beds are constantly in use, she said, so she is working on securing about 20 to 30 more emergency beds for women this winter. She’s looking for a nonprofit agency to run it, and “the Salvation Army is a potential candidate,” she said.
Lyons said Mayor Tom Potter will probably request about $90,000 in one-time funds from the city to get the beds open by Nov. 1.

Shelter doesn’t fit model

The city decided to end its funding of Harbor Light for a number of reasons, Lyons said, including disagreements over the operation of the shelter and the city’s 10-year plan to end homelessness, adopted two years ago.

The plan follows a nationally recognized “housing first” model of placing people in housing before working with them to help them find other services and become self-sufficient.
“The focus is on creating housing and not more emergency shelters,” Lyons said. “We were making progress on the 10-year plan, instituting changes with a lot of providers, including the Salvation Army. We moved in one direction, and the Salvation Army wasn’t moving in that direction … connecting women in the shelter to housing.”

Owens said he understands that the city has a new strategy but says the emergency space also is crucial.
“It’s much like a hospital who said we’re a hospital, we have hospital beds, we have doctors and nurses, we really don’t need an emergency department because that’s not our emphasis,” he said.

Several groups offer help

While the beds at Harbor Light sit empty, the city is partnering with several nonprofit agencies who’ve joined forces to get women off the streets and into housing.
Unlike emergency shelters – which provide bare-bones services such as meals, showers and toilets – they provide wraparound social services to tackle the issues that put the women on the streets in the first place.

For details on those programs, visit portlandonline.com/bhcd.
Meanwhile, Lyons noted that many providers say they’re seeing more homeless women on the streets, which – if true – may be due to the closure of Harbor Light and of Rose Haven, a day shelter for women that shut down recently after seven years when it was forced from its Old Town location and couldn’t find a new home.

Run by the nonprofit Catholic Charities, Rose Haven provided a safe place for women and children; it served about 80 people a day.

Sister Cathie Boerboom, who ran Rose Haven, said that since Catholic Charities adopted a new focus on housing programs for women, she’s decided to establish Rose Haven as its own nonprofit and resurrect the program in another location within a mile of Old Town, where other social services are.

In the meantime, Boerboom said the situation is bleak.

“There’s no safe place to go at all, and less shelters to go to,” she said. “You can only hide for so long, and then you have to find something to eat and find a bathroom.”
Nick Budnick contributed to this story.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Homeless refuge: "Our Peaceful Place"

Copied in its entirety by Joe Anybody from:
The excellent Homeless Newspaper
From Portland Oregon
"Street Roots"


Our Peaceful Place: Family spoken here
By Mike Lujan, Contributing columnist

Like a mother who lovingly attends to the welfare of one of her sick children, Barb Lescher, Director of Services at Our Peaceful Place, stays awake all night to make sure everyone is safe and needs are met. Talking with Barb at Our Peaceful Place's new location (since March 2006), I couldn't help but feel the warmth, kindness, and camaraderie Our Peaceful Place stands for, enveloping me as Barb prepared the meal for the evening — spaghetti, perfectly seasoned with lots of garlic and just enough spices, steaming garlic bread, and salad.

When coming to Our Peaceful Place, Barb likes to help everyone feel like they're going to grandma’s. But Our Peaceful Place is much more than an outreach to obtain a hearty meal; it's sanctuary for the homeless — a place to call home on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 9 p.m. until 7 a.m. It’s a place of refuge in the darkest hours of the night for anyone, yes, anyone, who is looking for safety from loneliness, hurt, despair, fear, or just wanting to share some companionship with others or to have other social interaction and activity. It's a place anyone can count on, contributing to the overflow of existing shelters and other family-care programs.

Our Peaceful Place is now located in the basement of the Calvary Christian Center Ministries building at 126 NE Alberta. It's the brick church that sits right on the corner of Alberta and Mallory, two blocks west of Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. The entrance is the white door just west of the church's main doors. A large sitting room, with chairs, sofas, and a television is available. Additionally, an open eating/coffee area, game room, quiet room, and bathroom (no shower, though) are provided. Considered a drop-in center, people can nap, but the center is not equipped with beds or cots. Barb says, “We're all about family; you know, sharing the camaraderie of times like just before everyone sits down to the evening meal — the magic of laughter, giddy conversation, the clanking and clattering of dishes and glasses and utensils being taken from the cupboards and out of the drawers and placed on the table of plenty, the wonderful smells of good food almost ready, and the excitement, stomach growling, when one hears those words, 'dinner's ready!'”

“No one goes hungry,” says Barb.

The spirit of Our Peaceful Place is one of a family at holiday, where everyone comes home, there's dinner, lots of activity, everyone in the kitchen, others playing cards — the pulse of family life.

“We are not easily accessible by the homeless from the downtown area during the day, which is why we changed our time of outreach to the evening,” Barb said. “Although we are limited to 20 hours per week of availability, we are open at 10-hour intervals, from 9 p.m. until 7 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.”

At 6:30 a.m., Barb and other volunteers start waking those who have stayed through the night.

“This schedule has been revised from Our Peaceful Place's previous schedule, daily, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.,” Barb says, “because many of the homeless are taking care of matters, for example, looking for work, hoping to be 'labor-ready' during the day, and would realize more benefit from an outreach with evening hours.”

After 1 a.m., the policy is exit only; however, if notified (through a phone call or an agency), people can enter the facility later that night.

In the earlier days of Our Peaceful Place, downtown, access was easier. However, public transportation can place one almost right at the doorstep. It's easy to get to by bus: Take number six bus down MLK or the number 40 bus down Vancouver Avenue — two blocks from main arteries — off of Alberta. Also, the MAX is free from downtown to the Convention Center, and the rest of the journey is approximately a 2.5-mile walk north from the Convention Center.

When the organization first relocated to the new location in March of this year, it received an average of 15 people per day. That has increased to nearly 40 people per day, sometimes more. Operating expenses are approximately $3,500 per month, covering overhead and utilities. Included in this is a monthly lease. Expenses are covered mostly by donations from individuals. So far, the neighborhood accepts the outreach — nothing negative has been directed toward Our Peaceful Place, according to Barb. Some interaction with the immediate neighborhood has been done, and Barb believes that increased agency awareness will make Our Peaceful Place more effective. Barb said she plans to increase interactions with neighborhood association meetings. People appreciate Our Peaceful Place, knowing that it is there to help them get through the days when they don't have help — as many have shared with Barb. One person said, “Knowing that I can come here on Thursday helps me get through the weekend, till next Tuesday.”

Children are welcome and just need to show proof of family or legal guardian to be able to stay overnight. Currently, four volunteers stay all night; three other volunteers come in and stay until around 2-3 a.m. Smoking, alcohol, or drugs are not allowed. But Barb says that has never has been a problem. “People have a great respect for Our Peaceful Place.”

Recently, Bruce Glass, previously a volunteer, was welcomed back to the team. “Bruce has managed both of our moves, is very organized, and is always willing to roll up his sleeves,” Barb said. Bruce grew up in the community where the new site is located and is a familiar face to many. Barb describes Bruce as “indispensable.”

“We are looking forward to building a reputation of warmth and welcome in this new neighborhood,” Barb said. “We hope for the opportunity to minister to old friends and look forward to being a blessing to those we have yet to meet.

“We invite you, our friends, partners, and supporters to continue to minister with us by equipping us with the day-to-day materials we need to do the work,” Barb says with open arms. “We also invite you to come visit us. Come see where we are, meet our staff and see what your support is allowing us to do.

Come see if this is the place where you would like to spend time serving the poor.”

Thanks for all you do Barb and everyone who helps with Our Peaceful Place

~ Joe Anybody & Ben Waiting

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

In LA the Police Arrest Homeless Sleepers

From The LA Times we see an ugly concept
The Police are arresting Homeless People who
are... sleeping on sidewalks during the day in Downtown LA, California

This is a scary though... arrested for being homeless!?
Can you imagine... You are considered a criminal for being homeless?
Scary times when the poor are thrown in jail...
Arrested for having no where to go and no where to sleep...
I am appaled... this is an outrageous decision, and full of hate and meanness!

Below is the article that I found on this website --> http://prisonplanet.com/articles/october2006/041006skidrow.htm

The LAPD on Tuesday escalated its crackdown on skid row's homeless encampments, for the first time in months arresting transients for sleeping on the streets.

Police Chief William J. Bratton said he authorized the arrests after the L.A. city attorney's office issued a legal opinion saying that officers could arrest homeless people who slept on skid row's streets during the day.

But the new tactics were met with concern from some L.A. council members as well as the American Civil Liberties Union, which has aggressively challenged the city's efforts to remove the homeless camps.

Catherine Lhamon, racial justice director of the ACLU of Southern California, questioned whether the arrests made Tuesday are allowed under an April federal appeals court ruling that struck down the city's ban on people sleeping on streets and sidewalks.

The court, siding with the ACLU, ruled it was cruel and usual punishment to arrest homeless people for sleeping when the city could not provide enough shelter beds for them.

"It would be unwise social policy to be making arrests pursuant to that ordinance," Lhamon said.

The chief said he felt comfortable making arrests on the sleeping ordinance in part because there are more than 100 shelter beds available on skid row this week. The city attorney's office gave the go-ahead, concluding that the appeals court ruling applied only to camping at night, not during the day.

But Councilman Dennis Zine questioned a policy of arresting homeless people only during the day but allowing them to remain at night.

"It sets a terrible precedent," Zine said. "Are we going to say you can commit any type of crime if it's at a certain hour? Elsewhere in the city, like the Valley, the law is enforced 24 hours. … I think the ACLU is on shaky ground."

The new tactics come after the City Council last month rejected a compromise with the ACLU, backed by Bratton and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, that would have allowed night camping but permitted police to arrest those who camped during the day.

Bratton announced that he and Villaraigosa have reached a new compromise with the ACLU that they hope the council will consider later this month.

The arrests mark a new push in the LAPD's 10-day-old crackdown on crime and blight, which resulted in a surge of arrests and the first decline in the district's homeless count in months.

With an infusion of 50 additional officers patrolling the area, officials have removed scores of homeless encampments and recorded 600 drug arrests in the the alleys of skid row, Bratton said Tuesday.

An LAPD homeless count of the area found the population had dropped from 1,801 two weeks ago to 1,447 on Sunday.

The drop is the first since March and comes after months of counts that found both the number of homeless people and the tent cities increasing.

"Compared to two weeks ago, it is clean…. It is getting better," said Bratton, who recently has been visiting skid row daily. "This isn't about arrests. This is about changing behavior. If you control behavior, you can change an area for the better."

Bratton declined to provide details about the new settlement proposal, which was hammered out by city representatives and ACLU leaders in recent days.

Councilman Eric Garcetti said Tuesday the deal calls for the city to implement the terms, allowing night camping on skid row, outlawing it during the day and prohibiting homeless people from sleeping next to doors.

But under the compromise, all parties would ask the federal court to set aside the April decision, Garcetti said. By pulling back that ruling, it would not be published and could not set a precedent for other city homeless cases.

This is meant to address a central concern of the City Council, which feared the settlement would allow homeless people to camp out on streets at night beyond downtown.

The compromise would apply only to the skid row area. Council members also questioned the wisdom of settling the suit when some legal experts believe the city has a reasonable shot at prevailing before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The LAPD deployed the extra officers last Sunday, part of a long-promised effort to clean up an area plagued for decades by chronic homelessness and drug dealing.

They have fanned out across the area, demanding that homeless people remove their camps. But Tuesday marked the first day they made arrests for violating the sidewalk sleeping ordinance.

Six homeless people were detained for violating the ordinance. Three ended up being booked on narcotics charges or outstanding warrants, one was released and two were charged with sleeping on the street.

Capt. Andrew Smith said the people booked under the ordinance refused to respond to officers' warnings to move. They were released to a homeless services agency.

The LAPD will use the sleeping ordinance only when it knows there are beds available — some 141 on Tuesday, Smith added.

The added police presence came amid growing concern that skid row's problems were getting worse. LAPD homeless counts found the homeless street population in skid row rose from 1,345 in March to 1,527 in July and 1,876 in September.

Some fear the crackdown is simply pushing some homeless people into adjoining neighborhoods, particularly the Newton Division just south of downtown, where some have noticed an increase in transients. Smith said the LAPD is aware of that potential and is planning to survey the area's homeless population in the coming weeks.

Edward Jones, a plaintiff in the original ACLU lawsuit who still lives on skid row, said he was disappointed by the LAPD's tactics. He said it ignores a larger reality about homelessness in L.A.

"I am out here because I can't afford to live anywhere else," he said.

When Bratton took office in 2002, he vowed to apply the same "broken windows" theory of law enforcement to skid row that he successfully used in New York's Times Square when he was chief of that city's Police Department in the early 1990s.

But the department slowed its efforts after the ACLU filed its lawsuit in 2003.

Some of the region's top political leaders, including Villaraigosa and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez, have vowed in the last several months to make skid row a priority. The area has long had the largest concentration of homeless people in the western U.S. and is the site of about 20% of all drug arrests in the city.

The focus on skid row has also coincided with a boom in residential development downtown, with luxury lofts and condos rising on the fringes of the district.

The original ACLU settlement faced some of its greatest opposition from downtown developers and residents. They argued that signing off on a deal that allows homeless people to sleep on the streets at night would worsen skid row's already severe problems.

Estela Lopez, executive director Central City East Assn., said she remains skeptical about any deal that allows night tent cities.

"Elected officials move on. Chiefs of police move on. Attorneys for the ACLU move on," she said. "The only people who are going to live with the consequences of whatever is settled or whatever the appeal is are the people" in downtown.