Tag Archives: Paul Boden

McKinney-Vento turns 25; homelessness still grows

By Paul Boden, Contributing Columnist

Passed in 1987, McKenny-Vento was intended to address the emergency needs of homeless people while the federal government worked to restore the funding which had been cut from HUD’s affordable housing programs.

But it didn’t work that way. McKinney-Vento has spawned an endless array of continuum-of-care plans, 5-year plans, 10-year plans — an endless system of writing, planning, and researching which “best practices” should be used to end homelessness. At the same time, the federal government has continued to defund, dismantle, and sell-off affordable housing units, thus ensuring that more and more people become homeless. 360,000 Section 8 and 210,000 Public Housing units have been lost since 1995.

It is a shameful trade that robs Peter to pay Paul. Continue reading

Fed up with housing policy

By Paul Boden, Contributing Columnist

More than 1.46 million households are currently living on less than $2 a day per person in the wealthiest country in the world, more than double what it was in 1996. This shameful fact has had an especially harmful effect on children, whose numbers in these households ballooned from 1.4 million to 2.8 million. Two dollars a day is the figure the World Bank uses to measure global poverty. Continue reading

The time doesn’t fit the crime on the streets

By Paul Boden, Contributing Writer

The Western Regional Advocacy Project has been documenting the increases of mentally ill people in local jails as a result of diminished funding for mental health treatment and housing, escalation of “nuisance crime” enforcement by police and private security, and expansion of mental health courts.

The scale of this issue is enormous: it is reported that the LA county jail alone houses 3,000 mentally ill people a night. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, as many as 64% of people in jails nationwide have mental health problems. In the 1980s and early 1990s, people with severe mental illness made up 6-7% of the jail population. In the last 5 years, this percentage has climbed to 16-30%. Nationwide, there are three times as many people with mental illness in prisons as there are in hospitals; 40% of people with severe mental illness have been imprisoned at some point in their lives. Continue reading

The quality of whose life? The zero-sum game. Part II

The second in a four-part series on the country’s modern anti-poor movement

By Paul Boden, Contributing Writer

What images do the words “quality of life” bring to mind? A peaceful beach? A beautiful park? A farmers market full of healthy produce? In the realm of policing, the phrase “quality of life” carries different connotations. It means a veteran getting hauled in for sleeping on the sidewalk, a homeless woman being prohibited from resting on a park bench, or even brutal scenes like these from San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Fresno. Continue reading

The quality of whose life?

The first in a four-part series on the country’s modern anti-poor movement

by Paul Boden, Contributing Writer

One more stark reminder of the disconnect between our ideals and public policy is to look at the declining stocks of our country’s public and project-based housing. In the years between 1994 and 2008, we have been building more and more jail cells but fewer and fewer affordable housing units, and as a result, we now have millions of people without housing, some living on the street, some in cars, some in jails.

Other consequences of this disconnect are stark too. In city after city, nationwide, we see new so-called quality-of-life ordinances and anti-panhandling statutes. In Las Vegas, for example, both panhandlers and the people who give them money can be fined, and providing people free meals for homeless people in parks is banned. In San Francisco, a hotly debated new measure would make it illegal for people to sit down on city sidewalks. As a result, one McDonald’s on a street that has a relatively high concentration of homeless people, Haight Street, has become the only franchise in the city that has stopped offering its popular “Dollar Menu.” These are only the latest developments in a city where the mayor sailed into office on a platform, known as “Care Not Cash,” that severely limits cash assistance to the homeless.

All these laws and ordinances (and many more like them) are presented to the public as serving the greater good, making cities more livable, improving public safety; in a nutshell, increasing quality of life across the board. Residents’ quality of life is enhanced because they live in safer, cleaner cities. Businesses are able to attract more customers. Cities themselves are able to attract more tourists. All in all, quality-of-life ordinances seem to work for everyone. Quality of life is, of course, a well-chosen phrase. It has a nice ring to it, it sounds upbeat and profound at the same time. Who could possibly oppose such a thing? One group might be those who care about social justice and our collective responsibility toward the economically marginalized — the exact people who are, more often than not, on the receiving end of quality of life initiatives. Continue reading

Camping ordinance being challenged

The Oregon Law Center’s class action lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Portland’s camping ordinance follows in a long line of similar lawsuits filed across the country to vindicate the Constitutional rights of homeless individuals.

And because of prior lawsuits and the precedents they established, the lawsuit, Anderson v. Portland, has a strong chance of being successful. That would add Portland to a small list of cities whose camping ordinances have been declared unconstitutional.

“There is a solid basis for this lawsuit,” says Adam Arms, the civil rights lawyer who successfully challenged an unconstitutional version of the city’s sidewalk obstructions ordinance in 2004.

Tulin Ozdeger, the National Law Center on Homeless and Poverty’s civil rights program director agrees. “As shown by other successful cases across the country… there are a lot of Constitutional problems with these kinds of measures,” says Ozdeger.

Anderson v. Portland, filed in federal court on December 12, argues that the camping ordinance is unconstitutional in two respects.

First, the illegalization of outdoor sleeping when there are not enough shelter beds for homeless individuals cruelly and unusually punishes homeless people, violating the 8th Amendment of the Constitution.

“The Defendants’ [the City of Portland and the Police Bureau] pattern of citing and threatening to arrest involuntarily homeless individuals such as Plaintiffs for illegal camping and other offenses when they are sleeping outdoors… based on their status as homeless persons… is cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution,” the lawsuit reads.

A 2006 case, Jones v. Los Angeles, challenged Los Angeles’ camping ordinance, which made it illegal to camp in public spaces at any time of the day.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the city of Los Angeles could not legally punish homeless individuals for sleeping outside when not enough shelter beds exist to provide night shelter to all the city’s homeless.

“It was a huge victory,” says Becky Dennison, co-director of the Los Angeles

Community Action Network, which pursues community organizing efforts in Skid Row.

The precedent set by that case recognized that people have a right to sleep and perform other activities necessary to survive and live.

“There’s no right more fundamental than the right to survive, the right to perform life sustaining activities,” Arms says. Continue reading

This week on the homeless front…

Oct. 28, 2008

From Street Roots:

Paul Boden asks when a family falls – does anyone hear them?

Taking down the system: Rules for Radicals in the digital era.

Around the horn:

Supporters rally to save Nashville tent city for the time.

Bush credited with reducing chronic homelessnes.

Portland assesses health of folks on the streets.

Drastic cuts in public health proposed.

Artwork by Nili Yosha

Posted by Israel Bayer