Seizing the chance to end homelessness

February 19, 2007

Mother & Baby homeless picture

(Picture by John McCabe, from AliceBernstein.net)

Here is a great op-ed by Henry Cisneros (yes, the one that was persecuted a la Bill Clinton for his sexual escapades) about the need, and opportunity, to end homelessness in the U.S.:

The most recent estimate, and the first in more than a decade, shows that at minimum 744,000 men, women and children experienced homelessness in the United States on any given night in January 2005. Distressingly, about 23 percent had a disability and were homeless for long periods.

These numbers are derived from taking a snapshot of the problem; the reality is that homelessness is quite fluid and that over the course of the year about 3.5 million people are without a home.

These grim statistics add up to a single truth: There are too many people who experience homelessness and far too many who spend years — quite literally — sleeping on the streets. What these statistics do not address, but what we know is also true, is that many more people are living on the periphery of homelessness, at risk of eviction or living in a precarious situation because they cannot afford their housing.

Certainly we have the resources to end homelessness. And, importantly, we have the knowledge. Across the country, new solutions have emerged, strategies that focus less on shelters and soup kitchens — the proverbial hot and a cot — and much more on long-term solutions like preventing homelessness in the first place and getting people back into permanent housing rapidly instead of letting them languish in emergency shelter.

He is definitely right in that we do have the resources. In fact most countries do – they just need to focus the money on where it counts, not on petty things like war and corruption. This is especially true after hurricane Katrina.

While only government can fully stamp out homelessness, individual civic groups are the ones that are leading the way:

One breakthrough strategy is called Housing First. This approach minimizes the time people spend in a shelter by providing access to permanent housing and then, after people are stably housed, services that address other needs. That way, the individual or family has stable housing while they sort out how to make improvements in their lives.

I have seen great success with this approach across the United States, with marked decreases in homelessness. In San Francisco, Housing First approaches helped reduce homelessness by 28 percent; in Columbus, 46 percent among families; and 43 percent among families in Hennepin County, Minn.

The entire article is pasted below… Read the rest of this entry »

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How Employers Discriminate by Marital Status

December 28, 2006

As if women weren’t discriminated enough. One of the most common factors of discrimination is via marital status. Men reading this blog might think, that’s just a bunch of bull. It’s not:

Only 22 states and Puerto Rico specifically prohibit employers from inquiring about applicants’ marital status. That means “maternal profiling” is a real problem for many women.

Just ask Kiki Peppard. […] But Pennsylvania is one of those many states that says nothing against the practice, which in the absence of a federal prohibition, makes it perfectly OK. In fact, those were usually among the first questions asked, she said, and many hiring managers ended the encounter soon after she honestly answered them.

“You have to understand how humiliating it was to be denied employment because I was a mother, and how humbling it was to not know where your next meal is coming from, and that as a woman in this country, you really are treated as worthless,” she said.

As you might imagine, the mainstream media barely covers any related developments, if at all:

For 12 years Peppard, a single mother, has campaigned to get Pennsylvania to make it illegal for employers to ask about an applicant’s marital or familial status. Last week, on Nov. 30, the bill died its most recent death when committee chairmen refused to allow it to move to the floor of the state House and Senate for a vote.

This bill has not only failed with legislators, it’s also been pretty much of a non-starter with the press. Peppard says–and my own Web searches confirm–there was no coverage of the bill’s most recent failure. […] She spent six years trying to get Pennsylvania legislators to sponsor a bill against maternal profiling in interviews and the next six trying to get the bill passed into law.

She says she has been contacting reporters from the very beginning, but after all that time she can count the news sightings on just about two hands and most of that is coming from the alternative or independent press.

One break came her way when MomsRising.org made her story a centerpiece of their cause to improve U.S. motherhood conditions. Peppard is heavily featured in the activist group’s 2006 documentary “The Motherhood Manifesto,” based on the book of the same name by MomsRising co-founders Joan Blades and Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, who also published a Mother’s Day piece about Peppard this year in the Nation. MomsRising blogger Cooper Munroe also got an op-ed about Peppard published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Sept. 27.

How typical. By the way, visit the MomsRising website when you have a chance.