Archive for August, 2007

The article linked below is a particularly interesting commentary from Steven Pearlstein at the Washington Post. While we generally agree with his conclusions we would like to hear what you have to say and invite your comments in our comment section. The most salient points of the article are summed up in the final few paragraphs found below.

“…the reason we study, work, save and generally behave ourselves is that these behaviors allow us to earn more money, and more money will improve our lives. And, by logic, that must be particularly true of the poor, for whom each extra dollar to be earned or saved for a rainy day is surely more valuable than it is for, say, Bill Gates.

In economics, this insight — that the fifth ice cream sundae is less valuable than the first one — is enshrined in the law of diminishing marginal utility.

But what if this iron law of economics is wrong? What if it doesn’t apply at every point along the income scale? If you and everyone around you are desperately poor, maybe it’s perfectly rational to think that an extra dollar or two won’t make much of a difference in reducing your misery. Or that you won’t be able to “study” your way out of the ghetto. Or that if you find a $100 bill on the street, maybe it’s logical to blow it on one great night on the town rather than portion it out a dollar a day for 100 days.

On the other hand, maybe the point at which people are most willing to work hard, save and play by the rules isn’t when they are very poor, or very rich, but in the neighborhoods on either side of the point you might call economic sufficiency — a motivational sweet spot that, in statistical terms, might be defined as between 50 percent ($24,000) and 200 percent ($96,000) of median household income. And if that is so, then maybe the best way to break the cycle of poverty is to raise the hopes and expectations of the poor by putting them closer to the goal line.

Admittedly, this is only a theory, supported by logic and anecdote. But if Karelis is right, it could provide a solid economic argument to replace the old moral ones for spending more money on programs like food stamps, subsidized child care and the earned income tax credit.

In recent years, conservatives have dominated the poverty debate with their strategy of breaking the cycle of dependence. But after a decade of welfare reform, budget cuts and calls for individual responsibility, poverty is still very much with us. Maybe it’s time for liberals to regain the upper hand in the debate by arguing that the vicious cycle that needs to be broken isn’t one of dependence but one of declining expectations.”

Find the full article here. Washington Post Commentary on Poverty

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Though many of you might read this blog, have you visited the Homeless Alliance website? If you have, do you know about the features on the Alliance website? Here’s a rundown:

For case managers, service providers, food pantry/soup kitchen volunteers, and faith community leaders, visit our “Get Help” page. It has three features:

Contact Numbers
(for local homeless service providers such as shelters, food pantries, and soup kitchens, as well as housing providers and emergency outreach providers)

The Information Library (featuring up-to-date information on income-enhancing resources in Erie County such as Food Stamps, Temporary Assistance/TANF, and Medicaid)

Applications (for Temporary Assistance/TANF, Food Stamps, and the Home Energy Assistance Program/HEAP)

These tools combined can help you:
1) determine who is eligible for income-enhancements
2) download applications for income-enhancements
3) understand the application process its requirements to successfully receive benefits

This page also has information on housing assistance in Buffalo and Erie County, how to identify housing discrimination, what to do when threatened with eviction, and how to respond to emergency housing issues.

The Alliance also has helpful pamphlets and handbooks on our education page. Here you will find a downloadable and printable pamphlet you can hand to those who need housing that will explain the assistance available to them and where they can go to access it. You can also find a pamphlet on Temporary Assistance (who is eligible and how to apply) that you can hand to someone seeking assistance.

Finally, for the faith community, the “Homeless Ministry Handbook” provides ideas for responding to those in-need, contact numbers for local soup kitchens and food pantries, and good questions to ask someone who is seeking assistance to best determine how you can help them.

These page has been very helpful to front-line workers responding to those in-need. Please consider adding them to your bookmarks.

And as always, the Homeless Alliance also provides up-to-date research on homelessness in the community, as well as a printable version of Buffalo and Erie County’s 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness.

The Alliance hopes that its website will be an effective tool for you in your work to end homelessness.

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Our good friends at the Hunger Action Network of New York State put out a “Hunger Alert” every month outlining some of the legislative and regulatory efforts to end hunger through its root causes. The Homeless Alliance is very supportive of their work and we invite you to take a look at their most recent Alert.

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Federal Policy

Below please find an excellent outline of the current re-authorization of the McKinney-Vento Act as prepared by the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

McKinney-Vento Re-authorization

Senator Reed (D-RI), Senator Allard (R-CO), and 11 other Senators introduced the Community Partnership to End Homelessness Act of 2007 (S. 1518) on May 24. The Alliance’s analysis of this legislation is very positive. This legislation will make the McKinney program a more effective tool (one of many tools) to prevent and end homelessness. As the bill moves through Congress, we will be working with our local, state and national partners on any changes needed to improve the legislation further and ensure that it suits the needs of as many as possible.

We would like to highlight the following provisions – some new from legislation introduced in the last Congress. The legislation would:

  • Establish a new prevention program to serve people who have moved frequently for economic reasons, are doubled up, are about to be evicted, live in severely overcrowded housing, or otherwise live in an unstable situation that puts them at risk of homelessness;
  • Encourage programs that move families into permanent housing;
  • Enable rural communities to use funds for homeless prevention and stabilization with an application process tailored to rural communities;
  • Renew permanent housing programs non-competitively; and
  • Reward communities that get the best outcomes but in a less prescriptive way.
  • Places focus on housing and support services for families with children;
  • Assists families with children who are “doubled- up”;
  • Eliminates the requirement for permanent housing that the person have a disability; and
  • Includes families in the definition of “chronically homeless”.

These are all items that the Homeless Alliance of Western New York supports. (more…)

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When we called out Governor Spitzer for his veto of an improved welfare bill in New York State , we were upset for what appeared to be a lack of concern for low-income people and in particular low-income women. While we still wish the Governor had signed the bill it appears that in the last 20 days that the Governor has made some strides to make up for his lack of support for low-income women on public assistance.

We join with the Buffalo News in recognizing that maybe Governor Spitzer’s newfound and sharper focus on long-standing problems and inequities will help change the situation.

We invite you to learn more and hear what the Buffalo News had to say by reading their August 21 editorial here.

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Our friends at the Economic Self-Sufficiency Coalition of Western New York are hosting a free conference for non-profit practitioners, government and employers. It will be held September 19th (8.30am to 4pm) at the Buffalo-Niagara Convention Center.

From the brochure linked below:

This conference features national, state, and local speakers and focuses on a variety of innovative strategies to increase opportunities for asset building including homeownership, business development, and financial education attainment.

Click on the following link for more info:
Understand Asset Building: Strategies for Working Families & Individuals Registration Brochure

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As Buffalo and Erie County move forward with our ten year plan to end long-term homelessness, the housing first strategy as employed in cities around the country is quickly making its way to Western New York. The Christian Science Monitor has published an outstanding article outlining both the philosophy and the successes of the model. We invite you to check out the article by following the link below.

“Moving the Homeless Out of Shelters, into Homes” – Christian Science Monitor, August 20th 2007

For more information about Buffalo and Erie County’s nationally recognized ten-year plan please read the plan at the Homeless Alliance’s main website.

PRISM: A Community Solution to Homelessness

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Our friends in Rochester at the Homeless Services Network of Rochester, NY invite you to join more than 250 attendees for their 2007 Western New York Homeless & Hunger Symposium. Wednesday September 19th, 2007 from 7:30am-4:30pm.
Homeless Symposium Brochure


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While we don’t feel the need to comment on every article that concerns homeless folks in Buffalo and Erie County, the article in today’s Buffalo News regarding a homeless person and his collection of signatures for George Holt who is running for the Erie County legislature is worth a comment even if it only gives us an opportunity to reiterate the rights of homeless persons to be engaged in the political process.

Read the Buffalo News Article here.

The individual it seems listed two former addresses as his current address when signing off on his designating petitions for Mr. Holt. By stating an incorrect address, he may have violated election law. He need not have done that and could have it seems listed his actual place of residence – Mr. Holt’s campaign office.

There are several cases that seem to address these issues.

  • A requirement that people live in a traditional dwelling in order to vote placed an unconstitutional constraint on the voting rights of homeless persons. Coalition for the Homeless v. Jensen, 187 A.D.2d 582 (N.Y. App. Div. 1992).
  • States should use a broad interpretation of the term “residence” to include any place, including a non-traditional dwelling, that an individual inhabits with the intent to remain for an indefinite period. Pitts v. Black, 608 F.Supp. 696 (S.D.N.Y. 1984); In re-Application for Voter Registration of Willie R. Jenkins, D.C. Bd. of Elections and Ethics (June 7, 1984).
  • When registering to vote, homeless people may designate a shelter, park, or street corner as their residence. Fischer v. Stout, 741 P.2d 217 (Alaska 1987).

It is clear that a better job needs to be done to ensure that homeless and low-income persons know their rights to have a say in the political process that influences their lives. Mistakes like the one made by the Holt campaign shouldn’t have happened.

For more information on the voting rights of homeless people please see this excellent resource from the National Coalition for the Homeless. Homeless Voter Registration

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A Roundtable discussion of affordable housing and the environment will take place on September 11th from 3 to 5 pm at 237 Main Street, Suite 1200 at the Main-Seneca Building in Buffalo. The roundtable is presented by the UB school of Law.

Around the country, affordable housing funders, developers, and advocates are turning toward greener strategies for several reasons:

  • Energy efficient homes are more affordable over the long term;
  • Residential buildings are one of the largest factors in global warming and other forms of pollution;
  • Greener homes improve the health of residents and address problems – such as asthma – of particular concern to people with low incomes.

Buffalo has a unique set of overlapping housing and environmental problems including abandoned housing, older housing, high utility bills, brownfields, and sprawl. Policy options for the City, State, and the non-profit community, with a particular emphasis on win/win strategies that improve affordability while reducing pollution will be discussed. Sam Magavern will present highlights from his study, “Affordable Housing and the Environment in Buffalo, New York,” and local housing leaders will offer their insights and ideas.

Panelists will include:

Aaron Bartley, Executive Director, PUSH Buffalo

Kevin Connors, PE, AIA, Principal, eco_logic STUDIO

Sam Magavern, Clinical Instructor, University at Buffalo Law School

Michael Riegel, Vice President, Belmont Shelter Corporation

Thomas Van Nortwick, Regional Director, NYS Div. of Housing and Community Renewal

Timothy Wanamaker, Director of Strategic Planning, City of Buffalo

The roundtable is free, but space is limited. To reserve a seat, please e-mail Beverly Maloney at bevprend@buffalo.edu or phone her at 645-2167 by August 31, 2007. Feel free to post this invitation and share it with anyone who might be interested.

Please visit http://green-housing-buffalo.wikispaces.com to view or download the study “Affordable Housing and the Environment in Buffalo, New York” and other relevant resources.

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