Archive for February, 2008

Sometimes facts and figures – while demonstrating the needs of those who are poor in our communities – cannot accurately portray the experience of poverty in the minds and hearts of those who are living it.

Yesterday, the NY Times wrote an Op-Ed Column about how poverty effects children – how it literally can poison them and stunt their development, according to the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

You can read the article by clicking here for the PDF version.

Or click “Continue Reading” to read it here.


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Another article on Housing First – this one from the Washington Post.

Ready or Not, a Home of Their Own

Washington Post

By Marc Fisher

Thursday, December 27, 2007; B01

This is where Gregory Hart lived for most of the past two years: down an alley alongside Ben’s Chili Bowl on U Street NW, next to a trash can, curled against a concrete platform. Here, gang toughs assaulted him with a baseball bat. Here, he raised rats in a box. Here, he relied on a dog and a cat — Bam Bam and Little Bam Bam — to wake him if danger lurked. Here, passersby called him “retard” and shouted at him to “get a job.”

And this is where Gregory Hart has lived since last Thursday: in a spacious, sunny, well-heated three-room apartment he has entirely to himself, with a stove where he can cook chicken and gravy, and with a blue comforter he chose at Target and a bed where he can sleep as long as he wants without fear of attack.

Hart, 53, has spent long chunks of his life on the streets of Washington. Mentally ill and in poor health, he has drifted through periods of drinking and drugging. Dismissed as mentally incompetent from an early age, he never attended regular school and couldn’t read or write until adulthood.

“My mother tried to keep me in the house when I was young because nobody liked me,” he says. “I was rejected by the population.” Hart would still be in the alley this week if not for a small but fast-growing nonprofit group called Pathways to Housing that puts chronically homeless people into their own apartments — with daily support from social workers– even if they’re not sober, even if they lack basic housekeeping skills.

Most plans for the homeless involve moving them through shelters and group homes until they prove they are ready for permanent housing by staying sober and going to treatment for a substantial time.

But under a model called Housing First, groups such as Pathways take people as they are, in part because housing is a basic right and in part because it’s cheaper. It costs $23,000 a year to care for people who have someplace to live vs. more than $40,000 a year to give the homeless the emergency services they require — hospital ER care, detox, hours of police attention, endless trips through the court system.

In four years in Washington, Pathways has taken 130 homeless people off the streets, about 90 percent of whom are still in housing. (more…)

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The Fiscal Policy Institute, New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness, Coalition for Economic Justice, The Partnership for the Public Good and the Homeless Alliance of Western New York

invite you to a briefing and community forum on

Governor Spitzer’s 2008-09 Executive Budget and its Implications for

New York Families and the Upstate Economy

Thursday, February 21, 2008

9:30 am to 11:30 am

United Way of Buffalo and Erie County

742 Delaware Avenue

Buffalo, NY

  • An Overview of Governor Spitzer’s Budget Proposals. What are the major elements of Governor Spitzer’s Executive Budget
  • Key Budget and Tax Issues. A more detailed look at the Governor’s budget proposals affecting education, property taxes, health and human services, and economic development. What are the implications of these proposals for New York Families and the Upstate Economy? What are the major alternatives to the Governor’s proposals in these key areas?
  • Better Choice Budget Campaign (BCBC). Take a detailed look at 6 different ways over 100 community-based, faith based, labor and other organizations think we should close our budget gap and make the tax system more equitable for working families.

Registerby calling 518-452-2130; or by sending an e-mail message to mkd67@aol.com.

Budget Briefing Flyer

Briefing sponsored by –

betterhead2.giffpi logohawny logocej logoppg logo

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Low-income folks in our area and around the country have for too long been preyed upon by paid tax preparers. On Tuesday the Buffalo Common Council passed a resolution calling for a new local law that would require tax preparers to disclose fees associated with theirs prep services as well as refund anticipation loans. More information can be found in the Buffalo News’ article in Wednesdays paper:

Read the Buffalo News Article Here

City Councils from Albany, Rochester, and Syracuse will also pass similar resolutions. Locally, Assemblymember Sam Hoyt and Erie County Legislator Maria Whyte will introduce matching legislation at their respective levels of government.

For information about Free tax preparation provided through the United Way’s CASH program click below…

Free Tax Prep Flyer

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This is an interesting article from the Associated Press. We are noticing some of the same issues in Buffalo and Erie County.

New Homeless vets

Wars produce new homeless vets
Some question whether U.S.got message from Vietnam

Updated: 01/20/08 6:52 AM

LEEDS, Mass. – Peter Mohan traces his path from the Iraqi battlefield to this lifeless conference room, where he sits in a kilt and a Camp Kill Yourself T-shirt and calmly describes how he became a homeless veteran.

After a happy homecoming came an accident – car crash, broken collarbone. And then a move east, close to his wife’s new job but away from his best friends.

Then self-destruction: He would gun his motorcycle to 100 mph and try to stand on the seat. He would wait for his wife to leave in the morning, draw the blinds and open up whatever bottle of booze was closest.

He would pull out his gun, a .45-caliber, semiautomatic pistol. He would lovingly clean it, or just look at it and put it away. Sometimes he would place it in his mouth.

“I don’t know what to do anymore,” his wife, Anna, told him one day. “You can’t be here anymore.”

Peter Mohan never did find a steady job after he left Iraq. He lost his wife – a judge granted their divorce this fall – and he lost his friends, and he lost his home, and now he is here, in a shelter.

He is 28 years old. “People come back from war different,” he said.

This is not a new story: a young veteran back from war whose struggle to rejoin society has failed, at least for the moment, fighting demons and left homeless.

But it is happening to a new generation. With the war in Afghanistan plodding into its seventh year and the war in Iraq in its fifth, a new cadre of homeless veterans is taking shape.

With it come the questions: How is it that a nation that became so familiar with the homeless, combat-addled Vietnam veteran is now watching as more homeless veterans turn up from new wars?

What lessons have we not learned? Who is failing these people? Or is homelessness an unavoidable byproduct of war?

For as long as the United States has sent its young men – and later its young women – off to war, it has watched as a segment of them come home and lose the battle with their own memories and their own scars, then wind up without homes.

The Civil War produced thousands of wandering veterans. Frequently addicted to morphine, they were known as “tramps,” searching for jobs and, in many cases, literally still tending their wounds.

More than a decade after the end of World War I, the “Bonus Army” descended on Washington – demanding immediate payment on benefits that had been promised to them, but payable years later – and were routed by the U.S. military.

And, most publicly and perhaps most painfully, after Vietnam came tens of thousands of war-weary veterans, infamously rejected or forgotten by many of their own fellow citizens. Now it is happening again.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has identified about 1,500 homeless veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. About 400 of them have taken part in VA programs designed to target homelessness.

People who have studied postwar trauma point to a lengthy gap between coming home and the moments of utter darkness that leave some veterans homeless.

In that time, usually a period of years, some veterans focus on the horrors they saw on the battlefield, or the friends they lost, or why on earth they themselves deserved to come home at all.

They self-medicate, develop addictions, spiral down.

How – or perhaps the better question is why – is this happening again?

Mental illness, financial troubles and difficulty in finding affordable housing are generally accepted as the three primary causes of homelessness among veterans, and in the case of Iraq and Afghanistan, the first has raised particular concern.

Iraq veterans are less likely to have substance abuse problems but more likely to suffer mental illness, particularly posttraumatic stress, according to the Veterans Administration. And that stress by itself can trigger substance abuse.

Some advocates also cite factors particular to the Iraq War, like multiple deployments and the proliferation of improvised explosive devices, that could be pulling an early trigger on stress disorders that can lead to homelessness.

While many Vietnam veterans began showing manifestations of stress disorders roughly 10 years after returning from the front, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have shown the signs much earlier.

That could also be because stress disorders are much better understood now than they were a generation ago, advocates say.

“There’s something about going back, and a third and a fourth time, that really aggravates that level of stress,” said Michael Blecker, executive director of Swords to Plowshares,” a San Francisco homeless-vet outreach program.

“And being in a situation where you have these IEDs, everywhere’s a combat zone. There’s no really safe zone there. I think that all is just a stew for posttraumatic stress disorder.”

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