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Archive for February, 2009

A Chicago homeless man is attempting to run for office but is facing resistance because he is homeless and does not have a permanent address.  This article highlights the fact that homeless individuals have every right that those that are housed do and that no one should ever be discriminated against because of their housing status.

02/20/09 07:35 AM

Associated Press Writer

A suburban Chicago man barred from running for the village board because he is homeless isn’t giving up trying to get on the ballot.

Daniel Fore and his attorneys on Thursday filed both a petition seeking a judicial review of the decision and an emergency motion for expedited hearing with the Cook County Circuit Court.

The team hopes for a ruling on the matter by March 6, ahead of the March 16 start of early voting, said Larry Griffin, an attorney for the firm Kirkland and Ellis who represents Fore pro bono.

Oak Park’s electoral board voted 2-1 last week to bar Fore from the April 7 ballot. A message left for an Oak Park spokesman was not immediately returned Thursday afternoon.

Two Oak Park residents, Randy Gillett and Richard Newman, challenged Fore’s candidacy, claiming a person without a fixed address cannot run for office or register to vote.

But Fore’s attorneys say the electoral board’s decision violates Illinois law and nothing in it bars homeless people from ballot access just because they’re homeless.

Cook County Clerk David Orr agrees, saying in a statement he believes state law supports Fore’s case.

“Just as homeless voters deserve the right to cast ballots, homeless candidates have a right to run for office,” Orr said. “At a time when more and more Americans are losing their homes, it is imperative they not also lose access to full participation in our democracy – either as voters or officeholders.”

Orr’s support is key, Griffin said.

“I think his perspective is obviously valuable,” Griffin said. “We appreciate that he sees, as we do, that Dan has a right to run.”

Fore collected 800 signatures from Oak Park residents, almost double the amount he needed to be placed on the ballot, Griffin said.

Fore is also represented by the Law Project of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.

http://www.buffalonews.com/260/story/585039.html

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“Concert from the Heart”, a benefit concert for the City Mission and Food Bank will take place on March 17th at 8pm at Kleinhans Music Hall.  The Buffalo News did a short piece on it the other day:

News Staff Reporter

It figures to be among the most eclectic events in Buffalo musical annals.

American Federation of Musicians Local 92 and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra will team with the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame to present “Concert From the Heart,” a March 17 benefit for the Buffalo City Mission and the Food Bank of Western New York.

The 8 p. m. performance in Kleinhans Music Hall will feature Hall of Famers Lance Diamond, Van Taylor and his touring band Taylor Made Jazz and — representing the historic Colored Musicians Club — the George Scott Big Band. The Old School B Boys, with Mark Mazur and his Little Big Band, will be special guests.

All of it will be backed by the BPO with guest conductor Paul Ferington.

Among the greats whose music will be highlighted: Cole Porter, Duke Ellington, Neil Diamond, Barry White and Marvin Gaye.

“It will be a historic event, reaching across boundaries,” said Rick Matthews, Buffalo Music Hall of Fame president.

“The proceeds will go to two organizations at an unprecedented level — tens of thousands,” added Ron Daniels, Local 92 president.

For the City Mission and the Food Bank, the fundraiser could hardly come at a better time.

As the recession has deepened, “the need for food is growing tremendously; it’s up over 11 percent from last year,” said Michael J. Billoni, Food Bank marketing director.

Stuart Harper, executive director of the City Mission, which is also dealing with rising demand, spoke of the evening’s eclectic music as “kind of like the people who come to our door.”

A pre-concert performance by the Bar Room Buzzards will begin at 7.

There also will be a post-concert dance featuring the Jim Tudini Big Band.

Tickets will be $25 and are available at the Kleinhans box office, 885-5000, and Doris Records, 286 E. Ferry St., 883-2410.

Seating will be open.

http://www.buffalonews.com/cityregion/story/587605.html


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Here’s an article that counters some of the attacks on Henrietta Hughes, a homeless woman who spoke at a town hall meeting that President Obama attended about a week ago.  The author “Cara” highlights the way that many people critical of social welfare focus solely on individual responsibility (even when virtually nothing is known about the person’s history) and neglect to examine the larger, systematic inequalities in our economy that impoverishes many people, like Hughes.  In addition, Hughes’ statement highlights the primary need of homeless individuals: housing first.

Posted by Cara, Feministe at 8:58 AM on February 16, 2009.

For those who have not heard of Henrietta Hughes, she is a homeless woman who stood up at a town hall meeting and told Barack Obama that she is unemployed and has been forced her to live in her car.  She further pleaded with the president to do something to ensure that people like her had housing:

“I have an urgent need, unemployment and homelessness, a very small vehicle for my family and I to live in,” she said. “The housing authority has two years’ waiting lists, and we need something more than the vehicle and the parks to go to. We need our own kitchen and our own bathroom. Please help.”

Now, Michelle Malkin has decided to publicly mock her with taunts like “If she had more time, she probably would have remembered to ask Obama to fill up her gas tank, too.”  She then went on to say:

Hughes didn’t explain the cause of her financial turmoil. Obama didn’t ask. And if we conservatives dare to question the circumstances — and the underlying assumption that it is government’s (that is, taxpayers’) role to bail her out — we’ll be lambasted as cruel haters of the downtrodden.

[. . .]

Well, pardon my unbending belief in fairness and personal responsibility, but why should my tax dollars go to feed the housing entitlement beast?

Indeed, why should housing be considered a right?  After all, what does my housing say about my personal class status and how much better I am than other people, if there aren’t those other people out there who don’t have a place to live at all?

The worst part is that Malkin isn’t alone.  From Limbaugh falsely saying that Hughes “ask[ed] for a car” to others claiming that Hughes is “milking the system,” there’s no shortage of people who want to bring down the woman who had the potential to a far more sympathetic Joe the Plumber — an everyday American who is actually negatively affected by the economic policies of our government.

And they can get away with it!  I just, honestly, do not understand.  Are people like Malkin really so privileged and entitled themselves that they just do not comprehend the very concept of housing not owned by the person living in it — and that therefore “I need a place to live” does not equal “buy me a new house, please” — or do they just really think that no, if you’re not as fortunate as the rest of us, you really do deserve to live on the street, and as a neighbor I have absolutely no responsibility for what happens to you?

On second thought, I don’t know that I want the answer to that.

Via Womanist Musings

http://www.alternet.org/blogs/peek/127177

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PPG’s 2009 Forum on Restoring Progressivity and Fairness in our Tax System.

Ron Deutsch, Executive Director, New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness, will be speaking.

Tuesday February 17th at 4:00 pm

Cornell ILR, 237 Main Street, 12th floor


Please RSVP to ppgbuffalo@gmail.com asap.  Thank you to those who already signed-up.

Flier

Join the campaign for Fair Share Tax Reform!

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The National Low Income Housing Coalition released a statement the other day concerning the lack of funding for affordable housing.  The economic recession will hit low-income families and individuals who can barely afford the already high fair market rents hard and could put thousands of them out on the street.  This article also refocuses our attention on the root cause of homelessness: poverty.

February 5, 2009

For Immediate Release: February 4, 2009

For More Information: Sheila Crowley 540-907-2993 (cell); sheila@nlihc.org

Statement from Sheila Crowley, President, National Low Income Housing Coalition, on Senate passage of $15,000 homebuyer tax credit

“If the country can afford to subsidize over a million families no matter what their income to buy new houses, surely we can afford to prevent a huge increase in the number of people who lose their homes altogether and become homeless.”

This evening, the U.S. Senate adopted an amendment to the pending American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 that will give every homebuyer this year, no matter his or her income, a $15,000 tax credit. The cost is $18.50 billion. The amendment did not include an offset, so the cost is added to the total cost of the bill. The amendment passed by voice vote without a single Senator raising an objection.

Yet, the same Senate has not included any funding in the bill that will produce a single new unit of housing that is affordable to the poorest families in the country. The Senate bill does not capitalize the National Housing Trust Fund to build and rehabilitate rental homes that are affordable to low wage workers, the unemployed, the disabled, and the elderly. Nor does the Senate bill provide funding for housing vouchers that would help low income families afford to rent existing housing in the market.

Both items have been sought by advocates for low income people to prevent a surge in homelessness due to the foreclosure crisis and the recession. The two items together would cost $13.60 billion, and provide 400,000-500,000 poor families with decent homes they could afford. Any increase in unemployment causes the poverty level to rise. One in ten people who are poor will lose their homes unless steps are taken to prevent them from becoming homeless. An unemployment rate of 9% is predicted to result in at least new 800,000 people, including children and seniors, becoming homeless adding the existing homeless population.

The bill does include $1.5 billion for emergency housing assistance for people facing homelessness, an important element to a homelessness prevention strategy. But permanent affordable homes are required to assure housing stability for the lowest income households.

Capitalizing the National Housing Trust Fund is also an economic stimulus; housing construction and remodeling are labor and material intensive, thus creating jobs, increasing the sales of building and home decorating goods, and generating new state and local tax revenue. The construction of each new multi-family rental unit produces 1.16 new jobs and every $100,000 spent on home remodeling produces 1.11 new jobs.

If the country can afford to subsidize over a million families no matter what their income to buy new houses, surely we can afford to prevent a huge increase in the number of people who lose their homes altogether and become homeless.(emphasis added)

I strongly urge the Congress to reexamine its spending plans in the Economic Recovery bill in light of this expensive tax cut and do more to help those who are hurt the most by the economic crisis. It is simple fairness.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition is dedicated solely to achieving socially just public policy that assures people with the lowest incomes in the United States have affordable and decent homes. www.nlihc.org

http://www.nlihc.org/detail/article.cfm?article_id=5788&id=48

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This article from MSNBC covers a major problem facing non-profits offering supportive services/shelter to homeless individuals: funds for their operations are being cut as demand for their services increases.  The current economic crisis has prompted state and federal officials to cut non-profit funding to close budget deficits.  At the same time it has pushed larger numbers of hard hit working class families and individuals to seek supportive services and shelter as jobs, wages, and benefits are being cut.

Providers to the poor try to stretch meager resources to meet growing need

John Brecher / msnbc.com
By Kari Huus
Reporter
msnbc.com
updated 2:14 p.m. ET, Fri., Jan. 30, 2009

SEATTLE – As snowstorms blew into this Northwest city and the economy iced over in December, the occupants of a shelter nestled among industrial buildings on the north side prayed for divine intervention.
“We were hoping for the Christmas miracle,” says Glen Dennis, 41, who was working his way through a residential drug-treatment program at the CityTeam Ministries shelter. Dennis and the other 11 guys in the long-term program —dubbed the “disciples” — also worked each day to prepare for some 50 to 60 overnight shelter guests, and dish up free hot meals to about 100 people. “We kept doing what we were doing, and hoped someone would come by and drop off a big check.”

But the check did not come — even after a coalition of other shelters, nonprofits and local churches tried to pull together a rescue package to keep the shelter open. On Dec. 27, CityTeam Ministries, based in San Jose, Calif., closed the Seattle facility — leaving scores of people to seek food, shelter and sobriety elsewhere. For Dennis, who had been free of crack cocaine for nearly 11 months, the upheaval led to another painful relapse out on the streets.

“It’s a real loss,” says Herb Pfifner, executive director of the Union Gospel Mission shelter in downtown Seattle. “We’re all scrambling to try to handle the growth of homelessness because of the economic situation …  and then the closing of another mission adds more pressure.”

The CityTeam closure is a piece in the expanding problem of homelessness across the nation: Shelters and related services for the homeless are facing funding shortfalls as the downturn takes its toll on state budgets and corporate donations. And while individual donors in many cases are keeping up gifts — or even digging a little deeper for charities that help with urgent needs like food and shelter — the service providers say they are faced with a rapidly growing demand from people losing jobs and homes in the economic crisis.

Less funding, more demand
“A downturn in (overall) funding in this case is accompanied by a surge in demand, so a homeless shelter, food pantry, or job-training program is going to feel it first,” says Chuck Bean, executive director of Nonprofit Roundtable of Greater Washington, in the District of Columbia. “Even if they have 100 percent of their budget compared to last year, they now see a 50 percent surge in demand. Then (they) get into the tough decisions: Do you thin the soup, or shorten the line?”

Even as census-takers fan out in cities across the country this week in an attempt to count homeless populations, advocates and experts point to a bevy of evidence that homelessness is rising and will continue to, most notably among families with children.

Shelters across the country report that more people are seeking emergency shelter and more are being turned away. In a report published in December, 330 school districts identified the same number or more homeless students in the first few months of the school year than they identified in the entire previous year. Meantime, demand is sharply up at soup kitchens, an indication of deepening hardship and potential homelessness.

“Everything we are seeing is indicating an increase,” says Laurel Weir, policy director at the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. “And homelessness tends to lag the economy. So we’re probably seeing the tip of the iceberg here.”

In the foreclosure crisis, the people being displaced from homes won’t likely be on the street immediately, explains Michael Stoops, director of National Coalition for the Homeless.

“The people who have lost homes or tenants in homes that were foreclosed … have downsized, and if that doesn’t work they will move in with family and friends,” says Stoops. “After a while, they will move into their RV in a state campground. The next step is a car. And the worst nightmare for a working, middle-class person or even a wealthy person who has never experienced homelessness is knocking on a shelter door.”

Services teeter on brink
As the case of Seattle’s CityTeam shelter illustrates, many nonprofits serving the poor are working on a shoestring, even in better times. Seattle-area donations to the shelter had to be supplemented from general funds, said Jeff Cherniss, chief financial officer of CityTeam, which operates shelters and food programs in five other U.S. cities.

“We were hoping (the Seattle shelter) could become self-sustaining,” says Cherniss. CityTeam Ministries, a Christian organization funded by donations from individuals, corporations and churches, kept the Seattle facility afloat with help from its general fund for most of a decade, but the 2008 crisis prompted them to retrench.

Every major source of funding is under pressure in the current environment: Charitable foundations — which rely on corporate profits for their seed money and investments to preserve and build those funds — have been forced to pull back grants after taking a massive hit as corporate earnings faltered and stocks plunged.  The National Council of Foundations recently estimated that philanthropic foundation endowments have lost $200 billion in value during the economic crisis.

A few of the largest foundations have, despite losses, promised to maintain or give at higher levels in the face of the crisis. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation this week said it would increase its giving to 7 percent of its assets from 5 percent. And the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced three gifts totaling $34 million to help homeowners in Chicago avoid foreclosure and keep renters in homes.

Still, the casualties are mounting. Among them: Atlanta nonprofit Nicholas House, which closed a shelter for families in mid-January so it could safely keep other housing services open. Nearly all corporate donors gave to the organization at lower levels this year, says Dennis Bowman, executive director of the 26-year-old agency. The final straw came when a corporate donation ended, and was not renewed.

“It was directly because of the economy — the business has suffered in this economy, and so can’t provide the funding, which was well over $100,000 a year,” says Bowman.

The organization is scrambling to find other options for the 12 families — 45 people in all — who lived there, by squeezing them into other parts of its own programs or openings with other nonprofit programs.
In Washington, D.C., where Fannie and Freddie had been the largest corporate donors, dozens of organizations were up in the air as government auditors reviewed the corporations’ records, including their charity operations.

Linda Dunphy, executive director of Doorways for Women and Families, a shelter program that has been receiving funding from Freddie Mac since 1996, says the takeover of the mortgage company threw a promised $300,000 grant into limbo.

Meantime, Doorways watched other substantial corporate donations drain away — including some $50,000 that had been coming through an annual walkathon from financial companies Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch.

Fortunately, when the review of Fannie and Freddie’s charitable operations ended in late December, the Freddie Mac grant came through for Doorways, averting the need to shut down a family shelter — for the next six months, at least. “But then we face a whole new fiscal year, and our concerns about what is going to happen at (Freddie Mac Foundation) and whether they can continue to keep giving at the level they have been giving,” says Dunphy.

The Alternative House for homeless mothers in northern Virginia was not as lucky. Freddie Mac had been giving $35,000 to $60,000 a year to this nonprofit. The Freddie Mac money was spent on providing developmental assistance for the babies, who are often behind because of their chaotic beginnings. Last week, Judith Dittman, who runs the program, got word that the funding was cut.

States awash in red ink
Up to now, another major source of funding for nonprofits providing homeless services came from state budgets. But entering 2009, at least 45 states faced budget deficits, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which estimates combined state budget gaps for the remainder of this fiscal year and state fiscal years 2010 and 2011 at more than $350 billion. The trend bodes very badly for programs that benefit the poor and homeless. The leading example of state budget problems is California, which has eliminated funding for emergency housing assistance this year as it struggles to pare its $40 billion deficit.

In Ventura County just north of Los Angeles, the cut of about $60,000 delivered an immediate blow to three homeless operations. The largest, a winter shelter run by St. Vincent de Paul that provides beds for 100 people, was forced to cut 30 nights from its schedule.

“Because they operate on a shoestring, it’s a significant hit to them,” says Karen Schulkin, program coordinator for homeless services in the county. “The winter shelter at the National Guard Armory can only stay open for the number of days they have funding for.”

Local government funding often provides seed money for nonprofits, who leverage it to drum up foundation money and other donations. So, according to Bean of the Nonprofit Roundtable of Greater Washington, the local deficit — about $1.5 billion in the case of D.C. and surrounding areas — could present an even bigger problem than the uncertainty over the future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Foundation.

“This will put a huge strain on the ability to invest in the safety net. …The challenge for a lot of nonprofits is that local government support will be down, foundations will be down,” says Bean. “The question will be what happens with individual donations.”

To be sure, out of the crisis come tales of inspired giving as communities scramble to raise new funding. The town of Danville in southern Virginia rallied to reopen a shelter that closed at the end of December after 15 years in operation.  A drive prompted a $20,000 anonymous gift, which was more than matched by dozens of other local contributions. By Jan. 22, the money and a new director were in place to reopen the 20-bed shelter—offering some reprieve, at least, in a town with an estimated 150 homeless.

“The people of Danville … opened up their hearts and pocketbooks with $23,100 in matching funds,” reports Pastor Donnie Anderson of the Riveroak Church of God, who spearheaded the fundraising. “We are so grateful! The shelter is open as House of Hope and is ready for any who may need a warm place to stay and hot meals to eat.”

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28916152/

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David Robinson over at Buffalo News wrote this article a couple weeks back about the thousands of jobs that the region has lost in the last couple  months and the thousands more that will be lost in the coming months.  Keep in mind that the loss of a job was one of the most common reasons cited for homelessness in Buffalo.
01/25/09 07:06 AM
BUFFALO’S BUSINESS

So much for all the talk about the Buffalo Niagara region being a good place to ride out the recession.

While it took about nine months longer to hit here than it did across the country, thanks to our stable but subdued housing market, the steep decline we’ve weathered since September proves that when the national economy turns sour, there’s no place to hide.

“It took a long time for the recession to arrive in Western New York,” says John Slenker, the state Labor Department’s regional economist in Buffalo.

And arrive it has. The region in December endured its biggest monthly job loss since March 2002, when Western New York still was mired in the last recession. The December job losses were so severe — 7,600 positions vanished from December 2007 to December 2008 — that the region now has fewer jobs than it’s had in any December since 1995.

Even Slenker, whose job it is to put together the monthly employment data for the region, was surprised by the severity of the December decline. “This was a larger downturn than I was expecting,” he says.

But this is an economy that’s being wracked by fear, in addition to the fallout from the housing bubble, the vice-like credit crunch and the overall economic malaise it’s creating.

Consumers aren’t buying, fearful that their jobs might be in jeopardy or their pay might be cut, if it hasn’t been already. Companies aren’t investing as much and looking to save money wherever they can.

Executives are thinking a lot like Timothy

T. Tevens, the president and chief executive officer at Columbus McKinnon Corp. The Amherst material handling equipment maker’s sales have started to weaken, with revenues slipping by 5 percent, excluding an October acquisition. New-order bookings slowed at a “mid-to-high single-digit” pace, he said.

So Columbus McKinnon has been cutting back, trimming 200 jobs in the final three months of 2008. And Tevens is poised to pull the trigger on even deeper cuts this quarter if the slowdown continues. “That’s what I consider to be an initial cut,” he says.

Another 200 jobs could be slashed. Hiring and wages could be frozen. The company match on worker’s 401(k) plans could be in jeopardy. Health benefits could be reduced. Several plants are being looked at for consolidation.

It’s like that all over. “Most businesses are looking at their sales and they’re also looking at the general economy,” Slenker says. “They’re saying ‘Where can we tighten our belt? Even if we’re doing well, we’re going to cut back because we don’t know what the future holds.’ ”

That’s why Slenker expects the local job losses to worsen in January.

Canisius College professors George Palumbo and Mark Zaporowski expect the cost-cutting to spread to local governments, which so far have been reluctant to scale back even as the region’s population keeps dropping.

That could mean reduced services, lower pay for government workers and possibly fewer agencies operating in the region, the professors say in a recent report on the local economy. And they continue to stress that economic development efforts need to focus on initiatives that make the region more productive and competitive, such as by reducing energy, regulatory and transportation costs.

Still, Slenker says workers shouldn’t give up hope if they lose their jobs. More than 20 percent of the companies surveyed by the Labor Department last month said they hired new workers in December, often to replace employees who left their jobs.

“There are still going to be opportunities,” Slenker says. “You’ve just got to look harder.”

drobinson@buffnews.com

http://www.buffalonews.com/145/story/559521.html

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