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Archive for the ‘children’ Category

James McKinney, a level 3 sex offender, is completing his prison term and needs a place to live.  A state supreme court justice was ready to send him to his mother’s home in North Tonawanda until he reconsidered and decided to send him to an apartment that houses homeless welfare clients.  He decided against sending the man to his mother’s home because “It’s the epitome of a family, suburban residential area. It’s not appropriate [for McKinney].”

Certainly this man poses a threat to whatever community he moves to.  The judge even found in his trial that this man “had a mental abnormality” but the judge “decided against committing him.”  Understandably, the judge feels it is inappropriate to allow McKinney to move back to his mother’s home.  But for this judge it is apparently more appropriate to send him to a city of Niagara Falls apartment that may be housing homeless families.  Every family, regardless of income, deserves to feel safe in the place that they live.  Just because a family lives in the suburbs and has a higher income does not mean that they should receive preferential treatment when it comes to the placement of sex offenders.

This is a very difficult and unfortunate situation.  But even so, the safety of all people regardless of income must be ensured.  Hopefully the judge will be able to work with the parole officers to find a more appropriate place for Mr. McKinney.

Beyond the safety of homeless people, this story also brings attention to how the criminal justice system deals with sex offenders like McKinney who are finishing up their sentences.

This is not just an isolated issue either.  Over at change.org’s End Homelessness blog, Shannon Moriarty is also talking about homeless sex offenders.  As Moriarty states at the end of her blog post, a more humane way of dealing with homeless sex offenders who are completing their sentences needs to be developed.

High-risk sex offender ordered to live in Falls building housing the homeless

By Thomas J. Prohaska
NEWS NIAGARA REPORTER

LOCKPORT — A sex offender regarded as likely to reoffend because of a “mental abnormality” will live in Niagara Falls, not in his mother’s North Tonawanda home, a judge ruled Wednesday.

(more…)

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The New York Times published an article today, featuring Flint, Michigan and an innovative approach to reducing student turnover during the school year. The state Department of Human Services is offering a $100/month subsidy to low-income families, allowing them to stay in their current unit and/or avoiding future moves.

“House-hopping” is common in low-income areas, such as Flint, Baltimore and Buffalo. Many times, families are evicted for non-payment of rent, utilities are shut off or they are trying to flee unsafe neighborhoods or living conditions. This directly affects school-aged children by disrupting their school year, impeding educational and social development and also slowing down the pace of the classroom as teachers struggle to keep new or transfer students afloat.

The program was first piloted in two of Flint’s schools in 2004 with several important features. 40 families of second-graders were selected to participate, with the students staying with the same teacher and classmates for two years in a row. The rent subsidy was paid directly to the landlord, who agreed to maintain housing code and not raise the rent. Finally, the families were linked with a family resource center, located at the schools, allowing for access to services without having to wait in long, often impersonal lines at the Department of Social Services. Although results are preliminary and require more longitudinal data, the pilot group of students scored significantly better on standardized test and moved less.

According to the most recent Annual Homelessness Profile for Buffalo and Erie County (data from October 2006-September 2007), 897 children ages 17 and under were living in the homeless housing system. Not only are hundreds of our students homeless but with so many of our children living in poverty, the constant moves and turnover in schools is a great detriment to success. We would do well to remember that homelessness and poverty disproportionately affect children and should strive to take measures, such as what is being done in Flint, to eliminate the threats posed by educational instability.

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The Buffalo News’ Emma Sapong wrote an article about homelessness with a focus on homeless mothers in transitional housing. Two local transitional housing programs are highlighted in the story: Gerard Place and Cornerstone Manor. Additional comments are provided by Bill O’Connell, executive director of the Homeless Alliance.

Bill comments on the struggles of mothers in poverty:

When folks are homeless, they’ve already gone through every friend and family resource that they have for inexpensive and reliable child care, so that’s why they are staying in a shelter. High housing and child care costs put many already struggling mothers in financial binds that can lead to homelessness.

Read the full story here.

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Download the Poverty Challenge Participants’ Guide here.

Check out the flyer for the Poverty Challenge here.

From May 6 through May 7, a number of community leaders have agreed to maintain a poverty budget to demonstrate how many of our area’s residents are not able to meet their basic needs. With the support of a number of religious leaders, elected leaders, and other community leaders, the 2008 Poverty Challenge of Greater Buffalo is an attempt to raise awareness about the nature of poverty in Western New York.

The point is not to play poor for a few days but to stand in solidarity with those facing the day-to-day struggles of poverty: the limitation of choices and the stifling effects of a low income. (more…)

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Special thanks to the Cleveland Plain Dealer for the following summary of the remaining Presidential Candidates poverty platforms. More information can be found on the PD blog at the following link

Plain Dealer Blog.

Poverty platform:

Clinton:
• The author of “It Takes A Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us” targets the nearly 13 million children living in poverty, calling it a “blight on our nation’s conscience and our economic future.”
• The senator’s nine-page position paper focuses on specific actions she would take on issues ranging from enforcing child support payments to nurse home visitation for new at-risk mothers.
On a larger scale, the Senator touts universal health care, a moratorium on foreclosures, and the creation of at least 5 million “green collar” jobs for low-wage workers.

Obama:
• The former Chicago activist describes his anti-poverty policies as “the single most important focus of my economic agenda as president.”
• Details are sketchy, but include access to safe, affordable housing, job programs, and financial and medical assistance to single parents.

McCain:
• America’s most famous POW takes aim at urban poverty by taking back the streets, improving urban school systems and updating job training programs.
• Again, specifics are vague.

New ideas:

Clinton:
•The former first lady would work to end child hunger by strengthening the food stamp program, improving the food safety net and providing more access to healthy, fresh food.
•She would provide economic opportunity to low-income families by raising the minimum wage, and expanding new job training opportunities.
•She would also establish a pilot program to reduce homelessness among veterans, and develop a community based re-entry plan to help ex-offenders receive job training and placement as well as drug and mental health counseling.

Obama:
• The son of a single mother, his most ambitious anti-poverty policy would be to replicate the success of the Harlem Children’s Zone in 20 cities nationwide.
• He also wants to spend $1 billion for a jobs program that would place the unemployed into temporary jobs and train them for permanent ones.
• He would also offer incentives for businesses to relocate, or start-up, in distressed inner cities.

McCain
• The former naval aviator equates economic prosperity to the war on terrorism. “For the same reason you have to fight the war against the Islamic extremists on the international level, you have to ensure the streets are safe so people can go to work and businesses can operate,’ said the senator’s senior policy advisor.
• The burgeoning crime rate is compounded by an inhospitable economic climate that McCain would fight by lowering taxes and improving business investment incentives.

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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.

(more…)

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Speaking of raises …
First published: Sunday, January 13, 2008

It’ll be easy enough to be confused, if not overwhelmed, with the state Legislature back in session and the special interests descending upon lawmakers peddling causes both noble and ignoble.

There ought to be perhaps more pressure than ever to raise the pay of the state’s judges for the first time in a decade. The judges themselves are making the very persuasive case one would expect of them. Then, again, it’s a safe bet that the very legislators whose votes are needed to give those judges a raise will demand one for themselves as well — lame as that argument is, at least until they can reform the Legislature first.

But what about the poor, the people living on government subsides?

State welfare benefits haven’t been increased since 1990. What’s known as the basic welfare grant for a family of three has been stuck all those years at $291 a month. A family of three on welfare also can get up to $426 a month in food stamps and a shelter allowance of a little more than $300 a month. The specific amount of the housing subsidy varies from county to county.

It’s unconscionable that the Legislature has gone this long without adjusting basic welfare benefits.

Everyone is affected by inflation, of course, from judges and legislators to the poorest of the poor. That latter group, in fact, may well be hit all the harder since so much of the little money it has goes to the most basic of necessities.

The price of milk, for instance, has gone up by 94 percent since 1990. The price of fuel oil and natural gas are about twice as high now than they were when the subsidy for home heating costs last was adjusted in 1987. In each case, that’s much higher than the overall 55 percent increase in the rate of inflation since 1990.

New York’s courts, including the Court of Appeals, have ruled five times since 1987 that the welfare shelter allowance is illegally low. That requires welfare families to use part of their basic grant, scant as it is, to subsidize housing costs.

Even now, more than a decade after rewritten welfare laws reduced the number of New Yorkers on public assistance by 61 percent, more than 535,000 people — including more than 300,000 children — live this way. They need the Legislature’s attention as much as anyone. A cost of living adjustment in the basic welfare grant, to $475 a month for a family of three, is urgent.

The Assembly, but not the Senate, voted for a 10 percent increase in the basic welfare grant last year. This year the Democrats in the Senate are pushing for a 25 percent increase.

That money is readily available, too, despite the state’s $4.3 billion budget deficit. Federal block grants pay for the state’s welfare costs. Other states have used the block grant since 1996 to raise welfare benefits. New York, though, has invested it in so-called rainy day funds.

And now it’s raining, and raining hard, on the people who most need state government’s help.

THE ISSUE: The state’s welfare grant hasn’t be raised in years.

THE STAKES: Without an increase, inflation will erode subsistence funds even more.

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