– Authorities in Chicago have filed charges against three men accused of beating a homeless man with a heavy chain and a metal sign as they left a downtown bar. The homeless man is now stable condition after the attack around 11 p.m. Sunday night under an el stop at Wabash and Randolph.

Chicago Police Officer Hector Alfaro says 24-year-old Erik Soriano, 27-year-old Louis Recarte and 19-year-old David Romero-Sanchez are charged with felony aggravated battery. The Chicago men were arrested near the scene of the Sunday night attack.

ABC7 was told Monday that attacks on homeless people are a major problem in the Loop, known to have a very low rate of reported crimes.

For the Loop’s Legions of homeless people, to take a beating is not unusual. Sporting two black eyes, Brenda Sue Anderson says she was attacked Sunday night, after a day of panhandling at the Taste of Chicago.

“They took my money. This is what they did to me. THEY BEAT YOU? They hit me and they hit me and they kept hitting me,” said Anderson.

And just this morning, a man tried to steal hair clippers from homeless Henry Johnson and severely beat Johnson about the face.

“WHY DID HE DO IT? I don’t know. Don’t ask me. I don’t know nothing about him. I ain’t never seen him,” Johnson said. Continue Reading »


The Independent Florida Alligator

Alligator Writer


Charles Roop / Alligator Staff

A man panhandles on the corner of Southwest Archer Road and Southwest 40th Boulevard on Monday evening. The Gainesville City Commission voted to ban panhandling at a meeting Monday night.

The red light is there waiting.

And so are they.

Once the cars stop, the panhandlers begin to ask for money – some want it for themselves, others for their charity.

Nevertheless, the practice may become a thing of the past.

In a unanimous vote, the Gainesville City Commission approved an ordinance that prohibits panhandling from both individuals and organizations. The measure needs one more approval from the Commission to become law.

The ordinance prohibits the exchange of money between motorists and people on sidewalks or medians.

Commissioner Craig Lowe said, “I think this is very much a safety issue,” going on to cite the small size of the median at the intersection of Waldo Road and East University Avenue as an example.

While the commission was unanimous in their vote, homeless advocates have been split on the issue.

Jon DeCarmine, director of the Alachua County / City of Gainesville Office on Homelessness, said he supported the measure because panhandlers can create a negative view of Gainesville’s homeless. DeCarmine said a study in April showed that out of 22 panhandlers, only 12 were homeless, which is about 1 percent of the Gainesville homeless population. Continue Reading »

Judge won’t block shutdown of homeless shelter


July 7, 2007

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. –A Housing Court judge has refused to block the city of Springfield’s plan to shut down a homeless shelter, saying she wasn’t convinced it would cause “irreparable harm” to the homeless.

Judge Dina Fein on Friday denied an injunction sought by Open Pantry Community Services, which runs the Warming Place shelter in the gymnasium of the former York Street Jail.

The city plans to demolish the jail by year’s end in order to promote economic development. It ordered Open Pantry to shut down the shelter by June 30 and the agency responded by suing.

Officials representing Open Pantry argued Friday that closing Warming Place would jeopardize the safety of evicted homeless by forcing them to use the Friends of the Homeless shelter on Worthington Street, which they said was overcrowded.

A homeless man who’d been staying at the Warming Place, James L. Floyd, testified he was offered drugs and didn’t feel safe after spending one night this week at the Worthington Street shelter.

“It was not a very nice place to be,” he said.

But city officials testified that there was plenty of room for the homeless at other local shelters and that they could safely transfer there. They said 88 beds have been added to the Worthington Street shelter and a newly reopened shelter on Taylor Street.

“The claim of a lack of compassion on the part of the city rings hollow,” said City Solicitor Edward Pikula.

Code Enforcement Commissioner Steven Desilets said he stopped issuing temporary occupancy permits for the jail site past June 30 because it fails to meet state building codes for plumbing, electrical and fire protection. He said he issued the permits in the past only because of the need for beds.

Pikula said he hopes the homeless will begin relocating to the other shelters during the weekend. If not, the city will issue a cease-and-desist order to force the closure on Monday or Tuesday, he said.

Kevin Noonan, executive director of the Open Pantry, said he was disappointed by the court ruling. He said he might move the shelter to another location.

This month marks the 20th anniversary of the passage of the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act, the federal government’s first and still most dominant program to alleviate homelessness in America. Why, then, do we still see so many homeless people on our streets? Why do we hear about the “invisible homeless” — the individuals and families who have lost their homes and had to move in with others, sleep in cars or bounce from motel to shelter to hotel?

The short answer is: Because there is not enough housing. Since 1979, the federal government has reduced subsidized affordable housing by $52 billion. Between 1996 and 2005, 100,000 public housing units have been lost and there has been zero funding for new public housing since 1996. When people can no longer afford the cost of housing, they must live without housing and thus they become “the homeless.”

The longer answer is that what is now known as the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act had its hands tied from the very beginning. It was never given the power to stem the growing tide of people who joined the ranks of the poor following budget cutbacks to federal agencies responsible for addressing poverty.

Here is how it worked. The last 20 years have seen huge cutbacks in the rolls for Social Security Insurance (SSI), a stagnant minimum wage and other reductions in funding for poverty programs. As financial support disappeared for more and more people, poverty spread. At the same time, the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department’s affordable housing programs were decimated. The McKinney legislation was never designed to deal with these underlying causes of homelessness. Or, put another way, it was never designed to overcome these barriers to ending homelessness.

When McKinney was signed into law in 1987, homelessness was just beginning to be recognized as a national issue. Local communities had already established emergency shelters and services, and many had set up task forces or councils to coordinate services and write plans to reduce homelessness. The McKinney Act first focused on the emergency needs of homeless people in local communities — beds, blankets and Band-Aids — hence its name at the time, the “Urgent Relief for the Homeless Act.” It did not regulate how long people had to be homeless to qualify. It did not require communities to discriminate between families and individuals. It did not pretend to be a housing program.

Over the years, however, and given the mushrooming numbers of poor people, McKinney applications have forced a variety of homeless subpopulations to compete for woefully inadequate funds. For example, now HUD’s system for scoring community’s applications for McKinney funds are weighted in favor of housing “chronically homeless” individuals versus homeless families with children. In fact, HUD scores a community’s plan success in creating permanent housing for people who are chronically homeless, but does not even require communities to include in its applications its strategies for creating permanent housing units for families with children and individuals who are not chronically homeless.

It has become a zero-sum game, with children, families and single individuals competing against each other for a small pot of funds. As housing and services are made more available to one group, resources are drained from others.

These strategies shift homelessness but have no chance whatsoever of ending it, and it places cruel burdens on communities.

The McKinney Act has done some good for some people but it has not significantly reduced homelessness across the country. How could it? A $1.4 billion a year homelessness budget cannot compensate for a $52 billion a year reduction in affordable housing.

Urgent relief is needed. What’s to be done? As a private citizen, what can you do? You can:

1. Insist any political candidate seeking your support explain how he or she would return McKinney to its original “urgent relief” function.

2. Insist that any candidate seeking your support explain how he or she would ensure that the federal departments of HUD, Health, Education and Labor would revitalize programs that once served poor people.

3. You can write, e-mail or telephone your favored candidate and demand that a comprehensive plan to end mass homelessness in America be a major plank in the national parties’ platforms. Think New Deal.

Paul Boden is executive director of the Western Regional Advocacy Project.

More people priced out of housing market warning
Friday, July 06, 2007
By Helen Carson

Housing waiting lists in Northern Ireland will be under increased pressure following yesterday’s interest rate rise, it has been claimed.

Housing experts have said the Bank of England’s decision to hike its interest rate by another quarter of a per cent – to 5.75% – will mean more people will be priced out of the market and forced to look to social housing.

While the rate rise will mean more mortgage misery for homeowners, there are implications for those waiting for accommodation in social housing stock.

The most recent figures from the Northern Ireland Housing Executive show there are 31,908 people on the social housing waiting list – 9,749 of whom are homeless. And a Housing Executive spokesman confirmed: “The waiting lists are getting longer”.

The figures reveal there was a major rise in the number of homeless people in 2005/2006 – up by almost 1,300 (8,470 to 9,749). Figures to be announced next week by the Minister for Social Development are said to be ” relatively unchanged”.

But waiting lists have grown by 4,200 in 2006/2007.

A Housing Executive spokesman said: “This rapid growth was to a considerable degree due to growing homelessness, associated with the increasing incidence of marital, relationship and sharing breakdown.”

But Mr Chris Williamson, chief executive of Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Association said: “Increased interest rates are bad news for affordable housing. It makes it harder for purchasers, especially first time buyers, to afford home ownership. As a result, more households apply for social, rented and Co-Ownership housing – both of which are under-resourced.”

He added: “Housing associations also face higher repayments on the private loans they must use to part-finance any new and existing homes. This puts upward pressure on rents.”

With fewer re-lets among social houses and Housing Associations unable to compete with developers for land, fewer houses are coming into the supply chain. The knock-on effect is fewer tenants are moving on as there is nowhere to go.

And the problem is province- wide. The Housing Executive says the increase in “housing stress” in Belfast is now a trend in Newry, Fermanagh and Dungannon.

Homeless charities fear another interest rate rise will have repercussions for the most vulnerable people in society.

David Carroll, director of development at the Simon Community, said people currently living in hostel accommodation but trying to move back into the community, could face rent hikes. “Our major concern… is in relation to those with buy-to-let mortgages.”

He said that, for many people living in hostels, the only route back into the community is via the private rented sector with the help of Housing Benefit.

But he added: “Because of the difference between Housing Benefit and interest rates, vulnerable people are frightened they won’t be able to meet the rental costs.”

Homeless shelter ‘running out of food’

By Paul McNamara
The problem is there are more and more mouths to feed, say bosses.

An increase in the number of homeless people in Bedford has led to a chronic shortage of food and provisions at shelters in the town.

Linda Candita, chief executive of the Prebend Day Centre, said: “Our cupboards are nearly bare.”

The shelter is currently feeding up to 70 people every day.

It receives large amounts of donations every year
at harvest festival time, which are normally enough to see them through the year.

But Mrs Candita said: “We’ve seen an increase in the number of people we are feeding over the past year and we haven’t got enough provisions to keep going until the next harvest festival.

“It’s not just food we are short of. We need toiletries, clothes and especially men’s underwear – 80 per cent of the people that use this facility are male.”

This is just one facility for the homeless facing increased demand.

A spokesman for the King’s Arms Project Nightshelter, said: “We agree that recently there has been an increase of people coming up for a bed.

“In our experience this can happen in phases, and is not currently the situation every night, but we do feel that there has been a general increase.”

If you can help the Prebend Day Centre with food, toiletries or
clothing, call 01234 365955.

Homeless Evictions Heat up in Fresno
By Mike Rhodes

The city of Fresno evicted a group of homeless people that lived in the shade of an overpass today. The location of the encampment, on Santa Fe street south of Ventura in downtown Fresno, is significant because of the heat. Weather forecasters have said today might be the hottest day of the summer – 111 degrees. For the homeless people who lived under the overpass, the shade made life a little more bearable. For background information about this eviction, which the city calls a “clean up” see: http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2007/07/02/18432723.php .

About one month ago, the California Highway Patrol and Caltrans forced about 50 homeless people from another shady encampment. See: http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2007/06/12/18427051.php . The problem, according to a number of homeless people I have spoken with, is that there is no place for them to go. Cynthia Greene is one of the homeless people who was evicted from the Caltrans property last month. There is now a fence up at that location. She moved her tent to G street and California, a spot that has no shade. Cynthia says “it got so hot in my tent yesterday that even the flies weren’t moving.”

Alan Autry, the mayor of Fresno, promised the homeless a “free zone” where they could live without fear of being evicted. That was on April 17, 2007 and he insisted that the media hold him accountable to a 60 day time line. To date, there is no place in Fresno where homeless people can live without being caught up in a sweep, like the one that happened today. The mayor’s pledge to help the homeless has not been fulfilled.