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Here’s a great NPR article about mounting obstacles that service providers around the country are facing. What do you think? 
 
Volunteers distribute food outside a Philadelphia Department of Public Health hearing in March on rules banning outdoor food distribution.

A growing number of cities want to tackle the problem of homelessness by outlawing what are known as “acts of daily living” — sleeping, eating and panhandling in public. In Philadelphia, a new rule is targeting not the homeless but those who feed them.

When Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter announced the ban on serving food in public parks last March, he said moving such services indoors was part of an effort to raise standards for the homeless.

“I believe that people, regardless of their station in life, should be able to actually sit down, at a table, to a meal inside, away from the heat and the cold, the rain and the snow, the vehicle exhaust and all the other distractions of everyday city life,” Nutter said at a press conference.

Indoor facilities, Nutter says, also make it easier to connect homeless people with other supportive services.

But many advocates for the homeless are skeptical. “We at the national level see this as a trend much more about restricting activities that really define the homeless experience,” says Neil Donovan, the executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless.

“We do feel that communities are really, really frustrated with repeated efforts to end homelessness that have been quite unsuccessful,” says Donovan. “But we push back and say, you know, that doesn’t mean that you simply throw your hands in the air and make criminals out of homeless people.”

Donovan says around 30 cities have restricted food sharing in some way.

He argues that the rules, and a growing number of ordinances against loitering, panhandling and camping, don’t just marginalize the homeless. “It really takes the focus off of solutions and puts it much more on restrictions,” he says.

In Philadelphia, some charity groups have moved to a space near City Hall, equipped with portable toilets and hand-washing stations. The space is being offered by the city as a temporary solution until more indoor meals can be offered.

Other groups have already moved inside, to places like the downtown church of minister Bill Golderer.

In the church, groups offer meals three times a week, and at the same time connect guests with on-site health care and social service providers.

Golderer says he doesn’t exactly support the ban on outdoor meals for the homeless, but he does think the hungry deserve better than they’re getting now.

“Maybe this is the time to look at a new approach,” he says. “Maybe we haven’t done everything we can. Maybe we haven’t looked at every opportunity to serve people better.”

Philadelphia’s ban was scheduled to go into effect June 1, but the city is delaying enforcement until a judge addresses a lawsuit filed by religious groups that claim it is unconstitutional.

Already, though, the city’s hungry say it’s getting harder to find meals in their usual spots. Chiekh Dai was waiting at the foot of a statue near Museum Row on a recent afternoon when no one showed up to serve.

“That makes me feel, you know, they don’t care, they don’t care about homeless. That’s how I feel, and that hurts sometime, believe me. That hurts,” said Dai.

A Philadelphia city spokesman wouldn’t comment for this story owing to the pending litigation. Similar measures in Las Vegas and, more recently, Houston, have been rolled back after public outcry or legal challenges.

Image“Painted bright orange, the Homeless Services Center resembles a 70’s daycare, with cheery evergreens lining the brick walkways and screaming children zooming around on pastel Fisher-Price tricycles. In contrast, a six-foot black iron fence surrounds the building, each post ending in a spike. Philanthropist
Rowland Rebele, though, is unfazed by the barricades or the homeless wandering through the courtyard. Founded in 1986, what started out as a small church-run operation has grown into a community consisting of the Paul Lee Loft, the Rebele Family Shelter, the Page Smith Community House, and the Day Resource Center.

“Page Smith came to our church, before this place was even thought of, and said ‘We’d like to ask the churches to provide overnight shelter and food for the homeless.’ And we said we would, along with about twenty-seven other churches in the Santa Cruz area,” explains Rebele. “So once a week, my wife and myself and my daughter would fix food for homeless folks, and another day of the week it would be somebody else in the congregation. We got a grant from this outfit called the Homeless Council so that we were able to get transportation [for the homeless] to these various churches from here. Homeless people could come here and get a meal, and then if they weren’t drunk or doped up, and they applied,
they could get rides to these various churches from here. So we did that for about ten or fifteen years; it was good, we learned a lot. Most of us, after serving the meal, we’d sit with them and try and make a connection if we could. A lot of homeless people have mental issues; they didn’t want to talk. They’re in their own world.”

“When Rowland and [his wife came to Santa Cruz] they immediately set out to become part of the community the only way they knew how: by giving,” a presenter said in 2009 when awarding the couple with the Gail Rich Award (an award given to local inspiring individuals). Rebele graduated Stanford University in 1951 and quickly became successful as a newspaper publisher. None of his fortune, however, was ever spent on self-indulgence. A few years ago, he gave a speech to a graduating at Stanford. After, he said, “My theme was, save your money, then give it all away when you’ve got enough to live on,” which seems to be his life moto. Though he walks slightly hunched over, the benevolent man moves surprisingly fast, pausing periodically to hike up his pants as he makes his way towards a low building, the Day Center, on the opposite end of the parking lot.

Read the whole article in Georgiana Bruce Kirby School’s newsletter: 

http://www.kirby.org/newspaper/v8i8.pdf

Shelley McKittrick has led a life of travel and change since she was 3 years old. Her family’s travels, due to her father’s career with Boeing and her own wanderlust thereafter, took her from her beginnings in Seattle to the Great Plains and Rocky Mountain West, from Alaska to South Africa, from California to Ireland and back again.

This life of integrating into new communities and cultures led her to her academic work in cultural anthropology. While pursuing her Ph.D., as a President’s Fellow at the University of Virginia, Shelley was pulled away from her work on the politics of culture in a fledgling post-apartheid South Africa to begin working as an activist and advocate in the AIDS community in the US. She left grad school and began her grassroots nonprofit career at Project Angel Heart in Denver, Colorado. For 17 years Shelley worked as an HIV treatment activist, writer, and educator in Denver and Los Angeles. Her work focused on health disparities, health literacy, and access to care and treatment for marginalized individuals living with, and communities highly impacted by, HIV and AIDS. At the People with AIDS Coalition Colorado she founded the Peer Advocacy Project and was Editor of Resolute!: Dedicated to Surviving HIV, the only HIV treatment education newsletter between Chicago and the West Coast. Shelley also sat on the Board of Directors for the national organization AIDS, Medicine, and Miracles and on the Community Liaison Committee for the prestigious international Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI). In her last job in the HIV community Shelley provided education, technical assistance and capacity building to the greater Los Angeles AIDS community as a Community Liaison with Gilead Sciences.

Two years ago, Shelley left this job, and moved with her family to Santa Cruz, to concentrate on nurturing the two beautiful souls (Grace and Hope) she is lucky enough to parent with her husband Al. Ready to start a new chapter of her family and work life, Shelley shifted her social justice work focus toward developing anti-poverty strategies for historically displaced, underemployed and disenfranchised populations.

“I couldn’t be more thrilled to be at Homeless Services Center. The breadth of services provided to the communities we serve are truly remarkable. I am excited to work with the team at HSC to reinforce the services we currently provide; build on those services through intentional, thoughtful, evidence-based program planning and evaluation; continually working toward creating a homeless service delivery system that is a model for communities across the state and country.”

Shelley holds a B.A. in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Colorado @ Boulder, an M.A. in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Virginia and a Master’s in Nonprofit Management (M.N.M.) from Regis University.

A lovely note.

We wanted to share this note that we received from one of our donors today along with a thoughtful contribution. Thank you, to the Santa Cruz community, for supporting our work to end homelessness for families and individuals in our County. We are so fortunate!

On Thursday, May 3rd the Good Times came out with this article covering our local 180/180 campaign. For more information you can also visit the website at 180santacruz.org

news homelessCommunity effort launches to house county’s most chronically homeless

On any given day, more than 2,700 homeless individuals wander the streets of Santa Cruz County, according to the 2011 Santa Cruz County Homeless Census and Survey. Twenty-four of these 2,700 individuals died on the streets last year. The average age of those deceased was 49 years.

“If this was happening to any other population, we’d hit the brakes, stop what we were doing and be like, ‘What do you mean people are dying at 49 years old? There’s something wrong,’” says Philip Kramer, project manager for 180/180, a recently-launched community effort to help permanently house and provide necessary support services to the 180 most vulnerable, long-term, chronically homeless men, women and families in the county.

The program will survey homeless people across the community in an effort to determine the 180 people who are most likely to die on the streets of Santa Cruz, and assist them in becoming permanently housed. This entails guiding them through the necessary paperwork and providing any necessary support services to assist with mental, physical, or emotional disabilities that have been barriers to becoming housed in the past.

“In the past, in order to be eligible for these housing programs, you had to follow a very complicated path, but people who are most ill unfortunately aren’t able to navigate that system, so they’re left out,” says Monica Martinez, executive director of Homeless Services Center, which is one of the lead agencies involved in 180/180. “[This project] is really saying we need to create very little barriers between those most vulnerable and the resources available to house them.”

180/180 is a joint effort of existing homeless service providers in the area, including the local Housing Authority, Veterans Affairs, Homeless Persons Health Project, and numerous shelters.

“Here is all this talent and expertise, so my job is really to try and just do some of the practical blocking and tackling of how to get something like this started,” says Kramer. The former advertising salesman and Peace Corps volunteer came to Santa Cruz earlier this year and began volunteering at the Homeless Garden Project. It was there that Kramer began a dialogue with city councilmembers and homeless service providers about participating in the nationwide 100,000 Homes campaign.

100,000 Homes is a three-year effort that seeks to house the country’s 100,000 most at-risk homeless people by July 2013. The campaign encompasses 121 community efforts throughout the country, and has thus far housed 12,859 people.

Santa Cruz Mayor Don Lane, who has been involved in the 180/180 talks since the beginning, believes the national model could mean visible boons locally. “I believe the 100,000 Homes’ focus on housing the most vulnerable chronically homeless people combines compassion for some of the most disabled and troubled people in our community with a truly smart, proven approach that saves the public real money and helps reduce the impacts of homelessness on our city,” Lane writes to GT in an email.

Santa Cruz’s 180/180 project coalesced in January, and the 180 homeless persons who will be housed will be identified during Registry Week, from May 6 to 11. In keeping with the methodology of 100,000 Homes, 180/180 is currently recruiting 200 volunteers from the Santa Cruz public to partake in the face-to-face survey project that takes place during Registry Week. The volunteers, led by team leaders with prior knowledge of the homeless community, will seek out and request to survey and photograph chronically homeless people living on the streets of Santa Cruz. The project will draw on the data and research of Watsonville-based firm Applied Survey Research, which conducts the Homeless Census and Survey every other year. Kramer adds that 180/180 is also talking to experts in the county for advice about how to conduct the survey.

The program defines a “chronically homeless person” as someone who has been homeless for one or more years and/or has experienced four instances of homelessness in a three-year period, plus a disability. A “disability” classification includes a wide range of conditions, from being the age of 62 and up, to mental illness, posttraumatic stress disorder, or a physical illness or disability.

“These really are the hardest cases, the people most at risk for premature death on the street,” says Kramer. “And I’m not trying to be dramatic, that’s just the reality.”

The questionnaire used in the survey is the same one applied by all communities participating in 100,000 Homes. It is dubbed the “vulnerability index,” and requests data on health status, institutional history (jail, prison, hospital and military), length of homelessness, patterns of shelter use, and previous housing situations of homeless people in campaign communities.

Based on the vulnerability index, health experts will identify those most at risk to premature death on the streets, and prioritize them for housing and service resources.

The actual move-in process will be staggered over the next two years. Kramer notes that the campaign’s momentum will depend on community support and creative housing solutions based on alterations to the systems and processes currently in place. Mayor Lane tells GT that he plans to explore whether city affordable housing funds can be used for 180/180.

Martinez says Homeless Services is putting a significant amount of its resources behind getting the 180/180 campaign off the ground.

“It’s about reprioritizing existing resources to make sure these people receive the services they need,” she says. “It’s going to take the entire community thinking differently about how to address homelessness. We need to understand that a shelter isn’t the long-term solution; it’s a temporary solution. We need to be putting our efforts into what comes after shelter.”

Martinez adds that permanent housing for currently homeless people is the most cost-effective approach to mitigating the issues that come from homelessness.

“We live in a society where there are limited resources to help people, but unfortunately the majority of those resources are going to a few people who are high utilizers of emergency services,” she says.

100,000 Homes reports success stories and statistics online, and released a “One-Year Anniversary Report” on July 21, 2011. The 13-page report serves as a pseudo how-to guide, outlining six steps to successfully housing at-risk homeless individuals in any given community. It highlights various campaign communities from coast to coast that lead in particular “steps.”

The steps are as follows: 1) “building the local team,” 2) “clarifying the demand,” 3) “lining up the supply, 4) “moving people in,” 5) “keeping people housed,” and 6) “locking in the systems change.”

Washington D.C. was the example of success highlighted for step five— “keeping people housed.” The city had a 94 percent housing retention rate, one of the highest in the country. The report chalks the success up to systems the city offered to newly housed individuals to provide concrete skills for communicating with landlords and paying rent.  People with chronic illness, substance abuse and highly traumatic pasts received case managers that worked with clients to address those issues one by one.

Funding for 100,000 Homes comes primarily from donors—private and public. So far, the national campaign has raised $174,000 for “move-in-kits” that help individuals adjust to living indoors. Locally, the 180/180 campaign plans to enlist support from private and community donations, however the ongoing support services will be reliant on a variety of public funding streams, including some governmental funding, such as state and federal grants.

While 180 is only a fraction of the 900 people noted as chronically homeless in Santa Cruz County in the 2011 Homeless Census and Survey, Kramer says it was selected because it is a more realistic number to tackle.

On top of turning the lives of 180 homeless individuals around, Kramer says that the 180/180 campaign seeks to make a 180 degree change in the way the greater Santa Cruz community interacts with the homeless population.
He recalls something he recently heard said by newly announced third party presidential candidate Rocky Anderson at the Resource Center for Nonviolence in Santa Cruz.

“He said, ‘Acquaintance is one of the best ways for us to overcome bias,’” Kramer says. “And I just thought, ‘Yes, that makes so much sense.’ Acquaintance is one of the best ways to overcome violence. There’s a little bit of that, or maybe a lot of that, in asking members of the community to get involved, to come out and [do the] survey. Maybe there’ll be some myth busting, some biases overcome.”

To learn more, visit 100000homes.org or email Philip Kramer at phil.kramer1@gmail.com.

Need Blankets…

Hello friends,

Are you looking to make a material donation to HSC?

We are ready and willing to accept BLANKETS. Please help us keep folks in our community warm by donating twin sized blankets.

If your school, church group, athletic club, sorority, or business is looking to donate material goods to HSC this would be the perfect time to do a Blanket Drive.

Thanks so much!

HSC Team

Rebele Family Shelter

Here is a nationwide problem:

Here is our local solution:

Emergency housing for up to 28 families for up to six months.

rfs

The shelter provides homeless families in Santa Cruz County with secure suites, three nutritious meals per day, children’s indoors and outdoor play areas, a classroom/meeting room, a central lounge on each floor and laundry facilities. Adults receive counseling, health-care and job assistance support, and children attend area schools.

If someone you know is experiencing homelessness please have them sign up for the wait list for the family shelter, call 458-6020 ext 1103 or visit the Rebele Family Shelter Reception Desk. To remain on the wait list, please call in or visit the Rebele Family Shelter office once every two weeks.

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