EENR 4 Progress: Don't Look the Other Way
by Sarah Lane, Mon Feb 11, 2008 at 10:34:08 AM EST
Over the past year a group of Edwards supporters formed what is known as Edwards Evening News Roundup. Now that Edwards suspended his campaign, we're not ending our own. Every Sunday night over at Daily Kos, the same group of Edwards supporters will be posting nightly diaries on the issues of economic injustice. Last night I posted my fist installment, it's about homelessness in America and action you can take now!
We Look the Other Way
I do it. I'm sure you do it too. We walk the streets of our cities and look the other way when we encounter a homeless person. Sometimes I give them money if I have it, and sometimes I avoid the situation entirely. I hate to admit that, but it's true. It's hard for me to look them in the eyes some days. I want to help, but I don't know what to do. It hurts me to see people like this, and I long for an America where we take care of the least among us.
Last weekend I was in Los Angeles, the city of concrete, palm trees and smog. I originally planned to do volunteer work for Edwards, the candidate I believed had the boldest proposals to fight poverty. Even though I wasn't going to hit the streets for John because his campaign had been suspended, I made sure to visit areas of Los Angeles that are heavily populated by the homeless.
There are numerous areas in Los Angeles that have a large population of homeless people. Places like Santa Monica and Venice beach have their fair share. There are also places in Los Angeles where workers who are mostly of hispanic descent stand on street corners hoping to be picked up for work. If you really want to see the largest population of homeless people in Los Angeles, you go to Skid Row.
There were rumors that Skid Row in downtown L.A. had been cleaned up. A couple years ago the city enforced a daytime sleeping ban on sidewalks. Back when I lived in L.A., Skid Row had blocks of homeless people sleeping on the sidewalks. Now that the daytime ban is in effect, Skid Row looked a little different, but the problems were still there. Instead of people sleeping on the sidewalks, which there still was a number of them, many people slept in a nearby park instead. Many homeless people just filled up the side streets off Los Angeles Street. I'm all for cops trying to get the drugs out of Skid Row and for beefing up their presence in this area, but it's not going to solve the problem. We need to rehabilitate the homeless people who have addiction problems and help the homeless with educational and employment opportunities.
The Midnight Mission
The Midnight Mission was built back in 1918 and has been offering numerous services to the poor and homeless in Los Angeles. They're located in the heart of Skid Row, and I can't imagine what kind of battle they wage on a daily basis. They provide beds, showers/shaves, three meals a day, clothing and much more. IMO, the only way we can really get homeless people off the street is by offering proper treatment and help them gain employment. The Midnight Mission offers educational training, alcohol and drug related recovery assistance, and employment readiness training. They help with transitioning homeless people back into the fast paced ways of our society. This organization depends on people like you and me to keep it going. Will you lend a hand to an organization that has been working for nearly a century to help the homeless?
If you'd like to donate to the Midnight Mission and help them help the homeless in Skid Row go here:
If you live in the Los Angeles you can donate goods directly to the Midnight Mission. Go here to learn more:
Speak Out Against Proposed Budget Cuts
This week Bush proposed his 2009 budget request. In his budget proposal there are significant cuts to the Emergency Food and Shelter Program as well as other programs that help the homeless and people living in poverty. Here's a snippet from the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty:
Under the President's proposed budget, HUD McKinney-Vento programs would get approximately $49 million in increased funding, approximately a 3% increase. At the same time, however, the President proposed cutting the McKinney-Vento Emergency Food and Shelter (EFS) program by approximately $53 million, a cut of 35% over prior year's levels.In addition to the EFS program, the President also proposed cutting funding for a number of programs that provide housing or services that help to prevent homelessness. The Section 202 program for elderly persons would lose approximately $196 million and housing for persons with disabilities would be cut by $78 million under the proposed FY09 budget. Community Development Block Grants would be cut by $659 million. The President also proposed to fund Housing Choice Vouchers at a level that would result in 100,000 fewer vouchers.
Right now in America, more and more families are losing their homes to foreclosure. One area of funding for homeless people that we cannot afford to see cut is the EFS Program. We're more likely to see an increase in people needing shelter, especially considering the housing market crash. Elderly people who live in poverty depend on these programs as well. What are they going to do if they don't get housing assistance? Are they going to pick themselves up by their bootstraps and go get a good job? What about cutting funding for programs to help house Americans with disabilities?
Bush is also targeting funding for victims of domestic violence. Bush is proposing to cut 120 million from programs under the Violence Against Women Act. Nearly 25% of homeless women are victims of domestic abuse, and even say that the abuse they endured led them to be homeless. Are you getting angry yet? These kinds of cuts will only increase the numbers of homeless Americans. These kinds of cuts will only serve to hurt the people who need the most help. We can't let Bush get away with this. Please take a moment and contact your Representative and Senators and tell them:
Support reauthorization of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act!
Our members of Congress need to hear us on this issue. The more people they hear from, the more momentum we can build to ensure that these programs are funded and not cut. Take a moment away from arguing on candidate diaries with each other and write your Representative and Senators:
Time to Take Action
According to numerous homeless advocacy organizations like the National Coalition for the Homeless, 3.5 million Americans experience being homeless in any given year. 39% of those Americans who are homeless are disaffected youth. 39%! Rep. John Yarmuth of Kentucky is a co-sponsor of the Reconnecting Homeless Youth Act. It was introduced back in November of 2007 and has not been sent to the floor for a vote. The bill will not only reauthorize the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act it will also increase funding and expand existing programs. More and more young people are becoming homeless in our society, and we cannot let them down. Here's a little snippet from Rep. John Yarmuth:
This bill, the Reconnecting Homeless Youth Act, will do more than reauthorize the old bill through 2013; it will provide significant improvements and much needed expansions. Our top priority was guaranteeing the organizations that work for disconnected youth have the full funding they need, because they already work to provide the tools kids need to reconnect -- Safe Place has reached more than 100,000 children in my home state of Kentucky alone. The bill more than doubles RHYA funding to $200 million per year, to ensure that the resources are in place for community-serving organizations to reach every kid in need. Specifically, the bill will increase the RHYA Basic Center Program allotments for small states, add public entities as eligible applicants for Street Outreach Program funds, establish grantee performance standards, and create a process for developing a national runaway and homeless youth research and evaluation agenda.
We have to put pressure on our Representatives and Senators to pass this bill. It's not enough to put pressure on Democrats we need to implore the Republicans (nicely) to support the bill as well.
If any of you would like to promote another piece of legislation that will help the poor, please do so in the comment thread. I would also like to urge you all to promote your local shelter as well with donation links in the comment thread.