Search Results for: homeless

The Invisible City: How a Homeless Man Built a Life Underground

Longreads Pick

“After decades among the hidden homeless, Dominic Van Allen dug himself a bunker beneath a public park. But his life would get even more precarious.”

Author: Tom Lamont
Source: The Guardian
Published: Mar 5, 2020
Length: 24 minutes (6,244 words)

America’s Largest Health Insurer Is Giving Apartments to Homeless People

Longreads Pick

“There are more than half a million homeless in the U.S., about a third of them unsheltered—that is, living on streets, under bridges, or in abandoned properties. When they need medical care or simply a bed and a meal, many go to the emergency room. That’s where America has drawn the line: We’ll pay for a hospital bed but not for a home, even when the home would be cheaper. Jeffrey Brenner is trying to move that line.”

Author: John Tozzi
Published: Nov 5, 2019
Length: 14 minutes (3,717 words)

Not Homeless Enough for Assistance, But Still Without a Home

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

Working a stable job, paying rent on time, keeping a clean house ─ being a model tenant was not enough to keep a roof over Cokethia Goodman and her six children. When their Atlanta neighborhood became a hot market, their property’s owner decided to sell, and the family had to move. Their situation went downhill from there, taking them briefly to a Rodeway Inn paid for by the Red Cross, before struggling to secure homeless services.

For The New Republic, Brian Goldstone spent nearly a year reporting on the Goodman family’s struggle to live in Atlanta, and the larger phenomenon of working homelessness, where people without a residence still don’t qualify for certain essential types of assistance. This is a story about a lack of tenant protections, the human cost of so-called urban revitalization, rising rents and declining wages, and the tenuous positions of America’s working poor. As Goodman says, “I grew up in Atlanta. I graduated from high school in this city. Through my job, I’ve been taking care of people in this city. And now my kids and I are homeless? How does that even happen?”

Goodman’s predicament is increasingly common as the ranks of the working homeless multiply. The present support system, according to advocacy groups, effectively ignores scores of homeless families—excluding them from public discourse and locking them out of crucial support. This is due, in large part, to the way that HUD tallies and defines homelessness. Every January, in roughly 400 communities across the country, a battalion of volunteers, service providers, and government employees sets out to conduct the annual homeless census, referred to as the Point-in-Time count. Usually undertaken late at night and into the early morning, the HUD-overseen census is meant to provide a comprehensive snapshot of homelessness in America: its hot spots and demographics, its causes and magnitude. Last year, on the basis of this data, HUD reported a 23 percent decline in the number of families with children experiencing homelessness since 2007. The only problem, according to critics, is that HUD’s definition of “homeless,” and thus the scope of its Point-in-Time count, is severely limited, restricted to people living in shelters or on the streets. Everyone else—those crammed into apartments with others, or living in cars or hotels—is rendered doubly invisible: at once hidden from sight and disregarded by the official reporting metrics.

Julie Dworkin, the director of policy at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, has called attention to the profound consequences of this neglect. Not only are families denied housing assistance from HUD and its local partners, but, as the federal agency’s figures make their way into the media, the true scale and nature of the crisis is also obscured. In 2016, Dworkin and her colleagues began conducting their own survey of Chicago’s homeless population, expanding it beyond the HUD census to include families doubled up with others. Their total was twelve times that of the Point-in-Time count: 82,212 versus 6,786. “The idea that these families aren’t ‘actually’ homeless because they’re not in shelters is absurd,” Dworkin told me. “Oftentimes the shelters are full, or there simply are no family shelters—in which case, all these people are essentially abandoned by the system.” She noted the myth that families with children living in doubled-up arrangements are somehow less vulnerable than those in shelters, when these conditions can be just as detrimental to a child’s education, mental and physical health, and long-term development.

In Atlanta, where city leaders (and local headlines) have touted a drop in homelessness over the past four years, there has been no comparable effort to track the number of unhoused families who fall outside the official count. Data collected by other federal agencies does exist, however, and the chasm between their respective findings is similarly striking. The Department of Education defines as homeless anyone who lacks “a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence,” which explicitly encompasses those in motels and doubled up. During the 2016–2017 school year, the Department of Education reported 38,336 homeless children and youth enrolled in Georgia public schools; that same year, the state’s HUD-administered total, not just for children and youth but for the entire homeless population, was 3,716. Politicians cited the smaller number when shaping the public narrative about homelessness in the state; that figure also helps determine the amount of money allocated to homeless services the following year. Meanwhile, the parents of those 38,336 students are caught between two parallel definitions. At their child’s school, they are homeless. At Gateway, they are not.

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The New American Homeless

Longreads Pick

Tenant protections are not sufficient to keep renters housed in cities marked by gentrification and rising rents. This is the story of one displaced Atlanta family, stuck between the harsh reality of homelessness, and agencies’ competing definitions of their predicament.

Published: Aug 21, 2019
Length: 28 minutes (7,102 words)

Pay the Homeless

Santanu Majumdar / Getty

Bryce Covert | Longreads | June 2018 | 10 minutes (2,546 words)

He was standing on the median of a busy road one morning in the dead of a Massachusetts winter. With bare hands, he clutched a sign asking for money. I was a freshman in college driving to CVS, warm in my car.

I grew up in a rural beach community, where I hadn’t encountered many panhandlers. My experiences with people asking strangers for money came from a few family treks into New York City. Still, I had somehow absorbed a lesson—either spoken or implied, I can’t quite remember—about how to react: Don’t give any money when people ask for it. Doing so will only lead to bad things. The bad things weren’t specified, but drugs and alcohol were likely culprits, with the idea being that giving money to an addict hurts more than it helps. So when I passed that man asking for change, I wasn’t sure what to do.

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A ‘Bright Light,’ Dimmed in the Shadows of Homelessness

Longreads Pick

Nakesha Williams’ promising life was derailed by mental illness. She resisted help from friends, family members, and social workers and died on the street.

Published: Mar 3, 2018
Length: 31 minutes (7,864 words)

Homelessness and Colorado’s Public Lands

AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin

Between insufficient budgets and rolled back protections, America’s public lands are under constant threat. Now long-term illegal campers are littering land in Colorado with piles of refuse, including human feces and spent syringes, and endangering other users.

At 5280, Tracy Ross examines how Colorado’s rising cost of living and the outlawing of public camping inside certain cities have led many homeless people to pitch tents in the state’s vast forests. The US Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Region deals with some of the most severe problems associated with non-recreational camping in the entire National Forest system. America’ opioid epidemic has exacerbated these issues, with people heading to the forests not to hike but to take advantage of their privacy. One local man founded a watchdog group to deal with the effects of non-recreational campers. He told the reporter there were a hundred more illegal camps just like the first one they found. “And on top of the hundred we can see,” he said, “there are probably 150 to 200 we can’t, because they’re too deep in the woods or on private property within the forest.”

We headed back onto CO 72, passed Nederland, and stopped at the West Magnolia campground. After inspecting several camps and finding no issues, we pulled up alongside a red Honda sedan stopped on a dirt road leading back to the highway. The driver was slumped over in his seat. “Is he dead?” Johns asked. When he knocked on the window, the driver jumped. He had been loading a syringe with heroin.

The rawness of the moment was shocking. We were on an isolated road between a cluster of private homes and a picturesque campground frequented by families with young children. From behind us, a former cross-country teammate of my 16-year-old son jogged up, pacing her father. I looked from her to this guy, who had driven out here to stick a needle in his arm, and imagined the what-ifs. What if he’d injected the opiate and simply passed out? What if he’d overdosed and died? What if he’d, in his impaired state, hit the gas pedal and plowed into a teenage girl and her dad out for an afternoon run? It hit me then, viscerally, that our forests have become places where people come not only for quiet and tranquility, but also to do potentially harmful, often illegal things that are easier to get away with under the forest’s cover. I’ve recreated in national forests for four decades, and I’ve never encountered as many needles as I have in the past year.

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Who Benefits from Homeless Relocation Programs?

AP Photo/David Goldman

Sending our problems elsewhere is an American tradition. We sell our recyclables to China. We try to bury our nuclear waste in the Nevada desert. For thirty years, American cities have run “homeless relocation programs,” where taxpayers provide homeless people bus and airplane tickets to move somewhere else.

For The Guardian, a team of researchers named Outside in America spent 18 months examining where exactly these homeless people go, and what happens after they arrive. This 16-city analysis is the first comprehensive investigation into these expensive, contentious programs, intended to see who, if anyone, benefits and how. At the heart of this analysis are the stories of some of the people who took a ticket.

The underlying assumption of the relocation programs, which have names such as “Homeward Bound” and “Family Reunification,” is that returning to a hometown or relative will lead to a process of rehabilitation. But for some, homelessness is driven by domestic conflicts and broken relationships, issues that may be rooted in the places they are returning to.

Last year Fort Lauderdale sent Fran Luciano, 49, back to her native New York to stay with her ex-husband, according to program records. A home health aide who cared for patients with cancer before she ended up homeless, Luciano had been sleeping in bus shelters and at the airport in the Florida city and desperately wanted to leave.

When Fort Lauderdale offered her a bus ticket back to New York, she said her instant reaction was: “Yeah, of course I want to go home.” The city asked for a contact there, and Luciano could only think to provide her ex-husband’s details, although she said she stressed she could not stay with him given their divorce was acrimonious.

When she arrived at the Greyhound station in New York, Luciano sat on her luggage and wondered where to go. For around six months she shuttled between shelters, eventually ending up in the small town of Nanuet, where she spent nights in McDonald’s and was assaulted. She is now back in Fort Lauderdale.

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Trans, Homeless, and Turning Tricks to Survive

(William Murphy/ Flickr)

At Rolling Stone, Laura Rena Murray chronicles the dangers young trans women face as they struggle to survive on the streets of New York City. Often the targets of violence, one in two trans women in the city will become HIV-positive before she turns 24. Turning tricks to bring in cash, some have gone so far as to attempt suicide simply to gain access to a bed for the duration of the mandatory 72-hour watch period. “I just needed a bed,” says Scarlet. “I did what I had to do to sleep for Christmas.”

In the Dominican Republic, where Sophie was born, her mother struggled with addiction and sent Sophie to live with her grandmother in New York when she was six months old. Her grandmother, who was able to send the family money, food and clothing, Sophie says, by pimping out undocumented girls, was nearly beaten to death by two men when Sophie was in the fourth grade. Both her grandmother and her father hit her, she says, and sometimes locked her out of the house. “It was more hatred than discipline,” she recalls. “My dad would beat me in the shower with a belt and punch me in the face, calling me a faggot. Then he’d turn around and say, ‘I love you.’ How can you treat me like this if you love me?”

She began living on the streets at 16, attending school whenever possible, but more often worrying about where to eat, shower and sleep each night. “You can’t go to school smelly and drawing attention,” she says. “I would take cat baths at Starbucks.” Now, at 21, she’s hoping to build a civil-rights career, either as a lawyer or a social worker. The next morning, in fact, she has an interview for an eight-week internship at the American Civil Liberties Union. “I know I’m going to be a very successful person,” she says. “I want [my father] to learn he lost something.”

There are now more than 350,000 transgender people under the age of 25 in the United States, the majority in the largest cities of New York, California, Florida and Texas – and an estimated 20 percent of them lack secure housing, though many service providers believe that figure is low. Craig Hughes of the Coalition for Homeless Youth notes that the federal definition of homelessness does not include those who trade sex for shelter; instead, they are considered “unstably” housed. “There are thousands who go uncounted,” Hughes says. “They are disconnected from services, sleep on multiple couches a month and spend some nights trading sex for shelter.”

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Trans, Teen and Homeless: America’s Most Vulnerable Population

Longreads Pick

Laura Rena Murray chronicles the dangers trans teens face as they attempt to create a life for themselves while living in the streets of New York City.

Source: Rolling Stone
Published: Sep 26, 2017
Length: 18 minutes (4,652 words)