Showing posts with label Homeless. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Homeless. Show all posts

February 21, 2020

In Spokane They Treat Homelessness With Better Relationships

 Forty-year-old Shan Anderson has been living on the streets off and on since he was 9.Kirk Siegler/NPR

When the icy wind blows off the Spokane River, the temperature can routinely plunge below zero on this city's worn streets near downtown and the I-90 freeway. Trying to survive without shelter out here is almost impossible. 
Just ask Mariah Hodges. 
"The first night I came here I was almost frozen to the sidewalk," Hodges says.
By luck, Hodges was connected by a volunteer to a warming center, where she's now staying. It's one of three new makeshift emergency facilities that the city of Spokane, Wash., has paid to open up this winter, as demand for existing shelters has routinely exceeded available space. 
Hodges is almost 40. She's frail and shivering.
"They got me in and they got me on a mat. They got me some extra blankets. They got me hot water," she says.
Hodges says she was evicted from her apartment and lost her job at the Motel 6. She's lucky to find space here. The center's 60 beds and 30 mats are taken every night. 
Unlike other shelters, there's a lower bar for entry here. Hodges' boyfriend also stays in the shelter. He is addicted to meth, and Hodges is struggling with alcoholism. 
"They're checking on me all the time. I'm like, 'Hey, you know, I want to go drink,' " she says. "And they're like, 'No, you don't. We're going to keep an eye on you. You're going to stay here today.' " 
Wraparound care
What Hodges is talking about — the constant attention and support — is the kind of care that advocates for the poor say is crucial to at least help people get out of the spiral into chronic homelessness. 
"Most of the people in this building should not be here. They have issues that need to be addressed at a different level," says Julia Garcia, founder of Jewels Helping Hands, a nonprofit contracted to run the warming center that Hodges is staying in. "But due to their circumstance or their behavior or whatever has gotten them to the place where they are sleeping outside, they don't know how to get out of that."
The more traditional approach to dealing with homelessness is tougher enforcement: ticketing people for panhandling or sleeping in doorways or busing them to shelters, sometimes in other cities. 

But Garcia says there's a growing consensus now that a more punitive approach hasn't worked for Spokane: Washington's second-largest city of 220,000 people hasn't always seen the prosperity of coastal cities like Seattle. 
Nationwide, the homeless population is rising. In many communities, it can feel like an intractable problem. Yet cities like Spokane are starting to show some incremental progress with some prevention programs. Homeless prevention leaders like Garcia say it's important to highlight these — otherwise, the general public, bombarded by so many stories about how bad the crisis is, might start thinking there are no solutions.
On any given night, it's thought that well over 1,000 people are now sleeping outside here, even when there may be help available. 
"It's not more services that they need — we have access to those services. It's the relationships that aren't being built," Garcia says.
A convention for the homeless
So Spokane is trying something different. This was on display in a big way one chilly weekday morning at the city's downtown convention center. 
Where you might expect to see a trade show or convention in this huge, airy hall just steps from Spokane's main tourist draw, Riverfront Park, today it's a "Homeless Connect." Hundreds of the city's most vulnerable are carrying tote bags stuffed with donated food, jackets and health, and housing brochures. Organizer Carrie Chapman says they moved the event here this year because they ran out of space at the old venue donated by the Salvation Army.
"It's an amazing thing to witness. We have absolutely every service you can think of — veterinary services, haircuts, showers, clothing," Chapman says.
But this is about more than just giving out free clothes or hepatitis C tests. 
It's part of a delicate, more long-term plan to build trust in the system and convince people that if they get help, their lives might improve. 

February 6, 2020

Homeless Students Nationwide Account For 1.5 Million, More Than Double in 15 Yrs.

Was that mentioned at the state of the union by Trump?

The number of homeless students nationwide has more than doubled in 15 years to a new high of 1.5 million in the 2017-18 school year, according to data released from the National Center for Homeless Education last week.

For context, that means there are as many homeless students in America as there are people living in New Hampshire — if not more.

The big question is why — which is complicated by the fact that student homelessness is measured differently than homelessness among the adult population and still considered a vast undercount.

The National Center for Homeless Education, run out of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and supported by the U.S. Department of Education, has been examining and analyzing federal data on student homelessness since the 2004-05 academic year. And since that academic year, the number of homeless students nationwide has more than doubled — and that’s likely an underestimate of the actual problem — according to the New York Times. That has advocates and experts worried.

“The record number of children and youth experiencing homelessness nationwide is alarming,” said Barbara Duffield, executive director of SchoolHouse Connection, a nonprofit that focuses on homeless youth, in a statement. “But for many of these children and youth, public schools are their best — and often only — a source of support.”

Since the 2015-2016 school year, student homelessness has increased by 15%, from 1.3 million to 1.5 million, according to the report. The vast majority of those homeless students are “doubled up,” or staying in a home with another family, although the rate of unsheltered homelessness among students has also risen a shocking 137% since the 2015-2016 school year to encompass 102,000 kids.

Student homelessness gained most in states with a combination of yawning wealth gaps, stunted minimum wages, devastating natural disasters, and affordable housing shortages, and no single cause can account for the record-high population. While homelessness is measured differently by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development —that agency doesn’t include multiple families squeezing into one housing unit, and therefore counted only 568,000 homeless people last year — the general consensus is that homelessness has gained in recent years due to a shortage of affordable rental housing and a weakening safety net for the poor. 

On the local level, the largest rise in student homelessness has been in Texas, where the number of homeless students has doubled in three years to reach more than 231,000 people. Other states and territories that have experienced large spikes in student homelessness since the 2015-2016 school year include Florida, Rhode Island, Puerto Rico, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Montana, according to the report.

“We’re not moving the needle as much as we could because of the lack of affordable housing,” Karen Barber, the director of federal programs for the Santa Rosa County, Florida school district, told the New York Times. “That really is the biggest issue.”

April 26, 2019

City To Open LGBT Homeless Shelter For Its Gay Youth

Image result for shelters for lgbt youth

Only 1 to 8 percent of Americans, depending on the age group, identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT). Yet around 40 percent of the young people living on the streets or in shelters identify as LGBT, according to research by the Williams Institute at UCLA’s Law School. The primary reason they end up without stable housing is family abuse or rejection.
While LGBT youth have been more likely to experience homelessness for quite some time, cities are just starting to focus on this vulnerable population's needs.
Sacramento, Calif., is slated to open its first homeless shelter specifically for LGBT youth this summer. It will host 12 beds and allow people to stay for 90 days.
"We have a couple of homeless youth providers, but it’s not a perfect fit," says Sacramento City Councilmember Steve Hansen. "Homelessness at large is a diverse population of people. As a government, we have largely used a one-size-fits-all [approach]. We need to tailor these interventions to the populations we’re serving."
Pixie Pearl, assistant director of housing for the Sacramento LGBT Community Center, explained  to an ABC affiliate why custom shelters are necessary.
“We have services that address different things for homelessness, but not necessarily, ‘Is this affirming to who I am? Am I going to be called she? Am I going to be called by my name?'"
Some see the rise in LGBT-specific shelters as evidence of a problem.
"My one concern is it’s happened because existing resources haven’t been safe [for LGBT youth]. So it’s a mixed blessing, I think we've started to have them because everyplace else has been awful," says Currey Cook of Lambda Legal, a legal advocacy organization for LGBT populations.

'There's More Out There'

In Central Florida, there are only eight shelter beds right now for LGBT homeless youth, according to Heather Wilkie, executive director of the Zebra Coalition, which provides housing and support services to LGBT people in the region. Of the 268 homeless youth they counted on a recent night, 93 of them identified as LGBT.
"And that’s just the number we counted. We know there’s more out there. They’re couch surfing. They’re hard to find," says Wilkie.
City officials in Orlando, Fla., are meeting with social services providers to brainstorm ways to better accommodate this population. They're expected to add two more shelter beds for LGBT youth this month. Still, Wilkie admits, that’s not enough.
She's hoping to receive funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) this fall to help expand that capacity. Her five-year plan is to open a group home, and three other residential sites, for LGBT homeless youth.

Federal Changes

The Obama administration made LGBT youth homelessness a bigger priority than any administration before it. The same isn't true for the White House under President Trump.
In 2014, Obama’s HUD launched the LGBTQ Youth Homelessness Prevention Initiative to inform "national strategies for preventing homelessness among LGBTQ youth." The Trump administration has not continued to fund it.
The Obama administration also rolled out the LGBT Equal Access rule, which prevents discrimination in public housing on the basis of sexual orientation, marital status or gender identity. In testimony last month, HUD Secretary Ben Carson told Congress that the rule is still in effect, but critics say the department has taken down or discredited the Obama-era guidance.
The Obama-era efforts made it possible, Wilkie says, for cities to begin making blueprints of their own for their LGBT populations. Last year, New York City announced plans to open its first shelter for LGBT youth. It's projected to open at the end of this year.
"These new beds would be available once renovations, permitting and certifications have been completed by state and city agencies," said Mark Zustovich, spokesman for New York City Department of Youth and Community Development, in an emailed statement.
In the meantime, the city has drop-in shelters catered to the LGBT population in each borough. But advocates worry that they turn away young people.
"It’s really important to diversify housing. Emergency shelter gets brought up a lot, but not every youth is going to adapt to emergency. If you’re 19, are you going to be able to adapt to shelter rules? It doesn’t work as well," says Orlando's Wilkie.
Curfews and bans on guests and pets are cited as reasons why youth don't like traditional shelters.

LGBT Representation

Councilmember Hansen, an openly gay man, credits the opening of these LGBT-specific shelters for homeless youth to the increased visibility of LGBT people in government and politics.
In November, for instance, the number of LGBT state lawmakers rose to 129 -- at least three of them won in states that had never elected an openly gay or transgender legislator before. And this year, a record number of big cities could elect a lesbian for mayor.
"Now that we’ve gained seats at the table, we’re better able to address the needs [of these populations]," he says. "Our representation means something, and that’s why we run."

January 8, 2018

Young, Gay and Living OnThe Streets {Being LGBT Increases Those Odds}

From left Jeremiah Wallace and Adrian St. Vincent seen at Ali Forney Center dwelling for LGBT youth.


Throughout high school and college, Alicia slept in cars, tents, friends’ couches, benches, on the bus, on the train, and in group homes. Almost anywhere but a shelter.
“My experience with shelters is that you’d go when it was raining. You’d go to San Francisco, wait in line and sleep on the floor if you slept at all,” the serious, soft-spoken Oakland woman, who’s now 22, said last week. “It’s scary enough to be a young person there. But if you’re queer you just feel a lot more vulnerable. You definitely avoid them.”
Alicia is still homeless but lives at a youth shelter in Oakland. She asked that her real name not is used to protect her identity.
As the cost of housing continues to soar in California and elsewhere, an increasing number of young people have become homeless, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. Among those homeless, one group has it especially tough: Young people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
“There’s a myth of San Francisco as the ‘gay mecca,’” said Jodi Schwartz, executive director of Lyric, a nonprofit community center in San Francisco that serves LGBT youth. “It can be. But just for some.”
The reality, she said, is that many LGBT young people end up on the street or in unstable housing. Many are there because they’ve been rejected by their parents, peers or society in general due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.
One measure of how many are affected comes from Lyric. Of the 600 mostly LGBT young people enrolled in Lyric’s programs in San Francisco, 56 percent are homeless or have unstable housing situations and all are low-income.
Across California and the nation, thousands of LGBT young people can be found on the street, in shelters or couch surfing with friends or relatives, said, Schwartz and other experts. 
LGBT young people ages 13 to 25 are 120 percent more likely to become homeless than their straight peers, according to a national survey of 26,000 young people released in November by Chapin Hall, a University of Chicago research and policy center. And of the nation’s 1.6 million youth 18 and younger who were homeless at some point last year, 40 percent were LGBT, even though they represent only 7 percent of that youth population overall, according to True Colors Fund, a New York nonprofit that advocates on behalf of homeless LGBT youth.
In California, the number of homeless children in K-12 schools overall has jumped 20 percent from 2014-15 to 2016-17, according to data collected by the California Department of Education. Based on questionnaires filed by their families, more than 200,000 young people were living on the streets, in motels, in cars, in shelters or crowded into apartments with other families due to financial hardship.

 While state data does not identify whether any of these students are LGBT, youth homeless experts said gay students are disproportionately represented.
What drives LGBT youth to homelessness “is complicated, nuanced and difficult to classify,” said Barbara Duffield, executive director of SchoolHouse Connection, a youth homelessness policy nonprofit in Washington, D.C.
Sometimes LGBT youth are abandoned by their families, or they run away from home because they feel unwelcome or abused after telling their parents they’re gay. And sometimes their sexual identity makes them feel disconnected, which can lead to other contributing factors for homelessness, such as drug abuse, depression, family conflict or chronic absence from school.
According to a 2012 study by the True Colors Fund, Palette Fund and Williams Institute at UCLA, 46 percent of LGBT youth who were homeless or at risk of becoming homeless left home because of family rejection due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Forty-three percent were forced out by their parents because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Thirty-two percent left because of physical, emotional or sexual abuse at home, and 17 percent aged out of the foster system. Neglect, substance abuse, mental illness and lack of affordable housing were among the other reasons LGBT young people became homeless.
Nationwide, 25 percent of LGBT teens are thrown out of their homes at some point after coming out to their parents, according to a 2015 True Colors Fund survey of 138 agencies that provide services to LGBT homeless young people. Although that’s less common in urban, gay-friendly areas like San Francisco and Los Angeles, it still happens, Schwartz said.
But, she added, it’s not sexual or gender identity alone that leads young people to live on the street or in shelters. It’s a kaleidoscope of factors, she said.
“Every young person has a unique set of experiences and realities,” she said. “The more a young person has going on — if they’re poor, homeless, disconnected, feel oppressed because of their race or if they’re LGBT — you’re going to see increased barriers.”
Alicia was in the foster care system starting at age 6 months when Child Protective Services took her from her mother due to neglect. She was in and out of foster care and group homes in the East Bay Area most of her childhood, running away periodically to avoid abusive living situations.
When she was about 12 years old she felt she might not be heterosexual, but kept it to herself.
“I had to be very calculated about everything, especially about how I presented myself. I wanted to present myself as super tough and not a burden on anyone,” she said. “I didn’t want to give people another reason not to like me. I felt like I could never really be myself…I had to keep my guard up constantly. I felt pretty alone.”
After graduating from an alternative high school, Alicia was awarded a scholarship to study at Mills College in Oakland. At the private women’s school, Alicia said she found a “supportive queer community” and thrived academically, with double majors in history and urban education.
But she kept her homelessness a secret. She couch-surfed, slept in cars and occasionally slept in a tent in nearby Emeryville. Because she never felt safe sleeping outdoors at night, she’d work graveyard shifts at stores and restaurants and sleep on park benches, buses or trains during the day — a much safer option, she said, considering that young homeless people, especially girls, are sometimes sexually assaulted or coerced into trading sex for food or money. Homeless people who are LGBT are especially vulnerable because they’re more likely to be victimized and engage in unsafe sex and have a harder time finding a supporting network of peers, according to the True Colors Fund.
Alicia studied in the college library and computer laboratory, showered at the school gym and generally took life one day at a time. But by last year, the street life began to wear on her health, both physically and emotionally. When a close friend died, she decided she needed a permanent solution. Living on the street would eventually kill her, she said.
She called Covenant House, a youth shelter in Oakland, and after three months on the waiting list was offered a bed. Covenant House is part of a national nonprofit system of youth shelters with several shelters in the Bay Area and Los Angeles. At the Oakland facility, residents can stay up to two years and receive medical and mental health services, job training, help finding permanent housing, links to education, help with financial planning and other services intended to get young people off the streets permanently.
Ninety-four percent of Covenant House residents find stable housing and employment once they leave, said Noel Russell, Covenant House development officer.
“It works,” she said. “But we just need more beds. We have 100 people on our waiting list and there are thousands of young people in the Bay Area sleeping on the street every night. … No child chooses that. No child deserves that.”
The first thing Covenant House offers new arrivals is sleep and regular meals — two things homeless young people are not in the habit of enjoying. Alicia said she was so accustomed to not sleeping or eating she could barely do either for the first few weeks she was there.
But after a while, she settled in, and staff suggested that because she enjoyed studying, she should apply to graduate school. She did and was admitted to the UC Berkeley School of Social Welfare, where she is working toward a master’s degree in social work. Her goal: to become a social worker so she can help other homeless young people.
While she’s proud she survived and feels confident she’ll eventually find a well-paying job and permanent housing, she feels she missed out on a childhood and suffered unnecessarily for years. She can’t ride a bike, she never learned basic things like how to floss and she often can’t relate to her classmates. When they talk about their favorite Christmas rituals, for example, she remains silent.
“Absolutely nothing that happened to me is acceptable, and it shouldn’t happen to anyone else,” she said. “It’s not OK to think a kid can sleep on the street and nothing will happen to them. … We all have a responsibility to do something about it.”
This story originally appeared on EdSource is an independent journalism organization that works to engage Californians on key education challenges with the goal of enhancing learning success.

December 7, 2017

Homeless population Goes Up Driven by West Coast

Homelessness in the United States went up slightly this year for the first time since 2010. During a one-night count in January, 553,742 people were found living outside or in shelters across the country, a 0.7 percent increase from the year before, according to new data released by the Department of Housing and Urban Development on Wednesday.

The increase is almost entirely due to a surge in homelessness in Los Angeles and other cities facing severe shortages of affordable housing, say HUD officials. Many of the cities are on the West Coast, including Seattle, San Diego, and Sacramento, Calif.

Overall, the nation's homeless numbers are 13 percent lower than they were in 2010 and some communities have all but eliminated homelessness among veterans, emphasized HUD Secretary Ben Carson. 

"Where we're not making great progress is in places like Los Angeles and New York City. These happen to be places where the rents are going up much faster than the incomes," said Carson in an interview with NPR.

In fact, Los Angeles reported a nearly 26 percent rise in homelessness this year over 2016. Most of the increase was among individuals living outside on the street.

The number of homeless veterans was also up 1.5 percent nationally, despite major efforts by the government and nonprofit groups to house veterans. Again, officials say that rise is due to the unusually large surge in homeless veterans in Los Angeles. Veterans' homelessness in the rest of the nation, excluding the city and county of Los Angeles, dropped by 3.2 percent. 

'Nowhere To Sleep': Los Angeles Sees Increase In Young Homeless
Nan Roman, president and CEO of the National Alliance to End Homelessness, was surprised the overall numbers weren't better.

"Just because I think there's been a continuing investment in veterans and an improvement in approaches," she says. "We might expect to have seen a continuing downward trend. And we're not."

Roman says it's increasingly difficult to find available units in some areas of the country to house the homeless. And she worries the problem could get worse. Housing advocates note that the Trump administration has proposed cutting low-income housing subsidies, which many people rely on to stay housed. They also believe the tax bill working its way through Congress could discourage investment in new affordable housing construction by reducing tax credits used by developers.

Carson insists the administration is committed to helping homeless individuals, but he says that the federal government needs to work more with nonprofits, faith-based communities, state and local governments and the private sector to address the problem.

"We just need to move a little bit away from the concept that only the government can solve this problem by throwing more money at it," he says.

In fact, much of the progress that's been made in recent years reducing homelessness has been the result of joint efforts between nonprofits, the private sector, and government.

There are also some positive trends. While veterans' homelessness is up, tens of thousands of homeless veterans have been housed in recent years. This year's count of 40,056 is 46 percent lower than it was in 2010.

Family homelessness was also down 5.4 percent from last year and 27 percent lower than it was in 2010. Still, there were 58,000 families with children living outside or in shelters earlier this year. The number of unaccompanied homeless youth and children was close to 41,000; more than half were unsheltered.

The number of people experiencing chronic or long-term homelessness was also up 12 percent from the year before.

pic: Adamfoxie

April 18, 2017

Homelessness in the USA Interactive by State Graph

 Homeless man sleep on bench on White Hall Station of No 1 line

August 20, 2015

NYPD Union Uses Flker to Shame Homeless New Yorkers


 Members of the NYPD are snapping photos of homeless New Yorkers around the city, asking their family and friends to do the same, and posting the picture on Flickr. The Sergeants Benevolent Association’s (SBA) president Ed Mullins issued the call: “As you travel about the city of New York, please utilize your smartphones to photograph the homeless lying in our streets, aggressive panhandlers, people urinating in public or engaging in open-air drug activity, and quality-of-life offenses of every type.”
 “We, ‘the Good Guys,’ are sworn to protect our citizens,” Mullins continues. “Shouldn’t our public officials be held to the same standard?”
 Supposedly, this campaign is meant to document New York City’s ”homelessness problem,” which some media outlets believe is increasing. Mullins, a critic of Mayor Bill de Blasio, sees this problem as the result of the city’s failed policies, and views the increase in “vagrancy” to be a serious decline for the city.
 Some of Mullins’ claims are highly questionable. Though homicides in the city have worryingly increased 10 percent so far this year, it’s not at all clear that this has anything to do with homelessness. And overall, crime in New York City is down.
 Between 2013 and 2014, homelessness rose by six percent in New York City. While this is a problem, its worse effects befall those who are homeless (obviously). The SBA’s plan to “hold public officials accountable” involves shaming homeless people and posting images of them online without their consent, rather than emphasizing any greater respect for them.
 In fact, the language used on the account is blatantly derogatory. Many of the individuals are labelled in the caption as “bums,” or “disgusting.” Somebody apparently thought they were clever for labeling this photo “bed and breakfast.”

NYC homeless (NBC pic)
  Of course, there’s nothing inherently wrong with photographing people who are homeless. Humans of New York has featured photos and stories of homeless individuals accompanied by their stories. This work is done is a respectful way, and it is meant to reflect their dignity. It can give us a glimpse into the lives of other people and help us understand them a bit better.
 The SBA’s Flickr album, named “Peek-a-boo,” is instead purposefully meant to portray these individuals as a plague on the city. While I’m sure most people would agree that we would rather people not go to the bathroom in the street, sleep on sidewalks or “aggressively panhandle,” these behaviors themselves are not the fundamental problem. Treating the behaviors as if they are the problem only further stigmatizes a vulnerable population.
 In 2014, a survey from the U.S. Conference of Mayors found that city officials listed affordable housing, unemployment and poverty as the major causes of homelessness. If you want to stop homelessness, you have to first tackle these root problems.
 Some might defend SBA by saying that they’re trying to shine a light on these problems, but clearly the campaign sees homeless people as the problem, not homelessness. If they cared about helping homeless people, they could create an account that detailed their stories, how they ended up where they are and what kinds of policies they think could help. Instead, the Flickr account is focused on petty crimes, which are the concerns of those who are privileged enough not to be homeless.
 Instead of focusing on crimes, we should focus on helping people live better lives, which will actually be more helpful in reducing crime anyway. An increasing amount of research suggests that it is in fact far cheaper to provide homeless people with housing and social services than to “treat” the problem of homelessness with more policing and emergency services.
 But substantive, researched solutions to homelessness are not the point, not when your goal is to shame the city’s mayor by using the homeless New Yorkers as pawns. And particularly not when the proposed solutions suggest that we might need fewer police officers and more direct services.
 Our society and, particularly, our police forces, need to rethink the way we regard homeless people, if this is the kind of treatment and shaming they can expect. It starts with taking down the photos that have been posted on the SBA’s page, as advocated in a Care2 petition.
 Mayor de Blasio has a plan to spend $22 million to find and treat those suffering from mental illnesses in the New York City streets. There are additional plans to train police to better interact with this population. I have previously endorsed a guaranteed basic income for all, which could help alleviate poverty and homelessness. But we shouldn’t be satisfied with cities that treat them as shameful burdens, or try to sweep them under the rug, either.

January 14, 2015

In Jamaica Homeless Youth are Outlawed from even Calling the Gutters Home (RU A GAY TOURIST?)

Youth walks through Shoemaker Gully before it was sealed shut after a raid on Dec. 23, 2014. (Photo courtesy of
Youth walks through Shoemaker Gully before it was sealed shut after a raid on Dec. 23, 2014. (Photo courtesy of
Jamaican activists who balk at the idea of forcing LGBT youths to live on the streets are trying to find a feasible alternative now that police have ousted dozens of youths from Shoemaker Gully, a drainage channel in New Kingston.
The youths had lived in that gully for two years after being expelled from their homes for being gay, then rousted out of abandoned buildings. Police have repeatedly raided the gully — most recently just before Christmas. Again and again, the youths were arrested, warned, released and then allowed to return to their only home — the gully.
At Christmastime 2014, however, the gully was sealed so they could not return to it.
Activist Yvonne McCalla Sobers, former head of the Dwayne’s House initiative that sought to build a shelter and training center for the youths, stated:
Homeless LGBT youths sleeping in Jamaican sewers. (Photo courtesy of Micheal Forbes)
Homeless LGBT youths sleeping in New Kingston drainage channel known as Shoemaker Gully — before they were forced out on Dec. 23. (Photo courtesy of Micheal Forbes)
The youth are today in a worse situation than they were last month, last year, or even the year before that. Shoemaker Gully, “home” to the youth since the latter part of 2012, has been sealed off and made inaccessible to them.
They have been set adrift in a city that is unfriendly to the homeless in general, and particularly hostile to homeless persons who are gay or trans*. So they sleep where they can and how they can, hoping to remain undetected by police or civilians. Providing them with any kind of support has become challenging because there is no longer a central location at which they can be found.
The local police superintendent has proposed establishing a shelter where the youths could be housed and trained for gainful employment, as have the advocates who are raising money to open such a shelter under the name of Dwayne’s House. But nothing has yet come of those plans.
Activists and the news media presented vastly different version of the Dec. 23 raid.  RJR News Online reported:
New Kingston police Senior Supt. Fitz Bailey
New Kingston police Senior Supt. Fitz Bailey
“Senior Superintendent Fitz Bailey, Head of  the Police Division, told RJR news that the operation targeted suspects linked to major crimes, including murders committed in and around New Kingston. Several persons were detained by the police during the operation.
“He said 40 to 60 individuals had sought refuge in the gully, and that New Kingston residents were fed up with the situation.
” ‘They have been wreaking havoc on the business district, in terms of their involvement in criminal activities, from robbery, larceny, burglary, and even two murders. The citizens and business people have really been intimidated and they have exhibited a level of frustration,’ he explained.
“He said a multi-agency approach will continue to be used, as the police are determined to drive criminals out of  New Kingston.” 
In contrast, McCalla Sobers said:
“In the December 23 arrest of ten of the youth, the police said these youth were to be questioned for serious crimes. However, the only youth in the group who was on the police wanted list was able to scale a wall and escape from the lockup; and the other youth were released within hours of their being held. “
She added:
Scene from police raid on LGBT youth in Shoemaker Gully in March 2014. (Click image for video.)
Scene from police raid on LGBT youth in Shoemaker Gully in March 2014. (Click image for video.)
“The claim can now be made that New Kingston is safe with the removal of these youth who are seen as criminals. Now. there are thieves who have taken refuge in the gully; this is a known minority for whom the majority invariably takes the blame.
“In the time of my close association with the youth, the usual policing practice was to make a periodic show of force, detaining eight to ten of the youth at a time. Media would be present, and the impression would be given that the police were being tough on crime in New Kingston. However, most of the detainees would be released, some within hours. The remainder would be charged with minor offences such as littering, loitering, or ‘calumnious language.’
“The police have a list of the youth whom they say are ‘wanted.’  The other youth in the gully have tried, without success, to persuade those committing the crimes to cease the theft or leave the gully. The youth point out that the alleged offenders invariably escape while non-offenders are arrested and harassed before being released.
“Recently, some of the youth confronted the most-wanted person on the police list who had once again taken refuge in the gully after committing a serious offence. There was an altercation in which the most-wanted man stabbed one of the youth just before police arrived on the scene. The police allegedly stood by as this most-wanted man stabbed the youth three more times. As this youth lay bleeding on the ground, the others in the gully [allegedly] appealed to the police for help, to no avail. Ultimately, the injured youth was taken to hospital by another set of police who came on the scene. The most-wanted man [allegedly] stood by with the bloody knife, and no attempt was made to arrest him.”
What’s next? McCalla Sobers said:
“There has been some movement toward finding shelter for these youth. The Member of Parliament representing the New Kingston area has identified a space deemed suitable for housing these youth. An entity has allegedly offered to provide funds for setting up this shelter, but these funds would not be available until mid-year if the promise is fulfilled.”
Dane Lewis, executive director of J-FLAG
Dane Lewis, executive director of J-FLAG
Dane Lewis, executive director of the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG), has asked Jamaicans to be more compassionate toward the homeless youths, who he feels have been marginalized and are victims of a hostile society. J-FLAG has urged stronger action by members of parliament to  solve the problem of homeless LGBT youths.
Activist Maurice Tomlinson said that a recent Home 4 the Holidays campaign  raised only about $10,000 Canadian dollars [US$8,500] plus about US$900 for a shelter for the youths — far less than the US$350,000 that was estimated as needed for the proposed purchase.
McCalla Sobers added:
“The current perspective of the youth is that they have risked their safety by showing their faces on multiple documentaries in the hope that the publicity would help them to find stability in their lives. They need tangible evidence to show they are not being abandoned and neglected yet again. Help for these youth cannot come soon enough in 2015. “

About Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart, a 40-year journalism veteran, is publisher and an editor of the "Erasing 76 Crimes" blog. More profile information on Google+.

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