Sunday, April 27, 2008

Winter shelters close, homeless encampments grow

"The Amherst, MA Survival Center is starting to get more calls as emergency shelters are closing. People need tents," the email began. "Do you have one hanging around that a homeless person can use until they get on their feet? Please... we only have 2 left and the phone is ringing off the hook!!!"

Thus begins the annual ritual of closing winter-only shelters, not only in Massachusetts but around the country. For the most part, homeless people won't be moving from the shelters to housing, although Springfield, MA's homeless coordinator says 7 of the 12 people in the overflow shelter do have housing waiting for them. Elsewhere in the state, Northampton's Cot Shelter will close on April 30. There are already 50 to 90 people sleeping out on the Cape, according to Cape Cod Today, in 40 or so small encampments.

In Plano, TX, many of the homeless people that had to be turned away by the Samaritan in this winter have been sleeping in their cars in the parking lot of the local library-- at least up until now. The City Council passed an ordinance on April 14 forbidding any parking in the lot between 11 am. and 5 pm. See if you buy this one: "Joyce Baumbach, the director of libraries, said the ordinance isn't just targeting homeless people. "Some of the neighbors do use the lot for extra parking or if they have company overnight," Baumbach said. "They will also not be allowed to park overnight anymore." NBC5 Dallas/Fort Worth.

Pinellas Hope shelter in St. Petersburg, FL has raised enough money to stay open through the summer, although on a greatly reduced basis-- 75 guests a night rather than the 250 it's housed over the last five months. Turlock, California's winter shelter closed at the end of March, but not quietly:: 150 homeless people and allies protested on the steps of City Hall. Earlier in March, "Vice Mayor Kurt Vander Weide, Councilmen Ted Howze and Kurt Spycher voted against extending the B Street shelter in downtown by 30 days, citing reasons of political ideology and the weather." (!!) Modesto Bee. When Springfield, Illinois closed its SOS shelter, also at the end of March, one option the homeless there used to have is now denied to them: camping on the library grounds. The city made it clear it's not going to be allowed this year.

Sleeping out isn't always very safe. Two homeless men burned to death in Olympia, WA when a canopy strung between two trees caught fire and fell on the men during the night.

Half of Madison, WI's homeless population of 3,400 is unsheltered and walking the streets, but they're not feeling very welcome these days. Two unsolved murders in two months.has put the community on edge and a lot of suspicion is focused on homeless people. Chicago Tribune.

As cities and towns and the people who live in them struggle economically, seems like there's not much left for the people who have theleast.


rxgary said...

maybe you or someone should start a site called mayors of america, where we could come up with ideas that citizens in individual communities can work towards to help the disadvantaged around them, if we band together and help each other we avoid the crime and anarchy it looks like bush and cheney are trying to bestow upon us,

one thing I think should be done is communities should allocate some land that isn’t being used as farmland, for individuals who are out of work to volunteer to work at, I realize there are many obstacles and this would be hard to organize, but with the current policies and monsata genetically altered seeds, hunger is going to become a problem soon

if something like this could be organized then naturally get a list of each community’s mayors and try to have them actively involved in community agriculture to avoid hunger in their communities and maybe get active in solar and wind energy technologies

Michaelann Bewsee said...

i'm right with you in terms of what we can do locally-- not to let the government off the hook, of course, but let's not hold our breathe waiting for that to happen. There actually is a U.S. Conference of Mayors and mostly they've been pretty up front about how bad they're hurting, but they tend to look UP for the solutions instead of DOWN.

Land is so important. There's also a whole movement I haven't had time to catch up to yet (but I will) called relocalization. My sister is going to a conference in a few weeks at the E.F. Schumacher Society founded by the guy who wrote Small is Beautiful back in 1973. Seems like we're overdue to take another look at some "old" ideas.

Thanks for commenting.

linda said...

thanks for posting about this. I found your blog when trying to relocate an article about church based shelters closing due to lack of funding that previously came from donations.
I wish I could add something here by way of solutions but at the moment I can't.