Posts Tagged ‘homelessness’

Every Tuesday night, Joan Cheever hits the streets of San Antonio to feed the homeless. In a decade, she’s rarely missed a night. But on a recent, windy Tuesday, something new happens.

The police show up.

“He says we have to have a permit,” Cheever says. “We have a permit. We are a licensed nonprofit food truck.”

Cheever runs a nonprofit called the Chow Train. Her food truck is licensed by the city. On this night, she has loaded the back of a pickup with catering equipment and hot meals and driven to San Antonio’s Maverick Park, near a noisy downtown highway.

Officer Mike Marrota asks to see her permit.

Documents are produced, but there’s a problem: The permit is for the food truck, not her pickup. Cheever argues that the food truck, where she cooks the meals, is too big to drive down the alleyways she often navigates in search of the homeless.

“I tell you guys and the mayor, that we have a legal right to do this,” Cheever says to Marrota.

Marrota asks, “Legal right based on what?”

The Freedom of Religion Restoration Act, Cheever tells him, or RFRA, a federal law which protects free exercise of religion.

The officer isn’t buying it. He writes her a ticket, with a fine of up to $2,000, making clear that San Antonio tickets even good Samaritans if they don’t comply with the letter of the law.

The National Coalition for the Homeless says upwards of 30 cities have some kind of ban on distributing free food for the homeless. Many, including San Antonio, want to consolidate services for the homeless in one location — often, away from tourists.

Does invoking RFRA give Cheever and other good Samaritans license to ignore the law?

“That is not, actually, an easy question to answer,” says Michael Ariens, law professor at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. “RFRA applies when the government of any type substantially burdens an individual’s free exercise of religion.”

The key phrase is “substantially burdens,” Ariens says.

“RFRA doesn’t allow any do-gooder to simply to do whatever they wish — to make a law onto themselves without interference from local or state government,” he says.

Cheever complains that San Antonio has joined other cities in turning feeding the homeless into a crime.

On the next Tuesday night, Cheever is back in Maverick Park, risking another ticket. She could even be arrested.

But this time there are no police. Cheever and her Chow Train volunteers are greeted by dozens of supporters and homeless people.

“It warms my heart, but it doesn’t surprise me, because the community is behind me and they are behind every other nonprofit that does what I do,” she says.

In late June, Cheever says, she will challenge the ticket in court.

http://www.npr.org/2015/06/13/413988634/when-feeding-the-homeless-runs-afoul-of-the-law

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By the end of 2015, the chronically homeless population of Utah may be virtually gone. And the secret is quite simple:

Give homes to the homeless.

“We call it housing first, employment second,” said Lloyd Pendleton, director of Utah’s Homeless Task Force.

Even Pendleton used to think trying to eradicate homelessness using such an approach was a foolish idea.

“I said: ‘You guys must be smoking something. This is totally unrealistic,'” Pendleton said.

But the results are hard to dispute.

In 2005, Utah was home to 1,932 chronically homeless. By April 2015, there were only 178 — a 91 percent drop statewide.

“It’s a philosophical shift in how we go about it,” Pendleton said. “You put them in housing first … and then help them begin to deal with the issues that caused them to be homeless.”

Chronically homeless persons — those living on the streets for more than a year, or for four times in three years, and have a debilitating condition — make up 10 percent of Utah’s homeless population but take up more than 50 percent of the state’s resources for the homeless.

The Homeless Task Force reported it costs Utah $19,208 on average per year to care for a chronically homeless person, including related health and jail costs. Pendleton found that to house and provide a case worker for the same person costs the state about $7,800.

“It’s more humane, and it’s cheaper,” Pendleton said. “I call them ‘homeless citizens.’ They’re part of our citizenry. They’re not them and us. It’s ‘we.'”

For six years, Suzi Wright and her sons, DJ and Brian, shuttled among friend’s homes, a van and the Salt Lake City homeless shelter.

After Utah gave Wright a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment, she got a job as a cleaning supervisor at her apartment complex.

“It makes you feel a lot better about yourself, just being able to support your family,” Wright said.

Those given apartments under the Housing First program pay rent of 30 percent of their income or $50, whichever is greater.

Army veteran Don Williams had been sleeping under a bush for 10 years when Utah offered him an apartment.

When he realized they weren’t joking, he “jumped for joy,” he said, laughing. “It was a blessing. A real blessing.”

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/utahs-strategy-homeless-give-them-homes-n352966

Saint Mary’s Cathedral, the principal church of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, has installed a watering system to keep the homeless from sleeping in the cathedral’s doorways.

The cathedral is the home church of the Archbishop. There are four tall side doors, with sheltered alcoves, that attract homeless people at night.

“They actually have signs in there that say, ‘No Trespassing,’” said a homeless man named Robert.

But there are no signs warning the homeless about what happens in these doorways, at various times, all through the night. Water pours from a hole in the ceiling, about 30 feet above, drenching the alcove and anyone in it.

The shower runs for about 75 seconds, every 30 to 60 minutes starting before sunset, simultaneously in all four doorways, and soaks homeless people, and their belongings.

The water doesn’t clean the area. There are syringes, cigarette butts, soggy clothing and cardboard. There is no drainage system. The water pools on the steps and sidewalks.

A neighbor who witnessed the drenching said, “I was just shocked, one because it’s inhumane to treat people that way. The second thing is that we are in this terrible drought.

Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homeless said, “It’s very shocking, and very inhumane. There’s not really another way to describe it. Certainly not formed on the basis of Catholic teachings.”

A cathedral staff member confirmed the system was installed, perhaps a year ago, to deter the homeless from sleeping there.

https://cbssanfran.wordpress.com/2015/03/18/homeless-saint-marys-cathedral-archdiocese-san-francisco-intentionally-drenched-water-sleeping/?preview=true&preview_id=471419&preview_nonce=a7ea4dcc06