Sunday, September 20, 2015

Will The US Gov't End Homeless Hate Laws?

Recently, the Federal Department of Justice announced that criminalizing homelessness is unconstitutional. While the news lacked any real teeth, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) may have significantly changed that situation.

Now in a bold and seriously under-reported move, HUD has announced that counties and cities across America will be required to describe how they are reducing criminalization of homelessness when they re-apply for annual funding from the Federal Government. Future funding levels for at least some grants may be partially determined by how the applicant answers this question.

Broward County receives millions every year in HUD grants. And yet, the City of Fort Lauderdale has perhaps more anti-homeless laws on record than any City
in America. They are also spending tens of thousands of dollars fighting lawsuits filed against them for the  outdoor food sharing ban. Theoretically this could effect many major cities just in this one state, such as Miami, Tampa, St Petersburg, Orlando, Pensacola, and many others that have recently endorsed or passed laws criminalizing homeless activities or targeted homeless aid operations with arrest and raids.

Could the threat of a HUD-led boycott of Fort Lauderdale finally convince Mayor Seiler and company to change course?

If so, it will hopefully happen soon. Intercession Food Pantry closed its doors this week, making it at least the third homeless service provider shut down this year by government hands. All Saint's Mission in Oakland is also listed for shutdown but still has 3 years to attempt to relocate.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Florida Cities Attack Those That Help The Homeless

On Wednesday, a Tampa non-profit shelter service, "Homeless Helping Homeless Inc," was raided by Tampa police officers. The search warrant was ostensibly related to a tow company that police claim is run by the nonprofit's owner, but HHH's computers and documents were seized and by Thursday the building was effectively condemned, giving the residents just a few days to take their belongings and go.

"This investigation has nothing to do with the homeless shelter. It's irrelevant," said TPD spokeswoman Andrea Davis.

HHH grabbed a lot of attention for successfully suing the City of Tampa for a panhandling ban that threatened their newspaper operation, which is passingly similar to what The Homeless Voice used to do here. Their federal lawsuit against the City resulted in the law being partially repealed in July.

HHH's friends in the proactive homeless support community in Tampa have set up a crowd-funding page to try to collect enough money to repair the code violations before the building is taken away and demolished.

Stock in the unpopularity of allowing homeless people to actually live indoors in major cities across South Florida seems to be high. Not long after the prior news from Tampa emerged, the Sun Sentinel posted an incredibly bizarre story where-in Sean Cononie makes some vague statements about re-opening the Homeless Voice somewhere in Broward County.

The Homeless Voice has frequently been a negative attention magnet for various government bureaucrats. What's really remarkable here is the amount of locals and public officials lining up to declare just how unwelcome Broward County feels towards homeless people.

Dania Mayor Salvino
Most remarkable are the comments from Dania Beach City officials:

Dania Beach Mayor Marco Salvino seemed caught off-guard.
"I don't know anyone who would want him back here," Salvino said.
He plans to ask the city attorney to research whether Dania Beach can pass an outright ban on homeless shelters.
"I don't know that that's the image we're trying to project for our city," Dania Beach Commissioner Chickie Brandimarte said. 
 Broward homeless census-takers generally do not collect data specifically on the homeless population in Dania. Although the County Jail and other centralized resources in nearby downtown Fort Lauderdale continue to concentrate the homeless there, it can't be denied that Dania has its own homeless population. Downtown Dania itself continues to idle in decay while similar areas such as Sistrunk, downtown Pompano, downtown Hollywood, etc., have poured 10 of millions of dollars into redeveloping their urban areas.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Rick Scott Slashes $2m in Homeless Assistance

Ripples of outrage have been spreading all week since the approval of the latest Florida state budget. Mixed into the piles of public services gutted from next years budget were millions allocated to government sponsored local homelessness initiatives.

Here in Fort Lauderdale, $800,000 ii funding for the Rapid Re-Housing program was vetoed. Much like the infamous budget cuts that killed the Sunrail, Rick Scott's veto pen is actually stopping the flow of federal dollars, in this case from HUD, from helping the general public and the very needy statewide. 

Rapid Re-Housing has been the City of Fort Lauderdale's lynchpin plan for reducing homelessness in downtown; throughout the last several years of controversy around Fort Lauderdale's homeless policies, City officials have always pointed to Housing First & Rapid Re-Housing as proof of the good intent. At this time it is unclear if and how the City will be able to keep the program funded for the next year. 

As this blog is getting fairly tired of reporting, this budget cut is part of ongoing hot streak of homeless service cuts effecting downtown Ft Lauderdale, including but limited to, the sharing ban, the closure of the Homeless Voice, and the shutdown of homeless outreach services at "The Tree."

Here's a full list of homeless services cut by Rick Scott this week, some of which has already been stirring up controversy:

Citrus Health Network for the Safe Haven for Homeless Youth Program - $100,00
Miami-Dade Homeless Trust - $189,794
Eckerd and Brevard C.A.R.E.S (homelessness intervention and prevention services) $500,000
Jacksonville SOAR Outreach Program (chronically homeless persons) $97,000
Metropolitan Ministries-Pasco Transitional Housing $1,000,000
City of Ft. Lauderdale Rapid Rehousing Project $800,000
Clearwater Homeless Emergency Project  $400,000

Monday, June 1, 2015

Tree Closing is Yet Another City Hate Law

As of today, "The Tree," the informal meeting place for homeless people to get in touch with County homeless services, is off the limits. The City wants to open the land on NW 2nd in between Andrews & 1st ave up for bidding for destruction and development. However, it also conveniently fits into the City's overall effort to ban and displace homeless people and their homeless services from downtown Ft Lauderdale, particularly north of Broward Blvd in the area of the bus terminal.

The shutdown of the Tree is the latest in a countless string of closures of homeless services in the last few years, from the buy-out of the Homeless Voice to last fall's notorious attempts to shut down all outdoor food sharing organizations downtown. Despite the fact that one of the county's main outreach efforts as part of its Homeless Initiative operates at this location, many of these services will be cut without a replacement location being provided.

Homeless advocates and others who have experienced the services provided at the tree will be gathering on Monday, June 1st, to mark this somber occasion and discuss the urgent demand for more inclusive spaces for the needy in downtown instead of more displacement tactics and bad City policy.

Monday, May 4, 2015

May Day Recap

Friday's 6 month anniversary of resistance to Ft Lauderdale's sharing ban merged seemlessly with the call for "May Day for Freddie Gray" in solidarity with the Baltimore Uprising. About 100 activists joined FNB's weekly sharing in Stranahan Park and then crashed Las Olas' Wine & Food Fest before shutting down traffic on Broward Blvd from Victoria Park to Andrews Avenue. While there were no arrests, there were many confrontations between the FLPD, many of whom were on bicycles, and the protesters that they unsuccessfully tried to force off the streets for most of the march.

Large albums of this colorful and musical May Day march can be found here, here and here.

This protest marks yet another successful fusion between the homeless discrimination struggles of Food Not Bombs and other rebel food sharers and the new tide of anti-racist, anti-police brutality activism of the Broward Dream Defenders and many others besides. The Dream Defenders are following up Friday's protest with a visit this Tuesday to everyone's favorite stalwart of the unjust status quo, the Fort Lauderdale City Commission. Dream Defenders are signed up for citizen's presentations about City's unjust and discriminatory policing towards communities of color and homeless people.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

May Day! 6 Months of Resistance

May 1st, 2015 marks 6 months since the enforcement of the sharing ban began in downtown Fort Lauderdale - 6 months since countless homeless aid groups were threatened with shutdown over the city's pursuit of its anti-homeless agenda.

One of these groups, Ft Lauderdale Food Not Bombs, is celebrating 6 months of continued survival and resistance on May 1st, which is International Worker's Day. More information is to come but speakers and music are invited to FNB's regular sharing on Friday, May 1st at 5 pm, followed by a march through downtown at 7 pm. We hope it will be a great opportunity for all the different people from different backgrounds to come together and celebrate the resistance to Homeless Hate Laws once more. We still have a long way to go, even considering the FLPD's slow-motion meltdown over its officers' recent conduct towards its poor and marginalized citizens. 

Homeless Guide V2

The first updated version of "The Unofficial Ft Lauderdale Guidebook for the Needy & Homeless" is out. We've created a page on this very blog to permanently host the most recent version of the guide. Share, print, and share again!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Year One

April marks 1 year since the City began hearing and passing their "Homeless Hate Laws," and 1 year of resisting them.

While the legal challenges to the City's sharing ban trudges on, not much has been done to stop the other homeless hate laws. This is despite the fact that cities such as Miami & Gainesville both rejected laws last month similar to Fort Lauderdale's camping ban, which passed in September without much of a ruckus. 

One participant in the homeless hate regime that has not had an easy 2015 is the FLPD (and a host of other Broward County police departments), who have been riddled with scandals, indictments, and resignations for months now.

Another major change for the homelessness struggle in the area is the closure of COSAC/ Homeless Voice. While Sean Cononie's exodus took dozens of homeless people to their new "pay-what-you-can" motel project in Central Florida, many chronically homeless people in the Hollywood area are basically shit out of luck.  Hollywood PD's homeless outreach program painted a rosy picture of the transition, claiming that ultimately only 9 people " would not or could not move out of Hollywood." No new facilities or services are being created in Broward County to replace The Homeless Voice building, and Hollywood plans to turn it into more overpriced stores and condos. 

In other news more food has come to downtown in the form of #payitfwdftl, a project for customers of participating businesses can pitch into donations to homeless people. Slice Pizzeria next to the downtown library has already given away hundreds of slices of pizza in the past 2 weeks. There's also a project to pass on prepaid cards at the Broward Blvd Laundromax.

So welcome to year 2!