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.