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talking about hope, housing & baltimore's homeless citizens
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08/21/07
Sweeping the Homeless Issue in Our City?
Filed under: General
Posted by: MARY @ 12:42 pm

The sweeping of homeless citizens

The sweeping of homeless citizens from downtown Baltimore last week was greatly disturbing to all of us at PLASE.

The issue should not be keeping people out of  our range of vision, but when will own this reality and voice our outrage, so that we  make the needs of homeless and poor citizens the priority  focus of public policy ? Then— all of us will be better off.

When the human needs of homeless citizens are addressed in a humane way, then, not only will these citizens stop being homeless, and rejoin the community. They also will no longer need to live under the falls way or in an alley. They will stop being visible to those who want to simply sweep away this visible evidence of persons living in this level of need. To “sweep persons” away, only puts them out of eye sight, but it does not make them “go away”. Poverty, homelessness and need are still part of Baltimore and Maryland.

“Sweeping persons and their belongings away” is not only inhumane, it is totally ineffective. It “sweeps” persons as far as the next neighborhood. The need would continue.

Let us learn from the past:

In 1976, the city of Philadelphia encountered these same issues. Namely,

The powers-to-be wanted to “sweep away the homeless citizens” from in front of Betsy Ross’s house, in order to prepare for the 200 hundred anniversary of the country, and make the city pretty.

The advocates mobilized local, private and governmental resources to develop a comprehensive approach to serve the homeless citizen which should be all our priority- and in doing so persons are no longer on the streets.

Their approach included: sufficient emergency, transitional and affordable permanent housing resources, and a multi-level addiction treatment facilities, making such treatment accessible, on demand. It also included drop-in centers where persons could get support and stay all night, if need be. Such a humane approach helped persons move out of homelessness – the only approach that will Clean up the streets.

Let us mobilize Baltimore to meet the needs of the poorest citizens in our midst.

Also PLASE includes below the statement released by The Health Care for the Homeless, which we endorse.

 

Sincerely,

Mary C. Slicher

Health Care for the Homeless, Inc

Public Statement

August 15, 2007

 Clients of our organization have made us aware of recent “sweeps” of public areas where people experiencing homelessness seek refuge.  We were troubled to read again of similar sweeps on the website of The Sun this morning.  Using the threat of force or intimidation to remove homeless individuals from public spaces (where they are not immediately restricting the public right of way) constitutes an inappropriate and ultimately ineffective response to the problem of homelessness.  Furthermore, such action seriously compromises the outreach work of Health Care for the Homeless and others in the City working to establish positive relationships with homelessness individuals and help them get off the streets for good.  When belongings are discarded, the loss of identification alone (birth certificates, social security cards, photo IDs, etc.) can disrupt for months the process of obtaining public benefits, health care, employment, and housing.

 Without question, Baltimore City is witnessing an increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness who seek temporary refuge under bridges, in city parks, in abandoned buildings, down secluded side streets, and in other public places.  This increase is fueled by the dearth of affordable housing, this decade’s doubling of housing prices in the private market, and inadequate federal and state support for housing and services.  At the same time, the City is experiencing an erosion of its emergency shelter capacity.  Baltimore shelters provided 3,167 fewer bednights in FY2006 (compared to the previous year) while they also had to turn people away on more than 11,000 occasions due to lack of space (DHR, 2007).  Within the first six months of CY 2007, the City has lost approximately 400 shelter beds (with the closure of the Winter Shelter and the St. Ann’s Shelter) and may lose an additional 73 beds for women by October of this year.  Shortages in both affordable housing and emergency shelter leave our most vulnerable City residents with few options other than the streets.   

While we do not discount the reports of people experiencing homelessness who indicate that they were “moved along” or asked to leave certain areas, Health Care for the Homeless has been assured that it is not the policy of the current City Administration to forcibly sweep homeless individuals away from certain public spaces.   We are pleased the City agrees with us that this would be counterproductive toward the goal of ameliorating homelessness.  A broad cross-section of interest groups is working with the City to create real solutions to homelessness.  Rather than trying in vain to “sweep away” our problems, this collaboration is the proper direction for our resources and attention.    

 We recommend the following responses in an effort to reduce the burdens of homelessness in Baltimore:

 Prohibit all public “sweeps”: Baltimore City should work actively with public and private agencies to ensure the immediate discontinuation of activities that in effect move individuals or belongings from public areas, as long as the public right of way is not impeded.

  1. Stop arrests and citations directly related to homelessness:  Baltimore City should ensure the discontinuation of arrests and citations for so-called “nuisance crimes” created by the realities of homelessness.  Establish effective citywide outreach:  Baltimore City and nonprofit organizations should establish an effective, sufficient, and coordinated capacity of outreach workers as “first responders” to work with people experiencing homelessness who live private lives in public spaces.  It is important for outreach efforts to remain distinct from public safety activities. Establish sufficient emergency shelter capacity:  Baltimore’s inadequate shelter capacity forces hundreds of people to sleep outdoors.  We should create immediately a sufficient supply of low-barrier emergency shelter resources for people experiencing homelessness - understanding that shelter is only a temporary solution.  Shelter space ought to be accessible by people with multiple health-related diagnoses and by those with mobility impairments.  Create and implement an affordable housing plan:  Baltimore City should create and implement an effective plan to increase the supply of affordable housing.  This plan will maximize the usage of current public housing resources, reverse the decline of affordable housing units in the City, and create supportive housing opportunities (including a range of services people may require to remain stably housed) specifically for people experiencing homelessness.  Homelessness will persist until affordable house exists. Implement City recommendations to address homelessness:  Baltimore City will soon adopt the “Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness” created by Baltimore Homeless Services, its Leadership Council, and a host of interested parties.  The City should begin implementation immediately and evaluate the plan annually.

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08/06/07
GREENS & GOODNESS
Filed under: General
Posted by: MARY @ 11:27 am

This summer we have been receiving incredibly fresh, delicious, healthy vegetables from First Fruits Farm, a ministry in Freeland, MD.  The food goes directly to our clients. A staff member shared a recent story about collard greens, and an example of the human goodness.  PLASE works in many ways to restore hope, healing and goodness in body, soul and spirit. Who knew a batch of collard greens could give and show so much?  This story feeds the body and spirit. Thank you Josh. Thank you Leah. And thank you First Fruits!!!

 

Leah and the Greens

  

Leah is in a wheelchair.  Her hips have a degenerative disease and she has not been able to walk well on her own for quite a long time.

Leah comes from Trinidad.  In Trinidad, she was a cook.  She likes to cook Indian food, which she learned from people in the neighborhood where she grew up. 

Because of her hips, Leah has not been able to cook much lately.  However, she still loves to do so very much if she can get the opportunity.

On the day the greens came, I asked Leah if she knew how to cook them.  She said that she did, but we did not have all the ingredients she usually used.  I told Leah I would take her to the local Indian grocery store if she would agree to teach me how to cook them authentically.  Leah smiled.

I wheeled Leah the 5 blocks over to the store.  There were some large cracks in the pavement and the sidewalk was uneven.  Leah taught me to maneuver the chair backwards over some of the bigger bumps so that she would be able to stay balanced. 

When we got to the store, there was a step leading in to it, and no wheelchair ramp.   Fortunately, though, some of the customers and employees at the store helped out.  Together, we all managed to lift Leah and the chair into the market.

The chair fit through most of the aisles.  We picked out a few spices, some onions, some garlic.  We bought some split peas too.  The store owner was very nice to us.  He helped wheel the chair down the step and back out when we were finished.

On the way back from the store, Leah told me about Trinidad.  She said that the life there is very peaceful.  Everyone shares food with each other.

We came back to Project Plase and Leah got to cooking.  She taught me how it’s done!  We put a pot on a chair so that Leah could pick the greens with me.  There were many greens, but we picked through all of them and washed them off.  I sliced up some onions, and Leah pulled herself up and supported herself on the counter so she could get everything in the pot.

We cooked the meal together.  Curried split peas, greens, and rice.  Leah smashed a garlic clove with her bare hand!  She said it’s an old trick that can serve as a neat self-defense technique as well.

The meal came out very well.  We had some local homeless people in the building as well who were hungry for lunch, and they joined us for the meal too.  For most of the people who ate, it was the first time they ever had east Indian cooking.  There were smiles and compliments all around.

What a fabulous day, and a fabulous memory!  Thanks to all the farmers, pickers, deliverers and volunteers who helped to make it possible.  

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07/05/07
HIV & the Candidates
Filed under: General
Posted by: MARY @ 1:55 pm

I just read this article from The Body website, thought I’d share it with you. 

We talk about it. We care about. PLASE clients are getting treatment and preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS.  Tell everyone you know to get tested. Look to see what the candidates are saying and doing about the HIV/AIDS.

HIV is hard enough, but imagine living with the disease - and no healthcare and no place to call home. Thank you for your continued support to PLASE. Your support provides housing and hope for Baltimore’s homeless. With your help, we are bridging the gap in services for those living with HIV!

Tell me what you think about this article in the comment section. Talk to you soon.
Mary C. Slicher 

Published at www.thebody.com/updates 

Democratic presidential candidates on Thursday at Howard University discussed domestic and international HIV/AIDS issues in their third televised debate, the New York Times reports. During the 90-minute debate, which was moderated by PBS talk show host Tavis Smiley, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) criticized the White House for its response to the increasing rate of HIV cases among black Americans. Clinton said that if HIV/AIDS were the “leading cause of death of white women between the ages of 25 and 34, there would be an outraged outcry in this country.” Clinton added that if the issue is not addressed, the U.S. will “never get the services and the public education that [it] need[s]” (Nagourney/Zeleny, New York Times, 6/28).

According to the Washington Post, former Sen. John Edwards (N.C.) proposed a three-part plan to curb HIV/AIDS in the U.S. The plan includes searching for a cure, funding treatment for all HIV-positive people and guaranteeing that HIV/AIDS treatments are covered by Medicaid. Edwards and Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) said that a universal health care system is needed to ensure that all people receive access to treatment regardless of economic circumstances (Balz/Kornblut, Washington Post, 6/29). Obama attributed the high rate of HIV cases among blacks to stigma surrounding the virus in black communities, the Baltimore Sun reports. “We don’t talk about this,” Obama said, adding, “We don’t talk about it in the schools. Sometimes we don’t talk about it in the churches. It has been an aspect of sometimes our homophobia that we don’t address these issues as clearly as it needs to be” (West, Baltimore Sun, 6/29).

Sen. Joseph Biden (Del.) encouraged people to be tested for HIV. He added that he has worked with the black community to try to “get black men to understand it is not unmanly to wear a condom” and to get black women to “understand they can say no” (Finnegan/Nicholas, Los Angeles Times, 6/29). Obama also said that he and his wife have received HIV tests together (Washington Post, 6/29). According to the Los Angeles Times, most of the candidates agreed that the U.S. should increase funding for HIV/AIDS research and treatment. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said that White House spending on global HIV/AIDS programs is “relatively impressive” (Los Angeles Times, 6/29).

The Democratic debate will be followed by a companion debate for Republican presidential candidates, scheduled for Sept. 27 at Morgan State University in Baltimore, the Sun reports (Baltimore Sun, 6/29).

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