Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Plan To End Homelessness Is Making Progress

By Reneka Toler

 An Action Plan to End Homelessness in Memphis within the next decade has already reported progress in getting people off the streets and into shelters.
The plan, implemented by Memphis Mayor A C Wharton, Jr. and Shelby County Mayor Mark Lutrell, was unveiled in January, and is designed to help approximate 1,600 homeless people in the city. Memphis City Council approved $250,000 to begin the plan.
            The major goals of this plan consists of preventing and ending chronic homelessness in five years, ending family and youth homelessness in 10 years, providing a path out of homelessness for all  within 10 years and ending veterans’ homelessness in five years in Memphis/ Shelby County.
            “Homelessness is not a single issue, but a result of failures in the economy,” says Brad Watkins, organizing director of Mid-South Peace and Justice Center, which is a non-profit organization that interacts with communities through a non-violent action.
            Mid-South Peace and Justice Center, was one of the main advocates in creating this plan. It offered basic solutions to eliminate the causes of homelessness and poverty. One of its recent accomplishments involved the recruitment of 80 volunteers to assist the City of Memphis’ count of homeless population in 2010-2011.
            Watkins says the 10 year-action plan is a federal mandate by Housing and Urban Development, which makes it more competitive. It is going to move the country forward and the people to readiness.”
            “Not only Memphis, but the country as a whole is 20 years behind, so I think the plan is excellent and it’s a start to end the homelessness,” said Watkins said.
            Throughout the plan, studies show comparison in the count of homeless from 2002-2010. Memphis and Shelby County endured a 4 percent reduction in those people, who experienced homelessness.
            Katie Kitchin, a consultant of Division of Housing and Community Development says the main focus of the plan is to reduce homelessness within 5 to 10 years.
            “The plan is a new approach in the community and change is the biggest challenge,” says Kitchin.
            The most recent studies indicate that ‘transitioning of housing’ begins the first step in the homeless stage.
            Adjusting the Homeless Housing Capacity is one of the main strategies in Goal One, which the city is making progress to meet.
            Watkins says the Housing First Model started the process to help the homeless people recover. It provides Permanent Supporting Housing units by 391 and reduces transitioning housing by 300 units.
            Also, 3.3 million dollars is distributed from the City of Memphis for funding of homeless shelters.
            Shelters like Memphis Union Mission and others provide the homeless with their basic needs, and accept donations to prevent them from the homeless path. As a result it serves meals to hungry men and woman 365 days a year.
            The Community Alliance for the Homeless, proposed the Project Homeless Connect, a major event that was held earlier this year to reach out to the homeless. It was a jump-start of the new plan making progress. Different types of housing, health, and employment assistance was available.
            “We hope that this event helps break down the barriers that keep people homeless,” Kitchin said.
Due to the 20 percent increase in jobless rate this year, 241 individuals received employment assistance at the event.
The National Coalition for the Homeless says ending homelessness will require closing the gaps between incomes and housing costs.
Finally, with the enforcement of the panhandling law, homelessness has shown to decrease.
The city ordinance says panhandling in Downtown is illegal outside of specific zones. Any type of activity will result in jail time or monetary fines.
Partners for the Homelessness recommends not giving money to the panhandlers, but donating it charities and organizations, which can better assist them.


Monday, November 28, 2011

Children In Memphis Faces Poverty

This workshop was covered at a Business Conference Meeting, hosted by MLGW.
It was held at the Joyce M. Blackmon Training and Development Center on Nov. 11 from 10 am to 2:30 pm. 
The speaker for this workshop was Peggie Russell, the moderator of Children & Poverty.
Everyday Life For the Homeless

By Reneka Toler

Many Memphians are homeless due to some disastrous situations. Three of those homeless people have told their stories about how they ended up on the streets of Memphis.
            Perry Johnson, 55, from Memphis, Tenn. has been homeless for about eight years. He was a former mechanic for about 12 years, until he lost his job. Later on, he experienced long-term addiction with alcohol and drugs. He was once married for a short-period of time, but later was divorced, due to his unemployment and lack of responsibilities.
Johnson says most homeless people in Downtown Memphis are familiar and pleased with this institution, whereas some of them are unsatisfied with their services. No one only really knows, because he or she isn’t the homeless person. People only go by, what they see or hear from the outside.
            Also, Johnson finds it to be difficult to be homeless and wishes he would have a chosen a different route. He never knew that he would experience this situation, until now.
            “I appreciate Union Mission for taking me in, but people don’t know what I and others go through on the inside and how we are treated, “said Johnson. “It’s a struggle everyday that I am there.”
            Union Mission, located downtown on Poplar Avenue and Danny Thomas is a private institution, which shelters, feeds, and prays for the homeless. Its purpose for serving the homeless people is to help them reunite with family members and loved ones, achieve freedom from substance abuse and become mature Disciples of Christ. Also, it offers several of programs to assist those who need.
The National Homeless Organization says homelessness has risen in the past 15-20 years.
 Homelessness falls in the category of affordable rental housing and increase in poverty. In 2007, 12.5 percent of the U.S. population, or 37, 300, 00 million people, lived in poverty. The official poverty rate in 2007 was not statistically different than 2006 (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2007). Children are overrepresented, composing 35.7% of people in poverty while only being 24.8% of the total population. 
            Without a job or any source of income, homeless people are unable to supply themselves physically, mentally, or emotionally.
            Hazel Blackmon, 62, from San Diego, Calif. was once homeless, but has now recovered from the situation. She was a former truck driver for about 14 years, until she left her husband. Her husband abused her for many years for no apparent reason. Afterwards, she decided to leave him and her belongings behind. She said that she just wanted to be free and with her family, again in Memphis. She has been unemployed for five years and received disability benefits. Before receiving benefits, she was offered employment, yet refused, because of minimum wage.
            “I can’t see myself, settling for anything that is offered, when I have way too much experience, “said Blackmon, the homeless woman. “ It’s just not fair at all.”
            Luke United Methodist Church, located in the Midtown area, on South Highland and Mynders, serves as another helping hand to the homeless. It does not shelter the homeless, but provides food, clothing, and worship to them throughout the week. There, the homeless people feel welcome and comfortable by a ministry who cares. Every other Sunday, a homeless person joins church and volunteers their time, during the different events that are held.
            Michael Isom, 45, from Memphis has been homeless since 1991. Isom never kept a stable job and rarely communicated with his family or others. He raised himself in the streets. A typical day for Isom would be to get up in the morning, ride his bicycle, and pick up cans to sell for food and shelter. Regularly, he resides on the streets, and sometimes in the shelter. He attends Luke United Methodist every Saturday and Sunday.
            “I really enjoy coming to this church,” said Isom. “The people, here are friendly and caring”.
            The National Coalition for the Homeless says that half of all states have multiple risk factors for increased homelessness; that is, they have rates worse than the national average on at least two of five indicators -- unemployment, foreclosure, doubled-up, housing cost burden, and lack of health insurance.
Story Highlights
·         Perry Johnson and 2 other homeless people share their experiences of being homeless.
·         Luke United Methodist and Union Mission serve as helping hands to the homeless.
·         National Coalition for the Homeless says homelessness has risen in the past 15-20 years.

Life Away From