UN investigator accuses US of shameful neglect of homeless

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 12, 2009 4:57 pm    Post subject: UN investigator accuses US of shameful neglect of homeless Reply with quote

UN investigator accuses US of shameful neglect of homeless
UN special rapporteur says wealthy US ignoring deepening homeless crisis while pumping billions into bank rescues

An American flag files in Sacramento, California. This tent city is growing steadily amid rising foreclosures and increasing unemployment

A United Nations special investigator who was blocked from visiting the US by the Bush administration has accused the American government of pouring billions of dollars into rescuing banks and big business while treating as "invisible" a deepening homeless crisis.

Raquel Rolnik, the UN special rapporteur for the right to adequate housing, who has just completed a seven-city tour of America, said it was shameful that a country as wealthy as the US was not spending more money on lifting its citizens out of homelessness and substandard, overcrowded housing.

"The housing crisis is invisible for many in the US," she said. "I learned through this visit that real affordable housing and poverty is something that hasn't been dealt with as an issue. Even if we talk about the financial crisis and government stepping in in order to promote economic recovery, there is no such help for the homeless."

She added: "I think those who are suffering the most in this whole situation are the very poor, the low-income population. The burden is disproportionately on them and it's of course disproportionately on African-Americans, on Latinos and immigrant communities, and on Native Americans."

Rolnik toured Chicago, New York, Washington, Los Angeles and Wilkes-Barre, a Pennsylvania town where this year the first four sheriff sales – public auctions of seized property – in the county included 598 foreclosed properties. She also visited a Native American reservation.

The US government does not tally the numbers but interested organisations say that more than 3 million people were homeless at some point over the past year. The fastest growing segment of the homeless population is families with children, often single parents. On any given night in Los Angeles, about 17,000 parents and children are homeless. Most will be found a place in a shelter but many single men and women are forced to sleep on the streets.

Los Angeles, which is described as the homeless capital of America, has endured an 18-fold increase in housing foreclosures. Evictions from owned and rented homes have risen about tenfold, with 62,400 people forced out last year in Los Angeles county.

Welfare payments are not enough to meet the rent, let alone food and other necessities. A single person on welfare living in Los Angeles receives $221 (£133) a month – an amount that hasn't changed in a decade. The rent for one room is typically nearly double that.

Rolnik said that while she saw difficult conditions in all the places she visited, the worst was on the Native American reservation of Pine Ridge in South Dakota.

"You see total hopelessness, despair, very bad conditions. Nothing I have seen in other cities compared to the physical condition of the housing at Pine Ridge. Nothing compared to the overcrowding. They're not visible, they're isolated, they're far away. They're just lost," she said.

Rolnik says that one of the greatest matters of shame is that the US has the resources to provide decent housing for everyone.

"In the US, it's feasible to provide adequate housing for all. You have a lot of money, a lot of dollars available. You have a lot of expertise. This is a perfect setting to really embrace housing as a human right," she said.

Rolnik has given a verbal report to the US state department, which has a month to respond to her observations. She will submit a final written report to the UN human rights council early next year.

from http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/nov/12/un-investigator-us-neglect-homeless

see also UN meets homeless victims of American property dream
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Joined: 11 Feb 2007
Location: by the sea

PostPosted: Thu Jul 01, 2010 11:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

there was a documentary on channel 4 the other day about this suject, you can watch online at 4od


Unreported World meets the USA's new middle-class homeless: families struggling to hold down jobs that pay so little they're forced to live in tent cities or their cars and receive little help from the government.

Reporter Ramita Navai and producer Clancy Chassay begin their journey in Chicago, one of the country's manufacturing centres, which has been hit hard by the effects of the worst financial crisis in decades. St Columbanus church is one of 600 charities across the city that gives out emergency food rations.

Across America, many working people from all sectors have taken as much as 40% in pay cuts in desperation to hold on to their jobs. Their motivation is clear: if you are a temporary, part-time or self-employed worker you don't qualify for government help. The result is that many can't make ends meet and afford to feed themselves and their families.

Father Matt Eyerman tells Navai that the number of families receiving help from his church has leapt from 240 to 498 over the last two years, even though many of them still have jobs.

Today, more than 37 million Americans receive either state or private food assistance. More than three million were made homeless in 2009 despite holding down jobs. More than half of those living in shelters have had their homes repossessed by banks.

The team travels south to the state of Tennessee. They've been told that thousands of homeless people are taking refuge in temporary encampments. The City of Nashville, which has only only one emergency shelter for families, has more than 40 of these 'tent cities'.

Navai meets Michael and Stacey Farley, who have been living in the tent city for six months. Stacey tells Navai that she has been forced to leave her son and daughter with relatives while they both look for work.

Navai and Chassay move on to California, where more and more people are ending up on the streets. California has the highest debt in the USA and many essential services have been cut, including emergency housing assistance. 'Skid Row', which is one square mile of Los Angeles, has as many as 2,000 people sleeping rough every night. It has a reputation for drugs and crime and Navai talks to homeless people who are forced to walk all day to avoid being picked up by the police for loitering.

The US economy is in recovery but many experts believe the most damaging effects have yet to be felt. It's predicted that another 1.5 million people will be forced into homelessness within two years, and in a country with few safety nets, many more people could fall through the cracks.
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 03, 2010 9:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The tunnel people of Las Vegas: How 1,000 live in flooded labyrinth under Sin City's shimmering strip

Deep beneath Vegas’s glittering lights lies a sinister labyrinth inhabited by poisonous spiders and a man nicknamed The Troll who wields an iron bar.

But astonishingly, the 200 miles of flood tunnels are also home to 1,000 people who eke out a living in the strip’s dark underbelly.

Some, like Steven and his girlfriend Kathryn, have furnished their home with considerable care - their 400sq ft 'bungalow' boasts a double bed, a wardrobe and even a bookshelf.

Deeper underground: Steven and Kathryn live in a 400sq ft 'bungalow' under Las Vegas which they have lovingly furnished with other people's castoffs

One man's junk... Tunnel residents have created wardrobes for their clothes and salvaged furniture to make the subterranean world more homely. However, there is little they can do about the water on the floor

House proud: Steven and Kathryn have also compiled their own library - and constructed shelves to house it

They have been there for five years, fashioning a shower out of a water cooler, hanging paintings the walls and collating a library from abandoned books.

Their possessions however, are carefully placed in plastic crates to stop them getting soaked by the noxious water pooling on the floor.

'Our bed came from a skip oustide an apartment complex,' Steven explains. 'It's mainly stuff people dump that we pick up. One man's junk is another man's gold.

‘We get the stuff late at night so people don't see us because it's kind of embarrassing.’

Flood tunnels: Amy lives in the labyrinth with her husband Junior. The couple lost their home after the death of their baby son

Steven was forced into the tunnels three years ago after his heroin addiction led to him losing his job.

He says he is now clean and the pair survive by ‘credit hustling’ in the casinos, donning second-hand clothes to check the slot machines for chips accidently left behind.

Astonishingly, Steven claims he once found $997 (£609) on one machine.

Further into the maze are Amy and Junior who married in the Shalimar Chapel – one of Vegas’s most popular venues - before returning to the tunnels for their honeymoon.

They lost their home when they became addicted to drugs after the death of their son Brady at four months old.

‘I heard Las Vegas was a good place for jobs,’ Amy said. ‘But it was tough and we started living under the staircase outside the MGM casino.

Home comforts: The tunnel people decorate of the homes and even lay scraps of carpet on the concrete floor to make it more comfortable

Graffiti artists have turned this area of the tunnel network into a gallery: The channels stretch for more than 200 miles under the ground

‘Then we met a guy who lived in the tunnels. We’ve been down here ever since.’

Matthew O’Brien, a reporter who stumbled across the tunnel people when he was researching a murder case, has set up The Shine A Light foundation to help.

‘These are normal people of all ages who’ve lost their way, generally after a traumatic event,’ he said.

‘Many are war veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress.

‘It’s not known how many children are living there, as they’re kept out of sight, but I’ve seen evidence of them – toys and teddy bears.’

O’Brien has published a book on the tunnel people called Beneath The Neon.

These evocative images which show the community's astonishing way of life were taken by Austrin Hargrave, a British photographer now based in the U.S.

The show how the destitute and hopeless have constructed a community beneath the city and have even dedicated one section of tunnels to an art gallery filled with intricate graffiti.

Back above ground: The blazing lights of the strip give no indication of the city's dark underbelly

Entrance: The towers and fantastical buildings of Vegas can be seen in the background

Chink of light: Most of the people who live underground have fallen into destitution after struggling with drink, drugs or mental health problems

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 04, 2010 10:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ihhhhhh they should stop spending their money on wars and instead help their citizens...they should curse Obama
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Joined: 29 Apr 2006
Location: FL USA

PostPosted: Fri Nov 05, 2010 1:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have been cursing Obama since before he became President, but unfortunately, he's still our President. ;-(
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