updated 12-18-01


December 18, 2001

New Wave of the Homeless Floods Cities' Shelters

C. J. Gunther for The New York Times
John Swenson, 44, could not find work at home in Hyannis, Mass., where he had helped paint the shelter. Unemployed for the first time in 15 years, he and his son have been staying at a shelter in Warwick, R.I.

Chart: Emergency Shelter Requests

Church Lawsuit Tries to Stop Police From Ejecting Homeless (December 18, 2001)

The History of the City of New York

With unemployment rising and housing costs still high, cities around the country are experiencing a new and sudden wave of homelessness. Shelters are overflowing, and more people this year are sleeping on floors in dingy social service centers, living in cars or spending nights on the streets.

In New York, Boston and other cities, homelessness is at record levels, a consequence of a faltering economy that has crumbled even further after the Sept. 11 attacks.

A survey by the U.S. Conference of Mayors released last week found that requests for emergency shelter in 27 cities had increased an average of 13 percent over last year. The report said the increases were 26 percent in Trenton; 25 percent in Kansas City, Mo.; 22 percent in Chicago; 20 percent in Denver; and 20 percent in New Orleans.

An unusual confluence of factors seems to be responsible for the surge. Housing prices, which soared in the expansion of the 1990's,
have not gone down, even though the economy has tumbled. A stream of layoffs has newly unemployed people taking low-wage jobs that might have otherwise gone to the poor. Benefits for welfare recipients are expiring under government-imposed deadlines. And charitable donations to programs that help the disadvantaged are down considerably, officials around the country said, because of the economy and the outpouring of donations for people affected by Sept. 11.

"This is an unprecedented convergence of calamities," said Xavier De Souza Briggs, an assistant professor of public policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. "It's really a crisis."

More than half the cities surveyed by the mayors' group reported that in the last year people had remained homeless longer, an average of six months.

There is no total number for the homeless nationwide. Experts said it was difficult to compare the situation with statistics in previous decades, because counting methods have improved. Yet, several experts said they believed that the increases reported by cities like Boston and Chicago reflected a national trend.

"My impression is there is more homelessness now than there was 20 years ago," Gary Burtless, an economist at the Brookings Institution, said, adding that he believed that economic factors were not the sole explanation.

"I think that there must be a greater segment of our population that has tenuous connections to family and friends, and therefore has fewer resources to fall back on when something very bad happens like when they lose their job," he said.

An increasing proportion of the homeless are families with children, compared with the chronically homeless who often have serious mental illness or substance abuse problems. Requests for shelter from families with children increased in three-quarters of the cities surveyed. In more than half, families had to be broken up to be accommodated in shelters.

Some newly homeless people have jobs but do not earn enough to allow use of a home. Low-cost housing is so tight that one-third of the vouchers for the Section 8 subsidized-housing program are being returned unused, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Several experts and advocates for the homeless predicted that the number of homeless people would rise in coming months as states and cities, facing budget crises and burdened with security costs, scaled back on financing for housing and other programs that help keep people from becoming homeless, like rent assistance and health care.

A senior policy analyst for the Coalition for the Homeless in New York, Patrick Markee, said: "Now, especially since Sept. 11, we're seeing the recession effect, low-wage workers who were just holding on, messengers, people who work in restaurants turning up at our door. We're going to see it get worse over the next few months."

In Rhode Island, the state is dropping a $5 million housing program from its budget. Yet this month, a crush of homeless people forced the opening of a shelter in an old convent in Warwick, the first new shelter for the homeless in the state in 10 years. This year, 120 families with children have slept on the floor of Travelers Aid, a social service center in Providence that is not a shelter.

In New York, the number of people in shelters, 29,802 as of last month, is the highest ever. According to the Coalition for the Homeless, the number of families in shelters has grown 50 percent in three years, to 6,669, while the percentage of children in shelters has risen 60 percent, to 12,576. Mr. Markee said 1,500 families were being housed in welfare hotels, three times as many as three years ago.

In Boston, officials conducted a census of the homeless on Dec. 10 and found 6,001 homeless people, a record, said Kelley Cronin, director of the Emergency Shelter Commission. Ms. Cronin added that the number of people on the street, 277, was also the highest on record.

Chicago reported in the mayors' survey that the number of people who were homeless or receiving emergency assistance to keep them from becoming homeless had jumped, to 19,421 from 15,682 last year.

In a school district in Sacramento, Liane Ramirez, who works with homeless families, said she had already seen twice as many families living in their cars as she had seen in the previous few years combined.

"We feel like we're seeing a lot more first-time scared-to-death homeless," Ms. Ramirez said. "And we're looking at working homeless, not just welfare homeless."

Some aspects of the problem seem clearly related to the terrorist attacks.

Before Sept. 11, the Boston Rescue Mission, a large shelter, had a $90,000 contract with Delta Air Lines to clean the carpets of its planes. The contract, which the airline had been planning to double, employed 30 homeless people from the shelter, said John Samaan, the president of the mission. After Sept. 11, Delta halved the contract instead, putting one-third of the workers out of work.

In Portland, Ore., the Goose Hollow Family Shelter, the largest family shelter in the city in the winter, usually receives thousands of dollars in donations in September, said Chuck Currie, its director. This year, it received one contribution, for $100.

"I've heard other agencies say contributions have dropped 20 percent to 70 percent," Mr. Currie said.

Programs that provide services to the homeless are also bracing for the state budget cuts.

In Illinois, homeless services are highly likely to be affected by state plans for a $485 million budget cut.

"It's going to send programs like ours into a tailspin," said Diane Nilan, an administrator at a large shelter in Aurora, a Chicago suburb whose shelter has been so crowded that Ms. Nilan has asked for a portable classroom to add space.

In many cities, shelters said they were seeing more people who became homeless after having lost jobs or being priced out of apartments.

In Dallas, Oscar Turner, 52, was laid off from his $8-an-hour job as a Wal-Mart greeter in early October and has been staying at free shelters, unable to afford the small rent that he had paid before. Mr. Turner has looked for work with the city as a crossing guard or maintenance worker, but so far, he said, "it's not going too good."

In Charlotte, N.C., Tyrone Hicklen, 43, was laid off at a party-supply store and has been living in shelters for two months. Unable to find work, he is heading to Kansas to enroll in a truck-driving school.

In Rhode Island, John Swenson, 44, took refuge at the Warwick shelter with his 10-year-old son, Michael, after he could not find work at his home in Hyannis, Mass., and lost a part-time job cooking hamburgers in Warwick.

"It's kind of late in life to be needing something," said Mr. Swenson, unemployed for the first time in 15 years and used to $14-an-hour jobs.

"I knew there were shelters," he said, "and that's part of what kept me out of them. On the Cape, I helped paint the shelter in Hyannis. I went from painting a shelter to being in one."


Published Monday, January 29, 2001

Churches sheltering homeless

Congregation members welcome families off the streets, offer help as visitors start rebuilding their lives

By Andy Jokelson


MORAGA -- Jane Low peeled tiny tangerines at St. Monica's Catholic Church, put them on a platter with bananas and brought the pre-dinner snack to homeless guests spending the week there.

Marietta Kahl helped cook the spaghetti dinner while her husband, Bob, sliced and buttered French bread and sprinkled Parmesan cheese on the loaves.

Low, the Kahls and other volunteers welcomed and fed 10 homeless families, who slept on mattresses on the floor of the church's Fireside Room.

Volunteers also washed the families' laundry, played with the children and helped with their homework. They planned activities and spent considerable time with the 30 visitors, who move today to a Walnut Creek church for their next week of shelter.

Their stay at St. Monica's began Monday as part of a St. Vincent de Paul Society program that rotates homeless families among Central and East County and San Ramon Valley churches and synagogues in the fall, winter and spring.

"It always makes you feel good to be helping somebody else," said Marietta Kahl, a 67-year-old retiree.

"I think it's important to treat them with respect. ... It could be anybody that's homeless," said Kahl, who served salad at Wednesday night's dinner and then ate with some of the guests. Volunteers adorned dinner tables with placemats bearing colorful drawings and welcome messages written by students from the church's religious school.

The homeless visitors expressed appreciation for the hospitality and praised the Family Emergency Resource Services Together program.

"The volunteers have been wonderful," said Marvin Perkins, who spent the week at St. Monica's with his wife, a 15-year-old son and daughters who are 16 and 12.

"I am grateful for this program -- very, very grateful -- because it saved us. I mean, we would be out on the streets," said the soft-spoken, 41-year-old father, who has a heart ailment and diabetes and has spent considerable time in hospitals.

"It's been great for us. It has helped us to get some stability back in our lives," he said.

The family has rotated from church to church since September after staying with relatives in San Jose and then Martinez, and in motels in Concord and Pittsburg. They were evicted from their San Jose home early last year, he said.

He and his wife, Leslie, have $10-an-hour jobs in Concord -- he as a candlemaker, she as a cook. They hope to save enough money to get a rental home of their own this year, he said.

In the meantime, his family and the others staying at St. Monica's rose about 5 a.m. each weekday. They got breakfast and bag lunches from the volunteers, then left about 6:30 a.m. for work, schools, job training or other destinations.

A van operated by Marvin and Leslie Perkins' employer took their children to school in Concord and then dropped the Perkinses at their jobs. In the afternoon, the couple and their children rode buses to the family emergency program base on Monument Boulevard in Concord and then a van back to St. Monica's.

Jennie Little Voice, a 36-year-old American Indian single parent, stayed at St. Monica's with her 12-year-old daughter and three sons, ages 8, 6 and 4. She said she has been unemployed for four months and homeless for about six months.

Before coming to the program this month, her family stayed in a Hayward shelter after being evicted from an Oakland apartment building during a dispute with the landlord, she said.

Little Voice said she is brushing up on her computer and office skills in a Concord adult education program in hope of landing work, getting off welfare and getting a permanent home.

"Basically, I just want a chance," she said.

Volunteers at the church kept protective eyes on her energetic sons, played with them and helped them work on writing and reading assignments for school before dinner. Her sons' grades have suffered in their frequent moves from school to school, Little Voice said.

Susan Gindy, a parishioner and director of children's faith formation at the church, helped Little Voice's 8-year-old son, then showed her sentences that he had written.

"And then we went over the words," Gindy told Little Voice, pointing out that he forgets the "h" in spelling "school."

Parishioner Philip Henningsen came to St. Monica's on Wednesday night to clear tables after dinner and wash dishes. His daughters, Sarah, 10, and Erika, 8, helped make Thursday's lunches.

"If families can be together and have a warm bed and a hot meal, hopefully everybody's lives can be better," he said.

Sixty-four interfaith organizations, most of them churches, participate in the program, which aims at helping homeless families move toward self-sufficiency. A host church provides the food for its guests.

The program, which began in 1997, includes parenting classes and provides case managers who develop service plans geared to each family's needs. It sheltered 211 people in 69 families in its 1999-2000 season, which ran from September to May, according to the St. Vincent de Paul Society.

"About 90 percent of the parents have jobs that they go to during the week," said Shirley Krieg, who supervises the shelter program.

Sabrina Rumbold, a single mother with twin 5-year-old daughters and a 9-year-old son, rotated with them from church to church from September until December, when she began leasing a Concord condominium.

Rumbold, 32, began her current job as a custodian in September and stayed in the shelter program until she had saved enough money to be able to start paying rent. The family emergency program helped teach her to save and spend more wisely, she said.

"I've never been treated so awesome in all of my life. ... It is really incredible," she said. "It gave you a really positive outlook."

Monday January 29 2:14 AM ET

Hospitals, Churches Energy Costs Up

By DEE-ANN DURBIN, Associated Press Writer

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Soaring energy bills are eating deeply into the budgets of schools, hospitals, churches and homeless shelters across the country, forcing them to look for increasingly hard-to-find ways to tighten their belts.

``It will come out of the hides, so to speak, of the kids,'' says Don Tharpe of the Association of School Business Officials. Unlike businesses, he notes, schools can't raise the prices on their product to make up for higher costs.

Many hospitals need to pass their heating costs along to patients, although that's not always possible because hospitals get fixed reimbursements from Medicaid and Medicare for many patients, said George Quinn, a spokesman for the Wisconsin Health and Hospital Association.

``If your costs go above what you budgeted, you aren't able to recoup that from government payers, so there will be some passing along to patients who can pay,'' he said. ``It has to come from somewhere.''

Gas companies blame the prices they are charging on the cost of wholesale natural gas, which has quadrupled over the last year. High demand intensified by cold weather has contributed to the problem. The leap in natural gas prices coupled with a shortage of hydroelectric power in the Northwest also has contributed to California's energy crisis.

The high price of energy doesn't leave much to go around for anyone.

``Just today, someone told me a chair broke, but we're not going to go out and buy another chair. We just can't be spending money on things like that,'' said David Williams, operations director at the Michigan Humane Society, whose cost to keep animal shelters warm is approaching $4,600 a month.

There are blankets on the pews for worshippers at Dimondale United Methodist Church near Lansing. Like many churches, Dimondale heats the sanctuary only for services. But it still pays $600 per month for heat, Pastor Lillian French said.

``That's $600 out of an already tight ministry,'' she said.

Lansing's Sparrow Hospital will spend an estimated $140,805 on January's heating bill, up from $32,940 in January 2000, spokeswoman Lorri Rishar said.

The hospital has few ways to trim that bill, Rishar says. Specialized areas such as nurseries must be kept at higher temperatures, for example.

So far, the hospital is absorbing the cost with emergency funds and hasn't had to pass it along to patients, Rishar says.

``We're just hoping it warms up the rest of the winter,'' she added.

Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis paid $71,000 for natural gas heat last January, said Bob Hallman, maintenance manager for the 580-bed hospital. This January, he said, the hospital switched to its backup oil heating system and saved about $120,000 - but will still pay nearly $140,000 for heat.

``I don't know that anybody saw it coming. I certainly didn't budget for these types of dollars,'' Hallman said.

Schools also need to maintain a warm environment.

Just north of the Colorado-New Mexico state line, Trinidad's School District 1 says it may have to cut student programs. This winter's heating bills are $25,000 to $30,000 higher per month than the budget for the 1,600-student district allowed, Superintendent David VanSant said.

Many homeless shelters in Massachusetts are limiting food and other basic provisions because heating costs are so high, said Philip Mangano, executive director of the 75-member Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance.

Heat just isn't one of the things that can be sacrificed, Mangano said.

``For very vulnerable people, the feeling of safety and security is often tied up with the notion of warmth,'' he said. ``Keeping the environment warm for the temporarily lodged is a very important part of the service that's provided.''

Sister Connie Driscoll knows that all too well. She leads the Chicago Task Force on Homelessness and runs a shelter for 120 women and children on the city's South Side. She has paid a fixed price for heat under an agreement with her local parish, but already has been warned that the price will skyrocket when she renegotiates this summer.

``We're all sitting on pins and needles wondering what's going to hit us,'' she said.

On the Net:

Association of School Business Officials: http://www.asbointl.org

Wisconsin Health and Hospital Association: http://www.wha.org

Copyright © 2001 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Indianapolis Star | WRTV TheIndyChannel.com

Sunday January 28 08:00 AM EST

No sheltered live

By Celeste Williams

Misty Hammons was trying. She was trying not to be homeless, she was trying not to be desperate. She was both.

Misty, 22, the mother of a toddler, was pregnant again.

"The baby keeps me warm," she said one snowy morning while waiting for a bus in the gathering whiteness. Misty pulled her coat around her five-months-along belly -- it barely reached -- then cupped a hand around a flame to light a Newport.

Exhaling a cloud of smoke mingled with the vapor of her breath, Misty said she was trying to not smoke so much.

But tobacco paled against the darkness of Misty's life: alcoholic mother, absent father, sporadic school attendance, petty crime, marijuana use, almost four years in the Indiana Girls School. Three pregnancies, one miscarriage. Lost jobs. Poverty. Evictions.

And her daughter, Deja. The 3-year-old had known only that home is something temporary.

Misty is one of more than 100 women served last year by the Indianapolis Homeless Initiative Program prenatal team.

Misty's story is not unusual. The team is working with 52 pregnant women. No one knows for sure how many more women in Indianapolis find themselves with child and without shelter..

While the number of homeless, pregnant women is not officially known, each of eight local shelters for women reported at least two pregnancies among their guests on a single day last week, and many more with infants and small children.

A recent study by the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention estimated that of more than 3,500 homeless people in the city on any given night, more than one-third are female, with another third children and youths.

National studies have shown that even in this time of relative plenty, the number of families seeking shelter has grown. Some say welfare reform could be a culprit. As families reach time limits, they may find themselves without life's basics. One crisis can send them into intractable debt and homelessness.

Felicia Chism-Bates, a case manager with HIP, first encountered Misty about four months ago, after she was evicted. "She was hitting and missing, staying with friends and family." Chism-Bates said. "She was rather down."

Help for homeless

Misty sat on the cold metal pipe in the bus shelter. Another regular rider said the pipe, obviously unfit to recline on, is meant to "keep the homeless out."

"Homeless" was not a word Misty applied to herself.

"Even if it has been a different place every day, which it has been, I would never sleep on the street. I have never had to do that, thank God."

The only reason Misty was not on the street was the Homeless Initiative Program and the benevolence of the church-based Interfaith Hospitality Network, which sheltered her and her daughter for three months.

The Interfaith program, based at Central Avenue United Methodist Church on the Near Northside, moves its overnight shelter once a week to a different church in the 28-congregation network.

The nomadic life is a difficult existence long-term.

Portia Radford, the program's director, is aware of that reality. "Our whole focus is to step in and fill a gap," she said. "Misty is young . . . and she is trying."

Like Misty, the women served by the Homeless Initiative Program prenatal team are young. Almost half are between 20 and 25 years old. Most are single, some impregnated by men decades their senior.

Their problems range from getting birth control to the most daunting: domestic abuse, sexual abuse, mental illness and drug addiction.

Serving more than 4,000 homeless people a year with a staff of 36, the Homeless Initiative is part of HealthNet, a group of clinics offering care based on ability to pay. Most of the homeless program's $1.5 million budget is funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Helping the acutely desperate women and ensuring their children are born healthy are the most challenging tasks, not to mention helping them find jobs, affordable housing and child care, said HIP Executive Director Ralph Dowe.

It is likely the prenatal team has missed some. For some homeless women, the first time they see a doctor is when they show up at an emergency room in labor.

Misty missed two prenatal appointments since she showed up at the homeless program. In the chaos of her life, they didn't register as a priority.

No time for blame

After leaving a bundled Deja with a baby sitter, Misty rode the bus for hours in a December snowstorm to gather documents -- birth certificates, welfare records, Social Security verifications -- that she needed to apply for temporary housing through Eastside Community Investments.

She took the day off from her part-time, $6.50-an-hour job at a Rally's hamburger stand to run the errands. Two dollars gave her an all-day bus pass. It's not an insignificant amount for Misty, who also gets $229 a month in welfare for her child. (She does express some guilt about her nicotine habit, which takes money to support.) If accepted in the housing program, a third of her monthly income would go toward the government-subsidized rent.

Misty discovered that she was one of six applicants for two openings. She could only hope her desperation would count for something.

During the bus journey that took most of the day, Misty pointed at a poster overhead, noting that the eyes of the baby shared the same bright, earnest gaze as Deja's. She said nothing about the message accompanying the photograph: "Too many babies die in our neighborhood. Get prenatal care."

Misty doesn't analyze her predicament. But her words suggest she conceived in a quest for love. Motherhood -- perhaps an unintended side effect.

Dr. Tom Ledyard, the homeless initiative's medical director, never asks why. Guilt, he said, is never a part of his treatment of homeless mothers-to-be.

"This is a life turned upside-down," said Ledyard, who makes the rounds weekly at Indianapolis shelters. "I use a lot of education. I try to build a relationship and let them know they should take care of themselves so that they can take care of another person."

Dowe said that when the prenatal team started six years ago, babies born to homeless women averaged 5.5 pounds at birth. The average weight now is nearly 7 pounds.

A 1999 report by the Better Homes Fund, a national nonprofit research and advocacy group based in Newton, Mass., ranks Indiana in the bottom 20 of the 50 states for children in danger of becoming homeless.

The report also shows that nationally, social service systems are ill-equipped to aid homeless women and children, said Ellen Bassuk, associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Better Homes Fund president and co-founder.

Families compose 40 percent of the nation's homeless, she said, adding, "If you are homeless and pregnant, you have a big problem."

In an introduction to the report, Bassuk wrote of the roots of such dire straits: "The path to homelessness for a woman and her children can be long, sometimes beginning in her own childhood, when experiences of foster care, violence or abuse set the stage for difficulties. . . . The effects can be devastating, severely compounding the already daunting challenges of holding a job and managing a family."

That could be the foreword to Misty's life story.

An inherited cycle

Her long, brown hair, often pulled into a doubled-under ponytail, frames a round face still bearing a teen-ager's imperfect complexion. In the sweet, soprano voice of a little girl, she recounted experiences octaves beyond her youth.

Growing up, "normal" had a different meaning for Misty. Her mother, an alcoholic with a family history of alcoholism, transferred the sadness of her own troubled early life to her children.

In her innocence, Misty did not blame her mother. "It's just that I wanted to go out and party and do what I wanted to do."

Misty and her brother were removed by child welfare authorities and lived in foster care and with other relatives for as long as a year.

With her mother's continued sobriety in question, Misty spiraled out of control and ended up in juvenile lockup for offenses ranging from theft to marijuana possession.

The Girls School, renamed the Indianapolis Juvenile Correctional Facility, became Misty's second home. "I would go and be there for a year and get out and be out for a month or two, then go right back, be in for six months, get out for another two months, then be in for another nine months," she said.

Misty's mother, Teresa Driver, 42, did not dispute her daughter's accounts, and even admitted that in the worst of times, they drank and smoked marijuana together. But in reaction to Misty's tales of a less-than-perfect childhood, Driver replied, "It wasn't as bad as mine.

"I lived in children's homes and foster homes all my life. It was hard. It was real hard for me."

The cycle is like a family tradition.

"I don't think she neglected us," Misty said of her mother. "I think she was a very good mom."

Misty and Deja spent Christmas weekend at Driver's home. Driver announced her engagement to her live-in boyfriend on Christmas.

After the three-day holiday, Misty and Deja returned to the shelter.

"They're doing a lot more for her than I could," Driver said. "At least she's not on the street."

Despite her own mother's struggles, Misty's caseworkers say Misty is doing well in her own by-ear parenting of Deja.

As they waited for a bus, Misty watched as Deja attempted to eject some orange Tic Tacs from a container with a gloved hand, and they rolled out like seeds onto the concrete at the bus shelter.

Stability has slipped through Misty's fingers.

Deja's father is addicted to drugs and was abusive, Misty said. When Deja asks where he is, Misty said she replies that the man, who has given Deja her curly hair, honey-brown complexion and the last name of Marsh, is "lost."

Misty said she is confident that her new baby's father, even though they are not together, will "be a real father." She hopes the baby, due in April, is a boy.

Second family, second chance

The Homeless Initiative Program has become like the supportive family Misty never had. She craves even their nagging attention. She finally agreed to show up, with their company, at a prenatal exam.

While riding down an elevator after the appointment, Misty turned to her caseworkers who drove her to the appointment and said, "I feel so special!" (Later in the parking lot, one of them scolded Misty for lighting a cigarette.)

Counselors at the Homeless Initiative helped Misty understand the problems she faces and find ways out. David Richardson, director of the employment readiness program, said it takes a while to move a homeless person from "I just need a job" to a plan for living.

The problem isn't just landing a job, it's transportation, suitable clothing, an address -- issues that affect one another. "When you are homeless, everything becomes more difficult."

Richardson noted some qualities in Misty's favor: She has her GED, she is motivated, and she knows a second language, since she learned sign language from a deaf former boyfriend.

Fear can be a formidable obstacle, said HIP case manager Chism-Bates.

"If you are pulled out of what you are used to, no matter how bad, that can be really scary. She (Misty) knows there is a different life -- she just doesn't know how to reach it.

"But she's not at the end of the story."

Sometimes the counselors' method is simple encouragement. Loretta Dalton, medical assistant with the prenatal team, has challenged Misty to keep track of how many times she has not smoked. Every missed cigarette is another bonus for her unborn child.

"My goal is to try to accommodate her immediate needs and be a mentor to encourage her," Dalton said.

One of those immediate needs is shelter.

The housing program Misty applied for provides a home for two years, counseling and classes in life skills, including budgeting and parenting. There are also strict rules and random drug screenings.

In the face of all her problems, Misty's maternal instincts are strong, Chism-Bates said. Just five months ago, Misty was dispirited enough to consider giving up Deja. "She felt she wasn't a good mother. She wanted Deja to have a better life, a better life than she had."

The caseworkers got through to Misty.

"I didn't give her up, and I stuck it out," Misty said. "I got discouraged a little bit since then, but I have faith and trust in myself."

The same day Misty gazed at a murky ultrasound photograph of the child inside her, she learned she was accepted in the Eastside housing program.

Her homeless days were numbered.

"I tried not to cry," she said.

Almost two weeks ago, Misty spent her first night in the empty three-bedroom duplex, huddled on a narrow rollaway bed, cradling her daughter. Since then, she's acquired a used sofa and chair, and a small television. Her mother gave her Humpty Dumpty salt and pepper shakers, which have a place on the stovetop.

Faith in her future

During the good economic times of the past decade, Bassuk said, Americans may have developed "compassion fatigue. "But the 'recession' word is hiding behind the headlines now," she said. Lean times could refocus attention on the needy.

"The tragedy is that we can fix this," Bassuk said of the problems homeless women and families confront.

For the first time, Misty could see an end to her problems. Her dreams were no longer fantasies.

"I just want a happy family, maybe a house with a big yard for my kids," she said wistfully, if a little tentatively, as the bus lurched through the slushy streets.

"I want to be there when they come home from school to help them with their homework," she said, continuing her dreamscape. "I want my kids to grow up and be happy.

"This is a point in my life where maybe it's starting to get better," she said. "I'm kind of tired, but I have more faith. I think we'll make it. It has always worked out, somehow."

Misty is trying.

Contact Celeste Williams at (317) 444-6367 or via e-mail< at celeste.williams@starnews.com

Copyright 2001 Indiana Newspapers Inc.

Copyright © 2001 Yahoo!, The Indianapolis Star and KnightRidder.com. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday January 27, 2001

Tourist's Death Rattles Hawaii

By JEAN CHRISTENSEN, Associated Press Writer

HONOLULU (AP) - Winter-weary Canadians have long been loyal customers of Hawaii's $12 billion tourism industry, happily exchanging snow for sandy beaches and balmy sea breezes.

But a deadly attack on a visitor from the Toronto area has rattled guests and hosts alike in this state where violent crime is rare.

Shortly after Norman Chaplan, 81, of Richmond Hill, Ontario, arrived at a Waikiki hotel with a tour group Tuesday, he was struck several times on the head with a rock in a hotel lobby restroom. The attacker fled with Chaplan's wallet, and Chaplan died two days later.

``These sorts of things don't happen with any kind of regularity in Hawaii and when they do occur it's that much more shocking,'' said Paul Perrone, chief of research and statistics in the state Department of the Attorney General.

Hawaii's violent crime rate ranks 44th among the 50 states, although its property crime rate is the eighth highest, University of Hawaii criminologist Meda Chesney-Lind said.

``Most people who are victimized here as tourists, it's property that's taken from a rental car,'' Chesney-Lind said.

That the attack was on a Canadian makes it even more unusual.

``We're more like a Canadian city than most other major cities that Canadians would visit,'' Chesney-Lind said. ``We're generally very safe.''

``I am extremely saddened that someone who came to enjoy our beautiful islands would have come to such grievous harm,'' Gov. Ben Cayetano said Friday. ``It is a great shock to have a visitor so brutally attacked here.''

The day Chaplan died, Mayor Jeremy Harris had proclaimed Honolulu ``the safest city of its size in the United States'' in his state-of-the-city address. Honolulu was listed as the least violent of the nation's 20 largest cities in the FBI's 1998 Uniform Crime Reports; in 2000, it had 24 murders.

The day after the attack on Chaplan, Steven M. Hauge, 43, identified by police as a homeless career criminal, was arrested and now faces charges that could include murder. He also was being held on kidnapping and robbery charges in another case.

Hawaiians have responded with an outpouring of sympathy and financial assistance for Chaplan's family.

A fund was established at the Bank of Hawaii and the Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii has been providing the family with day-to-day needs.

``The community has really pulled together on this one,'' said Rika Ikeda, the society's president. The society, supported by a state grant, helps tourists who are victims of accidents or crimes.

With tourism generating a third of Hawaii's gross product and a third of its jobs, there is a clear financial incentive for the industry to dispel any notions that Hawaii is an unsafe destination.

But Ikeda said money isn't what's motivating the public.

``I know we're considered a big city, but in a sense it really has a small town flavor where people pull together and have really big hearts, and that's what we call the aloha spirit,'' she said.

Jonathan Chaplan, 42, the victim's son, made note of that Friday.

``My mother and I would like to thank the people of Honolulu who have shown us so much sympathy,'' he said. ``We will always remember the kindness and help that was offered to us at every turn.''

Copyright © 2001 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

HUD: Most Homeless Have Suffered Hardships

.c The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (Dec. 8, 99) - Most homeless people have suffered severe hardships such as abuse, disability or disease, but are able to escape homelessness when they get help, according to a government report.

The report released today by Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo found that the top priority of homeless people surveyed was to get a job and that 44 percent of them had worked at least part-time during the previous month.

``Homeless people are locked out of America's prosperity, but we have the key that can let them in,'' Cuomo said in a statement accompanying release of the report. ``Assistance programs can replace the nightmare of homelessness with the American Dream of a better future.''

The study, financed by 12 federal agencies, was described by Cuomo as the most comprehensive study ever of homelessness in America. It was based on interviews completed in 1996 with 4,207 people, most of them homeless. The others were clients of assistance programs such as soup kitchens.

The data, which also included information from representatives of 11,909 programs that serve the homeless, was collected by the Census Bureau and the report was prepared by the Urban Institute.

It found that 60 percent of the homeless living alone and 76 percent of those living in families were able to leave shelters for permanent housing when they received needed services, including housing subsidies, health care, substance-abuse treatment, education and job training.

The study concludes that two-thirds of the homeless suffered from chronic or infectious diseases, not counting AIDS, 55 percent lacked health insurance and 39 percent had signs of mental illness.

Among other findings:

25 percent reported childhood physical or sexual abuse, 33 percent reported running away from home and 27 percent reported a childhood history of foster care or institutional placement.

40 percent went without food one or more days in the previous month because they couldn't afford food; single homeless reported a mean income of $348 a month, families a mean income of $475 a month.

38 percent had less than a high school diploma.

33 percent of homeless men were military veterans.

27 percent said they were physically assaulted after becoming homeless.

AP-NY-12-08-99 0513EDT


December 8, 1999

Homeless Are Impoverished and Ill, Survey Finds


A sweeping national study of homeless people served by shelters, soup kitchens and other programs has found that almost half were in their first episode of homelessness, 44 percent had worked at least part time in the previous month and 42 percent said that what they needed more than anything was help finding a job.

But the study, being released today and based on Census Bureau surveys in 1995 and 1996 and the most comprehensive study of homelessness ever, also found that over all, the homeless were deeply impoverished and most were ill. Two-thirds were suffering from chronic or infectious diseases, not counting AIDS, 55 percent lacked health insurance, and 39 percent had signs of mental illness. Twenty-seven percent reported a childhood history of foster care or institutional placement.

"This is a definitive description of what we're dealing with when we talk about the quote, unquote, homeless," Andrew M. Cuomo, secretary of Housing and Urban Development, said yesterday in discussing the study, which was based on interviews with 12,000 service providers and 4,000 homeless clients.

"There is no simple solution."

Despite their handicaps, 60 percent of the homeless living alone and 76 percent of those living in families successfully left shelters for permanent housing when they received the services they needed, including housing subsidies, health care, substance-abuse treatment, education and job training, according to the study's surveys of representatives of about 40,000 programs that serve the homeless nationwide.

While the study did not offer an estimate of the overall homeless population, its 600 pages of statistics included figures showing that an estimated 470,000 homeless people sheltered on an average night in February 1996 were only a quarter of the people who were homeless at any one time during the year.

The previous national survey, done in 1987, estimated the number of homeless people, including those in the streets, at 500,000 to 600,000 on any night.

The study took three years to complete because it required the collection and analysis of an extraordinary amount of data and involved 12 federal agencies, officials said.

Experts on homelessness, including Martha Burt, the director of social service research at the Urban Institute, which prepared the report to be released by housing department today, cautioned that like any point-in-time snapshot this survey over-represented the more chronically homeless, who were more likely to be mentally ill or addicted to drugs, and under-represented the people who became homeless sporadically for economic reasons.

"They are bookends," Cuomo agreed. "You have a pent-up need for affordable housing and you have populations with underlying problems. They are both driving the system."

At a time when cities are using law enforcement to try to move homeless people out of public places, Cuomo added, the study underlines that punitive ordinances and police crackdowns will not work.

"You need outreach to get people off the street -- not a police officer with handcuffs," he said. "You need transitional services as a second step, and then by definition you need the third step, which is permanent housing."

Among the surprises in the study was that while New York, Los Angeles and other larger cities provided the most beds for the homeless, they helped a smaller portion of their poor residents than some smaller cities like Minneapolis, San Francisco and St. Louis.

Despite the booming economy, Ms. Burt said, there is no reason to believe the picture drawn by the study has changed significantly. The poverty rate remains almost the same, and other Housing Department studies show that rising rents and a steep decline in housing subsidies have left 5.3 million poor families in housing that was unaffordable or severely substandard, a record number.

"The economy is better but we are also cutting way back on the safety net," Ms. Burt said. "This is poverty-related as well as disability-related. Lots of people have problems; we have alcoholic senators -- they're not homeless."

Homeless people are among the poorest in the nation, with incomes averaging half the federal poverty level. Forty percent of those surveyed said they went without food one or more days in the previous month, compared with 3 percent of other poor Americans. Almost a third of homeless clients surveyed said they had slept on the streets or in other places not meant for habitation within the week before the survey. Yet, those in central cities were better off than their counterparts surveyed in 1987, mainly because they were more likely to have government benefits like public assistance and food stamps.

"The fact that most of these folks don't have Medicaid is a pretty damning statistic," said Dennis P. Culhane, a professor of social welfare policy at the University of Pennsylvania.

The rates of mental illness were unchanged since the 1987 survey, a fact, Culhane added, that suggests known solutions to the homelessness of the disabled -- treatment and supportive, permanent housing -- are not being fully used.

The survey shows the strengths of the expanded system of homeless services, largely provided by nonprofit and religious-based charities financed by the government, Culhane said, but also shows the limits of that approach.

Exploring the suspicion in many towns that the homeless come from somewhere else, the study found that 29 percent of homeless families and 46 percent of single homeless clients said they were not living in the same place where they became homeless. In all cases, Ms. Burt said, they had moved from a smaller to larger places.

Major reasons included the lack of jobs and affordable housing in the place they left, and the presence of relatives or friends and job possibilities in the city where they were interviewed, as well as the availability of shelters and other services.

Serious childhood traumas were common among the homeless people surveyed, the study found, with 25 percent reporting childhood abuse, 33 percent having run away from home and 21 percent having experienced homelessness as children.

"I think what you also see in this report is the failure of our primary, early intervention system," Cuomo said. "You are creating tomorrow's homeless today."

Copyright 1999 The New York Times Company


Social workers say homeless are dying

November 25, 1999

TORONTO, (UPI) A group of social workers demonstrated in Toronto on Thursday to draw attention to the rising number of deaths among homeless people.

The Toronto Disaster Relief Committee, a group that provides health care services homeless people, said 30 people have died in the streets of Canada's largest city in the past 10 weeks.

They said five of the deaths occurred in the last two weeks alone.

The demonstration came less than two weeks after police in riot gear clashed with a group of some 300 anti-poverty protesters near the Parliament building in Ottawa.

Anti-poverty groups have been urging the federal government to spend more money out of its mounting budget surplus to provide low-cost housing for the poor.

Labor Minister Claudette Bradshaw, who was made responsible in August for looking into the problems of the homeless, said her immediate concern was to provide sufficient shelters for the homeless during the coming winter.

Bradshaw said she has toured the country and will present the federal government with her plan shortly.

The demonstrators in Toronto said homeless people were dying in the streets while waiting for the government to act.

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