6 Months’ Have Passed Since Renters’ Day LA, Still No Government Action

Posted in press release with tags , on October 22, 2014 by Cangress

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Mike Dennis
626-824-6797
mdennis@elacc.org

SIX months HAVE PASSED SINCE THE birth of the Renters’ Day LA movement

Yet no substantive government action resulted and Los Angeles’ housing affordability crisis is predicted to get worse

Los Angeles, CA – Amidst perhaps the most severe housing crisis in the history of Los Angeles, LA renters converged on Los Angeles City Hall exactly six months ago seeking the recognition of April 23rd as “Renters’ Day LA.” Championing their cause, Councilmember Gil Cedillo introduced a symbolic declaration that day, establishing April 23rd as a day to recognize the significant contributions of renters to the LA economy and voice support of renters’ grievances.

Beyond the pursuit of a holiday of recognition, the Renters’ Day LA movement sought to establish April 23rd as a call to action, to city councilmembers and renters alike, and an annual marker of progress in the implementation of legislative solutions to the city’s housing crisis that both preserve existing affordable housing and prioritize funding for the creation of new affordable units. “We will fight until every woman, man and child has a safe, healthy and affordable home in which to live. We are here to invite our government to enter into partnership with us, the renters, to make this dream a reality and we insist that in one years’ time, on the second Renters’ Day LA, that there will have been great steps taken towards our goal,” proclaimed Watts resident Lorena Garcia through the cheers of her fellow renters. However, instead of the “great steps” imagined by Garcia, renters have been hit by a steady stream of academic reports and forecasts of continued and unprecedented rent increases followed by a resounding silence from City Hall.

In its July 2014 study, Impacts of the Widening Divide: Los Angeles at the Forefront of the Rent Burden Crisis, the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs demonstrates how “rent burdens have been severe for low-income renters since the 1970’s” and that “Los Angeles consistently exceeds the nation in both the share of renters burdened and the severity of the burden.” The report concludes that Los Angeles is the most unaffordable rental market in the country, and proposes that simultaneous to increasing minimum wages, “affordable housing production and preservation needs to accelerate.” In October, USC’s Lusk Center for Real Estate predicted that over the next two years the cost of the average apartment in LA County will grow over 8%. Despite these warnings by the City’s two most prestigious universities, LA City Councilmembers remain apathetic to a problem they have the tools to address. Undeterred, the Renters’ Day LA groups will continue to mobilize renters and would-be renters from every corner of the city until we move our legislators towards policies that accelerate the preservation and production of affordable housing, the very recommendations proposed for years by renters and with the added legitimacy of our academic institutions.

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Skid Row Residents and Orgs. Sue DTLA BID and City of LA for Unlawful Seizure of Property

Posted in press release with tags , , , , , on September 22, 2014 by Cangress
Skid Row Residents and Organizations Sue DTLA BID and City of LAW for Unlawful Seizure of Property

LOS ANGELES, CA (September 19, 2014)—Los Angeles Catholic Worker, Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA CAN), Harry James Jones, Louis Grady, Lloyd Hinkle and Walter Shoaf filed a lawsuit in federal court today against the Los Angeles Downtown Industrial District Business Improvement District (LADID), Central City East Association (CCEA), and the City of Los Angeles to stop the LADID and City from seizing the personal property of homeless individuals on Skid Row, in violation of their constitutional rights.  They are represented by the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA) and Schonbrun DeSimone Seplow Harris and Hoffman, LLP.

The City of Los Angeles is already under a federal court injunction prohibiting it from seizing property that is not abandoned, an immediate threat to health or safety, or evidence of a crime. Despite the injunction, LADID’s cadre of public safety officers in red shirts continue to take unattended property from homeless people living on the streets of Skid Row.

The seizures at issue are separate from street cleaning by the City and are not part of an organized maintenance schedule.  Instead, BID officers take people’s property without any notice – with seizures often occurring during times that officers know that homeless individuals are receiving services or eating at area missions. People step away from their property for often only minutes at a time to get a meal, go to a medical appointment, or even use the rest room.   When they return, all of their worldly possessions, including tents, bedding, and warm clothing, are gone—taken by truck to a location at the edge of the district.  The location is hard to reach and a far distance for people to transport property back to the places they regularly sleep, particularly without the assistance of the trucks that took the property away.  These seizures serve no purpose other than to make life even harder for homeless residents in Skid Row.

Last year, Harry James Jones, a disabled Vietnam War veteran, neatly packed up all his belongings including his identification card, his life-saving medication, tent, and clothing.  Same as every day, he went to get some food.  While he was gone, LADID officers took all of his property.  They left no receipt for him to retrieve the property when he got back. “I was only gone for a little while.  When I came back, all of my things were gone,” said Mr. Jones. “I had no way to know the Red Shirts would take my things when I was gone.  I didn’t have my medicine for weeks, and I didn’t have my ID to get a refill. I got very sick and wound up in the hospital.”

Lloyd Hinkle, another Vietnam War veteran, had similarly neatly packed his property, and a neighbor was watching over it while he went to eat. LADID officers, with the assistance of the LAPD, seized his belongings, despite being told they were not abandoned by both Hinkle’s neighbor and members of LA CAN, who videotaped the incident.  LAPD officers prevented witnesses and members and staff of LA CAN from intervening to stop the LADID officers from taking Mr. Hinkle’s belongings.  The LAPD officer insisted that BID officers were doing their jobs and that she and the officers were only taking abandoned property, even as LA CAN members insisted that the owner of the property was nearby. Mr. Hinkle was unable to predict the seizure, and he has no way of knowing when they will come for his property again. “Since they took my stuff, I’m less willing to leave, even to get a meal or see the doctor,” said Mr. Hinkle.  “I don’t want to risk the red shirts coming and taking my stuff again.”

Plaintiff Los Angeles Catholic Worker (LACW) distributes shopping carts to homeless people in Skid Row.  The carts are given to people so they can store their belongings and also use the carts to assist them in moving their property from one location to another.  LACW also provides meals, toiletries, and foot care to hundreds of homeless people in Skid Row every year.  “Because of ill-fitting shoes and poor foot care and the challenges of being homeless, so many people on the Row have problems just walking and getting around.  The carts not only give people a place to put their things, but they also help many people just walk down the street,” said Catherine Morris, one of the group’s organizers. “The BID’s constant taking of people’s things and our carts make it harder for people to live on the street and harder for us to do our work.”

Media Contacts:
Jeff Dietrich, Los Angeles Catholic Worker, 323-267-8789 or 310-627-7308
Becky Dennison, Los Angeles Community Action Network, 213-840-4664
Shayla Myers, Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, 213-640-3983
Fernando Gaytan, Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, 213-640-3831
Catherine Sweetser, Schonbrun Desimone Seplow Harris & Hoffman, LLP., 310-396-0731

Spanish speakers available upon request.

The September/October 2014 Community Connection is NOW AVAILABLE!

Posted in community connection on September 17, 2014 by Cangress

Cover.CC.SeptOct2014

Click HERE to read the September/October 2014 Community Connection.

Click HERE to download a high-resolution PDF version.

Post-Operation Healthy Streets with Councilmember Jose Huizar

Posted in civil rights, human & civil rights, video with tags , , , , , on August 29, 2014 by Cangress

Much has been made of Councilmember Jose Huizar’s Operation Healthy Streets. And the plan SOUNDS good on camera – cleaning streets and connecting homeless residents in Skid Row to services and housing via street outreach (an idea that Huizar suggests has “never been done before”). However, when the cameras are shut off and you try to get into the details of what kind of “housing” will be made available, then the answers and talking points don’t sound so polished.

Also, homeless outreach as a strategy has been done (and done well) by many groups across the city for years.The real issue is not outreach, but the lack of sufficient services and complete lack of housing!

Chief Beck Reappointment: LA CAN Opposition Testimony

Posted in LAPD, Media Advisory, organizing with tags , , , on August 12, 2014 by Cangress

As the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners stand poised to reappoint Chief Charlie Beck community residents, members of the rank and file and social organizations stand poised to reject the same. After guest appearances by MARÍA ELENA DURAZO Executive Secretary-Treasurer Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO and Councilmember Tom Labonge (both showering Beck with praise and votes of confidence) other voices, mostly in opposition, rendering their votes of no confidence.

Here is a sample of LA CAN testimony:

“Horse trading, sexting, nepotism, saving racist and abusive employees, lying on camera, bribery…and so on and so forth define Chief Beck’s leadership. It sounds like an episode of 90210, TMZ, or Dallas but alas, once again, its #MyLAPD.

Leadership is defined  by doing what’s right even when its unpopular; not by doing what’s wrong just because it is popular.

To retain Chief Beck simply legitimizes illegal behavior, not bad behavior, illegal behavior and reinforces the idea and culture that the rank and file are above any obligation to follow rules or the rule of law. It’s exactly that mentality/reality which fuels profiling, extreme use-of-force, Rampart Scandals, Consent Decrees, social rebellion and huge, never ending, lawsuit payouts.

In reality Beck has proven his inability to lead this department; that he can never be ready for prime time; and,  that he remains entrenched in Darryl Gates Era “good ole boyism!” That his style of leadership leads to internal  and external turmoil.

In reality this moment has nothing to do with Beck but everything to do with you (commissioners) as the face and voice of the public. Your “Yes” vote means that you co-sign the steadfast decline to darker days; that your leadership is about something other than the needs of Angelenos; that this system is a mockery.

Beck, real leadership insists that you withdraw your name for consideration. Commissioners, leadership demands you resign your post if Beck is reappointed.

The 2013 Downtown Women’s Needs Assessment Report is OUT!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on August 5, 2014 by Cangress

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The 2013 Downtown Women’s Needs Assessment report is out! The Downtown Women’s Action Coalition (DWAC) surveyed over 300 women in Skid Row and the report highlights trends and needs of this population. Check out the report and DWAC’s recommendations and solutions to the issues facing our community!

For more information and updates, please LIKE the DWAC Facebook page!

Needs Assessment launch-release flyer (2)

 

 

WRAP Op-Ed in SF Chronicle: “Change heartless rules to house homeless families”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on July 29, 2014 by Cangress

An Op-Ed in the San Francisco Chronicle from our friend and ally Paul Boden over at the Western Regional Advocacy Project.

Change heartless rules to house homeless families
by Paul Boden

What kind of a mean, coldhearted, even sadistic homeless service provider would tell a family of three or four or five living in a single-room-occupancy hotel, or “illegally” sleeping on the floor of a friend’s apartment: “You aren’t homeless enough – you’re just poorly housed. Go sleep in the streets for a while. When you come back, you better be able to prove you are homeless.”

This would be the only kind of homeless service provider the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has been willing to fund since 2009.

In fact, the agency is so serious about this that, in 2011, it put out a 105-page memo detailing for local communities how severe the penalties would be for providing any services with HUD money without thoroughly documenting the eligibility of any homeless family or youth. Fines would be incurred if agencies served those not designated as a priority for services by the ridiculous point-in-time head counts HUD requires communities to perform.

That is why Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, have introduced legislation in their respective legislative chambers to overturn these draconian rules. The bills would amend HUD’s definition of homelessness, a change that would allow approximately 900,000 homeless children and families nationwide to access federal assistance programs. Specifically, children living in motels and doubled-up in households with acquaintances would be recognized as homeless.

HUD is, by far, the largest funder of homeless services. Yet, HUD’s restrictive definition of homelessness has created a cruel and vicious cycle. Once families lose their homes, they scramble for any place to stay. If they sleep in a vehicle or remain on the streets, they risk being categorized as unfit parents and losing their children to public agencies.

Hoping to avoid that, families will stay with other people, often in unstable and unhealthy situations that render them ineligible for homeless assistance. And, if that isn’t coldhearted enough (and it is), HUD also applies these rules to unaccompanied youth as well.

Why this Scrooge-like approach? Because families and unaccompanied youth cost too much money, that’s why. HUD can house 25 single adults in hotel rooms for the same cost of housing three families or helping out seven unaccompanied youth. So single adults have become HUD’s primary business.

HUD and some of the national homeless groups are trying to sell everyone on the amazing success of their 10-year plans to end homelessness. Yes, their head count numbers have gone way down (through redefinition but not reality). And yes, thousands of single adult homeless people have been housed in hotel rooms.

So, when your measuring stick for success is fewer homeless heads on the streets and more people in hotel rooms, you really can’t be wasting money caring for people who aren’t visible or obviously homeless (but who, nevertheless, are neither safe nor providing a good place for their children).

The human math is pretty simple: In 2006, we had 600,000 homeless students in public schools nationwide. In 2009, we had 930,000 and in 2012, it was 1.168 million. Yet, that same year, only 247,178 homeless households were eligible to receive services through HUD homeless assistance programs.

Call it poorly housed or call it the invisible homeless. No matter what you call it, this is heartless public policy. Support Feinstein’s and Miller’s legislation to change it.

Paul Boden, who was once homeless, is the organizing director of the Western Regional Advocacy Project. For updated information and to find out how to contact your elected representatives, go to http://www.helphomelessyouthnow.org.

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