The dark-skinned elephant in the room

Who woulda thunk it? I agree 100% with this statement by Fred Black:

Community activist Fred Black ... said many people who complain about panhandlers really are talking about something else: "being different in Chapel Hill."

"We have a perception issue," Black said. "We're talking about the perception of threats in downtown Chapel Hill. People use the verb panhandle as a convenient label for what they don't look like."
- | Foy: 'I want people to vent', 2/21/07

I really hope this doesn't spark yet another tirade against the poor people who are forced to live on the streets due to misfortune, mental illness, and lack of community support. Instead of panhandling, let's talk about poverty in Chapel Hill and what we are doing about that!


Reposting from earlier this morning on another thread on this same topic:

In response to the mayor's request that people vent here's mine: For $7.5 million the town is spending to build a parking lot, we could build one heck of a social support system dedicated to ending the conditions that CAUSE panhandling (poverty, mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse).

To add some context to what Mark Schultz reported on his blog and in the CHN, what happened was that when Mayor Foy recommended the topic, I stated that I wondered if we wanted to talk about just panhandling or would we talk about the broader issues. Pressed to explain that, I indicated that panhandling - the verb - meant asking people for money, but too many people used the noun - panhandler - to describe all of the people on the street who made them feel uncomfortable. That led to the "being different in Chapel Hill" comment.

How does one know if a person is a panhandler? They ask for money. If they don't ask for money, are you really talking about a homeless person or even someone who is just hanging out? These labels seem to matter because of the threat perception that some have. The Town Manager and Mayor both made the statement that in Madison people "didn't see" panhandlers and it was because they all appeared to be white. (Roger Stancil actually said, "people who look like me). Scott Maitland added that the wide sidewalks also played a role in what people saw and and didn't see.

This is a conversation this community needs to have. Thus, I hope that we can frame this conversation to address the complex issues that are represented by some of the people seen as well as living on our streets and not just assume that it's OK to call everyone a panhandler.

Ruby - it's all right to agree with me once in a while, my wife has survived doing it. :-)

It's funny -- Ruby and I first got to know each other while working to oppose an anti-panhandling ordinance, and now we've come full circle. Deja vu!

I've posted enough on this subject that many of you know where I stand. I will say, though, that "where I stand" has shifted a little, or at least become a little harder to find firm footing. I am not threatened by people living on the street who ask me for money, but I've come to accept the idea that some people are afraid, and not always because they're black or poor. Not always. Some people just don't like strangers to talk to them, which is too bad, but not a moral failing. It's not fair to tell those people to get over it. (And I don't know how many of them there are, or how many others really are racist, classist twits, and I can't think of a way to figure out the numbers, or whether it's even important to know.)

I still don't accept the idea that street people are a burden on local commerce, but I'm willing to discuss even that.

I realize now, though, that what I used to say -- get over it, quit being such a wuss, ignore them if you prefer -- isn't helpful. In fact, I think it hurts these members of our community who don't have places to live, or who became unemployed at precisely the wrong moment in their lives, or are mentally ill and can't take care of themselves, or who are addicts without the resources to get treatment. We can't turn our heads, we can't ignore them, we can't accept that they're just part of the way things are and walk by.

I believe this is what Ruby's getting at: it's unacceptable, for a variety of reasons, that we have people who are forced to live on the street, or out of the shelter. I think we can all agree that a just, supportive, and loving community would figure out ways to get them off the street for good. And at this point, after years of arguing about this, I'm ready to say: I don't care _why_ you want them to find a way off the street, I just want to know that you'd support finding ways to address the individual, root causes of their poverty and homelessness in the interest of keeping people from the street permanently.

It's a classic ethical dilemma, the question of whether doing good things for bad reasons is ethical. I'm beyond the point of wanting to question motivations. I'm willing to work with anyone in this community who is willing to: 1) work toward zero homelessness; 2) better community mental health care; 3) a workable system of drug and alcohol treatment for the indigent; and 4) a stronger social safety net that would do a better job of helping people without resources temporarily to retain their homes when they lose their jobs. The truth about "panhandling" is that if you were to just accomplish #2 and #3, you'd likely get most of those folks off the street. They're just a small fraction of the homeless in our community; you never see most of the rest.

Making our community into places where people don't need to ask for money on the street, or have to sleep in the woods or on heating grates, is a goal we can all share, I think, regardless of our politics.

Fred's absolutely right that people use the word "panhanding" as code for what really is the perceived problem -- which is that many folks are scared of the 1st couple western blocks in downtown.

My wife won't take the kids to Ben&Jerry's because of the guys who hang out at the bus stop there. I've never seen them panhandle, but they aren't exactly friendly looking. And Lot 5 today is scary at night -- isolated and fairly dark and too close to where you always hear about shootings (Church St, the club space across from Breadmen's - whatever it is called today, etc).

Where you see actual panhandlers is in the 100 E. Franklin block - and I've never felt intimidated by them (they are usually very nice to my kids and wish us a "Blessed day"). And of course race is an issue because you don't feel intimidated by the freaks hanging out at the Post Office....

So I'm not sure what the "solution" is, but we definitely ought to be clear what the problem -- it isn't panhandling but rather the fear factor that exists for many on the western side of downtown.

Very thoughtful comments. Four years ago the Council voted to take punitive measures to deal with this issue. That's not the way to go. Hopefully with more folks like Sally who have spent a lot of time on this issue aboard now, the solutions will be more productive and compassionate if it's taken up.

Terri, I've talked about this before and gotten no traction, maybe this time....

Going through the recent Lot #5 process, attending DPC meetings, doing the Downtown Parking Task Force (results of report next Mon. BTW), etc. it continues to strike me that we, as a community, haven't had an open, on-going discussion about our jointly owned Downtown "town commons".

We do a lot of piecemeal approach - each touching a bit of that elephant - but we haven't really pulled together and had a frank, honest discussion of how we - all of us Chapel Hillians - want Downtown to function, what we want it to look like, how we collectively manage our responsibilities for that commons.

We've spent a bit of time and money on a NCD process that recognizes that not everyone is comfortable coming forward with their concerns and ideas - that you have to sometimes "jiggle the handle" to get some results.

We need a process better than that to create a conversation about Downtown - a process that doesn't bring together what Missy Julian called at one DPC gathering - "the same old people" - but stakeholders that haven't necessarily participated before.

Folks have been calling me about Lot #5, for instance, with their concerns. Some of them rarely go Downtown yet they're upset that our Town has gone so far off the rails. They also feel that they weren't invited into the "conversation" - that the "high concept" design was a creature of Council, that the driving force behind the project was business/developers, that their voice couldn't compete against the Chamber, the DPC and other invested organizations. Yet these citizens also are invested in a good outcome Downtown.

Why haven't we done more to reach out to them? Are they just a convenient source of the $10-15M we're throwing into the Lot #5 money pit?

Now, just in time for election 2007, we have some politicking on issues that need a real, sustained airing. It's no surprise that "pan handling" is code covering many real and perceived ills with Downtown.

Maybe, though, instead of inviting public "venting" - which seems to suggest intermittent release of built up frustrations and then a return to the status quo - we need to invite the whole of our Town - the "usual suspects" plus all the other folk unaware or feeling shut out - to have this sustained conversation about our commons future. Heck, we owe them that courtesy if for no other reason than they'll be paying for remediation.

The Planning Board is now responding to calls for an "evergreen" process of review of the comprehensive plans goals and directions. That's great.

We need a similar "evergreen" process to cultivate a common vision of our Town's heritage and future in the Downtown area.

Yes, it's a new way of doing business - quite different than holding (grudgingly?) required public hearings (hearings that have rapidly shifting agendas). We shouldn't rely on a process that if you blink the opportunity to respond is gone. That's a disservice to our great community.

The Lot #5 debacle should've incorporated just such an initiative. Sadly, it hasn't.

Again, maybe Foy's call for a rousing public "vent" could be used to start such a process.

Wow! Excellent commentary - sorry I didn't see it before posting.

It's great to see people making my point even before we decide what we need to talk about. If you go to Mark Schultz's blog, you see this comment on my original comments:

Comment from: Mark Schultz [Member]
02/22/07 at 11:50
Posted for Meade Arble

Let me see if I have this right. If my kids want to go to a movie downtown, they have to pass a gauntlet of lice infested drunken panhandlers because a Community Activist says there's race involved? I don't get the reference to code words for "looking different." Of course they look different. They're drunk street bums. When is the last time you read the police blotter without at least one address cited as "the streets"? I pay for this environment. It's why I live here. If Mr. Black has his own racial agenda, that's his problem. If he can shove it down the community's throat, that's everybody's problem.

Fred, as an observer of the Downtown scene, I think "looking different" stretches beyond race in this case - shame Meade takes a narrow view. As far as "lice infested" and "drunks", well, that just demonstrates the depth of the perception problem.

Yes, it's not just perception. There's louts, scoundrels, layabouts - dangerous, drunk and dirty to some degree - that hang Downtown. There's also panhandlers, mentally ill and perfectly fit, mixed in with law-abiding folks with nowhere else to go.

The one-size fits all appellation that the coded "pan handler" is something we have to get beyond.

Wrong quoted words, Will. I said "BEING DIFFERENT." See how hard it is to even get this started?

Fred, thanks for the clarification. As we know, there can be quite a distance between the "looking" and the "being".

Esse Quam Videri

"In response to the mayor's request that people vent here's mine: For $7.5 million the town is spending to build a parking lot, we could build one heck of a social support system dedicated to ending the conditions that CAUSE panhandling (poverty, mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse)."

Terri, why does it have to be only one or the other? Why can't a group of interested citizens identify the problem(s), design a program to address them, come up with an adequate but reasonable budget, and then ask the Town Council to put it on the ballot as a bond issue. Then we could find out how many citizens are actually willing to walk the talk and put their money into programs specifically aimed at addressing the underlying issues that are the cause, at least in part, of some of these problems. Of course, this assumes that one could get some resemblance of a handle on what those underlying issues are and that those interested citizens could begin to develop a feasible solution(s). Let's face it, the state and federal governments are less and less likely to solve these issues for us so if we want to deal with them the solutions will most likely have to begin right here in Chapel Hill.

Why don't we put the Lot #5 million dollar condos up to vote and pay the social service costs "out-of-pocket"? Just a hypothetical, of course ;-)

While looking for information on the given up- giving kiosk plan, I came across the following reference to "Downtown Outreach Work Group Works on Panhandling" in a CH Downtown Partnership newsletter, dated November 2006. I am wondering what they are discovering. Anyone know?

Apparently, "the committee is currently develping a plan of work to address panhandling."

George asked: "Why can't a group of interested citizens identify the problem(s), design a program to address them, come up with an adequate but reasonable budget, and then ask the Town Council to put it on the ballot as a bond issue."

Great idea George. Why do you think it hasn't happened? I'm sure the IFC would love to have citizens supporting their plans to re-locate the shelter. The schools need all the help they can get to make progress down closing the minority achievement gap. With the growing gang activity, I'm sure the police and youth groups would be happy to have help. And I know the Coalition to End Homelessness would love to have help quantifying the problem.


I think the process has begun. We have the Partnership to End Homelessness in Orange County and they have been working hard on the problem. But if you look at the people involved, most of them are probably very familiar faces. They are the usual "suspects": - many of our local governmental and university officials and many of our most involved activists. But the problem we are trying to solve has been, in large part, exacerbated by the severe cutbacks in federal and state resources. Solving these problems is going to require a large commitment of resources at the local level. But getting those resources (e.g., land, income from bonds or taxes, staffing) will require a significant buy-in from the community at large. We need the public to understand that to have the idyllic community everyone would love to have is going to require money, and probably lots of it. Not everyone in our community has been able to appreciate the bull markets in equities that have occurred over the last decade or the appreciation in real estate values that has occurred in this area. But many have and I believe that those of us who have (and I include myself among them) need to be aware that living in such a wonderful place as Chapel Hill is not necessarily an entitlement but, in many ways, a privilege that carries with it some measure of responsibility toward those less fortunate. I truly believe that the majority of residents want to help but I think it will require getting as many people as possible involved as early as possible. People don't like surprises. So, getting back to my original statement: “Why can't a group of interested citizens identify the problem(s), design a program to address them, come up with an adequate but reasonable budget, and then ask the Town Council to put it on the ballot as a bond issue.” The answer is: They are but what I'm specifically suggesting is an effort to expand the dialogue well beyond the Partnership to End Homelessness and to do it as soon as possible. I suspect (hope) that they are planning to do just that.

Clap! Clap! Clap! Well put George!

Suppose the Town Council was to direct the police force to focus on enforcing moving traffic codes- specifically on East and West Franklin Street- from Boundary Street to Merritt Mill. And suppose that all the income generated from these moving traffic violation tickets was earmarked to fund additional social services that those living on the street need.

If this were done intentionally and publicly, we could increase pedestrian safety, by decreasing vehicular speed and reducing the number of red lights run on Franklin Street, as well as bring attention to the needs of the homeless living on the street, as well as generate funding for social services.

I have refrained from commenting here in the past, but would like to weigh in. Homelessness and public begging are not synomonous issues. First some comments about homelessness. Poverty and homelessness are inextricably linked; and there is plenty of documentation that shows how inadequate wages/health insurance, limited jobs and insufficient resources causes and preparations by local communities lead to more persons to be on the streets. There is a national housing crisis that effects 14 million households that must pay more than half of their earnings for their housing, including 5,500 Orange County households; and that “5 million American households suffer from ‘worst case' housing needs; and as many as 3.5 million Americans, of which over one million are children, lack housing altogether”. Folks have to have some place to go when they lose their housing and those in shelters represent about 80% of those who are first time users of services. Last year, 75% of women and children staying at HomeStart were homeless for the first time; and 66% of men using Community House services came face to face with homelessness for the first time for a variety of reasons.

Here are some facts about panhandling. We quickly come to many conclusions as communities about an international/national/local problem without examining the thoroughly. First, we don't really know who the pandhandles are and why they are on the streets. Are they really homeless? Have they been discharged by intitutions to the streets? Do they live in houses somewhere? True, some are there by choice, but many adults and children have been placed on the streets by institutions (hospitals, parole officers, parents etc.) because there is a lack of planning with local organizations. We are talking about folks with disabilities, veterans and families that choose to stay together rather than to be split apart in shelters. We cannot address pandhandling and respond to the "street peope" unless we all come together to explore the truths around what we see everywhere. Here are some steps we can take:

1. Support current efforts by Housing for New Hope and the IFC to provide "street outreach workers" who will identify those on the streets and their reasons for being there. About $60,000 is needed plus PATH funds to employ two full time outreach workers. More are proably needed.
2. Support worker efforts with daily interventions by getting folks off the street into HomeStart/Community House, treatment services, mental healh systems when needed.
3. Ask 10-Year planners to help end homelessness by assisting the IFC to make HomeStart and Community House 24/7 again so folks have choices and a places to go inside for support and services.
4.Don't give money to anyone, but join community education efforts by the Downtown Outreach Committee to help everyone understand the complexities of this community problem and the positive steps that can be taken to ensure that adequate services are available for everyone.
5. In pursuing our work together, develop strategies that will protect the civil rights of everyone - consumers, shoppers, businesses and those on the streets.
6. Recommend and work hard to ensure that caregivers are placed wherever they are needed to respond to the needs of those on the streets, those who are homeless and prevent homelessness for those who could lose their homes based on economic and social factors - namely poverty.


If you or anyone else want to help, please lobby the 4 local governments to fund, on a recurring basis, professional level salaries with full benefits for the outreach workers Chris describes. That's the only way we are going to get a good grip on the full extent of the problems.

The agencies currently working on these issues are underfunded and overworked. As I've stated here before, we have excellent services and staffing to work with our homeless and other at-risk populations. But the problems are growing and staff are burning out and agency funding is inadequate to hire additional staff or pay professional salaries. Our social support agencies are built on a financial house of cards. That's the basis for my dismay at spending $7.5 million on a parking lot. As someone pointed out in an email, that parking lot is expected to generate revenue sometime down the road. But the problems we see with out at risk populations are now. The first years debt service would fund a large part of Chris' list.

Yes, work is going forward on the 10 year plan and I mean no disparagement to the effort and expertise that has gone into that planning process. But as Chris points out we do not have a clear, data-based understanding of the extent of the problem. I'm a little uncomfortable committing to some elements of that plan without more solid data.

I've spent the past 2 years trying to help with the data collection and it's a huge challenge. From the people I've counted during the point in time counts, I know there is a great deal of racism within the street community in Carrboro; I know that every individual I've interviewed during those street counts has a substance abuse problem; I know that despite their problems, the majority would still like to be working. I also know that I've never seen one of the individuals I've counted panhandling. And last but not least, I know that at least some of those individuals who live on the streets and are native to Orange/Chatham are very angry about outsiders coming into the community and panhandling and making trouble for the locals. It's a complex problem.

During the 2005 election, Jason and I talked about radical increases in our social spending outlays (I wanted to double our commitment). There's been some movement on this but, as far as I can tell, not the kind of commitment our community should be making.

Terri, what specific services currently funded by Chapel Hill need the most help? Has anyone "sized" the increased commitment we need to make?

This isn't all "bleeding heart liberalism", as we know. Preventive and proactive strategies - such as providing healthcare outside of the emergency room - saves money and extends resources.

First, Chris Moran raised some very good points.

Secondly, the problem is that even if you do find a silver bullet solution, how many of the folks being helped aren't from Orange County or even worked/lived there? I don't know, but I also bet no one else does either. Given the presence of a shelter known to be relatively good as shelters go and whatever future programs would be put in place, how do you stop folks migrating in from other locales to cash in?

I know it sounds harsh, but the towns and county cannot possibly hope to have that much impact -- if you want to help as many people as possible fine, but it seems very unlikely that panhandlers, homeless, whoever else you're targeting are going to disappear as an undesirable part of downtown using the carrot rather than the stick.

And while we are making plans, let's get ready for a new generation of "freedom fighters" and "heroes" returning from bringing "democracy" to the dark-skinned elephants outside the room. Just like our "heroes" from Vietnam that have been so well taken care of by the red, white & bluebloods that decry the protesters who allegedly taunted them on their return, we will have a new influx of "heroes" that may somehow avoid all the lavish "troop support" from our current "patriots" and will end up in our streets. "Free trade" policies will also bring us more homeless.

Maybe the Chamber of Commerce could, as part of its efforts to help on the "panhandling" issue, take a strong position against the "free trade" policies that are adversely affecting American workers and the ongoing war that will surely give us "panhandling" blowback.

Chris, that's an old question that's always puzzled me. I'm not sure it matters (to me) why they came to our community. If someone falls on hard times and comes to us for help, is it reasonable or even ethical to withold that help because we don't like the fact that they were poor/homeless/addicted before they got here? If they come here because they can get help, or make money, or find a warmer place to sleep in the woods, I don't see how we can find an ethical position that allows us to therefore, because they're not from here, withold our help. And to make the town less inviting would mean, by definition, making it less ... something. Less kind and open? It requires that the community become less of something it is now, and I'm afraid that something also happens to be one of the things that makes the town special and a place where many of us want to live. Is what the town would lose, in becoming a colder and less accomodating place, worth repelling poor people? I suppose this is one of the questions the community must answer honestly.

One thing from Chris Moran's post should be noted: that the population of panhandlers does not necessarily intersect with the population of homeless, and they are not necessarily the same people who avail themselves of the IFC's services. If there's an intersection, it's very small. (In fact, most of the residents of the men's shelter that I've talked to about this indicated that they have very little respect for the people who ask for money on the street, and that few of those "panhandlers" actually stay at the shelter.)

In my limited experience, I've noticed that many, if not most, of the residents at the various shelters are not outsiders, but people who grew up in this community. (By "community" I mean mostly Chapel Hill and Carrboro and Orange County and Northern Chatham, although I believe that natives of Durham County ought to also be included, as well as Hillsborough and environs.) Their stories are always complicated, and often it's shocking to realize how easily people can descend from being employed and paying rent to unemployed unable to make the rent.

Although we talk a lot about the various things that afflict the homeless, especially addiction and mental illness, this by no means represents the whole universe of reasons people end up on the street. Domestic violence, the sudden death of a wage-earning spouse, a child with extraordinary medical needs, these are just some of the other stories I've heard from residents. The common thread is this: poor people, and working poor people, often do not have a support system to take care of them when something catastrophic happens. It's an old truism, if anti-intuitive, that it's expensive to be poor. And being poor, or working poor, can often mean being one bad decision or one stretch of bad luck, from the street.

Anyhow, I appreciate the comments of both Chris's, and I especially appreciate the civil way this discussion is being conducted on this thread. Everyone needs to listen to each other, this is just too important.

Will--I've never seen any breakdown of budgetary needs by the various social service agencies. As far as I know they all need help. While there is some overlap in services, each agency also fills some unique need as well. OPC has volunteered to oversee the annual point in time count (federal requirement to be eligible for housing funds) for the past couple of years. IFC used to to do it. OPC, IFC and the Chrysalis Foundation are the agencies that receive funding for transition housing resulting from PIT count. I don't know how or if that funding distribution will change when the 10 year plan is adopted.

Duncan, thank you very much for that thoughtful response to a question that I too get asked periodically.

The steering committee for the Orange County Partnership to End Homelessness is moving toward completion of the 10-year planning document. But we aren't there yet. The next meeting is Wednesday, March 14, 6 p.m. at the Southern Human Services Building if you're interested. Certainly a key goal of the plan is coordination of resources, with the knowledge that to serve this population there simply are not enough resources. Once the plan is adopted, that will be more like the beginning than the end: it will take consistent, persistent advocacy, public support, and political will to garner and commit enough resources to make the plan a success.


You say that there are simply not enough resources. Why not calculate what it will take and then make it our objective to secure those resources? We may not succeed but isn't it worth trying? I think Duncan expressed my feelings very well with his statements from above:

"I don't see how we can find an ethical position that allows us to therefore, because they're not from here, withold our help. And to make the town less inviting would mean, by definition, making it less … something. Less kind and open? It requires that the community become less of something it is now, and I'm afraid that something also happens to be one of the things that makes the town special and a place where many of us want to live. Is what the town would lose, in becoming a colder and less accomodating place, worth repelling poor people?"

This town is very special because of the people that live here and given the chance to do something really extraordinary (make it the best place in the USA for the homeless and downtrodden) I'm betting that they will step up and do it. Maybe I'm being too idealistic but frankly, I wouldn't want to call home a community that didn't set its sights high.

has any one ever thought about helping these folks get social security and a post office box so they could start to help themselves . if people dont have anywhere to get there mail its hard to start to get a check or a medicaid card or food stamps or apply for any of the stuff people have when they have a home. if a person doesnt have any way to get there check then they stop it. maybe thats whats happened to these folks . i would like to see the shelther moved too but have no idea where to move it.
if people have a drinking problem there are many ways to help these folks too one way is to get the state and federal government to give more money to mh/sa services to help opc and interfaith council to help people with there problems im a member of the cfac and we are always interested in helping people with mh/dd/sa thanks a lot. these are some of my ideas. i have a lot more.

I don't minimize the panhandling/homelessness
problem on Franklin Street -- it should be addressed
and where dollars are the answer, funded well.
However I want to caution you not to expect the Town of Chapel Hill
to solve this problem or provide major funding for its
solution. For very sound reasons (below), it is Orange County
that needs to step up, supported of course by Chapel Hilleans
who pay about 45 pct of county taxes.

When the NC system of governments was established
by the legislature, with sound logic, the legislature decreed
that Health, Education and Welfare were county functions,
not town functions. Their logic, as true today as two hundred
years ago, was that since everyone in NC lives in a county, while less than half of state citizens live in towns or cities,
(Gerry might have today's statewide stats, but I think that's still true today), and HEW are needs of all citizens, rural and
urban alike, the couties will provide these services.
Hence we have two county-funded
school systems(though one has an urban name),
a county department of health, county-provided social
services, and many county-aided and county-named non-profits, such as
the Orange County Rape Crisis Center and the Orange County
Red Cross. As soon as a town starts to provide county
services, it double taxes its citizens to pay twice for the
same services. The town of CH has slid somewhat over
the line, the strongest example being the library, but
by-and-large, we have successfully preserved this
governmental structure, and should, in my opinion,
continue to do so.

Since I got involved in local government in the 80's,
I have both witnessed and participated in the tensions,
both positive and negative, between Chapel Hill and
Orange County in this regard. The town has often been
unsatisfied with the level of county funding for facilities
and issues that occur within the city limits of Chapel Hill,
and has often felt that the county commissioners act
too often to represent those residents of unincorporated
Orange County, to the detriment of those of us who
live in our four incorporated towns and who
comprise about two-thirds of the county population.
That said, there have been some town-county
success stories, most recently in park facilities, and
hopefully continuing at the social service campus on Homestead road.

i found an interesting site

Ha, representing the unincorporated parts over the towns... I'll have to remember that one little joke for the next Christmas party.

But in all seriousness, my concern raised before was less about whether the homeless *should* be helped and more of if the towns or the county are really equipped to do it. I can garauntee you that there is (as far as Orange County is concerned) an unlimited number of customers for our social services should they become exceptionally more attractive than neighboring counties and municipalities. The needs cannot and never will be met fully for that reason. My point was just that no matter what services you provide or how well, there will always be a relatively stable population of homeless folks around.

However, I do think we've digressed from the issue of how to reduce panhandling -- real or percieved, it doesn't make much difference -- downtown, since we've established that homelessness and panhandling might or might not be correlated.

I don't agree that the homeless population is relatively stable. In 2003 the state's total homeless population (from the point in time count) was 2037; in 2005 it was 3523 or just over a 55% increase. As our community becomes more unaffordable, we should expect to see greater demands put on our social services.

Portland, Oregon's 10-year plan to end homelessness has received credit for a 39% decline in those sleeping outside.

Maybe someone should compare Portland's approach to strategies under consideration for our area.

Can't count on the Feds either:

Some advocates of the poor say the president's proposed 2008 budget manages to be both more and less of the same thing: more cuts and less funding, that is.

Low-income housing and anti-homelessness groups say major cuts to the Community Development Block Grant program and the Public Housing Capital Grant will only exacerbate America's affordable-housing crisis. The United States Conference of Mayors strongly objects to the administration's proposal to cut the CDBG budget by almost $1 billion. Public housing would get about a half-billion dollars less, and funding for the Section 8 housing voucher program for the poor would remain the same.

Though the administration is touting an increase in targeted federal spending on homelessness, housing advocates say the proposed cuts could negate any progress in that area.

Anti-hunger activists are up in arms about proposed changes to the Farm Bill, which includes the five federal nutrition programs. They say the budget would change the way food stamps are administered, which could cut eligibility for more than 300,000 people in low-income working families. Another proposal eliminates the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, which provides food for more than 450,000 low-income seniors.

The WIC nutrition program for poor mothers and children would also take a hit. The budget proposal would limit automatic WIC eligibility for Medicaid recipients and reduce funding for nutrition education and other WIC services. It would also cut the Community Services Block Grant program, which covers the Community Food and Nutrition Program. That program helps fund anti-hunger and nutrition advocacy groups at the local, state and national level.


Here's a challenge. Why don't we commit to adding the same amount we're going to pay the Lot #5 construction consultants to the human services budget? If we can spend a million bucks on consultants to get 21 affordable housing units we can surely spend a million bucks over the same period to bolster a wide range of human service projects.

Kind of a matter of priorities.

BTW, budget discussions for the Town this evening @ 5:30. Agenda here.

I never saw any local news reports on the January point-in-time count. Although this isn't the best thread for them, I don't remember any another recent one that addresses homelessness. (the statistics below were reported to HUD by OPC).

Orange County Homelessness Fact Sheet
February 2007

Total Number of Homeless People Counted in January 2007: 224*
Homeless people staying in temporary shelter: 199
Homeless people without shelter (i.e. on the streets): 25
Homeless families: 23
Homeless people in families (including children): 60
Homeless children: 35
Homeless individuals (not in families): 164
Homeless people with a history of domestic violence: 23
Chronically homeless people: 71
These figures do not include numbers of people who are “doubled up,” that is without a legal residence of their own and temporarily staying with another person. Furthermore, the data does not account for people who are at-risk of homelessness for any reason including unemployment, foreclosure, eviction, chronic or sudden illness and domestic violence. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, 40.5% of renters in Orange County pay 35% or more of household income toward rent which qualifies as at-risk of homelessness.

The News of Orange has a reporters reflection on a series she recently completed on homelessness.

whats the number mean 224*
Total Number of Homeless People Counted in January 2007: 224*

The 224 is the number of individuals who were identified as being homeless on the night of Jnauary 28, 2007. Numbers were provided by social service agencies and a street count. Individuals can be included in more than one of the categories (children, families, chronically homeless) so 224 is the unduplicated count.

thank you


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