The Brooke Amendment And Section 8 Housing: Revisited

7 05 2019

 By Timothy D. Naegele[1]

This is the title of my newest law review article[2] that discusses the landmark laws enacted by Congress: the “Brooke Amendment” with respect to public housing, and the “Section 8” housing program that was intended to extend the benefits of the Brooke Amendment to housing wherever it is located. Put succinctly, the Brooke Amendment capped the payment of rent at twenty-five percent of a person’s income, with the federal government paying the difference; and it provided funds to improve public housing, and to assure the safety of its residents.

Section 8 was envisioned as giving “vouchers” to those who qualified for public housing, and permitting them to find housing anywhere, with the federal government subsidizing their rents when the twenty-five-percent-of-income threshold was passed. Taken together, the Brooke Amendment and Section 8 were America’s answer to the needs of decent housing for its poor. Today, there are two million voucher families.[3]

The United States has an unenviable record of providing affordable housing for its poor, much less for the poorest of the poor—America’s homeless. They have lived on the streets and wherever they could find shelter; and they have been shunned as “lepers” and cast aside to fend for themselves. Many have been and are in desperate need of mental health care and treatment; and they are not far removed from the poor of Calcutta, who have been chronicled down through the decades.

This is particularly true of the elderly, disabled and families with young children, who have slipped through the “cracks” and the societal “safety nets,” to the extent that such protections still exist. However, the elderly of the Boston area were singled out for humane, dignified and uplifting treatment and protection in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when work began by Senator Edward W. Brooke and me in the U.S. Congress—through its two banking committees—to address their plight.

Since then, billions of dollars have been expended, and millions of poor Americans have been helped, which tragically has only scratched the surface—as the numbers of chronically poor and those who are unable to afford private rents continue to rise in the United States. The ever-accelerating cost of housing, and the short supply of existing affordable housing units, have priced many Americans with even good jobs out of decent housing across America, in such areas as “Silicon Valley” (or the San Francisco Bay Area).

They have lived in campers, recreational vehicles (“RVs”) or wherever they could find to sleep. The effects on the poorest of the poor—those farther down the economic totem pole—have been catastrophic, especially in those areas of the United States where inclement weather is a major factor. Many have died, or been victimized, as homeless shelters have been inadequate or closed entirely for various reasons (e.g., funding and/or staffing shortages) in areas where they are needed the most.

Yesterday’s problems are compounded by staggering mental health issues relating to America’s poor and homeless; violent gang activities such as MS-13; dilapidated public housing projects, which may not be helped by the infusion of more federal funds; Social Security retirement benefits that have not kept pace with the costs of food, housing and the medical needs of America’s elderly poor; the influx of illegal immigrants from other countries, who have few discernible skills and nowhere to live; the shortage of qualified professional staff members who can deal effectively with such problems and challenges, and truly make a positive difference; and the increasing demand by most Americans for affordable housing, which has outstripped the available supply.

One size does not fit all. What works in one community may not work in another. And simply throwing money at the staggering problems might not be any solution at all. U.S. taxpayers may say “enough is enough,” and they might be right—at least with respect to their own self-interests. Money cannot be wasted if federal housing programs are to enjoy broad support from the American people. The tasks today are daunting, but the United States and Americans have risen to the challenges of the past, and may be expected to do so in the future.

 

Ed Brooke

[Senator Edward W. Brooke (1919-2015)]

 

© 2019, Timothy D. Naegele


[1]  Timothy D. Naegele was counsel to the United States Senate’s Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, and chief of staff to Presidential Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal recipient and former U.S. Senator Edward W. Brooke (R-Mass). He and his firm, Timothy D. Naegele & Associates, specialize in Banking and Financial Institutions Law, Internet Law, Litigation and other matters (see www.naegele.com and Timothy D. Naegele Resume-19-4-29). He has an undergraduate degree in economics from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), as well as two law degrees from the School of Law (Boalt Hall), University of California, Berkeley, and from Georgetown University. He served as a Captain in the U.S. Army, assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon, where he received the Joint Service Commendation Medal (see, e.g., https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commendation_Medal#Joint_Service). Mr. Naegele is an Independent politically; and he is listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in American Law, and Who’s Who in Finance and Business. He has written extensively over the years (see, e.g., www.naegele.com/whats_new.html#articles), and can be contacted directly at tdnaegele.associates@gmail.com

[2]  See Timothy D. Naegele [NOTE: To download The Banking Law Journal article, “The Brooke Amendment And Section 8 Housing: Revisited,” please click on the link to the left of this note]; see also https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2015/01/03/edward-w-brooke-is-dead/ (“Edward W. Brooke Is Dead”) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Brooke (“Edward Brooke”)

[3]  But see https://crosscut.com/2019/04/despite-new-law-landlords-continue-turn-away-applicants-section-8-vouchers (“Despite new law, landlords continue to turn away applicants with Section 8 vouchers”) and https://laist.com/2019/04/10/la_wants_to_stop_landlords_from_rejecting_low-income_housing_vouchers.php (“LA Wants To Stop Landlords From Rejecting Section 8 Vouchers”) and https://www.scpr.org/news/2019/04/12/89035/la-considers-prohibiting-landlords-from-rejecting/https://www.scpr.org/news/2019/04/12/89035/la-considers-prohibiting-landlords-from-rejecting/ (“LA considers prohibiting landlords from rejecting housing assistance vouchers”—”Nearly half of the people getting a Section 8 voucher in L.A. will end up losing it because they can’t find any landlords who will rent to them”) and https://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-section-8-discrimination-law-homeless-20190419-story.html (“End Section 8 housing discrimination”—”[A]t a time when cities and counties are increasingly relying on vouchers to help reduce homelessness, many landlords won’t even consider leasing to tenants whose rent would be paid, in whole or in part, by the government. The problem is particularly acute in cities with high rents and low vacancies. In Los Angeles, nearly half the people trying to use a Section 8 voucher had it expire in 2017 before they could find a place to live, up from 18% in 2011. Several cities, including San Diego, San Jose and San Francisco, have already banned discrimination against tenants with Section 8 and other housing vouchers.  . . . But California can’t end housing discrimination on a city-by-city basis. State lawmakers need to go further and pass Senate Bill 329, which would enact the ban statewide.  . . . Landlords argue that high denial rates aren’t driven by discrimination but by the paperwork, inspections and restrictions that come with rental subsidy programs. For example, it’s hard to raise the rent, even modestly, on voucher tenants. Plus, they note, the supposed “market rent” the federal government is willing to cover is often too low in California’s overheated markets, where the bigger problem is a lack of affordable housing units”) and https://www.bostonherald.com/2019/04/25/boston-receives-1000-housing-vouchers-for-homeless/ (“Boston receives 1,000 housing vouchers for homeless”) and https://wpdh.com/ny-landlords-cant-discriminate-against-section-8-anymore/ (“NY Landlords Can’t Discriminate Against Section 8 Anymore”) and https://www.wbez.org/shows/wbez-news/more-section-8-vouchers-in-chicagos-black-neighborhoods-than-a-decade-ago/e461cdf4-22d1-45bd-9522-e0983c2d1c08 (“Chicago’s Section 8 Vouchers Increasing In Black Communities, Declining In White Neighborhoods”) and https://dc.curbed.com/2019/5/9/18538152/dc-nonprofit-fair-housing-law-online-course (“D.C. nonprofit offers online fair housing course designed to prevent discrimination by landlords”)


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10 05 2019
Timothy D. Naegele

HUD Proposes Rule To Oust Illegal Immigrants From Public Housing [UPDATED]

Donald Trump and Ben Carson
[President Donald Trump and HUD Secretary Ben Carson]

This is the title of an article by Stephen Dinan in The Washington Times, which states:

The Department of Housing and Urban Development proposed a new rule Friday to make people seeking housing assistance have to prove their legal status, in a move that could oust thousands of illegal immigrants.

Secretary Ben Carson said the rule would bring policy into compliance with the law, which generally tries to restrict public benefits to citizens and legal residents.

“There is an affordable housing crisis in this country, and we need to make certain our scarce public resources help those who are legally entitled to it,” Mr. Carson said.

When the Washington Times broke the news of the rule last month, officials said it could apply to perhaps 32,000 families who have an illegal immigrant head of household claiming taxpayer-funded assistance.

The new rules would require new applicants to have their information run through the federal SAVE database, which is used to weed illegal immigrants out of other public benefits. Families already in housing would have to be newly checked over the course of time.

Legal immigrants, refugees and asylees would not be ousted.

Illegal immigrant-led families who claim a hardship could earn an 18-month reprieve under the rule.

Still, immigrant-rights groups were incensed, calling the move an “attack” and warning of a rise in homelessness in illegal immigrant-led families.

“By stripping this basic need from families, it’s clear this administration is intent on using every avenue to stigmatize and destabilize immigrant communities,” said the New York Immigration Coalition.

Activists acknowledged the 1 million-person backlog of people awaiting housing assistance right now but said the 32,000 spots opened up by ousting illegal immigrant-led households won’t make enough of a difference to justify the upheaval.

The rule gives the public 60 days to comment.

See https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2019/may/10/hud-proposes-ban-illegal-immigrants-public-housing/ (emphasis added); see also https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=HUD-2019-0044-0001 (“FR-6124-P-01 Housing and Community Development Act of 1980: Verification of Eligible Status“) and https://naegeleblog.files.wordpress.com/2019/05/timothy-d.-naegele.pdf [NOTE: To download The Banking Law Journal article, “The Brooke Amendment And Section 8 Housing: Revisited,” please click on the link to the left of this note] and https://onenewsnow.com/politics-govt/2019/05/12/trump-admin-crackdown-on-illegals-public-housing (“Trump admin. crackdown on illegals’ public housing”—”The Trump administration is ramping up its war on illegal immigration by cracking down on federally subsidized housing that has been accessible to illegals – whose participation in the program has made it unavailable to needy United States citizens. . . . The additions seek to keep illegals from manipulating or taking advantage of loopholes in the system. . . . ‘[The proposed rule will] make certain our scarce public resources help those who are legally entitled to it,’ Carson stressed. . . . Illegals’ families taking housing from U.S. citizens in need will become more of an exception than a rule under the newly proposed rule. . . . U.S. citizens in need will be able to get off the streets – once illegals are no longer able to displace them from the assistance program. . . . Carson contends that the proposal keeps illegal immigrants from limiting assistance that would otherwise be received by ‘legitimate American citizens’ in need”) and https://www.dailyrepublic.com/all-dr-news/wires/business/housing-vouchers-can-save-people-from-homelessness-but-landlords-may-not-accept-them/ (“Housing vouchers can save people from homelessness. But landlords may not accept them“)

Secretary Carson is 100 percent correct; and the proposed rule must go into effect.

I served as counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, and as counsel to the late Senator Edward W. Brooke of Massachusetts—and later as his chief of staff, before entering the private practice of law in Washington, D.C. I wrote two pieces of housing legislation as part of the Housing and Urban Development Acts of 1969 and 1970: the “Brooke Amendment” relating to public housing; and the national “Housing Allowance” program, which morphed into the Section 8 housing program that has helped millions of Americans.

Indeed, I dedicated my newest law review article—which is summarized in the shorter article above, and may be downloaded at the “NOTE” above—to the memory of Senator Brooke who was the Senate sponsor of this landmark housing legislation, and without whom it never would have come into being. The senator told me one day that he was concerned about the plight of public housing tenants in Massachusetts, especially the elderly. Hence, I went to work and tried to determine what could be done; and the rest is history.

At no time was it ever envisioned that illegal immigrants would occupy federally-funded public housing, or be recipients of any federal aid under the “Brooke Amendment” or the voucher program that today is Section 8—or any other federal housing program. This has been the consistent thread that has run through such programs since their inception. Either American laws matter or they don’t. No exceptions can or should be made.

See, e.g., https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/07/30/illegal-immigration-the-solution-is-simple/ (“Illegal Immigration: The Solution Is Simple“) (see also the extensive comments beneath the article) and https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/washington-secrets/feds-immigration-top-us-crime-one-third-of-all-sentencings (“Feds: Immigration top US crime, one-third of all sentencings“)

. . .

Lastly, as stated in my newest law review article on the subject:

Vouchers, and the absolute right to choose (i.e., tenant-based vouchers, not project-based vouchers), seem to be the best solution for the United States—albeit surely this conclusion will be attacked as overly simplistic, idealistic and unrealistic.

See https://naegeleblog.files.wordpress.com/2019/05/timothy-d.-naegele.pdf [NOTE: To download The Banking Law Journal article, “The Brooke Amendment And Section 8 Housing: Revisited,” please click on the link to the left of this note]; see also https://www.minotdailynews.com/opinion/letters/2019/05/rethinking-senior-services/ (“Rethinking senior services“)

Indeed, given the enormous problems associated with stigmatized, deteriorating and crime-infested public housing projects in the United States and other countries, isn’t this the preferred path that will be pursued in the future, certainly in the United States?

See, e.g., https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7043879/Good-riddance-Gomorrah-Residents-win-fight-demolish-Italys-notorious-housing-estate.html (“Good riddance to Gomorrah: Residents win fight to demolish Italy’s notorious housing estate“); see also https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2019/05/07/the-brooke-amendment-and-section-8-housing-revisited/#comment-17335 (“Dr. Ben Carson And The Witches [such as Ilhan Omar]“)

Clearly, all abuses must be stopped.

See, e.g., https://www.staradvertiser.com/2019/09/06/breaking-news/ex-hud-worker-who-used-alias-debbie-kim-found-guilty-of-fraud-and-id-theft/ (“Ex-HUD worker, who used alias ‘Debbie Kim,’ found guilty of fraud and ID theft”—”The Honolulu woman, Chun Mei Tong schemed to use an alias and forge signatures to rent out properties under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Housing Choice Voucher Program (known as the Section 8 program), while she worked at HUD overseeing the Section 8 program”—”U.S. Attorney Kenji Price said the Section 8 program is HUD’s major program for helping low-income families, the elderly and the disabled to afford housing in the private rental market in the local community”)

23 05 2019
Timothy D. Naegele

Dr. Ben Carson And The Witches [UPDATED]

Ben Carson and Ilhan Omar
[Dr. Ben Carson and Ilhan Omar]

Hank Berrien has written in The Daily Wire:

On Tuesday, HUD Secretary Ben Carson had a contentious exchange with hard-left Congressman Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) during which she insulted him by telling him he was “unqualified” for his job and said he was “carrying the water of what I believe to be one of the most morally bankrupt presidents in our nation’s history.”

After the exchange, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) mocked Carson, tweeting, “Not sure he was fully awake, maybe he meant to reclaim his time back to sleep.” Carson turned around and wrecked the pro-abortion representative, tweeting, “Since you brought it up… I know what it’s like to actually be sleepy, especially after 18-hour surgeries and operating on babies in the womb. I hope @IlhanMN knows I care about all people, even those she doesn’t recognize as having a right to life.”

The exchange between Pressley and Carson started like this:

Pressley:

Secretary Carson, I’ve waited a long time for this moment, but the residents of my district, the 7th Congressional in Massachusetts, have been waiting far longer for your agency to do its job. Colleagues across the aisle earlier were critical of the passion and even outraged that we’ve expressed on this side of the aisle; I make no apologies for that. This matter is very, very personal. Let me be clear: Housing is a fundamental human right, and the displacement of families should be regarded as the public health crisis that it is. Mr. Secretary, your pioneering work in pediatric neurology is historic, and it is is something to be commended, and so it pains me that your gifted hands and mind are doing the bidding and carrying the water of what I believe to be one of the most morally bankrupt presidents in our nation’s history, increasing rifts, evicting families. You mentioned that the operating room was a safe haven away from all the troubles of the world. A safe haven. That’s exactly what a home should be, and what every single person, particularly our children, deserve.

Today you are not here as a doctor or even as our Surgeon-General which I think might be better suited for your talents, but as the official tasked with leading the agency overseeing our nation’s crumbling housing stock. And for that, I do believe you are unqualified. . . . When you imply that people are living in public housing because of a desire to be self-sufficient, questioning a work ethic, when we are eliminating stock but not increasing supply, people in the Massachusetts 7th Congressional district would have to work 84 hours to afford a decent one-bedroom at fair market rent. . . . Given your medical background, perhaps you could weigh in on the health consequences of failing to invest in safe housing. Mr. Secretary, since I am short on time here, yes or no: is stable and safe housing a social determinant of health?

Carson: Sounds like you have not been here and heard most of my testimony.

Pressley: Please just answer my question, reclaiming my time. yes or no. Is stable and safe housing a social determinant of health?

Carson: There is no question that housing is an important part—

Pressley: Yes or no?

Carson: There is no question that it’s a part of health.

Pressley continued, finally asking, “Yes or no: if left unaddressed, do you believe the substandard housing conditions pose a risk to tenants’ physical, mental and emotional health, if left unaddressed?”

Carson: Yes or no: can you ask me some questions yourself —

Pressley: You don’t get to dictate what my line of questioning is. Reclaiming my time. You’re a very smart man.

Carson: You can reclaim it all you want.

Pressley: You’re a very smart man. You understand the question, Please answer it. Yes or no: if left unaddressed … do you believe the substandard housing conditions pose a risk to tenants’ physical, mental and emotional health?”

Carson: You already know the answer to that.

Pressley: Yes or no.

Carson: You know the answer.

Pressley: Yes or no. I know the answer. Do you know the answer? Yes or no.

Carson: Reclaiming my time.

Pressley: You don’t get to do that.

Carson: Oh.

Omar then tweeted:

Not sure he was fully awake, maybe he meant to reclaim his time back to sleep.

Carson answered:

Since you brought it up… I know what it’s like to actually be sleepy, especially after 18-hour surgeries and operating on babies in the womb. I hope @IlhanMN knows I care about all people, even those she doesn’t recognize as having a right to life.

See https://www.dailywire.com/news/47567/ilhan-omar-taunts-ben-carson-he-blasts-back-one-hank-berrien (“Ilhan Omar Taunts Ben Carson. He Blasts Back With One Tweet“) (emphasis added; full Tweets omitted); see also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ilhan_Omar (“Ilhan Omar“) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayanna_Pressley (“Ayanna Pressley“); see also https://www.cbsnews.com/news/democrats-look-to-block-trump-housing-proposal-that-could-displace-thousands-of-immigrant-families/ (“Democrats look to block Trump housing proposal that could displace thousands of immigrant families”—”HUD Secretary Ben Carson, however, has maintained that the chief purpose of the rule is to take care of American citizens before undocumented immigrants“)

Ilhan Omar was born in Mogadishu, Somalia; and she came to the United States in 1992, and secured asylum in the U.S. in 1995. Ayanna Pressley is a radical Leftist who claims that President Trump is “a racist, misogynistic, truly empathy-bankrupt man,” and she is determined to impeach him.

These two radical politicians are emblematic—along with Maxine Waters—of why lots of us left the Democratic Party, and will never vote for another one again. They favor illegal immigrants over American citizens, which is reason enough to defeat them again and again.

Lastly, Dr. Ben Carson is to be congratulated for his fine work at HUD. He is a source of great pride for lots of us.

See, e.g., https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2019/05/07/the-brooke-amendment-and-section-8-housing-revisited/#comment-17164 (“HUD Proposes Rule To Oust Illegal Immigrants From Public Housing“)

24 05 2019
Timothy D. Naegele

Homelessness [UPDATED]

American poverty

I have written about this subject in my article above and in my new law review article that is cited therein. Also, I have written about it (and related subjects, such as human trafficking) in at least four other articles and the extensive comments beneath them.

See https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2018/10/25/remembering-the-comfort-women-victims-of-human-trafficking-and-slavery/ (“Remembering The Comfort Women, Victims Of Human Trafficking And Slavery“) and https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2018/07/01/the-death-of-new-york-city/ (“The Death Of New York City?“) and https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2012/02/07/poverty-in-america/ (“Poverty In America“) and https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2009/12/28/human-trafficking/ (“Human Trafficking“)

While some Americans have never made so much money and lived so lavishly, others are basically lepers, much like those in wheelchairs when I was growing up in Los Angeles. They were shunned and pitied, but along came disability laws that helped them immensely, and attitudes seem to change over time.


[Homelessness in Los Angeles]

Scott Wilson has written a fine article about these issues:

This eccentric Northern California enclave was a sanctuary long before the designation became a must-have merit badge for any left-leaning city.

Berkeley politicians proclaimed the place a refuge for Navy sailors resisting deployment to the Vietnam War nearly a half-century ago. It was the birth of a movement to protect the outcast – and, in some cases, the outlaw – from rules that this beat-of-its-own-drum city and its followers found immoral, most recently the deportation of undocumented immigrants.

But California’s housing crisis is testing whether Berkeley can remain that kind of place.

Faced with sharp criticism from a changing population, city leaders have banned people from living in recreational vehicles here, proving that even the most accepting of cities is not immune to the demands that often accompany wealth and gentrification. Businesses and residents have complained about the RVs’ blighting of city streets and the burden they place on public safety and sanitation services.

“We had to do something,” said Mayor Jesse Arreguín, referring to the March city council vote. “The ordinance we passed, I will admit we rushed into it. But we were facing a lot of pressure from businesses and residents.”

The outcry over the ban was instant. The anger came from progressive neighbors such as Oakland, which feared that a scores-long caravan of RVs would soon head across the invisible city limits to its streets. The council suspended the law’s enforcement until a more collective approach to the borderless problem might be found.

But Berkeley’s move serves as a parable for how one seemingly small government decision and a lack of basic coordination can rumble through a region short on housing and high on frustration. The ban was itself a reaction to steps larger cities and the state have taken that created homeless migration around the Bay Area, disruptive and endless, in a region with the highest housing costs in the country.

“It’s a Catch-22,” said Tom Valledao, 66 and homeless, who worked for decades breaking down ships along the docks of the East Bay.

Valledao lives in a decrepit camper along Eighth Street in Berkeley’s Gilman neighborhood, a onetime warehouse district that is rapidly evolving, with wine-tasting rooms, microbreweries and stores selling custom furniture made from reclaimed teak. A Whole Foods occupies a block around the corner from Valledao’s “turtle shell,” as he calls his curbside squat.

“If they kick people out of their campers,” he said, “then there will just be more people on the streets.”

Many homeless people in California live without any kind of shelter – nearly half of the nation’s unsheltered homeless people are here – a brutal testament to years of failed housing policy and a lack of political will at nearly every level of government. Gov. Gavin Newsom, D, proposed in his first budget this month to double the annual amount the state will spend on homelessness, to $1 billion.

The increase reflects a bewildering fact given the resources already devoted to the issue: The problem, according to just-completed homeless counts in cities across California, is undoubtedly getting worse. Preliminary numbers released late last week from San Francisco and Alameda County, which includes Oakland and Berkeley, show significant increases in the homeless populations during the past two years. Berkeley’s rise was 43 percent.

Estimates place the homeless population in the Bay Area, a region encompassing more than 100 cities, at more than 30,000. A deep analysis of the issue, published last month by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute, estimated that the cost of permanently housing the region’s homeless at more than $12 billion.

But building affordable housing in California is a growing political challenge as property values skyrocket along with the expectations of the area’s residents. Last week, in the face of enduring opposition, state lawmakers placed on hold legislation that would allow state officials to override local planning decisions in some cases to increase urban housing stock.

“The pressure we are feeling as local politicians is telling us that, as people spend more and more on housing, they feel more and more aggrieved by so-called blight,” said Berkeley Councilmember Kate Harrison, who opposed the RV ban. “Only the 1 percent here feel economically secure.”

Across the bay in San Francisco, which a recent report found has the highest concentration of billionaires of any city in the world, nearly every proposal to address homelessness has met with public ire in the past few months.

Mayor London Breed, D, was shouted down in a recent forum about her proposal to open a “navigation center” along the scenic bayside Embarcadero. The center would be a temporary shelter for the homeless where people are guided toward health services and permanent housing.

GoFundMe campaigns have emerged in wealthy neighborhoods to finance lawsuits against affordable housing proposals. Two state business groups and an anti-tax organization recently filed suit to overturn Proposition C, a measure city voters passed last year that imposes a tax on large businesses to raise an estimated $300 million a year for homeless initiatives.

Salesforce founder Marc Benioff, a vocal supporter of the tax, donated $30 million to the University of California at San Francisco this month to study the causes of homelessness. Benioff is a San Francisco native.

The rising anger is in large part a result of just how visible the problem is here. An estimated 67 percent of the Bay Area’s homeless population is “unsheltered,” meaning they live and sleep outdoors. In the United States, only Los Angeles has a higher rate.

“That is tragically bad, an utter failure of policy,” said Adrian Covert, vice president of public policy at the Bay Area Council, an influential regional business association. “A lot of this opposition has been an embarrassment to many of us, but I think regular people are hungry for solutions.”

The council’s report emphasized regional cooperation in a part of the state where that has been largely unknown over the years.

It recommended the creation of a shared data trove detailing city-by-city housing stock, programs directed at homelessness, and other information that could be used to avoid duplication. Covert said cities and counties also should share funds across boundaries, a bureaucratic leap.

“We should strive to have the big answer – that is, that we are building here, we are building there, we are building everywhere,” Covert said. “This would provide the assurance of burden-sharing, which the chronic opposition is suspicious is actually happening.”

The Berkeley vote to ban RV living dismayed Oakland officials. The two cities are inseparable – the iconic Telegraph Avenue runs from historic Oakland to the University of California at Berkeley campus – and when one sneezes the other often catches a cold.

The sneeze this time was Berkeley effectively telling the residents of about 200 RVs in the city that they would have to move immediately.

Oakland braced for the symptoms: more RVs on its streets at a time when city officials are searching for sites where their own RV-dwellers can park safely and receive services.

“I will say it was a little surprising for Berkeley to pass the ordinance without having talked to us first,” Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said. “Everyone wants a solution that doesn’t just push the problem to someone else’s doorstep. It’s neither effective nor compassionate.”

Schaaf was born and raised in Oakland, a proud daughter of the city and defender of its place as a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants and the poor. She calls the city’s homelessness a “soul-scathing” problem, a challenge to even the most tolerant, who often feel powerless to act.

“I recognize that most of our problems don’t stop at our municipal boundaries,” she said. “We are interdependent, as human beings, which is so important to remember as we tackle this crisis of homelessness, and as governmental entities.”

During her tenure, Schaaf has pioneered the use of “cabin communities” as a cost-effective step between the streets and permanent housing. These are collections of small cabins, similar in size and design to a suburban backyard playhouse, that in three locations have replaced squalid homeless camps in the past year.

To the homeless, the collection of cabins provides shelter and allows streetside communities to remain largely intact.

More than half of those who have passed through the cabins have gone into permanent housing at a per-person cost half that of a typical shelter bed. The areas around the communities are then designated “no-camping zones,” which has won the support of neighboring businesses.

“It’s an ever-changing group of people from a lot of different situations and with a lot of different personalities,” said Heather Kato, 40, who grew up in the East Bay and for the past month has shared a cabin beneath Interstate 580.

On this day, some of the community’s 40 residents lined up along Northgate Avenue for a chance to bathe, courtesy of Lava Mae, an organization that visits weekly with mobile showers and clean towels. It calls its mission “radical hospitality.”

Residents carry their toiletries in Ziploc bags from behind the little settlement’s guarded gate onto the sidewalk, chatting as they wait their turn inside the small trailer. Afterward, Kato, who said she is escaping a violent home life, will rest inside her cabin, something she was unable to do when she lived in a regular shelter that closes during the day.

“The more you participate, the more you get out of this,” said Kato, who is looking for work as a chef or dental hygienist, both of which she is trained to do. “And if you don’t want to be here, you do not have to be.”

This city of 120,000 people has the highest per capita homeless population in the Bay Area. Arreguín, whose own family experienced housing evictions in San Francisco when he was a child, said those numbers have been rising in part because of that city’s decision to clear several street encampments during the past year.

Some of those displaced from San Francisco have landed here – another sneeze, another cold. He estimates that a recently completed homeless census will show that as many as 1,500 people in Berkeley are now without a place to live – a two-thirds increase in the past two years.

“The biggest challenge we face is that we do not have a lot of available land,” said Arreguín, who in his two years in office has doubled the number of shelter beds and has sharply increased spending on homeless programs. “Had we had a large enough parcel, we would have already opened a safe parking site for these RVs.”

The RVs used to park along the Berkeley waterfront, property that belongs to the state. Arreguín wanted to temporarily look the other way, allowing the settlement there to continue given the lack of options, until residents complained.

Harrison, the Berkeley council member, recalled a constituent saying: “I paid a million dollars for my place, and they have a better view.”

Under legal threat from the state, Berkeley officials pushed out the waterfront campers last year, scattering the RVs around the city and, in Arreguín’s assessment, “making them that much harder to serve.”

The complaints continued to arrive by phone, email and in public forums: The RVs are unsightly fire hazards, their residents potentially crime causing, and they dump waste into overwhelmed storm drains.

“I think we are at a tipping point in our community,” Arreguín said. “There have been real impacts that have negatively affected businesses and residents in our community. But we also have to realize that the most significant impacts are on those without a place to live.”

Many of the RVs are parked now in twos and threes along the side streets of gentrifying West Berkeley. Some are deluxe, sleek tubes with tinted windows and full kitchens. Others, like Valledao’s, might not actually be mobile if they were forced to move.

Valledao has been on disability for years, having contracted asbestos-related illnesses from his work in the shipyards. He lost his apartment last year when his roommate died and he could no longer afford the rent.

He shifted his stuff into the little camper, his Harley-Davidson parked behind it. A small, puttering generator powers a TV and radio. A patch of artificial grass serves as a doormat.

Valledao has never really left the Bay Area. But he might have to soon. As he slept on a recent Friday morning, Berkeley officials impounded his mobile home, hitching it up to a tow truck while he was still inside. Now he is staying with his daughter, his clothes and belongings still inside the camper.

“They took my home,” he said. “Now I’m homeless.”

See https://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Berkeley-loves-its-sanctuary-label-but-a-housing-13890080.php (“Berkeley loves its sanctuary label, but a housing crisis is testing its liberal values“) (emphasis added); see also https://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-lopez-skid-row-trash-homeless-merchants-20190525-story.html (“There’s a trash and rodent nightmare in downtown L.A., with plenty of blame to go around“) and https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7095533/Pictures-downtown-LA-capture-problem-faces-trash-tries-rodents.html (“‘Collapse of a city that’s lost control’: Shocking new pictures from downtown LA capture the huge problem it faces with trash and rats amid fear of typhoid fever outbreak among LAPD”) and
https://www.cnbc.com/2019/05/23/nearly-25-percent-of-americans-are-going-into-debt-trying-to-pay-for-necessities.html (“Nearly 25% of Americans are going into debt trying to pay for necessities like food“) and https://www.apnews.com/4dba15376df3463c99c7a03bcb28276e (“Young homebuyers scramble as prices rise faster than incomes“) and https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2019-05-20/rural-america-verge-collapse (“Rural America Is On The Verge Of Collapse“) and https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2019/04/01/standby-letters-of-credit-and-other-bank-guaranties-revisited/#comment-17463 (“2008 Or Worse?“) and https://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2019/05/30/fremont-homeless-living-in-tree-houses/ (“Homeless People In Fremont [California] Found Living In Makeshift Tree Houses“) and https://www.heraldmailmedia.com/news/nation/california-s-jails-are-so-bad-some-inmates-beg-to/article_f7903d65-f147-5593-b8a9-8519370d5a31.html (“California’s jails are so bad some inmates beg to go to prison instead“) and https://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-rats-homelessness-city-hall-fleas-report-20190603-story.html (“Filth from homeless camps are luring rats to L.A. City Hall, report says“) and https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/aug/05/california-housing-homeless-rv-cars-bay-area (“The Californians forced to live in cars and RVs“)

Berkeley is a place that I love; it is special in my heart. It is where I received my first law degree, and where I met my future wife.

Is homelessness a microcosm of America’s future? Is the face of the young child above the face of America’s future? Is what happened to young Aylan and Galip Kurdi—on a lonely beach in Turkey—America’s fate?

See https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2015/07/01/global-chaos-and-helter-skelter/#comment-7653 (“Aylan And Galip Kurdi Will Be Remembered“); see also https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2009/12/28/human-trafficking/#comment-8632 (“The Fate Of Lina Zinab: Is Life Fair?”)

Americans cannot “save” everyone in this world, but they must begin with those Americans who are in need here at home.

Aylan Kurdi
[Photograph taken by Nilufer Demir of Turkish police Sgt Mehmet Ciplak carrying the lifeless body of Aylan Kurdi on a beach near the Turkish resort of Bodrum]

19 07 2019
Timothy D. Naegele

The Face Of Homelessness [UPDATED]

American poverty

Grace Bird has written an important article in Massachusetts’ Greenfield Recorder, which states:

Rose Facto, acting director for the county’s only homeless shelter, receives at least 15 calls a week from people asking for a place to sleep.

The shelter, located at 60 Wells St., has 20 beds in two rooms: 14 for men and six for women. Run by the non-profit ServiceNet, the one-floor facility is the only homeless shelter in the county that caters to individuals.

While summer at the Wells Street shelter has been quiet in previous years — with wait lists of a few or even zero — this June and July, there has been more demand for beds than ever before. About 25 people are on the wait list, instead sleeping in tents, under bridges or in church alcoves.

“I’ve noticed that we’ve had more calls for the summertime,” Facto said. “Hard times, that’s all I can think of. Losing jobs, housing. I don’t know.”

Most of the time, Facto has to tell the person on the other end of the line that they have to join the wait list. She said before people arrive at the shelter, many have been living on the street for “months, years.”

Facto said it is tough to turn people away, especially as she was once homeless. But there is little else she can do aside from add people to the wait list, she said, and call when there’s space. As ServiceNet’s other shelters in Pittsfield and Northampton have similar queues, there are very few back-up options.

“You can’t even direct them to another shelter, because there isn’t any,” Facto said. “It’s hard … especially when you have someone calling, crying.”

Increasing need

Jay Sacchetti, vice president of sheltering, vocational and substance use services at ServiceNet, said he has seen a steady rise in shelter usage over the past few years. In fiscal year 2017, 77 people used the shelter. The following year, 87 people came through its doors. And in fiscal year 2019, that number rose to 118.

Meanwhile, people are staying at the shelter for longer periods, Facto said. One Wells Street resident recently surpassed 500 days at the shelter, she said.

While obstacles are complex and will take time to address, in the short term ServiceNet is working on increasing the number of winter shelter beds in Franklin County following two January deaths. Kathleen Grady, 50, and Clayton “Aaron” Wheeler, 51, died while staying in a tent in a wooded area near the Greenfield rotary, on a night when temperatures dropped to single-digits.

After these deaths, the Wells Street shelter opened its doors to anyone in need of refuge during the remainder of winter, causing the modest one-floor space to become overcrowded with people, Facto said. At its height, the shelter had about 45 people staying there, Facto said, sleeping on couches and chairs and on the floor. About 15 people were sleeping in the living room, she said.

Sacchetti said he is now working with lawmakers, the city and other local advocates to find an idea to increase shelter beds for winter — plus the money to fund it.

One idea that has been raised, Sacchetti said, is to renovate and open the second floor of the shelter, which has been empty since the shelter opened. A renovation is estimated to cost $150,000, he said. The Greenfield City Council previously said it would give $50,000 to the project, however Sacchetti said officials have not indicated whether this offer still stands.

Facto expressed strong support for opening the second floor of the shelter.

“That would help, that would knock our waiting list right off,” she said.

Money is a persistent problem for ServiceNet, Sacchetti said. The non-profit receives 65 percent of its funding from the government and is left to come up with the remainder on its own. Late last year, a lack of funding led ServiceNet to close two “permanent supportive houses” on Fort Square and Sanderson Street, and relocate the 14 residents who lived there. ServiceNet has one permanent supportive house with five beds remaining, on School Street.

ServiceNet runs one other shelter in Franklin County, the Greenfield Family Inn, which only accepts families (who have a right to housing under Massachusetts state law). The non-profit also runs two “recovery houses” in Franklin County — in Greenfield and Orange — a residence available to those in the early stages of recovery from substance use addiction. And the organization also runs a housing program in Turners Falls for those who have completed a treatment program and “want to live in a sober environment with continuing case management and other supports,” said Amy Timmins, ServiceNet vice president of community relations.

A multi-faceted issue

There are many reasons Franklin County residents turn to, and then rely on, the Wells Street homeless shelter, Facto said. The main reason, she said, is the high price of rent, averaging $864 per month, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau collected from 2013 to 2017.

“It’s income, I’d say. They can’t. Someone that’s getting $800 a month, without a Section 8 (government housing subsidy) certificate, they can’t afford a place,” Facto said. “And first, last and security. Every place wants first, last and security.”

Aside from money, there are some social obstacles to obtaining housing. Landlords and employers may be less likely to hire or rent to those who do not have a rental or employment history, who are struggling with addiction or who have been incarcerated, the Opioid Task Force of Franklin County and the North Quabbin Region noted at a June meeting for landlords and tenants.

Finding permanent subsidized housing is also difficult, Facto noted. The Franklin County public housing pool is limited and competitive, with wait-times for rental units hovering around one-and-a-half to two years, ServiceNet Program Director Elizabeth Bienz said previously.

Another way to secure subsidized housing is to apply for the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program. Run by the federal government, this program subsidizes rental units for low-income individuals and families. But Section 8 vouchers have years-long wait-times, too, Facto said.

A current resident of the Wells Street shelter, Merilyn Haskins, 62, had been on the wait list to receive Section 8 housing for six years, she said. Finally, a couple of months ago, she was issued a voucher. But even with one, she said finding housing has been tough.

“I’m doing the best I can do,” Haskins said. “There ain’t nothing out there.”

Rory Anderson and Rhonda Ely, long-term partners who both live at Wells Street, said they were relocated to the shelter after Sanderson House closed late last year.

Anderson said “everyone” at Wells Street has applied to receive a subsidy as part of the Section 8 program. Ely applied for a subsidy in February, though she said she hasn’t heard anything yet and doesn’t expect to any time soon, given there is “like a five-year waiting list.” She added that she receives $800 per month in social service money; not enough to cover rent in Greenfield.

“It’s really hard, when you have minimal income, to find a place,” Ely said. “Most apartments around here are going to run you anywhere from $1,200 to $2,000 a month, and that’s with nothing included. It’s really, really hard.”

Before they secured a place at Sanderson House and then at the Wells Street shelter, the two said they lived in a wooded area in Greenfield for about three years. Ely noted that there are many homeless people still living in the woods.

“And it’s rising,” Anderson agreed.

See https://www.recorder.com/Homeless-shelter-waitlist-hits-new-high-this-summer-27063917 (“In summer, county’s only shelter sees unusually long wait list“) (emphasis in original); see also https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2012/02/07/poverty-in-america/ (“Poverty In America“) and https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2009/12/28/human-trafficking/ (“Human Trafficking“) and https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2019/05/07/the-brooke-amendment-and-section-8-housing-revisited/#comment-17345 (“Homelessness“)

What Bird has described is present across our great country—in cities, towns and rural areas alike, involving the elderly and little children—and it is a human tragedy of monumental proportions.

Of course the greatest tragedies involve the deaths by freezing of Kathleen Grady and Clayton “Aaron” Wheeler, which may be among the many reasons why the nation’s homeless gravitate to warmer climates, such as California.

Without politicizing the issue, American citizens must be helped first, and then those who have waited patiently in line to come here legally.

Americans are generous people, but they cannot save the world from each and every calamity.

See also https://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-biggest-bull-market-ever-yet-disaster-looms-for-millions-of-retirees-2019-07-18 (“The biggest bull market ever — yet disaster looms for millions of retirees”—”The coming ‘tsunami of poverty’ for retirees”—”This incredible period of wealth creation has bypassed tens of millions of older Americans”—”According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), nearly half of Americans aged 55 or older have nothing set aside in a 401(k) or other individual account. Nothing”—”Social Security is only supposed to be a supplement for pensions and personal savings — yet more than half of senior households rely on it for at least half their income. Up to a quarter of them rely in it for 90% of their income — a near total dependency. Adding to senior woes is growing debt. In 2010, says the National Council on Aging, 51.9% of households headed by an adult aged 65 or older had some debt. Just six years later that percentage had jumped to 60%”) and
https://sf.curbed.com/2019/7/22/20704224/bay-area-point-in-time-homless-count-2019 (“Nearly entire Bay Area sees homelessness surge“) and https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/aug/05/california-housing-homeless-rv-cars-bay-area (“The Californians forced to live in cars and RVs“) and https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2019/05/07/the-brooke-amendment-and-section-8-housing-revisited/#comment-17164 (“HUD Proposes Rule To Oust Illegal Immigrants From Public Housing“) and https://www.ktvz.com/news/homelessness-on-rise-in-central-oregon/1106300788 (“Homelessness on rise in Central Oregon”—”In 2018, Oregon had the second highest rate of unsheltered homeless people in the country. The state also had the third-highest rate of chronically homeless people in the U.S.”)

31 07 2019
Timothy D. Naegele

HUD Secretary Ben Carson Compares Baltimore’s Problems to Cancer [UPDATED]


[Secretary Carson and President Trump]

Solange Reyner has written for Newsmax.com:

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson on Wednesday compared Baltimore’s problems to cancer in defending President Donald Trump’s attacks on the city and Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md.

“There are problems in Baltimore, and you can’t sweep them under the rug,” Carson said during a visit to Hollins House, a federally funded housing complex for senior citizens, according to The Washington Post.

“It’s sort of like a patient who has cancer: you can dress them up and put a nice suit on and try to ignore it, but that cancer is going to have a devastating effect,” he added.

Trump on Tuesday resumed his attacks on Cummings, slamming the lawmaker as being “in charge” of Baltimore – the “most unsafe city in the country.”

“People living in Baltimore are real happy that I’m bringing up the fact that it’s like living in hell,” Trump told reporters on the White House lawn.

“The most unsafe city in the country, in our country is Baltimore,” Trump said.

Carson, who was touring the apartment complex when he made the comments, also told reporters he had spoken with Trump in recent days about what can be done to improve Baltimore and he is “very willing” to work with city leaders.

“The president’s emphasis is on the people and that certainly is my emphasis,” Carson said. “We have to learn to work together and realize we’re not each other’s enemy.”

See https://www.newsmax.com/newsfront/baltimore-cancer-hud-secretary/2019/07/31/id/926676 (“HUD Sec. Carson Compares Baltimore’s Problems to Cancer“) (emphasis added); see also https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2019/07/29/barack-obama-is-responsible-for-americas-tragic-racial-divide/#comment-18365 (“Donald Trump And Baltimore’s Despicable Racist Elijah Cummings“) and https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7315563/Baltimore-account-millions-drugs-danger-yes-rats-lurk-corner.html (“Baltimore cannot account for millions as drugs, danger and yes, rats, lurk around every corner“) and https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2019/05/07/the-brooke-amendment-and-section-8-housing-revisited/#comment-17164 (“HUD Proposes Rule To Oust Illegal Immigrants From Public Housing“) and https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2019/05/07/the-brooke-amendment-and-section-8-housing-revisited/#comment-17335 (“Dr. Ben Carson And The Witches“)

Elijah Cummings
[Elijah Cummings]

6 09 2019
Timothy D. Naegele

Black Unemployment Hits Record Low

John Carney has written at Breitbart.com:

The unemployment rate for African-Americans fell to the lowest level ever recorded in August, dropping from 6 percent to 5.5 percent.

One result: the persistent gap between white and black unemployment also narrowed to its smallest on record.

The unemployment ratio has averaged around 2 to 1 or so for decades, meaning the black unemployment rate is typically twice the white unemployment rate. In good times, the unemployment rate of whites and blacks falls but the gap remains. And in bad times, the unemployment rate for whites and black rises, but black unemployment typically remains around twice that of white employment.

A year ago, the black unemployment rate stood at 6.6 percent while the white unemployment rate was 3.4 percent, meaning black unemployment was 185 percent of white unemployment.

In August, the gap narrowed so that black unemployment was under 162 percent of white unemployment. That is the smallest gap ever in records going back to January 1972.

This is particularly remarkable because it comes at a time of remarkably low unemployment. Prior to the Trump era, the last time the gap fell below 170 percent was in August of 2009, when the black unemployment rate was 14.8 percent and the white unemployment rate was 8.9 percent. Back then the gap declined because white unemployment was increasing at a faster clip than the already sky-high black unemployment.

In other words, the decline in employment inequality now is undeniably the best on record because it comes in the context of falling unemployment.

See https://www.breitbart.com/economy/2019/09/06/black-unemployment-hits-record-low-black-white-unemployment-gap-shrinks-to-smallest-ever/ (“Black Unemployment Hits Record Low, Black-White Unemployment Gap Shrinks to Smallest Ever“) (emphasis added)

How wonderful.

The Democrats have perpetrated “ghetto slavery,” while Donald Trump is giving them jobs and hope. The contrast could not be starker.

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