115. The Pipeline


Dear Readers:

The Departments of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development make a clear distinction between Sheltered and Unsheltered Homeless. Basically it is the following:

 Sheltered Homeless:

There is no HUD definition of ‘sheltered homeless’ in the 2007 Annual Homeless Assessment Report; just characteristics only in the report and does not mention the McKinney-Vento act at all.

The VA’s definition in the GDP report is so far reaching as to be macabre. It is whatever the VA is wanting it to be. For those homeless veterans that have a P.O. Box to receive their medications, that could be conceived of as a “home” according to the VA. The VA does use the definition according to the McKinney-Vento Act, but then adds some disqualifiers such as “doubled up in boarding houses”.

 Unsheltered Homeless:

Since they do not make a peep, do not make a sound when they die, since no one knows until they are found, and only superficially counted if found. Since one can only stay inside some shelters for a limited time, due to bed and mat shortages, and the new homeless take priority, the majority of the homeless are unsheltered year-round veteran and non-veteran alike. Women with children do take priority regardless (no argument here). The cycle is all homeless become unsheltered eventually if they do not get off the street.

After this nation has managed to lose close to 120,000 emergency shelter beds in ten years, due to our “friends”, neighbors and civic leaders using excuses that it is bringing crime to their neighborhoods after buying in next door to the shelters, and myriads of other pressures, and municipalities with the heavy handed ordinances, the hands off approach of HUD, and everyone that has turned their backs on the homeless while calling themselves a christian.

My friend Jim Tabb, who runs the site OldTimer Speaks Out mentioned speaking to several homeless in his area recently about the recent homeless counts in his area. He mentions that they failed to recall ever being spoken to or being counted. Here is a story from the Seattle Times, chronicling the homeless count here in Seattle, King County, Washington (where I am currently residing). I find it curious that no where in this article does it show, and this article is quite detailed, that they spoke to the homeless here at all either. What they do here is “SPOTLIGHT” the homeless and counts him or her in the night. Speaking of the indecency of it all, I can see Elmer Fudd saying: Sssh! Be Veddy Qwied! We Are Counting Homeless!

Here is a copy of the article here:

“One Night Count” finds 15 percent increase in street homelessness in King County

Seattle Times staff reporters

 Homelessness in King County increased 15 percent over last year, according to the annual One Night Count in King County that was held in today’s freezing early morning hours.The 2,631 homeless counted by 925 volunteers who spread throughout the county between 2 a.m. and 5:30 this morning were found sleeping in their vehicles, parks, all-night Metro buses and locations other than emergency shelters or transitional housing.It’ll take two months to gather the statistics from the shelters and housing units, said Alison Eisinger, director of the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, which sponsored the count.When those numbers are included, she said, an estimated 6,000 homeless will be added, for a total of some 8,600.The count is done not only to bring attention to the homeless issue, said Eisinger, but because a count is necessary to qualify for federal assistance under the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act of 1987. Last year, the county got $18.4 million under the act.Where volunteers lookIt was numbingly cold as a group of volunteers picked their way along a frozen stream near downtown Bellevue, scrambled up a steep embankment and peered into the secluded, shadowy depths under an overpass.Nestled behind a huge concrete pillar was a little living room, complete with table, chairs, and metal shelving units. The volunteers’ flashlights danced along the concrete walls, revealing a figure huddled against the wall in a sleeping bag. The figure — a man — sat up, without saying a word, and stared back at the group.The five volunteers left quickly after counting a handful of people who were sleeping in the homeless encampment.One Night Count volunteers searched parking lots and transit centers, where some people sleep in their cars. They searched business complexes that by day are occupied by professionals but where by night others find shelter in parking lots and hidden in the landscaping. And they searched wooded areas, sometimes just off main streets, that some homeless people turn into camps just out of view.“I’m struck by the dignity of some of these camps; some are very tidy,” said Marilyn Mason-Plunkett, president and CEO of Hopelink, the Eastside’s largest social service agency, who was among the volunteers searching for homeless people in Bellevue.As the temperatures dipped into the upper 20s, the group trod into small thickets of forested areas in the city’s core. The volunteers crunched through brush glittering with frost, pulling back tree limbs and carefully shining flashlights into the protected clearings.Often, there was obvious evidence of encampments; abandoned sleeping bags and bottles, cans and wrappers strewn about. In one such encampment, just yards from a major intersection, a child-sized teddy bear was the lone inhabitant of a well-used camp, the stuffed toy perched on an old metal bed frame and mattress.“That’s just sad,” Altimore said, as she peered in with a flashlight. She believed many were chased away from their normal camps in search of a warm place to spend the night.At another outcropping of trees near a freeway onramp, the group found a person bundled deep under sleeping bags and blankets. A tarp had been slung between the branches, and a bike leaned against a tree trunk, while a red cooler sat nearby. It was a tidy home, all but invisible to the thousands of cars that pass daily, and in the shadow of a new high-rise building under construction across the street.”Great strides”The One Night Count, now in its 28th year here, found sizable increases in the homeless between 1998 and 2004, when the same areas were compared from one year to the next.The street counts in 2006 and 2007, showed reductions of unsheltered homeless of 4 percent and 15 percent, respectively.Bill Block, project director of the Committee to End Homelessness in King County, said he viewed today’s count “as a snapshot, and not a terribly scientific snapshot.”“I tend to think of this night as more of a reminder that so many people are homeless, rather than a measuring stick of how many are,” Block said.He said a new counting system that’s just been established will provide more accurate trends.Meanwhile, Block said that in the past three years, 1,400 housing units for the homeless have been created, giving shelter to at least 2,800 people.“We’ve been making some great strides,” he said.This morning’s count also included 140 people in severe weather shelters, which opened up because of the freezing temperatures.Seattle had the major share of the homeless in the One Night Count — 1,976 of the 2,631.A total of 13 of the county’s 25 most-populated municipalities, from Woodinville to Federal Way, took part in the count.For the first time, Auburn took part, and found 40 homeless in its midst.End….. 

They prowled in the bushes, used high beams on people in sleeping bags, probably scared the hell out of many, and did not ask if they were veterans or if they have disabilities, when they last ate, or were warm. They then use these counts to request for HUD funding. Why is it that if someone is inside a shelter, that their data is more vital than a homeless person’s data that is outside of the shelter? Is it because it is COLD outside?  If you notice in the article it states it will take two months to gather the data from the shelters. That 2,631 of the estimated 8,000 or 32% of the data pool are flawed already? And remember this is just best estimate, think of the hundreds that were not found out there by our intrepid hunters.

I am in no way maligning the volunteers here. I am lauding them in their volunteerism. I applaud them for their devotions to this cause. I applaud them in beating the bushes for them to get these numbers for their funding.

I decry that these numbers are being used as scientific fact for Congress by HUD and by the VA since there is little fact involved for their “Blue Ribbon Team” to “De-Duplicate” here. Something to note though: The Seattle-King County Continuum Of Care which is how HUD calls this Region, does not use Seattle’s statistics in counting of in its homeless in the Annual Homeless Assessment Report it presents before Congress… even though Seattle and King County, Washington has one of the highest homeless populations in the United States.



1 Response to “115. The Pipeline”

  1. February 14, 2008 at 7:06 pm

    Ms Mason-Plunkett of Hopelink said that she was struck by the dignity of some of the camps. From the article, it’s difficult to tell if word “struck” she was used denote suprise or that she was moved by the dignity – or perhaps even a little of both.

    That aside…

    I’m always amazed how many people never consider that just because a person loses their home doesn’t mean that they lose their dignity as well.

    The dictionary defines dignity as: “The quality of being worthy of esteem or respect”

    The homeless are people, just like the rest of us. That in itself, makes them worthy to be treated with dignity.

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