Welcome To Rent Court, Where Tenants Can Face A Tenuous Fate : NPR

 

courtroom_wide-small.jpg

Today, more than 11 million families spend over half of their incomes on rent, and for the poor, it can be as much as 80 percent. That means millions of Americans face the threat of eviction, or they live in substandard housing because it’s all they can afford. NPR’s Pam Fessler has been spending time at the rent court in Washington, D.C., where the struggle between low-income renters and landlords over affordable housing often comes to a head.

In some places, it’s called rent court or housing court. Others, eviction court. In Washington, D.C., it’s known as the Landlord and Tenant Branch. This is where landlords in the city sue tenants, usually because they failed to pay the rent.

Each weekday morning, dozens of people can be seen filing into the three-story courthouse where their cases will be heard. And maybe their fates decided. Everyone passes through a metal detector. Women with small children. Elderly tenants with walkers and canes. Several of those who gather in the hallway wear work uniforms. They’re nurse’s aides, security guards, grocery store clerks.

The tenants are among the city’s poorest residents. And while this city’s population is less than half African-American, according to U.S. census data from 2014, almost every single tenant here — day after day after day — is black. The white people are usually attorneys.

In the wood-paneled courtroom the loud wooden pews squeak loudly during roll call of the day’s cases, which can run into the hundreds. This court had 32,000 cases last year alone. In an effort to help lighten the caseload, the judges encourage tenants and landlords to try to work out a settlement before they’re called into the courtroom. And many of them do, often with the help of a court-appointed mediator.

‘Could Be’ Homeless

“My name is Lisa Brown. I live in Southeast Washington, D.C., in Atlantic Terrace. I’m currently $6,000 plus in arrears, of back owed rent.”

Outside the court, Brown says she calls herself the new face of the “could be” homeless. She has just signed a deal with her landlord. If she doesn’t come up with the money she owes in a couple of weeks, the landlord can evict her from the apartment she shares with her three children and a grandchild. Brown works at a hotel, but she says it isn’t enough.

via Welcome To Rent Court, Where Tenants Can Face A Tenuous Fate : NPR

Advertisements

Tiny Houses | Perspectives | Perspectives | KQED

tiny house

 

Something about tiny houses makes intelligent people go weak in the knees. But what issue does the miniaturization of housing actually solve?

I like tiny houses same way I once liked the Betty Crocker Easy-Bake Oven. But one 264 square foot micro-unit hit the San Francisco market this past December for the “affordable” price of $425,000. Developers who capitalize on the housing crisis are no more likely to be motivated by community needs than the college students who compete for annual prizes with tiny house designs in which they have no plans to actually live.

The suggestions that tiny houses are part of a solution to homelessness seem especially bizarre since the issue isn’t the size of the house or tent; it’s the unwillingness of your public official to allow them to exist at all in public spaces. Tiny house misconceptions are passed around like cookies, especially the misconception that there is not enough land or money to address the housing crisis. This is nonsense. We are a wealthy nation capable of housing the poor. One should never confuse an absence of resources with an absence of political will.

But the misconception that poor people (and apparently nobody else) should start living their lives in miniature is not just nonsense, it is offensive. Do poor people somehow need less room to cook or have friends over for a meal? Do people who have survived grinding poverty need less light, less space, less access to computers, art supplies, pianos, or room for their children? I would argue the opposite.

Live in a teacup if you like, I would say to tiny house proponents, those who aren’t frankly capitalizing on the housing crisis or jousting for some academic design prize. But think before requesting the miniaturization of someone else’s life. It’s cynical to arrange companionship-free living for others while the developers, happily living in large houses, periodically dust the environmental prize hanging by the mantel.

With a Perspective, this is Carol Denney.

Carol Denney is a freelance writer and human rights editor for Street Spirit newspaper.

via Tiny Houses | Perspectives | Perspectives | KQED.

Hiding The Homeless | VICE News

Here’s a 13 minute video, linked below, that addresses some of the major problems of the system to keeps homelessness going. It also offers some realistic solutions.
~ gnat

Hiding The Homeless – November 23, 2015 

A growing number of American cities are ticketing or arresting homeless people for essentially being homeless. The new laws ban behavior commonly associated with homelessness like reclining in public, sharing food or sitting on a sidewalk.

Supporters argue these measures are necessary to push homeless people into the shelter system and maintain public safety. Critics say the laws violate the rights of homeless people and ignore the more complicated drivers of homelessness like mental illness.

We found homeless people camping in the woods to escape police harassment, a homelessness consultant opposed to feeding homeless people and a city that uses solitary confinement to force homeless people into shelters.

VICE News began its investigation in Boise, ID, where a group of homeless people have filed a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of these laws. Their case could change the way homeless people are treated across the country.

via Hiding The Homeless | VICE News.

D.O.J. Orders Stop to Criminalizing Homelessness and Poverty

It’s been our long time understanding that, if people understood what life like this is really like, they’d be moved to help in huge and profound ways.

While we are grateful to see the DOJ *finally* step in and say something, we think that little will actually change any time soon. ~ gnat

a quote from the article:

“No-one in their right mind wants to be poor or homeless, so it is always curious why many Americans are cruel and inhumane toward the very least fortunate among us. It is a safe bet that if there were enough living-wage jobs, the number of Americans stuck in poverty and without a place to live would be far less. Whatever the reason a person is in economic despair and lacks a safe place to live, there is no reason whatsoever to criminalize them or their families for being poor or homeless.”

via D.O.J. Orders Stop to Criminalizing Homelessness and Poverty

Homeless In America: 5 Things to Say And 5 Things To Not Say

Homeless
USA / San Francisco / May 2004 Christine beg to many on Fulton street of San Francisco. The city spends $200 million a year trying to get homeless people off the streets and into a better way of life – but over 20 years, the problem has only gotten worse. † Fatih Pinar / Anzenberger

When you see a homeless person, what do you do?

Most of us tend to have the same response: We avoid eye contact and walk a little faster. But you might also ponder the situation, thinking to yourself, What’s his story? How did this happen to her? How long have they lived on the streets? Maybe you even wanted to help, but didn’t know how to start a conversation.

Should you decide to talk to one of the more than 600,000 homeless individuals in the United States, what you say is vitally important. Utter the wrong thing, and you make a person in crisis feel less than human. Make the right comment, however, and you just might provide the help that he or she so desperately needs. Here’s what the experts advise saying and what’s better left unsaid. [cont reading] via Homeless In America: 5 Things to Say And 5 Things To Not Say.

~ shared by gnat for Occupy Homeless

Topics, Tags & Catagories

So here’s a list of topics that we’re talking about on these pages:
Affordable Housing, Employment, Food Stamps SNAP, Food, Food Deserts, Work, Jobs, Manufacturing Moved Offshore, Poverty, Welfare, Income Inequality, Occupy Homeless, Gnat, AtomGnat, Gnat-one-ette, Facebook, Twitter, Activist, Religion, Mental and Physical Health, Education, Writer, Artist, Community…

Do You Have a Story to tell?? We want to publish that on this website and our Facebook page! Come on, don’t be shy! And if you are, we’ll happily help you with a alias so that your identity can be kept private. 

this is a test to figure out the placement of tags and wtf categories are…

Occupy Homeless

Earlier this week we shared a comic to our FaceBook Page addressing the need to do a little more than just seeing and acknowledging the problems with poverty and homelessness. Because it got little attention in the Facebook-normal sense of the word, i suppose the basic message got across, but the whole idea behind the message kept bothering me… it tried to write about it, and couldn’t find the words… i tried to ignore it, the comic kept getting in my face… So i decided that i’d remake the whole thing, using an actual person to bring this awareness a small step forward.

homeless-man-soup-cup-likes-smilies.png

Somewhere between the insult and the irony expressed in this graphic, stands a small truth that we should really consider. That is, IF we are serious about seeing a change to this all too common, story.

It really does start with each of us choosing to do one small thing for someone else. It means, purchasing a bag of socks, and giving those socks to a few people. It means, buying an extra sandwich and giving it to the man or woman standing on the corner. It means, donating our time to a shelter, mission, or some other outreach program. It means, giving a dollar to this project and also sharing our content. It means, helping us to develop stories that you yourself would like to see on our pages. Basically, we’re asking each of us, to help each other.

Or we can keep waiting on the same groups to do things that supposedly help, but got us right where we are. ~ gnat