The Boston Globe: New law allows domestic violence, sex assault victims to vacate leases without penalties

From the Boston Globe


New law allows domestic violence, sex assault victims to vacate leases without penalties


By Martin Finucane
January 03, 2013


Governor Deval Patrick today signed a bill into law that will allow domestic violence and sexual assault victims to vacate their lease or rental agreements without financial penalties.


The bill, “An Act Relative to Housing Rights for Victims of Domestic Violence, Rape, Sexual Assault, and Stalking,” also allows victims to cite their situation as a defense in eviction proceedings, the governor’s office said.


“We must do all we can to protect victims of sexual and domestic violence,” Patrick said in a statement. Patrick was joined when he signed the bill by Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray and other supporters of the bill at a State House signing ceremony, the governor’s office said.


Victims of sexual and domestic violence often encounter financial and legal barriers when they need to leave their homes, the governor’s office said. They may also face discrimination from prospective landlords. The legislation was designed to provide the victims with protections while also protecting owners’ property rights.


“This new law will provide important protections to victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse and stalking by giving them the ability to choose whether to stay in their residences or move without having to weigh their personal safety against financial considerations,” State Senator Cynthia Creem said in the statement.


The bill also contains a provision for changing the locks when a victim who is a tenant believes there is an imment threat.

Click here for the full article.

New York Times: For Poor, Leap to College Often Ends in a Hard Fall

From the New York Times


For Poor, Leap to College Often Ends in a Hard Fall


By Jason DeParle
December 22, 2012


GALVESTON, Tex. — Angelica Gonzales marched through high school in Goth armor — black boots, chains and cargo pants — but undermined her pose of alienation with a place on the honor roll. She nicknamed herself after a metal band and vowed to become the first in her family to earn a college degree.


“I don’t want to work at Walmart” like her mother, she wrote to a school counselor.


Weekends and summers were devoted to a college-readiness program, where her best friends, Melissa O’Neal and Bianca Gonzalez, shared her drive to “get off the island” — escape the prospect of dead-end lives in luckless Galveston. Melissa, an eighth-grade valedictorian, seethed over her mother’s boyfriends and drinking, and Bianca’s bubbly innocence hid the trauma of her father’s death. They stuck together so much that a tutor called them the “triplets.”


Low-income strivers face uphill climbs, especially at Ball High School, where a third of the girls’ class failed to graduate on schedule. But by the time the triplets donned mortarboards in the class of 2008, their story seemed to validate the promise of education as the great equalizer.


Angelica, a daughter of a struggling Mexican immigrant, was headed to Emory University. Bianca enrolled in community college, and Melissa left for Texas State University, President Lyndon B. Johnson’s alma mater.


“It felt like we were taking off, from one life to another,” Melissa said. “It felt like, ‘Here we go!’ ”


Four years later, their story seems less like a tribute to upward mobility than a study of obstacles in an age of soaring economic inequality. Not one of them has a four-year degree. Only one is still studying full time, and two have crushing debts. Angelica, who left Emory owing more than $60,000, is a clerk in a Galveston furniture store.


Each showed the ability to do college work, even excel at it. But the need to earn money brought one set of strains, campus alienation brought others, and ties to boyfriends not in school added complications. With little guidance from family or school officials, college became a leap that they braved without a safety net.


The story of their lost footing is also the story of something larger — the growing role that education plays in preserving class divisions. Poor students have long trailed affluent peers in school performance, but from grade-school tests to college completion, the gaps are growing. With school success and earning prospects ever more entwined, the consequences carry far: education, a force meant to erode class barriers, appears to be fortifying them.


“Everyone wants to think of education as an equalizer — the place where upward mobility gets started,” said Greg J. Duncan, an economist at the University of California, Irvine. “But on virtually every measure we have, the gaps between high- and low-income kids are widening. It’s very disheartening.”


The growing role of class in academic success has taken experts by surprise since it follows decades of equal opportunity efforts and counters racial trends, where differences have narrowed. It adds to fears over recent evidence suggesting that low-income Americans have lower chances of upward mobility than counterparts in Canada and Western Europe.


Thirty years ago, there was a 31 percentage point difference between the share of prosperous and poor Americans who earned bachelor’s degrees, according to Martha J. Bailey and Susan M. Dynarski of the University of Michigan. Now the gap is 45 points.


While both groups improved their odds of finishing college, the affluent improved much more, widening their sizable lead.


Likely reasons include soaring incomes at the top and changes in family structure, which have left fewer low-income students with the support of two-parent homes. Neighborhoods have grown more segregated by class, leaving lower-income students increasingly concentrated in lower-quality schools. And even after accounting for financial aid, the costs of attending a public university have risen 60 percent in the past two decades. Many low-income students, feeling the need to help out at home, are deterred by the thought of years of lost wages and piles of debt.


In placing their hopes in education, the Galveston teenagers followed a tradition as old as the country itself. But if only the prosperous become educated — and only the educated prosper — the schoolhouse risks becoming just another place where the fortunate preserve their edge.


“It’s becoming increasingly unlikely that a low-income student, no matter how intrinsically bright, moves up the socioeconomic ladder,” said Sean Reardon, a sociologist at Stanford. “What we’re talking about is a threat to the American dream.”


High School


No one pictured the teenagers as even friends, much less triplets. Angelica hid behind dark eyeliner, Melissa’s moods turned on the drama at home, and Bianca, in the class behind, seemed even younger than she was. What they had in common was a college-prep program for low-income teenagers, Upward Bound, and trust in its counselor, Priscilla Gonzales Culver, whom everyone called “Miss G.”


Angelica was the product of a large Mexican-American family, which she sought both to honor and surpass. Her mother, Ana Gonzales, had crossed the border illegally as a child, gained citizenship and settled the clan in Galveston, where she ruled by force of will. She once grounded Angelica for a month for coming home a minute late. With hints of both respect and fear, Angelica never called her “Mom” — only “Mrs. Lady.”


Home was an apartment in a subdivided house, with relatives in the adjacent units. Family meals and family feuds went hand in hand. One of Angelica’s uncles bore scars from his days in a street gang. Her grandmother spoke little English. With a quirky mix of distance and devotion, Angelica studied German instead of Spanish and gave the fiesta celebrating her 15th birthday a Goth theme, with fairies and dragons on the tabletop globes. “Korn chick,” she fancifully called herself, after the dissonant metal band.


But school was all business. “Academics was where I shined,” she said. Her grandmother and aunts worked at Walmart alongside Mrs. Lady, and Angelica was rankled equally by how little money they made and how little respect they got. Upward Bound asked her to rank the importance of college on a scale of 1 to 10.


“10,” she wrote.


Melissa also wanted to get off the island — and more immediately out of her house. “When I was about 7, my mom began dating and hanging around a bunch of drunks,” she wrote on the Upward Bound application. For her mother, addiction to painkillers and severe depression followed. Her grandparents offered her one refuge, and school offered another.


“I like to learn — I’m weird,” she said.


By eighth grade, Melissa was at the top of her class and sampling a course at a private high school. She yearned to apply there but swore the opposite to her mother and grandparents. Protecting families from their own ambition is a skill many poor students learn. “I knew we didn’t have the money,” Melissa said. “I felt like I had no right to ask.”


New to Upward Bound, Melissa noticed that one student always ate alone and crowded in beside her. “She forced her friendship on me,” Angelica said.


Bianca joined the following year with a cheerfulness that disguised any trace of family tragedy. As the eldest of four siblings, she had spent the years since her father’s death as a backup mother. To Bianca, family meant everything.


She arrived just in time for the trip at the heart of triplets lore — the Upward Bound visit to Chicago. While they had known they wanted more than Galveston offered, somewhere between the Sears Tower and Northwestern University they glimpsed what it might be. The trip at once consecrated a friendship and defined it around shared goals.


“We wanted to do something better with our lives,” Angelica said.


Ball High was hard on goals. In addition to Bosco, a drug-sniffing dog profiled in the local paper, the campus had four safety officers to deter fights. A pepper spray incident in the girls’ senior year sent 50 students to the school nurse. Only 2 percent of Texas high schools were ranked “academically unacceptable.” Ball was among them.


Melissa now marvels at what a good parent her mother has become to her younger brother after she stopped drinking and was treated for her depression. But when she returned from the high school trip to Chicago, the conflicts grew so intense that Miss G. took her in one night. “I really put her through a lot,” said Melissa’s mother, Pam Craft. “Everything she did, she did on her own — I’m so proud of her.” Miss G.’s notes variously observed that “there are limited groceries,” “student is overwhelmed” and “she’s basically raising herself.”


While faulting her mother’s choices in men, Melissa made a troubling choice of her own with her ambitionless boyfriend. Among the many ways he let her down was getting another girl pregnant. Yet as many times as they broke up, they got back together again. “He is going to bring her down,” Miss G. warned.


Despite the turmoil, Melissa earned “commended” marks, the highest level, on half her state skills tests, edited the yearbook and published two opinion articles in the Galveston newspaper, one of them about her brother’s struggle with autism. Working three jobs, she missed so much school that she nearly failed to graduate, but she still finished in the top quarter of her class. It was never clear which would prevail — her habit of courting disaster or her talent for narrow escapes.


Returning from Chicago, Bianca jumped a grade, which allowed her to graduate with Melissa and Angelica.


Angelica kept making A’s on her way to a four-year grade-point average of 3.9. “Amazingly bright and dedicated,” one instructor wrote. A score of 1,240 on the math and reading portions of her SAT ranked her at the 84th percentile nationwide. When the German teacher suddenly quit, the school tapped her to finish teaching the first-year course.


Outside school, Angelica’s life revolved around her boyfriend, Fred Weaver, who was three years older and drove a yellow Sting Ray. Fred was devoted — too devoted, Mrs. Lady thought, and she warned Angelica not to let the relationship keep her from going to college. Fred’s father owned a local furniture store, and everyone could see that Fred’s dream was to run it with Angelica at his side.


Senior year raced by, with Miss G. doing her best to steer frightened and distracted students though the college selection process. Despite all the campus visits, choices were made without the intense supervision that many affluent students enjoy. Bianca, anchored to the island by family and an older boyfriend, chose community college. Melissa picked Texas State in San Marcos because “the application was easiest.”


Angelica had thought of little beyond Northwestern and was crestfallen when she was rejected. She had sent a last-minute application to a school in Atlanta that had e-mailed her. Only after getting in did she discover that she had achieved something special.


Emory cost nearly $50,000 that year, but it was one of a small tier of top schools that promised to meet the financial needs of any student good enough to be admitted. It had even started a program to relieve the neediest students of high debt burdens. “No one should have to give up their goals and dreams because financial challenges stand in the way,” its Web site says.


Plus an unseen campus a thousand miles away had an innate appeal. “How many times do you get the chance to completely reinvent yourself?” Angelica said.

Click here to read the full article.

Lieutenant Governor Murray Announces Goal of 1,000 New Units of Supportive Housing by 2015

A Press Release from the Lt. Governor’s Office:


Lieutenant Governor Murray Announces Goal of 1,000 New Units of Supportive Housing by 2015


Lieutenant Governor Murray also announces grants for 138 vouchers to support programming for homeless and very low-income households


BROCKTON – December 19, 2012 – Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray announced today a first in the nation, collaborative effort by 18 state agencies to create an additional 1,000 units of permanent, supportive housing in Massachusetts by 2015.


Supportive housing, which is operated in conjunction with a network of non-profit agencies across the Commonwealth, includes not just a place to live for a family, but also services that could include child-care, access to job training, mental-health care, and other opportunities that give participants a helping hand. There are currently approximately 15,000 units of supportive housing in Massachusetts.


“Since day one, the Governor and I have been dedicated to reducing homelessness in the Commonwealth,” said Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray, Chair of the Interagency Council on Housing and Homelessness. “By offering families in need supportive housing options, we are not only ensuring they have a place to call home but also the right resources to remain stable, get back on their feet, and soon begin to provide for their family again.”


The 18 agencies involved in a memorandum of understanding will partner to improve existing processes, make recommendations for new, collaborative efforts, and develop a long-range action plan to meet the need for supportive housing among the Commonwealth’s residents. Supportive housing helps individuals and families that are homeless or facing homelessness, institutionalized or at-risk of institutionalization; people with disabilities and the elderly. Additionally, the agencies will assess the extent of public cost-savings generated as a result of providing permanent supportive housing and will recommend strategic reinvestments.


“This supportive housing program will provide a clear pathway for participants from homelessness and emergency shelter towards stabilization and growth in permanently affordable housing,” said Aaron Gornstein, Undersecretary for the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD).


“CSH applauds The Patrick-Murray Administration and state agencies throughout the Commonwealth in this ground breaking example of comprehensive interagency collaboration to use supportive housing as the scaffolding for improving systemic response to their most vulnerable residents,” said Deborah De Santis, Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) President & CEO. “CSH looks forward to supporting the Commonwealth’s implementation of this bold new effort to maximize public resources and build healthy communities.”


In March, Governor Patrick signed “An Act Relative to Community Housing and Services,” which increases coordination and efficiency across government agencies by requiring these agencies to commit to working together through a legally-binding MOU to create a demonstration program resulting in up to 1,000 new permanent supportive housing units, and requires administrative action to promote supportive housing and to establish benchmarks to assess progress.


Today in Brockton, in a visit to supportive housing partner Father Bill’s & MainSpring, Lieutenant Governor Murray also announced the award of 138 project-based vouchers from the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP). The vouchers are available to owners of existing, affordable rental properties, who provide services or partner with an agency that has experience with successfully stabilizing homeless or very low-income households.


The MRVP vouchers allow homeless families to move into existing housing developments with long-term affordability restrictions. The supporting non-profit agencies which own the property will provide participating families with comprehensive supportive service programs to help ensure that they not only do not fall back into the cycle of homelessness and emergency shelter, but also move toward stability and self-sufficiency. Funds for supportive services in the amount of $2,500 per unit will be used to provide a wide array of services, including job search and training, financial literacy and planning, self-sufficiency training and coaching, counseling, parenting, early education and child care, mental health and addiction treatment, adult education, and GED and skills training.


“I am excited about the positive impact this program will have right here in Brockton,” said Mayor Linda M. Balzotti.  “In the last few years, we have worked diligently and collaboratively to address homelessness in our city, with Father Bill’s and Mainspring and other agencies.  This initiative will go a long way toward furthering these efforts.”


“Passing supportive housing legislation was a significant stride for Massachusetts in our efforts to provide residents of all ages, incomes and abilities with choices when it comes to securing an affordable home,” said Senator Patricia Jehlen.  “This initiative expands opportunities for people that today have too few options to live in an affordable home near friends and family.”


The Patrick-Murray Administration continues to focus its efforts and resources on homelessness prevention and permanent housing, to reduce the number of families living in hotels and at the same time to maintain one of the strongest safety nets in the country.


Governor Patrick and the Legislature have increased funding for homelessness prevention and permanent housing programs, including increasing funding for the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition program from $276,000 to $8.7 million, which provides up to $4,000 in assistance to prevent a family from becoming homeless. The Governor and the Legislature also secured $6 million in additional funds for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program, which will provide rental assistance to over 500 families, and boosted capital funds to construct and preserve more affordable housing.


Click here to access a list of organizations receiving grants from the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP).

Click here to read the Herald News article on the topic.

The Boston Globe: Mass. To End Placing of Homeless in Motels

From the Boston Globe


Mass. to end placing of homeless in motels

Cites cost, inadequacy; aims for ’14 phaseout


By Jenifer B. McKim
January 02, 2013



The state government plans to eliminate a controversial emergency shelter program that places about 1,700 homeless families in motels and hotels paid by taxpayers, but housing advocates are worried officials will not be able to come up with better alternatives.


Aaron Gornstein, undersecretary of the state Department of Housing and Community Development, said the state aims to phase out the program — now near peak levels — by June 30, 2014.



Click here to read the full article.


Following the article on January 2nd, two letters to the editor were run in the Globe in response to this article.

Click here to access One Family’s letter to the editorClick here to access Homes for Family’s letter.

The Boston Globe: Asthma Reduced in Boston Public Housing

From the Boston Globe


Asthma reduced in Boston public housing

Officials cite effort to wipe out vermin


By Kay Lazar
January 01, 2013




Rebecca Davila and her family live in a housing authority apartment. With her, from left, are Genesis, 11 (with their dog Woody); Luis, 13; and Priscilla, 7. Luis has asthma.


Getting the vermin out of ­Boston’s public housing may have improved living conditions in more ways than one: With the move has come a sharp drop in asthma symptoms among residents.


Boston health officials say new city data indicate that asthma incidences have dropped nearly by half since 2005. That is when the housing authority teamed up with the Boston Public Health Commission to reduce the number of roaches and rodents, while reducing the use of pesticides, which, along with roach and rodent droppings, can aggravate asthma symptoms.


The data, covering 2006 through 2010, the latest year available, show the rate of adults who reported having asthma symptoms in the authority’s units dropped from 23.6 percent in 2006 to 13 percent in 2010, the latest year available. At the same time, asthma rates in other low-income housing in ­Boston not run by the authority remained relatively unchanged.


In the late 1990s and early 2000s, health authorities had found extremely high infestations of roaches and rodents in housing authority buildings, and equally concerning, housing leaders were seeing desperate residents resorting to the use of powerful pesticides to try to rid their apartments of the pests.


“When we started these ­efforts, people would talk about not being able to sleep at night, because of [rodents] running around or not inviting people over because of embarrassment,” said Margaret Reid, ­director of the Division of Healthy Homes and Community Supports at the Boston ­Public Health Commission.


Many residents tried to solve the problems on their own. “We would have residents go and buy those roach bombs and set them off in their units, and if you have a gas stove and you set it off, you can cause an explosion,” said Lydia Agro, housing authority spokeswoman.


“We had residents who literally blew out their windows,” Agro said. “Luckily, nobody got hurt.”


During this time, a growing body of research was finding potential links between roach and rodent infestations and asthma. Boston health officials knew that asthma rates were increasing in the city’s public housing and decided to focus on a plan that would target the pests and the overuse of pesticides.


In 2005, housing authority and health officials launched a new approach to dealing with vermin, called Integrated Pest Management.


“It’s a way of reducing or eliminating pest infestation and preventing new infestations by making the environment less attractive to pests,” Reid said.


Instead of having contractors come in to place pesticides after a problem is discovered, the new approach is a three-pronged, continuous attack with management promptly remov­ing trash, and fixing and preventing leaks, which create friendly places for pests to live.


Residents are instructed to remove clutter and trash from their homes and to promptly notify management of leaks, holes, or pests found in their apartments. New residents ­receive a brochure and view a video, both available in about eight languages, so everyone understands what is expected of them, Reid said.


Contractors are required to aggressively pinpoint problem areas that need fixing.


The Public Health Commission says pest-related violations have decreased since the program was launched.


Commission researchers are taking a closer look at the relationship between the levels of roach and rodent infestations and a variety of health problems, including asthma, stress, and depression among the ­authority’s 27,000 residents. The study uses housing authority residents to help collect the data through interviews with their peers.


One of the surveyors is ­Rebecca Davila, a 34-year-old mother of three who has lived in Boston Housing Authority apartments all her life and was also trained as a housing advocate. Davila said that in addition to asking the survey questions, she tries to help residents understand what they must do to help reduce infestations in their apartment.


“It was hard in the beginning,” Davila said. “They don’t want people coming into their home and telling them what to do, but being a resident helped.”


Davila, whose 13-year-old son has asthma, said she understands residents’ frustrations with pest problems.


“I have lived in BHA housing all my life, and if you want the BHA, or someone, to do something, you have to call; otherwise it’s not going to happen,” she said.


Click here to read the full article. Renters At Risk In Foreclosure Crisis Rely On Short-Term Federal Law

From the Huffington Post Business


Renters At Risk In Foreclosure Crisis Rely On Short-Term Federal Law


By Lucia Graves
December 17, 2012


A key law that has prevented millions of low-income tenants from becoming homeless is set to expire at the end of the 113th Congress, kicking off what experts warn could be a new wave of evictions.


Homelessness is up 16 percent among families in major cities since the beginning of the foreclosure crisis, according to a report from the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and the number of renters affected by foreclosure has tripled in the past three years.


While public attention has centered on homeowners, research shows rental properties constitute an estimated 20 percent of all foreclosures, and 40 percent of families facing foreclosure-related evictions are renters. Those numbers translate into millions of Americans at risk of homelessness, many of them children.


What stands between many of those children and the streets is a little-known federal law that, barring congressional intervention, will expire in 2014.


In 2009, the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act (PTFA) granted renters the right to stay in their homes until the end of their lease or, if they have no lease, for a minimum of 90 days. Without that guarantee, renters are dependent on a patchwork system of state and local protections that range from quite good — in California and Connecticut, for instance — to completely inadequate.


“States have not stepped up to ensure protections within their jurisdictions,” said Tristia Bauman, a housing attorney at the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. “And so the PTFA is still the best protection available and we want to make sure that it lasts beyond 2014.”


Bauman is the primary author of the law center’s new report, “Eviction (Without) Notice,” that warns the homelessness problem for renters will only continue to worsen. The total number of renters has increased by 5.1 million nationally since 2000. In 2010, renters made up the majority of households in several of our nation’s most populous cities, and their numbers are expected to grow.


“This report shows how important PTFA’s protections are and the need to make them permanent,” said Maria Foscarinis, executive director of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty in a statement. “But it also shows that, because many people are not aware of the law and oversight is limited, PTFA rights are often violated — leaving families across the country out on the street.”


A survey of 156 renters, many of them unaware of their rights under federal law, found the failure of new owners to determine the occupancy status of residents in foreclosed properties to be among the top PTFA violations cited by respondents.


Click here to read the full article.

The Boston Globe: Children of Working Poor Caught in Pinch of Recession

From the Boston Globe


Children of Working Poor Caught in Pinch of Recession


Many sacrifice school for wages


By Megan Woolhouse
December 17, 2012



Salvarys Rafael Caban, 17, grew up fast, working several jobs while a student at Brighton High School so he could help his mother, a cafeteria cashier, pay the bills.


Education quickly became an afterthought for the teen, who went to school late or not at all as he sought more hours and bigger paychecks to contribute to his family’s support. He began failing classes, and graduation seemed less and less likely.


“As long as I was getting paid, I didn’t care,” said Caban.


The economic downturn of recent years has fallen particularly hard on low-income households, forcing teens to trade school for work and put their futures at risk. Yet more families are confronting this problem because incomes — ­especially among the working poor — have stagnated since the recession officially ended in 2009.


A new report, “How Youth Are Put At Risk By Parents’ Low Wage Jobs,” by researchers at the University of Massachusetts and Boston College, says that adolescents, who often take on adult responsibilities to help keep families afloat, ultimately bear the brunt of these decisions. As they neglect their education, falling further behind in class and often dropping out, they increase the risk that they, too, will become trapped in low-paying jobs.


“Low-wage work is the new poverty,” said Randy Albelda, an economist at the University of Massachusetts Boston and one of the report’s authors. “It’s not good for those kids, their school districts, and the economy as a whole if we’re keeping kids back because of the quality of their parents’ job.”


Research on the dynamics in poor, working families is relatively new and has rarely focused on adolescents, who face “disproportionate challenges” in such households, according to the report. Young people from such homes have a much stronger likelihood they will drop out of school, become obese, or have children as teenagers.


The authors found that 3.6 million of the nation’s 20 million adolescents, or nearly 1 in 6, live in a low-wage home. In Massachusetts, that’s any family in which a parent earns no more than $13.35 an hour or, if employed full-time, about $26,700 a year.


These young people are the sons and daughters of cashiers, nurses’ aides, janitors, and others with low-paying occupations. Since the recession, they have fallen further behind, with their incomes growing at less than half the rate of inflation.


As education and skills become increasingly important in the modern economy, these trends threaten to accelerate, sustaining the cycle of poverty while widening the gap between rich and poor. The unemployment rate among high school dropouts was more than 12 percent in October, compared with less than 4 percent among workers with at least a bachelor’s degree.


High school dropouts will earn less than half the lifetime income of those with bachelor’s degrees, according to US Census studies.


Meanwhile, the numbers of working poor are on the rise, said Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute, a nonpartisan Washington think tank. Workers earning less than $11 an hour — the equivalent of about $23,000 a year for those working full time — rose to 28 percent of the nation’s workforce last year, up from 23 percent in 2006, he said.


“The impact on educational achievement is going to be one of the biggest scars left from the recession,” Mishel said. “From everything we know, high persistent unemployment will do more damage to the educational prospects of low-income students than all the positive outcomes from educational reforms that people talk about.”


Bobby Bryant of Mattapan is an example. A lanky high school junior, he cares for his 3-year-old twin sisters most evenings, putting them to bed so his mother can go to her job as an event coordinator. On weekends, he said, he cares for his own daughter, who is 5.


He enrolled at ABCD University High School, an alternative school in the Boston public school system that helps students who, because of family obligations or other reasons, need flexible school schedules so they do not drop out. He gave up basketball, began looking for a job, and continues to help his mother.


“Me taking care of my sisters is more important than me playing basketball,” he said.


Bryant’s mother, Yolanda Williams, said she has always relied on her son for help. When he was growing up, she worked three jobs, including a day job at a dental office, evenings in retail, and weekends at Burger King while relatives cared for Bryant and his brother.


Click here to read the full article.

Click here to read the report.

New York Times Opinion: How to Fight Homelessness

From the New York Times Opinion Pages


How to Fight Homelessness

December 16, 2012



Despite the economic downturn, the Obama administration has managed to keep the homeless population steady over the last four years, for which it deserves considerable credit. But many people remain at risk of finding themselves on the street, especially poor families. This means that ways must be found to enlarge underfinanced rental assistance programs that now reach only about a quarter of the low-income families that qualify.


The centerpiece of the administration’s efforts to keep homelessness in check has been an innovative $1.5 billion program, included in the $840 billion Recovery Act of 2009, that broke with traditional approaches. The program, which helped 1.3 million people, rapidly rehoused some people after they had become homeless. It also kept others off the streets with rental assistance, emergency housing, security deposits, moving expenses and other forms of temporary aid.



Beyond that, the administration focused closely on finding housing for two particularly difficult groups: the chronically homeless and homeless veterans, both of which often need mental health support and social services to live on their own. The administration says it is still committed to the goal of ending homelessness for these two groups by the end of 2015. Data released last week by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, based on a survey of 3,000 cities and counties, shows that some progress is being made.



The number of homeless veterans declined by more than 17 percent between January 2009 and January of this year. The population of the chronically homeless fell by more than 19 percent between 2007 and 2012.



But while conditions may be improving for homeless individuals, they may be getting worse for families with children, who have costlier needs and therefore fewer housing options. Based on agency data, there were about 64,000 more people in families in shelters in 2011 than in 2007 — an increase of about 13 percent. During roughly the same period, the number of families with children in “worst case” housing situations — meaning that they spend more than half of their income on housing or that they live in hazardous, substandard buildings — grew to 3.3 million from 2.2 million. In other words, many of these families are just one financial setback away from the streets.

Click here to read the full editorial.

The New Yorker: Netherland

From The New Yorker



Homeless in New York, a young gay woman learns to survive.

December 10, 2012


ABSTRACT: A REPORTER AT LARGE about how gay, homeless young people survive on the streets of New York. According to some surveys, up to forty per cent of the nation’s homeless youth are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. Many have run away from foster care, where they were abused or felt ostracized; others were rejected by their families for religious reasons. In New York, they cycle through the youth shelter system, which is decentralized and temporary, and turns away far more people than it houses. Writer describes the experiences of several gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender homeless young people (Samantha, Ryan, Christina and others) as they try to survive in the shelters and on the streets. Describes Samantha’s flight from her home town, in Florida, to New York; her experience living in Central Park, and, later, in a shelter; her friends, Ryan and Christina, and their experiences. Ryan, a transgender boy, has what he calls his “gay family”: he is a “father” to other homeless, gay young people, and has in turn a “gay aunt,” Sasha, and he both supports and draws support from his family; eventually, to earn money, Ryan turns to prostitution. Describes the gay community at the Christopher Street Pier, where older, transgender women teach younger ones how to apply foundation and eyeshadow; follows Samantha, Ryan, and Christina as they struggle to plan for the future, applying for jobs at the Apple Store and trying to secure subsidized housing.

Click here to read the full article.

The Boston Globe: City Conducts Annual Homeless Census

From the Boston Globe

 City conducts annual homeless census


By Derek J. Anderson
December 13, 2012



Dressed in a flannel shirt, red jacket, and knit winter hat, Jim Greene led one of 48 volunteer teams into Downtown Crossing on a chilly night Wednesday as the city set out to conduct its annual count of the homeless population, as well as to offer them aid, shelter, and medical assistance.


Greene, director of emergency shelters for the Boston Public Health Commission, ­approached two homeless women on Washington Street and was greeted by a warm, “Hey, Jim!” He has been working with the homeless for 27 years.


“How are you doing?” said Greene, kneeling down before the women bundled in blankets outside a storefront.


“Well, not so well,” responded one of the women, who identified herself as Cheryl.


The two women, Cheryl and Elizabeth, were offered shelter and assistance for the night, but refused because they were worried they would be split up.


Elizabeth, 20, said she was pregnant and that Cheryl probably felt the urge to protect her, Greene said afterward. He said they would attempt to speak with the pair later with a smaller group of volunteers.


As Greene’s team swept through downtown during Boston’s 33d Annual Homeless Census, some 350 other volunteers, including a number of city officials, went through neighborhoods to count and assist those without homes, said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, executive director of the Public Health Commission.


The workers and volunteers met at City Hall, split into 48 teams, dispersed into the neighborhoods around 9:45 p.m., and worked late into the night. Alongside them, eight vans from various organizations aided in the census, transporting homeless to available shelters and providing food and medical attention.


“The most important thing we do as a city government is help people,” said Mayor Thomas M. Menino, who could not attend because he is recovering after a recent hospitalization. “And our annual census does so much more than just count the homeless. The volunteers out there in every neighborhood are lending a helping hand to our most vulnerable citizens and helping them take the first step toward a better life. I commend them and their efforts, and I wish I could be out there with them tonight.”


Last year, the census counted a total of 6,647 homeless men, women, and children, a 2.4 percent decrease from 2010.


The number included those living in shelters and the 181 people living on the streets, the lowest number of homeless recorded living outside since 1997, the census report said.


Boston is the first of nine cities in the country to pilot a new initiative from the US Inter­agency Council on Homelessness called Youth Count! in an attempt to count the number of unaccompanied youth ages 14 to 24, Ferrer said.

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