homelessness

San Francisco Chronicle's piece on RVs and the homeless is latest look at huge trend

San Francisco Chronicle's piece on RVs and the homeless is latest look at huge trend

I never knew there was a hidden population of people in church parking lots across the country. Then I read a piece in the San Francisco Chronicle about how some congregations were helping alleviate a crisis of homelessness on the West Coast.

It makes sense, actually. Most days a week, church parking lots are pretty much empty.

I thought the Chronicle’s story was unique until I did a search and found out that church parking lots-and-the-homeless have been covered quite a bit. KTVU, a local TV station, covered the same topic a month ago. Here's the Chronicle's piece:

Last year, Arnell Clark and his girlfriend, Mataele Robertson, moved their young family out of an East Palo Alto house because they could no longer afford the rent. The couple figured they’d get more room in a 34-foot recreational vehicle.

But the stigma hit hard. When they were renters, neighbors used to say hi. But in an RV on the street, “we’re invisible,” said 39-year-old Clark, a laid-off package handler. “It’s the unspoken that tells me how you feel.”

The solution: moving to a church parking lot. For months the couple have stationed their RV in the lots of local churches. They are currently on the East Palo Alto property of St. Samuel Church of God in Christ, an arrangement that Clark finds a blessing…

With no end in sight to soaring housing costs, several Bay Area faith organizations have become a sanctuary of sorts -- not just channeling donations and distributing food, but also offering a safe place for people living in cars or RVs. The arrangement has sometimes grated on neighbors, but for pastors, it’s simply an extension of their mission to serve humanity.

The newspaper offers a list of churches -– mainly in Silicon Valley -– that are letting either RVs or people sleeping in their cards take up space in their lots.

The "Safe Parking" sign that introduces this post is from Morgan Hill Bible Church that's well to the south of San Jose. Back to the feature itself:

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Seattle Times and Associated Press focus on West Coast homeless, but with little faith factor

Seattle Times and Associated Press focus on West Coast homeless, but with little faith factor

Twice in recent months I’ve had neighbors over to dinner in my small rented condo in a Seattle suburb. And the topic that we all talked about non-stop? The impossible cost of housing in this area (a typical home costs $735K; condos average $378K) and the armies of growing homeless people around the Pacific Northwest.

I was in Oregon about two weeks ago and noticed the large amounts of people camping out on the streets overnight, as Portland’s homeless problem is as invasive as Seattle’s. Cities up and down the entire West Coast are in agony over this, as the sheer numbers of people on the street are outstripping local governments' ability to deal with them. The spending in King County (which embraces Seattle) alone is $195 million in dealing with a problem that’s not getting any better and which is documented in this city site.

In a series of Seattle Times stories that are part of the paper's Project Homeless, a two-year concentration on the problem that kicked off earlier this month, I’m finding an odd split personality. You see, the photos show religious content (that is, church groups helping the homeless), but the reporting in the main news stories does not. What's up with that?

Photos by Alan Berner show a man praying at the Catholic-run St. Martin de Porres shelter in south Seattle: a memorial to homeless in St. Martin’s chapel and bunkmates at the Union Gospel Mission’s shelter near Pioneer Square. But I couldn't find mention of what these places do other than be available.

The Associated Press has jumped onto the issue, stating that the entire West Coast is overwhelmed.

That struggle is not Seattle’s alone. A homeless crisis of unprecedented proportions is rocking the West Coast, and its victims are being left behind by the very things that mark the region’s success: soaring housing costs, rock-bottom vacancy rates and a roaring economy that waits for no one. All along the coast, elected officials are scrambling for solutions.
“I’ve got economically zero unemployment in my city, and I’ve got thousands of homeless people that actually are working and just can’t afford housing,” said Seattle City Councilman Mike O’Brien. “There’s nowhere for these folks to move to. Every time we open up a new place, it fills up.”

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Oregon's homeless: The Eugene Register-Guard doesn't explore why many people help out

Oregon's homeless: The Eugene Register-Guard doesn't explore why many people help out

Oregon’s second-largest city, Eugene, is located in a bucolic part of the state along Interstate-5. Set against low mountains, it is only an hour from the state’s legendary beaches and rocky coast. Its temperate climate has also attracted a problem that’s plaguing the entire West Coast: Rampant homelessness. The local police chief says the scene in Eugene is the worst he’s ever seen

Its largest newspaper, the Eugene Register-Guard, just got lauded by the Poynter Institute for its ongoing editorial project on homelessness. The reason this caught my eye is that the Register-Guard is one of the most religion-free newspapers I’ve ever seen. And that's saying a lot in the Pacific Northwest where the religion coverage everywhere is pretty sparse. 

But with homelessness, I thought, they can’t avoid the faith element, can they? How about the 60-year-old Eugene Mission, which has a long track record of helping the homeless? Or how of all the helping-the-homeless groups in Eugene, two have connections to the Catholic Church?

But avoid it they have. On Feb. 12, the newspaper said in an editorial: 

Our goal in this project is to highlight efforts locally and elsewhere that are proving successful, examine what it will take to improve and expand those efforts, and to identify how local organizations can work more efficiently and collaboratively to close gaps in the system. The editorial page coverage will be supplemented by periodic Register-Guard news articles on the issue. And because this project will be a journey for all of us, we’ll adjust plans along the way.

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Any religion ghosts? Massive San Francisco homelessness project comes up short

Any religion ghosts? Massive San Francisco homelessness project comes up short

San Francisco is the nation’s 14th largest city but it’s second in the country (after New York) in terms of homeless people per capita. That’s one in 200 people sleeping on the streets.

The situation has become so dire that last month on June 29, dozens of area media outlets coordinated a tsunami of coverage so that anyone logging onto the Internet, turning on the radio or TV or picking up a newspaper would have to hear about one of the country’s most intractable problems.

The media cooperation alone on this project is worth several news posts. But, despite the well-meaning roots of this project, it comes up short. Haunted? You bet.

Why? Let's start with this fascinating overview of the problem as sketched out by the San Francisco Chronicle. We read that the bulk of the street people are chronically homeless and that at least one third are mentally ill. If they pose no threat to anyone, no one can force them to take shelter.

Today, despite the efforts of six mayoral administrations dating back to Dianne Feinstein, homelessness is stamped into the city so deeply it’s become a defining characteristic.
San Francisco initially responded by providing temporary, spartan shelters. Now, it permanently houses thousands of people salvaged from the streets through multimillion-dollar residential and counseling programs. But still, the city remains home to sprawling tent cities, junkies squatting on blankets shooting heroin, and all manner of anguished destitute people and beggars holding out hands.
The city’s last official count, in 2015, put the adult homeless population at 6,686, though many officials and advocates for homeless people say the number is much higher.

When you click here to see the list of stories on homelessness in every outlet from Mother Jones to Buzzfeed, you may notice there’s one thing left out.

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