Since 2013, Veterans Project & The Family Assistance Campaign has provided free food assistance to more than 20,000 Veterans and their family members, distributing 445,000 lbs. of food. Feed Our Vets mission is to help Veterans in the United States, their spouses and children, whose circumstances have left them on the battlefield of hunger, and to involve the public in fighting Veteran hunger, through: (1) Community food pantries that provide regular, free food to Veterans and their families, (2) Distribution of related goods and services, (3) Public education and outreach.

Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by the fear of punishment
and the other by acts of love. Power based on love
is a thousand times more effective and permanent
then the one derived from fear of punishment.
- Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi

to meet the challenges of our times

to meet the challenges of our times
You have a right to live. You have a right to be. You have these rights regardless of money, health, social status, or class. You have these rights, man, woman, or child. These rights can never be taken away from you, they can only be infringed. When someone violates your rights, remember, it is not your fault.,I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. Each of us must learn to work not just for one self, one's own family or one's nation, but for the benefit of all humankind. Universal responsibility is the key to human survival. It is the best foundation for world peace


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Free Sleeping and the Internet

Free Sleeping and the Internet

As a professional Free Sleeper, I can do without a lot of things. I don't need a bed or a roof over my head, and I can coast by on very little money for food and sundries, but there's one thing you can't take away from me: my CrackBerry™.

I've had mine for less than two months, but it has already become an indispensable part of my operation. As an internet-based lifeform, I'm willing to sacrifice almost anything to remain productive on-line, and the CrackBerry™—excuse me, BlackBerry™—has turned into the critical nexus for most of my computing activities. In the Dark Ages prior to two months ago, I did fine, but now that I can see what I was missing it would hard to turn back.

The BlackBerry™ performs three critical functions: (1) It's a telephone (which is so, like, totally 20th Century, but you still need to have one); (2) It's a mini-computer on its own, running several simple but critical applications; and (3) I can tether it to my laptop for a normal internet connection at roughly dial-up speed. Prior to the BlackBerry™, I was using my cellphone to send and receive simple email messages and hunting down free WiFi™ for my major computing. Now, I still use free WiFi™ when available but I don't have to have it.

Actually, I take that all back! I can get along just fine without my BlackBerry™. After all, I did it for decades, all the way back to my first typewriter in the late 1970s. The advantage of more primitive technology is that it forces you to be more disciplined, and all these newfangled gadgets encourage sloth. Still, technology can open doors by relieving you of the some of the more routine tasks of life. If you can spend only a half hour preparing your food or washing your clothes vs. four hours, you have a lot of extra time for more creative things.

This is illustrated by the many ways the internet makes budget travel and Free Sleeping easier. Here are some of the ways I have used the internet to get a good night's sleep—with or without my BlackBerry™:

1) On-Line Maps and Satellite Images can help me select a campsite. Applications like Google Earth™ and Google Maps™ allow me to survey a city before I even set foot there, identifying potential Free Sleeping locations that I can later check out in person. So far, I have used these products to find discreet campsites in Portland, OR; Key West, FL; Fort Lauderdale, FL and Paris, France. A free Google Maps™ application for the BlackBerry™ puts this technology in the palm of my hand, and it automatically hooks into the B'Berry™s on-board GPS to guide me exactly to the place I saw from above.

2) Hostel Reservations are now easy as pie, thanks to (See How to Sleep in a Hostel.) Back when I first started hosteling in the 1980s, reservations were a complex process involving the mail, and I was often forced into high-priced hotels merely because I didn't know what was available. Now, you can instantly see the available hostels and their rates and make reservations in seconds. HostelWorld has even created hostels where none had previously existed, because it gives private hotels the means to offer dorm accommodations. (Back in the 1980s, European hostels—at least those used by Americans—were primarily non-profit; today they are primarily for-profit, which has dramatically increased the available options.) has been optimized for mobile devices.

3) Weather Reports are now easily accessible. When you're sleeping under the stars, it's critical to know what kind of weather is coming at you, and the internet gives you the latest. If tempests are closing in, I can alter my plans accordingly.

4) Public Transportation Routes and Schedules are almost always available on the web. This means I can coordinate them with campsites and places I need to go in ways I never could have imagined 20 years ago. For example, without the internet, I wouldn't have known that you can get from Key West to Miami by a series of public buses, which has saved my ass on at least one occasion. (See "Free Sleeping in South Florida".) A lot of the need for a car is alleviated by simply knowing what public transit is available.

5) Airline and Rental Car Reservations are now easier than ever, and you're always assured of getting the lowest price. It happens that I currently use only one rental company (that one with the fort in Texas), and one airline (the one I'm furloughed from), but the internet still makes it vastly easier to know what's available and to set things up.

6) Unrestricted Worldwide Communication changes the whole character of homelessness. It means I can write a blog entry or shoot off an email from a hilltop in San Diego just as easily as from an apartment in Manhattan. Why, then, do you need the apartment?

In a broader sense, the internet has abrogated the whole notion of the fixed home as an archive location. With all of your data gone "virtual", you don't need books, newspapers, photo albums, filing cabinets, notebooks, desks or office supplies—just a laptop and a BlackBerry™ (and eventually access to a power socket to recharge them).

I may have to mortgage my soul to support my new child. My current monthly communication bill is well over $100, but it's a relatively small price compared to the cost of a fixed residence

Where to Sleep in a Car

Where to Sleep in a Car

In a previous entry, I discussed Howto Sleep in a Car—that is, how to physically do it. Now I'll talk about where to sleep in a car—or where to position the car so you are safe during your unconsciousness and won't be disturbed.

The short answer is: You can sleep in a car almost anywhere you would normally feel comfortable parking a car overnight. The primary aim is to not attract attention—from thieves, neighbors, police and security guards.

One of my first experiences in sleeping in the back seat of a car was in Lisbon, Portugal, many years ago. I had rented a car in Madrid—a tiny one—and was touring Iberia, sleeping in hotels and hostels. When I got to Lisbon, I didn't have a place to stay and was totally exhausted from driving, so I parked where I was, on a busy residential street beside a big apartment house. I curled up in the back seat, almost in a fetal position (since it was a very small seat) and went to sleep. It worked! I slept well, and no one interrupted me. All night, people walked by my car, but since I parked in a place where residents commonly park overnight, I was invisible to them. To my knowledge, no one looked inside the car, because they had no reason to.

And what would have happened if someone had looked inside and seen me sleeping? Probably nothing! I wasn't intruding on anyone's space, and no one had any reason to call the police. And if the police had found me, what would they have done? They might have woken me up and asked for identification but probably would have let me stay. I'm a harmless tourist; I don't speak Portuguese, and it's obvious I'm just passing through. What threat am I to anyone?

After this one experience in Portugal, I realized, "Hey, why do I need a hotel at all?" If you have a rental car, you have a hotel!

Almost every city has some sort of ordinance against sleeping in cars on public streets, and most property owners wouldn't want you doing it on their land either—if they knew. The reason, of course, is that if it were allowed, some people would abuse the privilege. They would linger in one neighborhood, be obvious about it and make a nuisance of themselves. No one wants a visibly homeless person living in a car on their street (especially when the observer is slaving to pay for their own home). Our aim, however, is to be completely invisible, which is a whole different game.

Let's say you choose to disobey a local ordinance and sleep in a vehicle where you know it's not allowed. What's the worst that can happen? Will you be arrested, ticketed, fined? Probably not. What is likely to occur is that someone will knock on the window, wake you up, and ask you to move on. That's it!

You judiciously select a parking spot to avoid this inconvenience. If your car is parked in a place where cars are commonly parked for the night, it won't attract attention; no one will bother to look inside, and your sleep won't be interrupted.

Compared to sleeping in a tent or in the open, a car gives you an extra element of security, because no one is going to sneak up on you. If the window is open just a crack, no one can assault you or steal your stuff without making a lot of noise first (by smashing a window). You add another layer of security if you are parked in a busy location with people passing by all night. Any potential thieves will be deterred by the visibility.

I know sleeping in a car may seem to make you vulnerable, but think it through: What are the risks? As long is you park in a relatively busy location and your presence in the car is nearly invisible, there really aren't any.

The key rule to remember is, "Don't park in remote locations." This may seem counterintuitive, because when you want to sleep your tendency is to try to get away from it all. However, if you park on the side of remote road or in an empty parking lot, you are bound to attract attention. Car thieves are going to see this as a prime opportunity, and police and security guards are going to wonder what a car is doing parked way out here. Instead, you want to be in the thick of things, in a relatively busy location where a car parked overnight would be safe and unnoticed.

(The other possibility is to park in an extremely remote location where there is little or no chance of anyone else passing you at night. For example on public land.)

Twice, when sleeping in cars, I have been awoken by people testing the door handles, apparently intending to steal my car. They quickly left, however, when they found me inside it. I have also been awoken by police and security guards. However, in almost all these cases, I was parked in places where wisdom now says I shouldn't have been—where my car stood out like sore thumb. No that I've learned to be discreet, interruptions are rare.

What happens when the police find you sleeping in a car? They may ask for I.D., run it through their database and ask you a few questions. Then they make ask you to move on or they may let you stay. (When they've asked me to move, they've usually told me where I can move to.) What happens when you're woken by security guards? They simply ask you to move off their property. Private security guards don't have the power to demand I.D. Given my choice, I prefer security guards, because the encounter is much less intrusive. Also: Whenever you have contact with police, it creates a local contact record that could conceivably be used against you later. They may let you off with a warning the first time but give you a ticket the second.

If you are driving cross-country, where is the best place to park? Well, you could try the Evil Mega-Mart™. Many EMMs are open 24 hours, and there are usually restrooms just inside the front door. EMM is also a food source if you need it, and a source of cheap sleeping bags, pillows and other camping supplies. In rural areas, EMM is very tolerant of RV's parking overnight in their parking lots, almost encouraging it, so a car parking overnight should be no problem. In urban areas, however, the EMM lots are often posted with "No Overnight Parking" signs, and you are probably best to respect it, because there is usually an active security patrol (the little Parking Nazi in his pickup truck with the flashing light). If you are not sure whether to park there, the key criteria is the presence of overnight RVs, usually in a distant corner of the lot.

Other parking lots are okay if cars are parked there overnight. Truck stops are fine, and certain shopping center parking lots may work. As with urban camping, a site that is secure and comfortable at night may not be during the day (or vice versa), so you may need to clear out of some sites before dawn. (You need an alarm clock to assure this.)

But the most reliable places to park on a cross-country trip are highway rest areas. Here there are free restrooms. There's usually at lot of traffic, which deters random crime, and some Interstate rest areas have active security patrols at night (not usually concerned with busting sleepers). A few rest areas, like many in Texas and Iowa, have free WiFi™.

I've slept in a lot of rest areas, even those marked "No Camping" and "No Overnight Parking" or "Use Limited to 4 Hours." Look around you: You see those big 18-wheelers on one side of the rest area? They are parked for the night, with the driver sleeping in the box behind the cab. Truckers often sleep in rest areas or along the side of highway access ramps, regardless of the posted signs, so wherever you find them, you can usually feel comfortable doing the same. You figure that the authorities won't dislodge you unless they are prepared to wake all the sleeping truckers and ask them to move also.

For example, here's a sign in a rest area on I-95 in northern Florida...

But that doesn't prevent truckers from parking here for the night. (Photo below taken at dusk, and both they and the author remained here all night.)

This illustrates a phenomenon you see throughout society: The law as it is written and posted can be significantly different from what is actually enforced. Often signs and laws are just there for political reasons, to control the dumb mass of humanity or address some grievous abuse in the past. They are tools that law enforcement can use if someone becomes obnoxious, but they may not pay much attention unless someone is complaining. After all, police usually have better things to do than bust illegal sleepers!

Only once have I been woken by a police officer at a rest area. It was in a zone marked "Parking Limited To 4 Hours." The officer simply asked me if I was okay, and that's it. No request for I.D. or anything. I had been there well over four hours at the time, but that didn't seem to be an issue. (On an 8-hour shift, a state trooper doesn't have a lot of opportunity to determine whether you have exceeded the limit.)

Consider the sign shown at the top of this entry, from a Interstate 40 rest area in Iowa. Item #2 says "Overnight Camping" is prohibited. On first glance, that would seem to mean you can't sleep in a car. But now look at #3: You can't stay at the rest area for more than 24 hours. That implies that you CAN stay for 23 hours, which entails sleep. And look: You can stay for more than 24 hours if you have a legitimate need to, like "need for rest." All the sign is really saying is that they don't want you living in the rest area like you owned the place. What does "camping" mean? Let the lawyers argue over it. If you have a legitimate "need for rest," just do it! Isn't that what "rest areas" are for?

When I first started sleeping in cars, I used to hunt all over for the "perfect" place to park, only to have people waking me up and telling me to move. Turns out the perfect place was usually just under my nose: some busy and unromantic parking lot or street side where my car would not be noticed.

Two things that may complicate the parking equation are rain and mosquitoes. Both might require you to drape something over the breathing crack in your window (fabric or plastic). This, in turn, might attract attention to your vehicle. This is something you'll have to work out based on the circumstances and opportunities you encounter. (More than once, I have spend a rainy night under the awning of an abandoned gas station.)

Sure, sleeping in a car is kind of creepy and takes some getting used to, but if you have the skills to sleep anywhere, it can greatly streamline your travels, not to mention saving you a boatload of money.

How to Sleep in a Car

How to Sleep in a Car

By Glenn Campbell

Note: This article is about how to sleep in a car. See separate article for Where to Sleep in a Car 

If you can sleep in a car, you've gained an enormously valuable life skill. Think about it: You can sleep in places where you can't otherwise afford to stay; you're protected from the elements, and the rent is free (provided the car is already paid for). Even if you don't actually sleep in a car, knowing that you can do it means that you can arrive in a new city without a hotel reservation, just a car rental reservation. If you can't find affordable lodging, you know you'll get by. [Text in red are new revisions as on 8/51/13, after I have been sleeping in cars off and on for years.] 

Sleeping in a car is a form of "car camping," where you sleep in or near your vehicle (as distinct from backpacking—See Wikipedia). In terms of protection from the elements, a car is about halfway between a hotel room and camping in a tent, and if you just need some sleep it's probably easier than both. (There's no tent to set up and no check-in process to go through.) For example, if you are on a long road trip and just need a few hours of shuteye, checking into a motel may be unnecessarily complicated and rob you of still more sleep during the process of finding a room and moving in. Sleeping in the car may be just the thing!

Sleeping in a car may seem uncomfortable, but mostly it is a problem of perception and adaptation—i.e. the barriers are mainly in your head. Around the world, people sleep in all sorts of odd arrangements, and a car is among the most convenient and comfortable. Security? It's not a major issue as long as you are discreet and choose your location carefully. I will cover site selection in a separate entry, but in general, you can sleep in your car almost anyplace you would feel comfortable parking it overnight. If your car doesn't attract attention, you won't either.

But how, physically, do you sleep in a car? Basically, you just obtain a sleeping bag or other covering appropriate to the weather, find something to use as a pillow and lie down in the back seat. If you're tired, you will sleep, and once you get used to it, you can probably sleep there as comfortably as in a bed.

Sleeping in a car is an acquired skill, however, and it takes some experience to do it elegantly. Below are some considerations for the first-time car sleeper. (Again, these rules tell you how to sleep in a car. In a separate entry, I will discuss where to sleep.)

1) You MUST crack one of the windows so you can breathe. [Wrong! As long as there is just one person in the car, nothing else using oxygen and the temperature is cool, you can leave the windows completely closed all night. I wouldn't think it possible, but it works! Apparently there's enough air to keep you alive. On cold nights, keeping the windows closed definitely keeps the car warmer, but it can make it much too hot on warm nights.] It doesn't have to be much, though: For one person, a quarter-inch opening in one window is sufficient. (It doesn't seem like enough, but I have learned from experience that it is.) If you fail to open a window, you might sleep okay for a couple of hours, but you'll eventually wake up gasping for breath. (It's not like you'll die in your sleep; your body will give you plenty of warning!) A quarter-inch to an inch is a good balance between air circulation, heat retention and security (so someone can't reach in the window). In mosquito-prone areas, you might even make the opening so thin that the mosquitoes can't get in. Same thing when it's especially cold outside: Experiment with how thin you can make the opening. You need some sort of opening in the car, but it is remarkable how little it can be. (Don't worry: Your body will tell you when you need more air!)

2) In warm weather in humid areas, mosquitoes may be an issue. Even one or two in the car can ruin your sleep. You deal with this by draping some sort of light cloth over the window opening. Camping stores or Evil Mega-Mart™ may sell mosquito netting designed specifically for this purpose, but any light, thin cloth or piece of clothing will do. (You may have to open your window a little more for adequate circulation.) Mosquitoes only become active in temperatures above 50°F, and they don't usually become a significant irritant until about 60°F, so you don't have to worry about them in cold weather. Mosquitoes need stagnant water to breed in, so you won't find many of them in the desert. They are also slow fliers and are easily blown away by the wind. I find the mosquitoes are really only an issue in humid, still areas in the summer. You can't really tell whether an area is going to be mosquito-prone until you go there, but you should always be prepared. If you find yourself in a situation where you can't protect yourself with netting, mosquito repellent may get you by, but that's yucky stuff I prefer to avoid. [Hot weather and/or mosquitoes are the one situation where car camping just doesn't work, especially in the Southeastern USA. Cold is no problem because you can always add bedding, but heat and humidity can force you into a motel.]

3) You can sleep in a car even when it is very cold outside, provided you have enough bedding. I have done it in temperatures as low as 0°F/-18°C. (by sleeping in three sleeping bags: one inside the other and a third one on top of me). The car protects you from rain and wind, which are very significant elements in keeping warm. The enclosed space is also warmed by your body heat, so the temperature inside is significantly warmer that the air outside. (That's one reason to keep the window opening small.) One consideration when sleeping in sub-freezing temperatures: In the morning you may have to scrape frost off the INSIDE of the windshield. One nice thing about sleeping in a car is that you can reach over, turn on the car's engine and warm the place up before you get out of bed!

4) Whenever possible, you should consult on-line sources to find out what the weather is expected to do overnight. The key statistic is the overnight low temperature. With experience, you'll learn what kind of bedding you need for various temperatures.

5) The best kind of bedding is a sleeping bag, since you can zip it up around you and eliminate drafts. Basic models at Walmart start at $15 (but I usually get the $20 model). You'll probably get more insulation value by buying two cheap sleeping bags, one inside the other, than one expensive one. The temperature ratings labeled on the sleeping bag are pretty much a fantasy; you'll have to experiment to see what works at various temperatures. In the 80s and above (°F), you may need no sleeping bag at all, maybe just a thin blanket. Between 50s and the 70s, a standard sleeping bag might do. Much below that, you'll probably need multiple sleeping bags. In my experience, there is no degree of cold that can't be addressed passively by adding more layers, but I've never tried to camp in Alaska. [Now I have slept in Alaska in the winter at -10°F, and it worked. See my winter pix from the Alaska Highway. I had two Walmart sleeping bags, one inside the other, covered with a third draped over me. I also wore two layers of thermal underwear and all my clothing. Slept like a baby. Conclusion: Cold is never a problem with enough bedding.]

6) A simple and extremely useful device is a single standard safety pin. A sleeping bag zips up around you, but it can easily become unzipped at night. The safety pin can be used to fix the zipper at the top.

7) Vans, mini-vans and large SUVs may give you more opportunity to stretch out, but they are colder than regular cars because your body has more space to heat. When renting a car, I usually go for a full-size or mid-size sedan as a good balance between space, warmth and cost.

8) In rainy or snowy weather, water is going to come in the window opening. You can prevent this by draping a sheet of plastic over the opening. (In rainy and mosquitoey conditions, you might need both the plastic and the thin cloth.) Alternatively, you might be able to make the gap in the window so small that the rain can't get in. [Not necessary, just close all the windows! The only problem is when the weather is both rainy and hot. Then you're screwed.]

9) Snow is usually no problem! A layer of snow can actually warm the car by providing more insulation. Snow usually happens when the outside temperature is hovering around freezing, so snowy nights are usually warmer than clear nights at the same time of year.

10) If you are forced to sleep in a car in cold weather without sufficient bedding, you can consider leaving the car running and the heater on. I am concerned with unnecessary wear on the engine, so I would be more likely to do it with a rental car than my own. I am not too concerned, however, about carbon monoxide poisoning. Modern cars are well-sealed, and if the heater is blowing air into the car and one window is cracked open, I feel safe. As an added protection, I might gauge the wind direction and park the car pointing into the wind. (People do occasionally die from carbon monoxide poisoning in running cars parked in enclosed spaces like garagesbut it is usually intentional. You have to work at it.) Don't use anything like a gas heater in the car. That's just asking for trouble. It is safer (and probably more effective) to simply keep the windows rolled up. A lack of oxygen and excess of carbon dioxide will wake you up, whereas carbon monoxide kills you quietly.)

11) Very hot weather is the only time car sleeping might not work. You may have to fully open all of the cars windows to be cool enough, which makes you vulnerable to mosquito attack in humid areas. This is when you may be forced to move to a tent or even a motel room. In the desert where there aren't any mosquitoes, you don't even need a tent: You just sleep on an air mattress in the open. (Even when the daytime temp approaches 120°F, desert nights are always pleasant. Heat retention, however, can make the car unusable.)

NOTE: We in the industrial world are so accustomed to air conditioning that we may think we need it to sleep. In fact, nighttime temperatures are usually much cooler than daytime ones, and we need air conditioning only to remove the heat that builds up in buildings during the day. If you are directly exposed to the outside air, you rarely need the A/C. [Summer in the Southeastern USA and similar parts of the world can be a total bitch where your only option is an air-conditioned motel room. I'm tough, but not that tough.]

12) Unless you are very short, you won't be able to stretch out full-length in the back seat. You'll have to bend your knees. Sleeping like this is an acquired skill, and it may take several nights to get used to. I can sleep comfortably in the back seat of ANY car, even tiny ones in Europe. In small cars, you are almost sleeping in the fetal position. You don't have to lie flat to sleep; the important thing is that your whole body is at about the same level.

13) Several times during the night, you'll have to turn over. Your body wants to do this to prevent bed sores on one side, and if you can't turn, you'll wake up. During the day, you can practice how you are going to turn in this tight space. As long as you have two different positions to sleep in (Side A and Side B), you'll do okay. Handles above the doorframe are a nice little comfort feature because you can reach up to them at night to help reposition yourself.

14) While the back seat is usually best, you can sometimes sleep in the front seat. It depends on whether there is a console between the seats and what materials you have to mitigate it. Sometimes, in a car with bucket seats, you can build up both seats with suitcases or some form of padding so you can sleep comfortably across the console.

15) If you have no choice, you can try sleeping in the sitting position (say, if you are in a car full of people or cargo). This is never very comfortable, but it's no worse than sleeping in an airplane. You usually have more reclining space available to you than an airline flier does, so it's more like a First Class seat than Coach. Sleeping for a few hours upright might get you by, but you can never get truly healthy and restful sleep unless your whole body is at the same horizontal level. [I am finding it a lot easier to sleep in the sitting position with the practice of many overseas flights. Today, I can sleep in the driver's seat just fine.]

16) Obviously, you ought to pee before you attempt to sleep. Otherwise, you'll be waking up at night with the urge and possibly nowhere to relieve it. If you need to pee throughout the night, it is usually the result of a caffeine addiction. (See Things You Don't Need: Caffeine.) If you drink less, you'll pee less. If young children can last the night, you should be able to also. [At least you can stop drinking caffeine a few hours before you go to bed.] Before you go to sleep, you want to plan where you are going to relieve yourself in the morning. If you awake before dawn, there may be more options available to you than waking during the day. A pee bottle (or proverbial "pot to pee in") could be helpful, so be sure you have something to use for this. As for—ahem!—solid waste, you should know when in the day it usually happens and plan for it. (An actual restroom is best. Walmart, gas stations or fast food joints are good.) Again, excessive production of solid waste is usually a result of excessive intake.

17) Brush your teeth before you go to bed! Free sleeping is no excuse to ignore dental hygiene. Contrary to popular belief, you don't need water to brush your teeth, just a toothbrush and toothpaste. (I use a battery operated SonicCare™ from Walmart.)

18) You should probably sleep in your regular street clothes (or loose-fitting clothing that looks like street clothes). For one thing, this adds an extra layer of warmth, but you also want to be fully clothed in case you are woken at night by a police officer or security guard. (I'll discuss these potential interruptions in the entry on sitingIt's usually benign. The worst they can do is ask you to move elsewhere.) Where possible, your clothing should be loose-fitting and comfortable. Ladies will probably want to de-bra, and gentlemen will want to loosen up "down below" (due to nighttime expansion). To the Free Sleeper, special night clothes or pajamas are an unnecessary vanity.

19) Some kind of sleeping hat is important to curb heat loss through your head. Your body places a high priority on keeping your head warm, so even if you are inside a warm sleeping bag, you could still be cold if your head is fully exposed. A knit winter cap does the trick, but if you don't have one, you can use a spare t-shirt: Just turn it upside down, stick your head halfway through the neck opening, and—Voila!—you have a sleeping cap. It makes you look a bit like an Arabian sheik, but it may be warmer and more likely to stay on your head than a knit cap.

20) Whenever I am sleeping in a position that I regard as unusual or uncomfortable to me, I usually take an aspirin tablet or two before going to sleep. This is specifically for my back (see my blog entry on it), but it also might address other muscular aches and pains before they happen.

21) If you need to get moving at a certain time, be sure you have some kind of alarm clock to wake you. A cellphone alarm will do, but it is very important to know your alarm clock. (Many times, I thought I set my alarm only to discover too late that I had done something wrong.) Greater than the risk of sleeping too little is the chance of oversleeping. Some parking locations that are very secure and discreet at night can be too exposed during the day, so you should consider whether you want to wake up and move on before dawn.

22) Unless you are in a very remote location with little chance of human interaction, when you wake up you probably want to get in the driver's seat and drive away as soon as possible. This gives you the warmth of the car's heater, but it may also address a security issue: When you are awake, sitting up and moving, it is easier for others to detect you. As with urban camping, I don't like to mix venues: The place where I camp is used only for sleeping, not for anything else, like eating or working on the computer. As soon as the sleeping function is complete, I move elsewhere.

Have I forgotten anything? We have yet to get into the social aspects of car sleeping—namely where to do it without attracting attention, but the above should cover the physical issues.

See separate article: WHERE to Sleep in a Car

Devastating Toll of Hunger on US School Children

Devastating Toll of Hunger on US School Children

Hunger is a growing problem for US children and increasingly affects their performance in school, making it more difficult for them to focus on their classes or do homework. It also contributes to behavior and discipline problems.
This was the finding of a report issued last week by the anti-hunger charity Share Our Strength, based on a survey of 500 low-income parents and their teenage children in public schools. Some 325 teachers were also interviewed. “Low-income” was defined as at or below 185 percent of the official poverty line, or $45,417 a year for a family of four.
Among children in low-income families, 59 percent said they had gone to school hungry. In the richest country in the world, with the largest concentration of billionaires, one in six children faces hunger, some 13 million in all.
The survey found that 59 percent of the parents reported that their food ran out before they could buy more; 48 percent couldn’t afford to buy enough food each month; and 23 percent had been forced to cut the size of their children’s meals because of a lack of money.
Children were under increasing stress from hunger. Some 55 percent of children knew their parents were worried about running out of money for food, while 35 percent shared their parents’ fear. Among those teenagers in low-income families, 42 percent experienced sadness caused by hunger and 41 percent experienced anger for the same reason. Many teenagers reported deliberately going hungry to make sure that younger siblings could have enough to eat.
One 15-year-old told the survey,
“I feel like real hungry is different. It’s like when your stomach growls. It’s like when your stomach is almost in pain for me. That’s what real hungry is.”
A 16-year-old said,
“My focus is different when I’m hungry. I’m gonna be thinking about which one of my classmates has food. I’m gonna be thinking about which one of them might share.”
Among low-income families, 92 percent had at least one adult in the household working full-time, part-time or in multiple jobs. Hunger is thus the byproduct not only of poverty, but of the precarious and contingent character of so many jobs and the lack of any meaningful social safety net. Among low-income parents, 64 percent said that a single unexpected large bill—a $1,500 car repair or medical expense—would make it difficult to feed their children.
Hunger is an increasingly serious obstacle to learning. Among teachers questioned in the survey, 92 percent said that hunger had an impact on their students’ learning, 80 percent saw loss of concentration, 62 percent saw behavior problems, and 47 percent saw students suffering additional health problems.
Nearly three out of four teachers regularly saw students come to school hungry, and nearly two-thirds of teachers reported regularly buying food for students who were not getting enough to eat at home, spending an average of $300 a year of their own money.
Children had an overwhelmingly positive response to their schools providing breakfasts and lunches. Three quarters said school meals helped them feel better, pay more attention, behave in the classroom and get better grades.
Brian Minter, a spokesman for Share Our Strength’s “No Kid Hungry” campaign, said,
“Hunger exists in nearly every community in America today. It’s an urban problem, it’s a rural problem, and it has come to our suburbs. It is also a solvable problem.”
He noted that programs like food stamps, school meals and WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children) had a major impact in alleviating hunger. But these programs are targeted for severe cuts, if not outright destruction, in the budget proposals of the Trump administration and congressional Republicans.
According to a report published Thursday by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), the House Republican budget plan, scheduled for a vote in early September, would slash $2.9 trillion from programs for low-income and moderate-income families over the next ten years.
This includes a cut of $150 billion from food stamps alone, a reduction of 40 percent. According to the CBPP,
“A funding reduction of this magnitude would end food assistance for millions of low-income families, reduce benefits for tens of millions of such families, or some combination of the two.”
State governments would be enlisted to do the dirty work, by transferring to them the authority to reduce benefits and increase eligibility standards. The budget would also limit “community eligibility,” which allows schools in high-poverty areas to provide free school meals to all students without documenting the income of each individual student’s family. Cuts in low-income entitlement and discretionary programs account for half of all the cuts in nonmilitary programs proposed by the House Budget Committee, although these programs make up only one quarter of the federal budget.
The CBPP estimated that the Republican budget would cut the proportion of gross domestic product devoted to social spending for low-income and moderate-income families from 2.1 percent to only 1.0 percent in 2027, the lowest percentage figure since 1966, when the Johnson administration launched its so-called “War on Poverty.”
While the Trump administration and the congressional Republicans propose to deal with the deepening poverty and social misery by deliberately making the conditions worse, the Democratic Party offers no alternative. The Democrats are not demanding hearings over hunger or the impact of the proposed budget cuts.
During the month-long legislative recess, when senators and representatives sponsor political events in their states and districts to highlight issues of concern, the Democrats are focusing on allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 elections and alleged collusion by the Trump campaign as part of a broader effort to whip up a war fever directed against targets of the Pentagon and CIA, in the first instance Russia.
There are no events spotlighting the dire conditions of life for tens of millions of working people. As for the Democrats’ latest political offering, the so-called “Better Deal” program unveiled last week, it makes no mention of poverty, hunger, homelessness or even unemployment, proposing to use the power of the federal government to boost the interests of “small business and entrepreneurs” and defend “Main Street” against “Wall Street”—i.e., favor one section of business against another.
Featured image is from ActiveRain.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Homelessness: Man’s Inhumanity to Man

Homelessness: Man’s Inhumanity to Man

There is no question that every political issue has at least two sides – the pros and the cons. Issues involving homelessness are no different. However, when weighing the impact of both sides of homelessness issues, often one side appears to have a greater impact upon humanity than the other. In other words, in analyzing the issues of homelessness, the sides are not necessarily even. In fact, sometimes the impact of the political decisions relating to homelessness can be cruel.

For example, there are municipal ordinances in many cities prohibiting sleeping on public land, including beaches and parks. On the positive side, these laws protect public property from overuse – an important goal so that members of these communities can continue to share open spaces. However, homeless people may experience the impact of these laws as depriving them of a legal place to sleep.

The truth is that no city of which I am aware has adequate housing/shelter beds for its homeless population. Without available housing, many homeless people remain unsheltered.

At night unsheltered homeless people need to sleep somewhere, be it on public property or private property. Sleeping on private property is prohibited by the law of trespass, therefore, it is not a legal option for homeless people.

When cities enact ordinances prohibiting the sleeping upon public land, they remove the last opportunity for unsheltered homeless people to sleep legally. The result of these ordinances is that the police are authorized to issue illegal lodging tickets upon people who are sleeping on public property but who have no other place to sleep.

Of course, sleep is essential for the physical and mental health of all human beings. Without sleep, unsheltered homeless people cannot function at optimum level. But by sleeping on public property, they may be subjected to ticketing for illegal lodging and their consequences.

So, weighing the pros and cons of municipal ordinances that prohibit sleeping on public property, we can contrast the goal of protecting public lands from overuse with the potential negatives on unsheltered human beings who will be denied a legal place to sleep. It appears to me that the negatives outweigh the positives on this issue.

A number of cities have passed municipal ordinances that prohibit the charitable giving of food. They often feel that Good Samaritans who freely distribute food are encouraging homeless people to come to these cities and may even be encouraging people to become homeless so they can receive free food.

Without free food, homeless people often go hungry and have insufficient vitamin intake thereby potentially suffering impaired physical and mental well-being. As many doctors know, starvation is one of the most challenging medical conditions for human beings. Hunger hurts.

It is my opinion that the consequences of municipal ordinances prohibiting the charitable giving of food have a more negative impact upon human beings than positive.

Recently, increasing numbers of cities are passing ordinances prohibiting the sitting on public sidewalks. Among the reasons these cities give to support the passage of these ordinances is that when homeless people so sit, they block the sidewalks.

Access to public sidewalks is obviously important, especially when walking may be a more physically and environmentally helpful activity than driving cars.

However, homeless people often have few places to sit. When going about their business, including looking for work, they may need to rest. Public chairs and benches are normally found in parks and beaches that may not be conveniently located. So, they may sit on the public sidewalk.

It seems to me that the impact of prohibiting people from sitting on public sidewalks has more negative consequences by eliminating resting places for human beings than it has positive outcomes.

In addition, there are a number of seemingly small municipal decisions that have major negative consequences upon homeless people, particularly unsheltered homeless people. Take the mid-bench bars that prohibit people from lying flat on bus benches. Often these bars go unnoticed by housed people.

However, in the past, unsheltered homeless people sometimes used these bus benches as safe places to sleep. I recall “The Women of Wilshire” – the approximately 25 unsheltered senior citizen homeless women who lived on Wilshire Boulevard from 7th to the Palisades Park in Santa Monica. At night, overhead street lights lit the bus benches and The Women of Wilshire used them as beds, hoping that sleeping in a well-lit public place would bode well for their personal safety as they slept.

With the imposition of the mid-bench bars, The Women of Wilshire were no longer able to stretch out and sleep on the bus benches.

Certainly it could be said that the mid-bench bars successfully prevented and prevent unsheltered homeless people from occupying bus benches as beds.

However, I wonder if without available adequate housing, whether denying an unsheltered homeless person some sort of place to sleep is just cruel.

Other apparently neutral decisions on the part of municipalities that can negatively impact homeless people are the cities’ landscaping choices. For example, in public parks, grassy areas have sometimes been replaced with bushes so that homeless people cannot recline, even during the day, on the grass.

Of course, there are many municipal ordinances that make great sense in that their positive consequences outweigh the negative. However, in the examples sited above, I believe that these municipal actions create an environment where homeless people are negatively impacted. And reflect man’s inhumanity to man.

I look forward to your comments.

Thank you,

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Authorities Can’t Force the Homeless Off the Street. Here’s What They Can Do.

Authorities Can’t Force the Homeless Off the Street. Here’s What They Can Do.

Homelessness itself may not be a crime, but common elements of it can be.

Photo by Lisa Halverstadt
San Diego Police Sgt. Michael Stirk of the department's Homeless Outreach Team talks to a homeless man in Balboa Park.

Interested in Homelessness narrative? Follow

Homelessness isn’t a crime.

It’s a common refrain among advocates and even the Department of Justice, which said so in an Idaho case last year.

“Our society, our Constitution doesn’t allow for people to be arbitrarily told what to do and where to go,” said Eric Tars, senior attorney for the D.C.-based National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty.

Yet we hear about homeless San Diegans receiving tickets, getting caught up in encampment sweeps and being ordered to move along though they seemingly have nowhere else to go.

I talked to attorneys, police officers, experts and activists about what the law allows – and doesn’t allow – and how those laws work in practice on San Diego streets.

Their message was clear: Homeless people have the same constitutional rights as anyone else, and that means working with them to get off the street is the best way to get them off the streets.

When Camping Becomes a Crime

Homelessness itself may not be a crime, but common elements of it can be.

Homeless people can be cited for encroachment, which means a person has set her belongings on a sidewalk, alley or other public property.

San Diego Police Lt. Wes Morris, who oversees the Central Division’s Quality of Life Team, said it can apply to a homeless person in a tent, vendors who set up tables or any person who’s left items on the sidewalk.

Police have another enforcement tool that comes with a higher bar. That’s known as illegal lodging, which bans settling somewhere without permission.

There are more rules tied to illegal lodging enforcement downtown. A legal settlement requires that police must be able to offer an open bed to a person they encounter on the street between 9 p.m. and 5:30 a.m. before they can cite or arrest someone for illegal lodging. In other words, police can’t write these tickets if shelters are full. The city has access to 50 beds at St. Vincent de Paul Village, and relationships with other providers to ensure it can offer shelter.

Morris said those issues rarely present roadblocks. Most enforcement happens during the day and the city usually has beds to offer up at night if there’s an issue, he said.

Still, he said police rarely enforce this law at night unless there’s a complaint. Morris said complaints also drive most enforcement during the day, which is why police may not descend on a sidewalk lined with tents but instead confront a single person in front of  a nearby business.

Morris said there’s another reason police tend to cite people for encroachment more often than illegal lodging. Police have the discretion to recommend an encroachment violation similar to a traffic infraction in terms of severity; illegal lodging requires a misdemeanor citation.

“Our whole thing is to get compliance,” Morris said. “We take the lowest level necessary to get compliance.”

He said police realize criminal charges and fines aren’t going to end someone’s homelessness. They can actually complicate their ability to do so.

“We’re not gonna arrest our way out of this issue,” Morris said. “That’s not our goal.”

Yet advocates are suspicious of what they say is a rise in citations.

Scott Dreher, an attorney who’s represented homeless folks in lawsuits against the city, including the one that resulted in the settlement that dictates how police can enforce illegal lodging, believes police are seeking out ways to crack down on homeless people.

Indeed, the city attorney’s office says the maximum penalty for first-time illegal lodging or encroachment violations, if filed as misdemeanors, are six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

“It’s not as if the city is saying, ‘Oh, we have this big problem of encroachment. Let’s go enforce this,’” Dreher said. “The city is saying we need to get this shit off the sidewalk. How do we justify it?”

Which brings us to our next topic.

Those Notorious Sweeps

Encampment sweeps have been all over the news in recent weeks. The city’s doing these clean-ups more often downtown, and homeless advocates say they’re stepping them up in preparation for the July 12 All-Star Game in hopes of pushing homeless people out of the area.

The city says that’s not true.

“The Environmental Services Department is not doing anything specifically for the All-Star Game,” said José Ysea, a spokesman for that department, which conducts the sweeps.

Instead, Ysea said, the department began sweeping certain city sidewalks weekly this spring due to an increase in complaints about abandoned trash and property.

But complaints have been the city’s justification before, even when documents later showed the actions were driven by other priorities. Another city spokesman said complaints from Sherman Heights residents inspired the installation of homeless-deterring rocks underneath an Imperial Avenue underpass earlier this year. Yet emails obtained by Voice of San Diego showed the All-Star Game, not the complaints, drove the project.

The city is adamant complaints are prompting the sidewalk clean-ups and says it can conduct them because there’s a city code on the books that declares waste “public nuisances that adversely affect the public health, safety and general welfare.”

When the city decides to clean up an area where homeless people have settled, another past legal settlement kicks in. City workers have to put up signs warning urban campers they’ll need to move within 72 hours.

Before clean-up efforts starts, officers from the Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Team remind those settled in the area of the coming sweep and request that they move. They also offer shelter and other services.

Morris said those who refuse to move once the sweep begins are likely to receive an encroachment or illegal lodging citation. He said most folks willingly move on.

When there are arrests, police say it’s more often due to an outstanding warrant or other violation.

A couple attorneys and activists said those warrants can often be related to past illegal lodging or encroachment citations, which are related to their homelessness.

One of them is Steve Binder, a deputy county public defender and co-founder of San Diego’s homeless court program.

“When the homeless individual fails to appear and doesn’t follow through on the court hearing they will often get, depending on the offense, a civil assessment that continues to burden them economically and messes up their credit record, which is already for crap,” Binder said. “It’s just one more kick of sand in somebody’s face when they’re already down.”

Several homeless folks have told me the increased frequency and scope of the sweeps can make them feel unwelcome in gentrifying East Village – and that they’re not sure where to go to avoid them.

A few have also told me they know others who’ve lost property when workers discard items that are meaningful to them despite rules that require the city to store property it picks up during the sweeps.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer and City Councilman Todd Gloria, who represents downtown neighborhoods, defended the operations back in March.

Gloria said they’re an example of the city’s effort to balance the needs of homeless people with those who live around them.

“We’re the city and we’re responsible to all of our citizens, homeless or not, and we do get a great deal of complaints from folks who are witnessing these encampments and they raise concerns that do end up becoming public health issues that we have to go out there and control for,” Gloria said.

Two Criminal Justice System Approaches

San Diego’s got two programs that encourage homeless folks dealing with chronic criminal offenses to get off the streets but they only apply to people caught in repeated drug or alcohol offenses.

One is the Serial Inebriate Program, a county, city and nonprofit cooperative available after a person is taken to a sobering center six times for public drunkenness. Police say these folks are often homeless.

After a person is booked in jail and arraigned on those charges, they’re asked whether they’d like to enroll in a program run by the nonprofit Mental Health Systems and avoid jail time.

If they agree, they’re transported from jail directly to a treatment program that often lasts several months and given temporary housing while they’re enrolled.

Officer John Liening, who helped create the program, has said the program’s changed many lives.

More recently, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith has introduced a new intervention that aims to pair chronic misdemeanor drug offenders with case managers and housing for up to two years. Once they’re offered the option, offenders can avoid jail time if they agree to sign up.

“Rather than put them through the revolving door one more time, we will offer them a spot in an intensive drug treatment program and a tailored housing placement – all overseen by a case manager who will keep on top of their situation and keep them on a track to success,” Goldsmith said in May.

Goldsmith wants to secure at least 28 beds to support the program.

Court-Ordered Moves

Courts hold more power to force homeless people to change their behavior than police.

As part of a plea agreement or sentencing, folks who’ve been charged with illegal lodging, encroachment or another offense are sometimes asked if they’d be willing to stay away from an area. Sometimes they’re asked to do that in exchange for avoiding fines or jail time.

Binder said these stay-away orders are common in San Diego and can cover large areas.

Dreher said he’s encountered cases where the stay-away orders included areas where the homeless might want to access services.

And showing up in those areas can come with consequences.

“Once you agree to them and you violate it, it becomes a crime,” Dreher said.

Binder and Dreher both said stay-away orders don’t help end a person’s homelessness or even effectively move a homeless person out of a neighborhood.

“It’s a like a leaf-blower justice,” Binder said. “You are essentially moving the problem homelessness represents from one block to the next.”

San Diego County courts did get another tool this April that can remove a person from the streets, at least for a time.

The county recently implemented Laura’s Law, a measure that gives judges the power to order mandated treatment for a mentally ill person – homeless or not – for at least 180 days.

But Laura’s Law comes with strict criteria and requires county officials to conduct in-person evaluations and suggest the person voluntarily enter a facility before they make the case to the Superior Court.

Most homeless folks who resist going into shelter wouldn’t be eligible for this intervention, said Piedad Garcia, a deputy director in the county’s Health and Human services Agency.

If they aren’t eligible or a judge doesn’t grant the order, the county can get permission to hold a person for up to three days using what’s known as a 5150 hold.

Still, that requires proof the person is a serious danger to himself or others. That’s a high bar, too.

The Easiest (and Hardest) Way to Get Someone Off the Street

Garcia and a slew of experts I talked to emphasized that the government has little power to force a homeless person to do what they don’t want to do, whether that’s walk into a shelter or move into an apartment.

The best solution, they say, is to figure out what works for that person.

That means spending weeks or months getting to know a person and learning about her needs rather than pressuring her through law enforcement action, said Steve Berg of the D.C.-based National Alliance to End Homelessness.

“It doesn’t really get the results that you want,” Berg said. “If shelter provides things that a homeless person thinks are valuable then you don’t have to force them. They’ll go.”

The county’s new Project One for All initiative is the largest San Diego program thus far to acknowledge the need to invest upfront time with homeless folks who are the hardest to reach.

The county plan aims to persuade 1,250 homeless San Diegans with serious mental illnesses to get off the street over the next two years.

Garcia said the county’s initial contracts call for an average of three to five months of outreach per client.

“We know now that in order to engage people who are resistant to services, resistant to treatment, you need to take the time to engage them,” Garcia said.

This article relates to: Homelessness, Nonprofits/Community

Written by Lisa Halverstadt

Lisa writes about nonprofits and local progress in addressing causes like homelessness and Balboa Park’s needs. She welcomes story tips and questions. Contact her directly at or 619.325.0528.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Trump’s Plan To Gut HUD Threatens Very Survival Of America’s Poor

Trump’s Plan To Gut HUD Threatens Very Survival Of America’s Poor


A budget cut of up to $7.7 billion guarantees mass homelessness and premature death.

Rosemary Holmes has lived in Newark’s Terrell Holmes for the better part of six decades. She, like many others in the building, has raised children in its courtyards and hallways, and forged a tight-knit community of friends and neighbors. At the age of 68, she has been forced to band with other tenants to fight local efforts to shutter the facility. Now, as the Trump administration weighs plans to gut the Department of Housing and Urban Development, she has a new battle on her hands.

“Any time they move a person to someplace they don’t want to live, it’s imprisonment,” she told AlterNet over the phone. “I am a human being, and I deserve to live where I want to live. Us, the ones who really want to be here, we are going to be uprooted because of the sabotage of HUD and the Housing Authority.”

Horsley is one of countless public housing residents across the country directly impacted by news that the Trump administration is mulling whether to slash HUD’s budget by at least $6 billion, or 14 percent, in the 2018 fiscal year. The proposed cuts were revealed Wednesday by Washington Post reporter Jose A. DelReal, who cited “preliminary budget documents” that he had obtained. If implemented, the reductions will hit a federal agency that is already unable to meet the level of human need, thanks to systematic defunding over the course of decades.

Douglas Rice, a senior policy analyst for the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington, D.C., think tank, reports that the proposed cuts would, in fact, amount to $7.7 billion dollars, or a 16 percent reduction, in 2018. He arrives at this number by evaluating expected funding levels for 2017, writing: “it’s reasonable to presume that the final budget will be close to the average of the bills the House Appropriations Committee and the full Senate approved last summer.” By contrast, DelReal wrote his story based on 2016 funding levels.

Either way, the cuts are poised to be dramatic. Rice told the Washington Post that 20,000 renters will lose their assistance for every 1 percent slash to the budget of HUD. “The reality is that we’ve been living under these austere budget caps, and budgets like HUD’s have already been pretty much cut to the bone,” Rice said, pointing to the sequestration cuts of 2011. “And when you try to cut below that, you really end up with harmful impacts.”

The proposed cuts would go deep. “Budgets for public housing authorities—city and state agencies that provide subsidized housing and vouchers to local residents—would be among the hardest hit,” writes DelReal. “Under the preliminary budget, those operational funds would be reduced by $600 million, or 13 percent. Funds for big-ticket repairs at public housing facilities would be cut by an additional $1.3 billion, about 32 percent.”

Public housing in the United States already faces a backlog of $26 billion in repairs, according to a 2010 report commissioned by HUD.

The Community Development Block Grant Program, which was budgeted to receive $3 billion this fiscal year, would be entirely slashed if the proposed changes were implemented. While the budget document reportedly suggests that funds for the program “could come from outside the HUD budget as part of a separate White House bill,” it is not immediately clear where exactly such dollars would come from and whether they would be guaranteed. The HOME Investment Partnerships Program, which helps fund local affordable housing, would also be eliminated.

The gutting of HUD would take money directly out of the hands of renters in need. The Post story notes, “Under the proposal, direct rental assistance payments—including Section 8 Housing and housing vouchers for homeless veterans—would be cut by at least $300 million, to $19.3 billion. Additionally, housing for the elderly—known as the Section 202 program—would be cut by $42 million, nearly 10 percent. Section 811 housing for people with disabilities would be cut by $29 million, nearly 20 percent. Money available for Native American housing block grants would fall by $150 million, more than 20 percent.”

According to Rice’s analysis of the Post report, if the cuts go through, “Housing Choice Vouchers that some 200,000 low-income households currently use to pay their rent would be eliminated in 2018.” He explained, “Reducing the availability of this crucial support would increase and prolong homelessness for vulnerable people with disabilities, families with children and others.”

“It should be very clear to our movements, to our communities, and to the entire country that [the] Trump administration is intent on further destabilizing and dismantling programs that our communities rely on tso survive,” Malcolm Torrejón Chu, communications organizer with the Right to the City Alliance and organizer for the National Homes for All Campaign, told AlterNet. “These threatened cuts to housing are threatened cuts to our community survival. And we have no illusions that the current HUD programming is enough.”

The proposed reductions are in line with Trump’s recent claim that he will pay for a $54 billion increase to the war budget in large part by cutting domestic programs.

But long before Trump made this assertion, HUD Secretary Ben Carson—who has no prior experience in housing policy—has been open about his desire to dismantle key public housing initiatives. In 2014, he opposed an agreement between the city of Dubuque and the Department of Housing and Urban Development to address the city’s housing policies that discriminate against black residents, suggesting it was proof America was “becoming communist.” In 2015, he vocalized his opposition to a HUD fair housing rule that is aimed, in part, at reducing segregation, calling it a “failed socialist experiment.”
Following the Post report, Carson reportedly sent a letter seeking to reassure staff on Thursday, stating: “Please understand that budget negotiations currently underway are very similar to those that have occurred in previous years. This budget process is a lengthy, back-and-forth process that will continue. It’s unfortunate that preliminary numbers were published, but please take some comfort in knowing that starting numbers are rarely final numbers.”

Yet the fact that such drastic cuts were proposed at all has alarmed those whose housing—and lives—are on the line. Rhonda, who lives in Terrell Homes and did not want her last name to be used, said the immediate impacts of such cuts, if they go through, would be straightforward. “They need to keep public housing, because without public housing, people will be homeless,” she said. “The numbers of homeless people in America will be going up. People will have to choose between housing and food.”

‘They want us out’

Michael Higgins, Jr., an organizer with the Brooklyn-based Families United for Racial and Economic Justice, told AlterNet that news of proposed cuts to HUD didn’t come as a surprise. “There’s been steady cuts in every administration going back to Reagan,” he said. “Because there have been consistent cuts, and because public housing is in such bad shape, there are a decreasing number of options for people in public housing.”

According to a Congressional Budget Office report released in September 2015, federal housing assistance is already falling far short. “Currently, only about one-quarter of the eligible low-income population receives housing assistance through federal spending programs,” the office stated.

Long before the Trump administration’s proposed slash to the HUD budget, Terrell Homes residents were fighting a years-long battle against efforts to shutter their facility. “Since December 2013, there have been attempts to shut it down,” Drew Curtis, the director of community development and environmental justice for the Ironbound Community Corporation, told AlterNet. “Tenants fought back and stopped the initial demolition, but last summer they started trying again to shut down Terrell Homes.”

Curtis said that one of his first thoughts when he found out about the proposed HUD cuts was, “There is going to be even more ammunition for the local housing authority to shut this down. Tenants will need to stay diligent and keep putting on political pressure. The biggest cuts proposed were public housing operating funds and Community Development Block Grants, which often go into housing repairs. This would dramatically affect them.”

Horsley said she is exhausted after fighting a years-long battle to stay in her home. “The whole thing is, they want us out,” she said. “They cannot verbalize and come out and say they don’t want the poor blacks, the poor Hispanics, because we no longer fit the new normal.”

Terrell residents are not alone. In a statement released Thursday, the New York City-based CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities said, “The announced proposed cutting of $6 billion to HUD and $150 million funding for NYCHA and Section 8 vouchers is cutting the vein that keeps working-people from being able to keep this City running.”

“While these proposed cuts happen, New York taxpayers have spent $24 million to protect Trump’s private properties from Election Day to inauguration. It is estimated that $127,000 to upward of $308,000 will be spent each day to protect the Trump family at their NYC residence,” the statement continues. “We refuse to let our public dollars be spent to protect the rich’s war machine and unjustly kill millions of innocent Muslim lives around the world. We refuse to let our public dollars police and criminalize black and Latinx communities that fuel the deportation machine.”
Higgins underscored that, “In New York, there was already an extreme crunch of public housing. Over the years, HUD has moved more into a Section 8 voucher scheme, instead of rent being directly paid by the government. When you see Section 8 being taken, it means certain people will be out of their homes.”

Organizers say that it will be important to meet any proposed cuts with a continuation of the robust resistance that has already seen millions take to the streets, mobilize and defend their communities against Trump administration policies.

According to Torrejón Chu, “We are clear that the Trump administration is an administration that is interested in privatization and corporate profits and not people’s actual needs. We need to continue to show and expose that the administration does not represent our communities or the people.”

“We see this as a moment to not just resist cuts, but to put forward a vision of a totally different world,” he continued. “We think it’s important that our communities develop and strengthen our vision of an alternative world where we have control over land, resources and housing. A world where housing, land and community aren’t commodities. This moment is calling for us to have a vision.”

By Sarah Lazare,