tv Inside Story Al Jazeera August 20, 2015 11:30pm-12:01am EDT
joining us, for the latest news head to aljazeera.com. ray suarez is up next with "inside story". for every 10,000 americans, 20 have no place to live. across the country that homeless population would be big enough to fill the state. in good economic times and bad, the number of homeless is difficult to push down. what drives the loss of shelter and works in getting a roof over people's heads and keeping them housed.
it's "inside story". welcome to "inside story". i'm ray suarez. if we were to look at homeless people in america as a single population, you would find many are living alone. but 40% live in family units. fewer than one in six are chronically homeless, living without shelter is a long-term fact of life. during the last sensis of the homeless, counters found almost 200,000 children and young people. the causes are many, joblessness, rising cost of housing, untreated substance abuse and mental illness. the solutions proving tough to achieve. al jazeera's courtney kealy has mo more. >> reporter: a homeless man in los angeles refuses orders to come out of his tent. police struggle: officers open fire - killing
him. >> it happened in march, in l.a.'s skid row. there's a highest population. more than 2,000 are in camps. los angeles and county officials announced a plan to send more teams, substance abuse experts to l.a.'s downtown to reduce the number. >> new york city announced a similar plan. it's beginning to feel a bit like at lit '80s, and early 90s. homelessness on the streets of mork was out of control. most on the streets struggle with mental ilmans. they struggle with the state-run hospitals. >> with the advent of psychotropic medication in the
'60s. they functioned better in the community, and the money saved was supposed to follow them into the community. that's why the governor needs to step it up in new york and cross the nation, and pony up the money to put in place the housing to give people the support they need. >> mary's organization has been fighting for the homeless in decades. a class-action lawsuit in new york state in 1979 leads to legal guarantees for the right to shelter. for decades. new york city had a legal obligation to provide shelter for the homeless. the problem reached critical mass. >> informers, state and city officials defer on who is to blame. according to the coalition for the homeless, there's approximately 58,000 on the streets. which is the highest number
since the great depression. >> the 58,000, in a sense, the lucky ones. they are able to find spots in new york city shelters every night. it doesn't include the thousands, like john, who sleep on the streets. >> i sleep on a bench in the evening, overnight. >> john has to sleep upright until the city parks curfew lifts at 6 am. when he can move back to the grass and lie down and go back to sleep. >> we have seen over the last 10 years a hidden homelessness crisis. u.s. city council member says the solution is long-term affordable housing. it happens all over the country, in cities that decriminalize sitting, resting or sleeping in public places, and at a time when there's far more homeless people than shelters to house them
joining me now is nicky johnson houston, he was once homeless, and is now a tax attorney and an advocate for the homeless. welcome to the programme. >> that's correct. >> every story is different. what is yours? >> my mum had drug and alcohol issues, we ran into money problems, we lived in a hotel and things went downhill for us. we ended up - people let us stay in their guest rooms, they let us stay on their floors, they let us stay in their cars, and we ran out of places to stay. we ended up in the shelter system. the nights that we couldn't find a place to stay, we'd sleep out on a park bench. >> there was no money coming into the household, and that is sort of the core of the problem right there. weren't there agencies that said we understand they are usually house said. let's get you somewhere where they can stay.
i think it was difficult. we are almost an invisible population. people were not as aware. to be honest. my mum didn't want to be part of that system. there's a fear when you don't have a place to stay, the children would be able to be put in foster care. >> were there barriers, catch 22 situations. where they said "we can house you if you said this", we don't have that. we can't get that, because we don't have a place to live. there are barriers, and when i was nine years old, people have cellphones, a big barrier that we face is shelters provided a place to stay overnight. during the day, there was no place to go. so a woman with children couldn't look for jobs, because she didn't have a place - there wasn't child care. there was not the wrap around services taking into account what our situation looked like. >> i think a lot of people don't
realise how many homeless people do work. >> yes. >> they never have all the money at once to get inside the regular housing. >> the way i like to put it, homelessness doesn't happen in a vacuum. it's a symptom of a larger problem, part of the working boar, and something catastrophic hap inns, and you are barely making it. one thing goes wrong, you don't have the social safety net, and you are out on the streets. when you are out. it's harder to get off the streets. it's more expensive. you have mental health problems, there are safety issues that you are concerned with. my mother had the added surreden of having two children. >> you ended up getting a ter iffing regulation.
i was fortunate enough to live with my grandmother. although disabled, focussed on education, and that was may way forward. she had to advocate for me. once they tested me, they considered i was gifted in maths and english. >> that put me on a different path, and marked me with intelligence. i had a positive label. it wasn't a homeless kid. it was a smart kid. a lot took care of me. >> was your mother able to get back into housing. were you able to live together again. >> we lived together. and she met my step father while he was one that worked at the soup kitchen. after a year they lost the job and ended up homeless again.
it's where i stayed until i went off to college. so it's a lot of people - if a lot of people have chronic homelessness, they have titles where they do not have housing. it isn't because they don't want to work, they have a lot of issues that go along with that, importantly, you don't have the social safety net. if something goes long, the car stops working you get a big heating bill. anything like that, for the east of us will be a nuisance, we can absorb it. homeless people don't have the ability to be able to do. that's why we haven't committed as a society. there's a lot of false ideas about what it means to be homeless, and it's one of the reasons why it was important for me to come out and share my story, because if you look at me, i'm not what you think of as someone that is homeless, but i am. i'm the face of someone who can
achieve, given the proper resources. >> we have a little time left. did it cast a chateau over the rest of your life. did it make you wary, risk avers in a way it wouldn't of, had it not happened as a child. >> i think for me, it turned out to be something that was positive. because it made be want to be an advocate. my brother passed away five years ago. he suffered from chronic homelessness, and suffered h.i.v. i was able to get out. my brother was not able to. certainly it has had an impact. i decided to use the experience for something positive, and to give a voice to the voiceless. >> nickie is an advocate for the homeless and a tax attorney. thanks for sharing your story for years our society has
america. the recent census of homeless people found the numbers lower, the news is not all good. the housing market produces too few units of affordable housing as rents sore. we are emerging of high job insecurity, homes were lost, savings gone, leaving individuals and families, a lost job or a health crisis away from the streets. joining us. community solutions, an organisation devoted. a founder and director of the national law center on homelessness and poverty. welcome to the programme. if it was a simple as just handing people the keys to an apartment, i guess we'd be having a lot more success with dealing with this. >> we would, it's that simple
and that complex. the best thing to do, the only thing to handle homelessness is to have homes. we have to determine who needs what level of services and level of intervention. we heard nicky, our guest at the beginning of the programme talk about wrap around services. i guess that's what comes in. getting someone inside a house is part of the battle. or the beginning of the battle really. >> the house is a fundamental thing. the house is a foundation. without housing, really nothing else will work. other things are important. certainly services, childcare, jobs, jobs that pay pa living wage, health care, all of those things are critical to sustaining people in housing. sustaining self sufficiency. >> the latest sensis found the numbers reduced. i was surprised to see that.
in metropolitan areas, where i spend most of my time. homeless people are evident. i think the numbers are misleading. they show a reduction, the counts that they're based on are inaccurate. what they were based on is counting people in shelter, counting capacity, and counts of people on the streets, where volunteers go on the streets and count people on a single night on a single night of the year. and it's really impossible to do that for a lot of reasons. i don't believe the numbers. i wish they were true. i think in general, homelessness is a crisis in this country, i don't believe it's going down during the great recession. homelessness exploded and touched a lot of people who never before had been homeless. and i don't think things have gotten much better since then.
i think we are still in crisis mode. there's crisis in affordable housing. that's documented. there are studies that show there was a gap of some 5 million plus unit for low income people. we made progress. there is good news. we made progress. the thing is you can end homelessness for some people, if you don't address the causes. fundamental cause is a lack of affordable house. if you don't address that. things become homeless. snoop even now, years after the recession ended, there are more fragile, vulnerable, more families close to the edge,
before the recession begins. we have a hard time figuring out who might become homeless. there are many people who are poor, who are on the edge. but most of them don't become homeless. one of the challenges is figuring out who will become homeless. the point in time is very difficult. to do well. we encourage communities to do a by-name list. they do - they go out into the community. talked everyone they find, and do it not just one night, over the course of a week. we do it 4 o'clock in the morning. that's when people are on the street. if you are out at 10:00p.m. and are looking homeless, you are not. we encourage communities to have a by-name list. washington d.c. nose where every veteran is living that they have been able to find. and they have been very, very
diligent about looking for people. that makes a huge difference. >> when we come back. there's no one size fits all cause or solution. across the country. n.g.o.s pioneered creative solutions getting many the help they need when they need it, and helping them stay off the streets. we look at those models deme.. give me shelter. it's "inside story".
welcome back to "inside story". i'm ray suarez. tonight we are talking about strategies used to prevent homelessness and get people back into housing once they become homeless. my guests are still with me. what works. what have you seen work, that is a republicable model in other places around the country? >> well, housing works. we know that. we know that housing, putting people in housing.
offering housing to people, that works. preventing homelessness works, helping people stay in housing works. there are a lot of models, and linda and her organization is involved. if housing works, they pt couldn't relouse it. >> housing is one piece of it. we are talking about affordable houseing. that means people are able to afford it. if someone is in housing and they don't have a living wage job a jock that pays enough, that won't work. if people have other problems that sh not addressed, and they don't get the services that we need, they will not be able to
sustain housing. >> i think the most important thing we can do as a country is quit offering housing like a mcdonald's, where you get in line and get it based on what demm you are. i think the system should be like an emergency room. what we suggest to communities is thi triage every person, and basically people fall into three buckets - those that resolve their own, it's about a sixth of the people. people that need three months, six months of help and once they have it, they are back on their feet, 90% of time they are on their feet. >> if we develop a system that allows us to put people in the services and the resources that are appropriate for them, then we have a real chance of keeping them in housing. and the only way to do that is
to make sure that the person is sustainable. and without a living wage, it's hard for many people. >> people moving into a housing first model. it was a 95% rate. >> that's what success looks like. i am sure it saves money. >> it does. >> these are people you don't have to police or follow up with expensive medical services. doesn't it save you money. people get frustrated. >> this is really important. it does save money. there are cost studies that show that it's more expensive to allow people to be homeless. it's not just that this is a moral issue, that this is a policy that makes sense, it's a cost effective - it's cost
effective. ending homelessness is cost effective. there are lots of reasons. saving money from emergency room, police, treating this as an emergency is more expensive than solving a problem. >> is there a cycle. just as there is a cycle. is there a cycle in the public's reaction, municipal reaction. >> absolutely. i'm really grateful that mrs. obama decided, the administration said we'll end veteran homelessness. she challenged the mayors to line-up and pledge homelessness by the end of the year. that got people on fire. mitch said we are going to end homelessness. we'll end homelessness for veterans in new orleans by the end of 2015, a mayor, an elected
person making that happen. in washington d.c., we have a mayor committed to ending homelessness and putting resources into it. that's one thing that is important. i think that people get excited when i say to them there are 30% fewer on the streets than there were two years ago. when i say to them. there are a number of communities around the country that end veteran homelessness. that's exciting. it feels like homelessness is an intractable problem. when they see that you can do something about it, they get excited. >> don't mayors give people tickets to go out of town, and build in physical barriers, to make it difficult to live. absolutely. this is what we call the criminalisation of homelessness. unfortunately, it's cities that pass laws, that make it a crime
to sit in public, eat in public places when there's no private place to do necessary human activities, this is a huge issue. it's very exciting. they submitted a brief and a case that we have brought in idaho, challenging that city's criminalisation policies, so justice department is now on record saying this is unconstitutional. that is great. we need the federal government to say this. this is not the right approach. don't criminalize people, help people solve the prosecutor. >> the founder and executive director of the national law center on homelessness and poverty. and an ennize copal priest and manager of community solutions. thank you both. i'll be back in a moment with a final thought on homelessness, lish early and autonomy, stay
imagination, and rises and falls in different places and different times. i'm never surprised when someone comes up with a new essentially mean idea for the treatment of people who are not as lucky as they are. whether it's putting spikes on the highways. particularly people from sleeping, giving homeless people from bus tickets, to be homeless in another town, or making it illegal to give a person on a feet money for food. one such law breaking ordnances is in fort lauderdale. at 40 years old he risks arrest and fines by giving homeless people food in local parts. local authorities, tough love ends up not looking tough. arnold abbott understands the love part better. i'm ray suarez, that's the "inside story".
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