Homeless Civil Rights Project: Oregon Housing NOW Coalition & NCH

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Sun, 24 May 1998 17:10:32 -0700 (PDT)


=46WD 2 related articles
=46or additional information contact:
Chuck Currie 503-288-0317 / 503-238-3940
Dr. Russ Dondero 503-357-2229
Mary Ann Gleason 202-737-6444 x310

=46WD 1 0f 2 http://www.oregonhousingnow.org/page50.html
excerpted from Thsese Homeless Times - Spring 1998 edition
published by Oregon Housing NOW Coalition


     HOMELESS CIVIL RIGHTS PROJECT


   Oregon Housing NOW Coalition is working with the National Coalition for
the Homeless (NCH) to launch the National Homeless Civil Rights Organizing
Project (NHCROP). Mary Ann Gleason, NCH executive director, recently
outlined the civil rights concerns of homeless Americans in a meeting with
officials of the US Department of Justice.

   The Project will start with eight organizing posts in different regions
of the country. Proposed field offices include Atlanta, Chicago,
Cincinnati, Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, Jeffersonville, IN, and
Washington, DC.

   OHN's program will be called the Oregon Homeless Civil Rights Organizing
Project (OHCROP). We will be raising funds locally to support the project.

   "By definition, people who are homeless live in public. A lack of
housing forces them to do in public what everyone prefers to do in private.
This indignity is one of many reasons we seek to end homelessness," said
Gleason. "Unfortunately, it has also become the battleground for the most
fundamental defense of people who happen to be homeless: the right to
exist"

   In cities with a lack of day shelters and few jobs that pay a living
wage, people who are homeless sometimes rest at bus stops or on sidewalks.

   Tucson, Arizona, has made it unlawful to be at a bus stop for more than
30 minutes.  In cities with a lack of affordable housing, people who are
homeless are forced to carry their worldly goods with them wherever they go.

   In Beverly Hills, California, it is crime punishable by a fine or jail
time to set baggage down on the sidewalks.

   There are an estimated 24 million people on the waiting list for public
housing in this country. Despite this acknowledgement of insufficient
housing options, the city mothers and fathers of Dallas, Texas, and many
other cities across this country have made it illegal to camp or sleep in a
park.

   "The flaws in this effort to criminalize homelessness are as numerous as
they are obvious. Though no one should ever have to sleep in a park or beg
for food, making those acts into criminal offenses does not help the people
driven by desperation to commit them. These city ordinances (and similar
state statutes) are misguided because they seek to hide homeless people,
not end homelessness," said OHN Board Co-Chair and NCH Civil Rights
committee member Chuck Currie.

   What is it illegal to do in Oregon when homeless? Sleeping outside,
going to the bathroom, and even walking through certain neighborhoods if
you've been arrested for illegal drug use are some of the most glaring
examples. Thousands of citations have been issued across the state. Police
continuously misapply existing laws in order to harass people, and people
are moved from parks to neighborhoods to alleys and back into the parks.
This strategy feeds negative public sentiment to target homeless people.

   It is too often the case that the harshest anti-homeless attacks occur
in those communities that immediate, effective response. NHCROP will make
it much easier for such locales to hook into the knowledge, experiences and
resources of other civil rights efforts in order to improve their ability
to best protect the civil rights of people who are homeless

Ultimately NHCROP will: show the similarities between tactics used by
different local governments, organize a well-planned counter-campaign
against existing or proposed anti-homeless laws, and support groups
attempting to set up or expand documentation efforts.

   "Our primary objective is to public build support for our efforts to
stop anti-homeless legislation in our cities while building a framework in
which homelessness is eradicated from our nation," said Ms. Gleason.

*****

=46WD 2 of 2 http://www.oregonhousingnow.org/page21.html
15 Apr 1998 from Chuck Currie <ccurrie@teleport.com>
=46or immediate release For additional information contact:
April 15, 1998 Chuck Currie 503-288-0317 / 503-238-3940
Dr. Russ Dondero 503-357-2229
Mary Ann Gleason 202-737-6444 x310


NEW CIVIL RIGHTS PROJECT FOR OREGON'S HOMELESS


Portland, OR. - Oregon Housing NOW Coalition will launch a new civil rights
organizing project in conjunction with the National Coalition for the
Homeless on Monday, May 4 at 7pm at Pacific University in Forest Grove,
Oregon (Taylor Auditorium, Marsh Hall, 2043 College Way). The project
kick-off will begin with a speech by OHN Co-Chair Chuck Currie outlining the
civil rights violations homeless Oregonians face on a daily basis.

Currie has served as OHN's Co-Chair for the last year. He studied political
science at Pacific University in the late 80s. Since that time he has
worked with several of Portland's leading homeless service agencies,
including Baloney Joe's, Outside In and Transition Projects. He co-founded
Burnside Advocates Group, which merged with OHN in 1997, has represented the
City of Portland on the US Conference of Mayors Homeless and Hunger Task
=46orce, helped start the North American Street Newspaper Association, and
has spoken extensively on homeless issues around the country at conferences
and with leading political figures like Jesse Jackson and HUD Secretary
Andrew Cuomo. He also currently serves as a member of NCH's civil rights
committee.

The Oregon Homeless Civil Rights Organizing Project (OHCROP) is a response
to the violation of the civil rights of homeless people by the police,
policy makers and the general community throughout the state. The project
proposes to develop a mechanism through which grassroots homeless
organizations and homeless individuals/families can fortify their local
response while hooking into a state and national network. This enhanced
ability to react strongly against local abuses and increase public awareness
will help to end the increased use of anti-homeless laws.

This project will be coordinated with the National Homeless Civil Rights
Organizing Project (NHCROP) of the National Coalition for the Homeless
(NCH). NCH has named OHNC as one of 7 sites for the national project and
will provide technical assistance and training. Funding must be raised
locally.

"By definition, people who are homeless live in public. A lack of housing
forces them to do in public what everyone prefers to do in private. This
indignity is one of many reasons we seek to end homelessness," said Mary Ann
Gleason, NCH executive director. "Unfortunately, it has also become the
battleground for the most fundamental defense of people who happen to be
homeless: the right to exist"

Russ Dondero, a political science professor at Pacific University and
housing advocate in Washington County and Oregon said "I think that holding
the kick-off address of this initiative in Forest Grove will remind people
that homelessness is both a rural and urban problem in Oregon and the
nation. Hopefully this civil rights campaign on behalf of homeless
Oregonians will also remind us that the problem of affordable housing is a
serious problem throughout Oregon, not just in downtown Portland."

What is it illegal to do in Oregon when homeless? Sleeping outside, going
to the bathroom, and even walking through certain neighborhoods if you've
been arrested for illegal drug use are some of the most glaring examples.
Thousands of citations have been issued across the state. Police
continuously misapply existing laws in order to harass people, and people
are moved from parks to neighborhoods to alleys and back into the parks.
This strategy feeds negative public sentiment to target homeless people.

What will the Project accomplish?

The primary goal of this project will be to create public goodwill toward
homeless Oregonians that makes it difficult - if not impossible - for
governmental bodies to pass anti-homeless laws. One key component will be
to establish autonomous homeless self help groups that set their own agendas
and drive the project. Finally, we will work to create social change by
involving a wider group of people as advocates for Oregon's homeless.

=B7 Objective 1: Educate the public about homelessness, homeless people abou=
t
their civil rights, and the police and business groups about proactive steps
they can take.
=B7 Objective 2: Organize homeless people to defend their rights and churche=
s
and social service organization to become engaged in the issue
=B7 Objective 3: Increase the involvement of shelters as civil rights
advocates
=B7 Objective 4: Network with local, state and national organizations
=B7 Objective 5: Document police actions on video

Total funding needed for the first year of the campaign is $30,000. Grant
requests are pending with several local and national foundations, and with a
local congregational internship program.

About Oregon Housing NOW Coalition

Oregon Housing NOW Coalition was formed in 1989 in response to the critical
need for affordable housing in our state. In 1997 we merged with Burnside
Advocates Group, a homeless advocacy organization, and have renewed our
commitment to ending homelessness through advocacy and education.
Longstanding projects include efforts to increase funding for housing for
extremely low income or no-income households, and work to preserve the stock
of affordable subsidized housing in Oregon. We continue to maintain our
Project to Preserve Affordable Housing in cooperation with the National
Alliance of HUD Tenants and with the support of the City of Portland.

_________________
Chuck Currie
Oregon Housing Now Coalition
2710 NE 14th Avenue
Portland, OR 97212
http://www.oregonhousingnow.org
ccurrie@teleport.com
503-288-0317

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