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Forum Post: Being Young and Homeless in the US Could Get Even Worse

Posted 8 years ago on July 14, 2012, 4:07 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5909)
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Being Young and Homeless in the US Could Get Even Worse

Saturday, 14 July 2012 09:40 By Judith Scherr, Inter Press Service News | Report and Video


Berkeley, California - Amber, 24, who’s been living on the streets half her life, was sitting on a sunny sidewalk in downtown Berkeley last week, cuddling her three-month-old puppy and talking to a friend. But if voters approve a measure the city council placed on the November ballot, sitting on the sidewalk – after a warning – could cost her 75 dollars.

“That law will give us tickets we can’t pay, then we’ll have warrants and end up in jail,” said Amber, who “spranges” – asks for spare change – to feed herself and her unborn child.

Although the council chambers was packed with those opposing the law, the city council, at the end of a dramatic meeting that went past midnight on Jul. 11, approved putting the sit ban to a vote. The proposed ordinance is similar to statutes in Seattle, Washington, Anchorage, Alaska and Santa Cruz, San Francisco and Palo Alto, California. It would ban sitting on the sidewalk in commercial areas between seven a.m. and 10 p.m.

Some four dozen public speakers addressed the council, many arguing that the economic downturn is to blame for Berkeley’s vacant storefronts, and that punishing the homeless won’t bring back business.

John DeClercq, Berkeley Chamber of Commerce CEO, the sole speaker favouring the measure, said the law would make the city’s business districts “more welcoming”.

Once the public speakers queue wound down, the meeting took an unexpected turn when several activists stood up and led the public in the civil rights protest song, “We Shall Not Be Moved.”

The three councilmembers opposing the sit ban joined the sing-along, as the five other councilmembers present left the room. When they returned, in the midst of chaos, the majority voted to place the measure on the ballot.

The dissident councilmembers contend the vote was taken without council debate and therefore illegal. “They can’t stand a people’s democracy,” said Councilmember Max Anderson.

Hundreds of cities around the United States have laws advocates say unfairly target the homeless, including bans on sitting, lying, begging and placing objects on the sidewalk. Other laws, such as prohibitions to loitering, drinking alcohol in public, smoking and jaywalking, are applied to this population selectively, homeless advocates say.

Two years ago, San Francisco banned sitting on all city sidewalks. But the law hasn’t stopped the practice. IPS visited San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury commercial district and counted nine individuals seated on sidewalks.

Michael Anthony Billingsly, 21, was sitting on Haight Street with a friend, singing for spare change. People came by and dropped dollar bills into his paper cup; some tourists waved from a passing bright red two-decker bus.

Billingsly was hoping police wouldn’t cite him – again – for sitting on the sidewalk. “The cops should give me a guitar strap and I’ll stand up,” he joked.

“It’s so sad,” he said. “The reason we can’t sit here is because they want to kick out all the homeless people. It’s a tourist thing. There’s all these people walking by, and they love us sitting down. The cops just want us out.”

A recent study of the San Francisco law by the nonpartisan City Hall Fellows concludes the law “has fallen short of its intended purpose. The same people are being repeatedly cited, a majority of Haight Street merchants do not believe the ordinance is effective, and most offenders are not being connected to services.”

Paul Boden, of the San Francisco-based Western Regional Advocacy Project, likened “quality of life” laws that target the homeless to racist “Jim Crow”, “unsightly beggar”, and sundown town laws intended to exclude poor and non-white people.

“All these laws also used use low-level infraction or misdemeanor offences so that the police had the authority to get you out of town,” Boden said.

Business interests appear to drive passage of such laws.

“Persons who sit or lie down…deter residents and visitors from patronizing local shops, restaurants and businesses,” the San Francisco ordinance says. “Business areas and neighborhoods become dangerous to pedestrian safety and economic vitality when individuals block the public sidewalks. This behavior causes a cycle of decline as residents and tourists go elsewhere to walk, meet, shop and dine….”

The Berkeley ballot language says public space in business districts has become “increasingly inhospitable … because groups of individuals, often with dogs, have taken over sidewalk areas in those districts, obstructing pedestrian access and intimidating pedestrians and potential business patrons…. The only practicable solution to mitigating the conditions described above that impair the city’s economic health is to limit sitting on sidewalks in certain areas at certain times.”

DeClercq of the Chamber of Commerce told IPS that the programme would be primarily implemented by “ambassadors”, people hired by the city’s Business Improvement Districts to clean sidewalks and monitor street behaviour. The ambassadors will make people understand that sitting on the sidewalk is “no longer appropriate in the city and they’ll change their behaviour,” DeClercq said, adding, “The ambassadors can really help people sort out what they need, where the services are.”

Homeless advocates, however, predict that compliance will be handled through police, courts and jails.

Sally Hindman, director of Youth Spirit Artworks, a daytime programme that engages homeless and “couch-surfing” youth with art, says the Berkeley ballot measure targets homeless youth.

She scoffs at the notion that there are adequate services for people age 16-25. The city’s sole youth shelter sleeps 25 of the estimated 225 young people on Berkeley streets every night and is open just half the year.

The city has no daytime centre for youth and lacks lockers to store belongings. There are some supportive housing opportunities, but no “wet” housing for young people who use drugs and alcohol, Hindman said, underscoring that it is insufficient for an ambassador to simply tell homeless youth where to find a programme.

Hindman often hears people say that young people on the street are out for a lark.

“There are a variety of factors beneath the nice smiley faces; there are enormous experiences of trauma and abuse,” she said.

Twenty percent of youth on the street are GLBTQ (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, questioning), displaced because of persecution in their homes or home towns, she said.

Thirty percent of the street youths experienced first episodes of mental illness, and left home “because their environments are not able to understand that what they were exhibiting were signs of the onset of mental illness,” Hindman said.

Osha Neumann, an attorney who defends disenfranchised youth, said most youth won’t pay citations for sitting. Many have no address to receive court date notices and to get to court without public transportation fare is difficult, he said.

When people don’t show up, they get cited for failure to appear, a warrant is issued and they can be arrested. Once someone has a criminal record, it’s harder to get housing and employment.

“Criminalisation will only drive them away from services, and more deeply alienate them,” Neumann said.

Neumann fears commercial real estate interests will heavily finance the campaign to enact the sit ban. “People sitting on the street don’t have that kind of money,” he said.

Adonis Pollard, 19, became homeless at 15. Today, he’s housed and works as an artist-trainee at Youth Spirit Art.

The proposed Berkeley law “is not going to do any good,” he said. “It’s basically going to finance the prison system. All they’re going to do is get more money per head that comes into the jail cells. There’s still going to be the problem of homelessness. There’s going to be the problem of poverty.”

Visit IPS news for fresh perspectives on development and globalization.



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[-] 1 points by jph (2652) 8 years ago

1 in 4 homeless young people are gay,. they left home for obvious reasons,. . then the state punishes them again?


[-] 0 points by VQkag2 (16478) 8 years ago

$75 fine for sitting on the sidewalk.? Definately anti homeless people. Maybe also anti protest/OWS people too.

Wrong in any event. It's a public street. As long as you aren't prventing other people from walking or blocking any doors it should be ok.

[-] 0 points by harry2 (113) 8 years ago

There should not be any homeless in this country! Only people that have the basics covered can be productive.

[-] 2 points by hchc (3297) from Tampa, FL 8 years ago

Even homeless shelters have rules, many of which the homeless don not like.

[-] 0 points by VQkag2 (16478) 8 years ago

Do you support $75 fine for sitting on the side walk.

Whose sidewalk? OUR sidewalk.!!

How would you know? You've been homeless.? Please.


[-] 4 points by hchc (3297) from Tampa, FL 8 years ago

Way to jump on a thread and spew your idiotic takes as usual. The comment was on homeless shelters, not the fine, idiot.

Its a consensus here that you are the most annoying poster anyone here has ever seen.

Stop saying peace and endorsing a war monger. Thats not cool.

[-] 0 points by salta (-1104) 8 years ago

we never agree on anything , but regarding vq, we do.

[-] -1 points by VQkag2 (16478) 8 years ago

It is inappropriate to tell me to "stop saying peace..." I hope you don't believe you have some authority over me.

I want peace on earth so I say it. I do not support military action. but I know our current actionis an improvement over you boy Bushs "doctrineof Overwhelming force". He was the war monger. We're just killing a few hundred people.

It's a drop in the bucket. But I protest still

No drone attacks


Who is in the consensus? Or were you just lyin?

[-] 1 points by hchc (3297) from Tampa, FL 8 years ago

"We're just killing a few hundred people."....

You are one sick son of a bitch.

[-] 0 points by VQkag2 (16478) 8 years ago

You don't know the half of it.

No drone attacks.


[+] -4 points by Barack (-379) 8 years ago

Really? Homeless AND pregnant? Those are genes that need to be passed along...

[-] 2 points by PandoraK (1678) 8 years ago

Your statement is not worthy of consideration...it is cruel, thoughtless and begs the question whether or not your own genes are worth of being preserved.

[-] 2 points by TitusMoans (2451) from Boulder City, NV 8 years ago

The problem is that "Barack" probably doesn't even realize the stupidity of his/her statement. I once read a Mexican proverb that went, "May God grant you three times what you wish for me." So be it.

[-] 1 points by PandoraK (1678) 8 years ago

What a nice sentiment!

[-] 2 points by TitusMoans (2451) from Boulder City, NV 8 years ago

Yes, I think it may express karma and divine retribution in one sentence.

[-] 0 points by Mooks (1985) 8 years ago

Luckily she does not live in Mississippi so she does have some options.

[-] -1 points by Barack (-379) 8 years ago

An idiot weighing their options... Yeah, probably make the right choice there, too.

[-] -1 points by VQkag2 (16478) 8 years ago

Do you think certain people should not be allowed to procreate.? Like a means test?

[-] 0 points by jimmycrackerson (940) from Blackfoot, ID 8 years ago

I think certain people should not be allowed to procreate.

Not sure how these certain people would be determined. Maybe anyone who would willfully accept a couple thousand dollars to get "fixed". The procedure would be free of cost (to the recipient), of course.

[-] 1 points by PandoraK (1678) 8 years ago

Do you plan on being first in line or exempting yourself.

No matter what you think, you made a cruel thoughtless statement.

[-] -1 points by jimmycrackerson (940) from Blackfoot, ID 8 years ago

I don't think it's a "cruel and thoughtless statement."

I know the goal of every species is to survive and produce as many copies of itself as possible. But nature pretty much fucked herself over when she applied that rule to human beings.

What's your solution to overpopulation? Sex-education? lol

And to answer your question, If I didn't have to pay for a vasectomy, there's a very good chance I would take advantage of that. One child in this overpopulated world is plenty for me.

[-] 1 points by PandoraK (1678) 8 years ago

At least you stand by your words I'll give you credit for that, but it was still a cruel thoughtless statement that could have been said with less rancor.

[-] 0 points by jimmycrackerson (940) from Blackfoot, ID 8 years ago

I wasn't trying to sound cruel and thoughtless, but I can understand how it might sound that way.

Though such a procedure would probably be irreversible, thus requiring careful consideration. I think many people would view payment and infertility as a win-win. It would also be more logical for males to undergo the operation since their sperm can be banked beforehand in the case that plans change in the future. I wouldn't recommend banking with any of the tbtf banks though.

[-] 0 points by VQkag2 (16478) 8 years ago

Very generous of you. I guess we would target the homeless 1st huh? What about the very poor who are almost homeless can we pay for their sterilization too.?

What if they already have kids but clearly can't afford them can we do something about that?

[-] 0 points by jimmycrackerson (940) from Blackfoot, ID 8 years ago

Terence McKenna - How Can We Save the World.


[-] 0 points by VQkag2 (16478) 8 years ago

No thanks.

[-] -1 points by jimmycrackerson (940) from Blackfoot, ID 8 years ago

lol wut?

[-] 1 points by VQkag2 (16478) 8 years ago

Who is he? What does he believe. I don't wanna just click on a link.

[-] -3 points by Barack (-379) 8 years ago

No, but along with accepting the responsibility to bring a child into the world, they shouldn't complain that they "cannot make ends meet." That is not my baby, that is her baby. That was her choice to make a baby. I should not have to listen to people say that the government should have the right to dip into the purse of person "A" to pay for the choices of person "IDIOT."

[-] 2 points by PandoraK (1678) 8 years ago

It amazes me how judgmental people can be...a homeless woman, pregnant, automatically it's her fault...no thought as to how she became pregnant, oh of course she had sex...was it rape, with all it's varying 'legal' degrees, incest, a boyfriend who absconded?

Judging with no facts to form that judgment on...how very human of you.

It reminds me of a local woman complaining about a food stamp recipient while at the grocery store...

Her beef was while she was spending $200.00 cash on groceries the person in front of her was paying with food stamps, while talking on a rather expensive cell phone and loading the groceries into a reasonably new Yukon...funny thing about her complaint.

The person buying the food with the food stamps, talking on that expensive cell, driving that overpriced Yukon, was buying groceries for her elderly neighbor who happens to be a shut in for the present after having hip surgery.

But you go ahead and judge people you don't know and will obviously never care about because you don't know them...I'm sure there are vast rewards in your future.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

So true, so true.

I used to work at a food bank where some people in nice cars would come and get free food for themselves. Now, unlike most of the people in the line, why would people who have the money to maintain a vehicle be coming to a food bank for free food?

Because, when facing hard times, they smartly chose to ration what they had to maintain their necessary means of independent transportation knowing that the food bank could supply them with the little bit of food they otherwise couldn't afford.

We never really know what a person's situation is without the facts.

[-] 0 points by VQkag2 (16478) 8 years ago

I don't believe that. And even if there are such people the vast majority of people at a food bank (99.99%) are there because they need it.

The stigma attached to people who use food banks, food stamps, is so great only a miniscule % is abusing the charitable services.

You do a disservice to struggling Americans by repeating these fallacies that go back to Reagan and the welfare queen in limos.

Please, Have some compassion.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

You do a disservice to struggling Americans by promoting the stereotype that all needy Americans fit a profile that excludes car ownership and then imply that by virtue of that ownership, they're abusing charitable services. Car or no car, no one is standing in a long line, many times in rain and snow, just to get a free lunch or a single bag of groceries who doesn't need it.

Like I said, we never really know what a person's situation is without the facts. Just because they've managed to retain ownership of their car while facing hard times doesn't mean they're not needy or are abusing charitable services. Some people with jobs are actually living out of their cars so instead of judging them as being Reagan era fallacies, why not try some of that compassion yourself?

[-] 0 points by VQkag2 (16478) 8 years ago

Forgive me I think the car discusiion is a distraction that smacks of the Reagan era strategy of minimizing and questioning the credibility of people using welfare services.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

You're the only one who cast doubt on struggling people who manage to retain a car.

[-] 1 points by VQkag2 (16478) 8 years ago

nah. your mentioning of the car issue serves to distract from the real needs of the people who use these services.


[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

Many people need food. Even some with cars. Your mentioning that you don't believe it and referring to it as a Reagan era strategy questions the credibility of such people and serves to distract from their needs.

[-] 1 points by VQkag2 (16478) 8 years ago

I refered to YOUR raising of the car issue as indicative of the reagan era strategy and i say it puts YOUR credibility in question. Not the poor people.

But you know that. You don't really seem serious.


[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

Really? You're claiming that pointing out the fact that some people with cars are also in need of assistence is a Reagan era strategy???

If you're serious, I think we know who's credibility is really in question.

[-] 3 points by VQkag2 (16478) 8 years ago

Which is why reagans "weafare limo queen" strategy, and the comments reminiscent of it are meaningless, & unproductive at the very least. Misleading & damaging at most.

[-] 0 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago
[-] 2 points by VQkag2 (16478) 8 years ago

Nah. I'm tryin to get people to stop with the "poor people with cars aren't really poor" non sense that i've heard for 35 years.

[-] 0 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

Circumstances determine poverty, not particular possessions.

[-] 1 points by VQkag2 (16478) 8 years ago

You mentioned the poor people in nice cars 1st boss. I don't need to quote you. I'm not callin you a racist. I'm saying the poor person in nice car thing has been used for decades to malign poor people.

You can't handle it. That is your weakness.


[-] 0 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

I clearly mentioned more than just poor people in nice cars, pointing out a particular fact that could never be used to malign poor people.

If you can't handle what is actually said, prefering to make false claims about what is said based on other things, that's your weakness.

Either you can point out the racist inferences that you claimed were in my statements or you can't.

[-] 1 points by VQkag2 (16478) 8 years ago

I know full well the way racist. anti poor people work. I'm not afraid to call them out.

You don't like it? tough. I'm allowed. I musta hit a nerve. 'Cause you ain't shut the f$#k up about it. Spent more time discussing my comments than the racist inferences in your "welfare limo queen" comments.


[-] 0 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

Yes, you hit a nerve when you declare poor people in need of assistence to be abusers of charitable services if they should happen to own a car and then go on to out right lie by mentioning "welfare limo queen" and try to attribute it to me claiming racist inferences that were never made. Such are the ways of a liar and as I'm certainly not afraid to call a liar out, quote me in what I've said and point out the racism you claim has been inferred.

[-] 0 points by VQkag2 (16478) 8 years ago

Seems to me your tryin to make poor people look bad with your car facts that are reminiscent of Reagans anti poor people strategy.

Good luck


[-] 0 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

Seems to me you're trying to make poor people who don't fit your expectations look undeserving in line with Reagan's anti-poor perspectives.

[-] 3 points by VQkag2 (16478) 8 years ago

Very good. We don't know from a one dimensional view. Some of us are looking for reasons not to help others. That is why judging quickly is so prevalent amongst the greedy and selfish.

Helping others is it's own reward, Not helping is it's own punishment.


[-] -2 points by Barack (-379) 8 years ago

Are you really trying to make the case that the pregnant woman was carrying the baby for her elderly neighbor?

[-] 3 points by PandoraK (1678) 8 years ago

Ah, so it's a lack of comprehension on your part...thank you for clearing that up.

[-] -2 points by Barack (-379) 8 years ago

No, but your little story has nothing to do with what the OP posted.

[-] 2 points by VQkag2 (16478) 8 years ago

Yeah ! F$#k our fellow human brothers and sisters. I am not my brothers keeper. It's not like I'm gonna be judged on how I treat the least among us.

They got some nerve havin babies when they are poor. They sholdn't be allowed. It should be against the law. Lets put them in jail, take their kids, put them all to work.

That'll learn 'em.


[-] -3 points by Barack (-379) 8 years ago

If you are so generous, why don't you make it a point to personally take care of the poor choice woman? Why are you only generous when the effort needed to take care of her is using the effort of other people? Sounds to me like it is you who is saying F$#k our fellow human brothers and sisters.... Unless you can take the effort of others to take care of her.

[-] 3 points by VQkag2 (16478) 8 years ago

Please. You don't know how much help I've provided. I've helpin people, takin care of people since I'm 15 years old. Almost 35 years.

You either care about other people and help them when they're in need. Or you are a selfish, greedy, "I got mine, F%$k everyone else" kinda person.

I guess you are republican, Cut the elderly healthcare, privatize SS, voucher medicare/caid, cut food stamps, cut education, so that we can give tax cuts to the 1% and big business.


You got no heart. A blackened soul. That is your punishment.


[-] -3 points by salta (-1104) 8 years ago

obamacare cuts 5 billion from medicare. how does that help the elderly?

[-] 1 points by VQkag2 (16478) 8 years ago

Your numbers are incorrect.

[-] -2 points by salta (-1104) 8 years ago

obamacare actually cuts 818 bil. from medicare part A and adding the cuts from medicare part B , the cuts total 1.05 trillion over the first 10 yrs, 4.95 over the first 20 yrs. that will certainly help the elderly.

[-] 3 points by VQkag2 (16478) 8 years ago

Nope. Your republican partisanship is clouding view.

$500 million over 10 years from medicare SAVINGS. No cuts to service for the elderly. The ACA does close the prescription donut hole your boy Bush left when they gave a gift to the big pharm corps.

So more service for the medicare recipients. Not less. Sorry.


[-] -2 points by salta (-1104) 8 years ago

you know so much about what you don't know.

[-] -3 points by Barack (-379) 8 years ago

I have donated three of my hearts to crack addicts as well as 16 kidneys to intravenous drug users who have gotten hep C. I am way more generous than anyone who wants to take the hard earned proceeds of others by force to redistribute to government workers. Your soul is so corrupt you insult me by comparing me to African Americans who according to you have no empathy or compassion. I have news for you, you racist piece of crap, Blacks have as much compassion as any other human being (yes, blackend souls are human beings too!). Put your pointy white cap on and go burn a cross you bigoted piece of shit!

[-] 2 points by PandoraK (1678) 8 years ago

Please point out to me where you got that he compared you to African Americans...it's not about racism for me, it's about language skills and interpretation of the written word.

[-] 3 points by VQkag2 (16478) 8 years ago

I'm avoiding this user because we disagree about helping people in need and his comments became racist and offensive.


[-] -2 points by Barack (-379) 8 years ago

He called me "a blackened soul", and we all know what that is code for. What's your beef, David Duke?

[-] 3 points by PandoraK (1678) 8 years ago

Yep, as I said before, lack of comprehension on your part. I am so sorry your education was substandard.

[-] -2 points by Barack (-379) 8 years ago

I am sorry that you hate black people as much as you do that you cannot admit a racist comment when you see one.

[-] 2 points by VQkag2 (16478) 8 years ago

Please don't respond I have no desire to converse with racists.


[-] -3 points by Barack (-379) 8 years ago

Certainly, Grand Dragon VQkag2