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Homelessness in Los Angeles: A racial issue

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “A lot of people come here from other states, and they’re sleeping in their car, and they have to figure out how to make ends meet to survive,” said “E-3,” a veteran and former homeless individual. “Rents are just too high. Unless you’re getting some type of government assistance, you are basically left to struggle, you are basically on your own.”

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By Isabell Rivera, Our Weekly Contributor

Los Angeles, the city of palm trees, sunshine, and median temperatures of 65 degrees Fahrenheit, has experienced somewhat chillier temperatures and heavy rains this winter. Regardless, L.A. is still a place many people want to move to.

The false hope to become a Hollywood star leaves many on the streets and representing broken dreams. While this scenario is familiar to “Hollywood,” the sad aspect of the homeless epidemic in L.A. is that the majority of homeless people are of African-American descent. Many are veterans, and teenagers who got kicked out because they’re LGBTQ, or left because they came from broken homes.

Lack of job opportunities “You can see in that [transgender] population, there’s a big bump in homelessness. Because a lack of job opportunity, because there’s just a stigma around their community. You do see an increase in that,” said Anthony R. Conley, community involvement coordinator with The Covenant House. “You may see a higher percentage of African-Americans, you don’t see as much as Whites, but we do have it.”

According to a survey done by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), 14 percent of the people who are homeless in L.A. became homeless outside of California first.

“A lot of people come here from other states, and they’re sleeping in their car, and they have to figure out how to make ends meet to survive,” said “E-3,” a veteran and former homeless individual. “Rents are just too high. Unless you’re getting some type of government assistance, you are basically left to struggle, you are basically on your own.”

The LAHSA report shows how structural racism, discrimination, and unconscious bias in housing, employment, criminal justice, and child welfare policies have led to overrepresentation of Black people who experience homelessness.

Black people make up to nine percent of the population of L.A., but more than one-third of its population is homeless. To end homelessness, it will require a collective commitment to address racial disparities.

‘Donations’ and ‘Fundraising’ In Hollywood

On the exit of the 101 freeway and Van Ness, sits “E-3” with his red bucket to collect “donations” or how he calls it “fundraising.” As an African-American, and former homeless individual, he has quite some stories to share.

“I got out of the military in ‘86, worked a series of jobs, then in 2000 my grandmother got sick, and we had to sell the duplex and I found myself with no place to live, so I was residing in my car,” E-3 said. “And next thing I know I was gravitating to the Hollywood area, and meeting other homeless people. I was lucky, cuz [sic] I managed to find shelter in abandoned buildings, and for about three or four years I was residing in the back of a Carl’s Junior off of Sunset and Western.

I went back to school, while I was homeless.”

The 58-year-old has been homeless for 15 years, he said. And recently got approved for a two-bedroom apartment in Inglewood, that he waited on for eight years.

“I was able to secure a place to live – where I reside now, but there’s still the issue of not getting a back-pay from the government,” E-3 said. “One of the biggest problems of homlessness is the agencies turn their backs on their clients, and they don’t work together at all. Everybody goes out and does their own thing.” He said, it’s hard to get out of the “homeless mentality,” as he calls it. It’s all about survival. How to make a dime, where to get the next meal.

“When you’re on the streets,” he said, “your belongings aren’t yours anymore.”

He’s been attacked a few times, while he was roaming the streets. These incidents were reported to the LAPD, without any success in finding the attackers. Many times he got arrested or harassed by the cops. He said racial profiling is still a thing, and the homeless get treated like the outcast.

“When I was homeless in Hollywood, the LAPD would ride up and tell me I couldn’t be there, and put me in handcuffs, and ask me if I was on parole or probation. That was like a regular, recurring incident of 15 years of homelessness,” E-3 said. “I’ve got labeled a chronic complainer. […] and from that day, they don’t take any of your concerns or allegations seriously.”

The South L.A. native doesn’t represent the stereotypical homeless person. E-3 is well-spoken, clean, and intellectual. He’s not a drug addict or an alcoholic. He said the homelessness epidemic will remain, and that city officials don’t want to change it. If that was the case, he said, they would have done so by providing mobile showers, soup kitchens, and mobile health care.

An ‘ingrained pattern’ “There’s not proper adequately classification of the individual’s wants and needs. […] So a lot of people basically have been given up and chosen to live on the streets,” E-3 shared. “It’s basically an ingrained pattern, it’s very, very difficult to erase. When I got my house, I was just basically looking for a corner to crawl up in and go to sleep. The idea of having running water, electricity, a front door and a back door, that was completely foreign to me. I had to adapt to the situation and the circumstances.”

He also feels, homeless veterans don’t get much help in a city like L.A. “I talked to some people and they told me about going to the V.A. [Department of Veterans Affairs] to get into the HUD-VASH program,” E-3 said. “I was very, very skeptical because the treatment that I received was not very fair compared to another guy that was homeless in Hollywood where the worker was more sympathetic, kind, and helpful to him, and I was just basically given a cold shoulder, but the information I was given, I took and I ran with it.

“I was encouraged by an outreach worker to go there [West L.A. Department of Veterans Affairs] and everything will be taken care of, then I found out it was just a catastrophe. A lot of stuff was out of order and it took an unnecessarily long time to get a housing voucher, and assistance, and aid.”

A data collected in 2018 shows that homeless veterans have decreased (18 percent fewer homeless vets – 3,910, down from 4,800 in 2017), however, homeless veterans still exist and need proper assistance.

As the Los Angeles Times recently reported, the city of Los Angeles promised more housing for homeless people, but many neighborhoods are behind. Jobs and housing are hard to get a grip on, it’s like the city offers them, just to do their job, and even if people – such as E-3 – are qualified for them, the employers wouldn’t hire him because he doesn’t fit the profile, as a Black homeless man, E-3 said.

Still in Hollywood, where most of the younger homeless population hangs out, is the Covenant House. A non-profit shelter that caters to the homeless- and trafficked youth.

“That’s what makes the Covenant House – It’s not necessarily like [sic] the building,” Conley said, “but the people who like support it [sic] and do the program and dedicate their lives and help the situation.

“At our current facility here, we have a ‘Safe Haven’ program that serves 64 youths. On the other side, it’s called ‘Rights of Passage’ which is like a two-year program, serves 24 youths. We have 88 beds, but it can still fluctuate every night. Between 88 to 100 youth sleeping here at the Covenant House each night.”

Work of Covenant House

For 30 years, and five days a week, the Covenant House sends their outreach teams to teenagers who are roaming the streets to provide them with hygiene kits, food, and water, as well as to get them to come inside, at least for one night. Most teens don’t hesitate, a roof over the head and security sound better than to camp out on the cold concrete and go to sleep with one eye open.

“That’s like the bread and butter of what we do too,” Conley said. “Because without the awareness of what we do here, some of the youth wouldn’t end up here. They’re on survival mode. They just want to be independent. But when they see that Covenant House van roll up, they know that they’re people looking out for them.”

To cope with disappointments and emotional distress, many of the teens at the Covenant House turned to drugs while they were on the streets.

“We have ways we can help them to detox, we have wellness counselors, so all this is here,” Conley said. “[…] and that’s important because you just can’t turn someone away because he’s a user. Like they need help, so how can we help them. We want those people off the streets.”

Although the Covenant House provides a loving environment with a sense of stability and emotional support, which could be considered a rehabilitation housing that preps the homeless youth, between the ages of 18 – 24, to become a part of society as an adult and better their lives, it also strongly relies on donations and volunteer work, in order to keep up the good work and the standards of the facility. For more information, and how to help go to https://covenanthousecalifornia.org/

“We offer career services, internship opportunities, job placements, we have a whole career center that offers that,” Conley said. “And after that, we’ll help them get housing outside of the Covenant House. […] We help them save money.”

#NNPA BlackPress

Black Woman to Lead United States Park Police

 Chief Smith’s experience serving in leadership roles in every U.S. Park Police field office has provided her with an unmatched foundation to lead the diverse agency,” said Flynn, who oversees law enforcement programs at USPP.

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Pamela A. Smith

Pamela A. Smith, a 23-year veteran of the United States Park Police, will lead the nation’s oldest federal law enforcement agency.

Smith, who became the first African American woman to lead the 230-year-old agency, immediately remarked that she would establish a body-worn camera program for USPP within 90 days.

The program will initially begin in San Francisco and be implemented across the country by the end of the year, Smith said.

“Body-worn cameras are good for the public and good for our officers, which is why I am prioritizing implementing a body-worn camera program within my first 90 days,” Smith offered in a statement.

 “This is one of the many steps we must take to continue to build trust and credibility with the public we have been entrusted to serve.”

Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and graduated from the FBI National Academy. She is a member of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

During her law enforcement career, the proud Zeta Phi Beta Sorority sister has served as a patrol officer, field training officer, canine handler, and academy instructor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.

 According to a news release, Smith also served as executive lieutenant to the chief of police, assistant commander of the San Francisco Field Office, commander of the New York Field Office, acting deputy chief of the Homeland Security Division, and deputy chief for the Field Operations Division.

Smith was the first woman to lead the New York Field Office as its Major.

At the USPP, she will lead a 560-member workforce that protects the public, parks, and the nation’s most iconic landmarks in Wash., D.C., New York City, and San Francisco metropolitan areas.

“Chief Smith’s commitment to policing as public service and her willingness to listen and collaborate make her the right person to lead the U.S. Park Police at this pivotal moment in our country,” Shawn Benge, deputy director exercising the delegated authority of the NPS director, noted in a statement.

 “Over the coming months, the leadership of the National Park Service will explore opportunities with Chief Smith designed to strengthen our organization’s commitment to transparency. Her personal and professional experience make her acutely aware of and ready to meet the challenges and responsibilities that face U.S. Park Police and law enforcement agencies across the nation.”

 Jennifer Flynn, the associate director for Visitor Resource Protection at the National Park Service added that she’s looking forward to Smith’s leadership.

“Chief Smith’s experience serving in leadership roles in every U.S. Park Police field office has provided her with an unmatched foundation to lead the diverse agency,” said Flynn, who oversees law enforcement programs at USPP.

 “As federal law enforcement officers, the U.S. Park Police officers have a new opportunity each day to give their best to the American people. Chief Smith exemplifies that approach as a colleague and mentor, and she will be instrumental in refining and shaping the future of the organization,” Flynn said.

Smith declared that she would lead by example and expects all officers to display integrity.

 “I have dedicated my career to the professionalism of law enforcement, and it is my highest honor and privilege to serve as chief of police,” Chief Smith declared. “Today’s officers face many challenges, and I firmly believe challenges present opportunities. I look forward to leading this exemplary team as we carry out our mission with honesty and integrity.”  

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Children’s Defense Fund: State of America’s Children Reveals that 71 Percent of Children of Color Live in Poverty

“While we reported on the 73 million children in the U.S. in 2019, which is 22 percent of the nation’s population, we also note that 2020 was the first year in American history that a majority of children are projected to be children of color,” said the Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson, the president and CEO of the Children’s Defense Fund.

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Dr. Wilson did note that the Children’s Defense Fund is pleased about President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which, among other things, makes it easier for parents to keep their jobs and provides a lifeline for disadvantaged children. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)
Dr. Wilson did note that the Children’s Defense Fund is pleased about President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which, among other things, makes it easier for parents to keep their jobs and provides a lifeline for disadvantaged children. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)

Part One of an ongoing series on this impactful and informative report.

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

The child population in America is the most diverse in history, but children remain the poorest age group in the country with youth of color suffering the highest poverty rates.

“While we reported on the 73 million children in the U.S. in 2019, which is 22 percent of the nation’s population, we also note that 2020 was the first year in American history that a majority of children are projected to be children of color,” said the Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson, the president and CEO of the Children’s Defense Fund.

Dr. Wilson’s remarks come as the Marian Wright Edelman founded nonprofit released “The State of America’s Children 2021.”

The comprehensive report is eye-opening.

It highlights how children remain the poorest age group in America, with children of color and young children suffering the highest poverty rates. For instance, of the more than 10.5 million poverty-stricken children in America in 2019, approximately 71 percent were those of color.

The stunning exposé revealed that income and wealth inequality are growing and harming children in low-income, Black and Brown families.

While the share of all wealth held by the top one percent of Americans grew from 30 percent to 37 percent, the share held by the bottom 90 percent fell from 33 percent to 23 percent between 1989 and 2019.

Today, a member of the top 10 percent of income earners makes about 39 times as much as the average earner in the bottom 90 percent.

The median family income of White households with children ($95,700) was more than double that of Black ($43,900), and Hispanic households with children ($52,300).

Further, the report noted that the lack of affordable housing and federal rental assistance leaves millions of children homeless or at risk of homelessness.

More than 1.5 million children enrolled in public schools experienced homelessness during the 2017-2018 school year, and 74 percent of unhoused students during the 2017-2018 school year were living temporarily with family or friends.

Millions of children live in food-insecure households, lacking reliable access to safe, sufficient, and nutritious food, and more than 1 in 7 children – 10.7 million – were food insecure, meaning they lived in households where not everyone had enough to eat.

Black and Hispanic children were twice as likely to live in food-insecure households as White children.

The report further found that America’s schools have continued to slip backwards into patterns of deep racial and socioeconomic segregation, perpetuating achievement gaps.

For instance, during the 2017-2018 public school year, 19 percent of Black, 21 percent of Hispanic, and more than 26 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native school students did not graduate on time compared with only 11 percent of White students.

More than 77 percent of Hispanic and more than 79 percent of Black fourth and eighth grade public school students were not proficient in reading or math in 2019, compared with less than 60 percent of White students.

“We find that in the course of the last year, we’ve come to the point where our conversations about child well-being and our dialogue and reckoning around racial justice has really met a point of intersection, and so we must consider child well-being in every conversation about racial justice and quite frankly you can only sustainably speak of racial justice if we’re talking about the state of our children,” Dr. Wilson observed.

Some more of the startling statistics found in the report include:

  • A White public school student is suspended every six seconds, while students of color and non-White students are suspended every two seconds.
  • Conditions leading to a person dropping out of high school occur with white students every 19 seconds, while it occurs every nine seconds for non-White and students of color.
  • A White child is arrested every 1 minute and 12 seconds, while students of color and non-whites are arrested every 45 seconds.
  • A White student in public school is corporally punished every two minutes, while students of color and non-Whites face such action every 49 seconds.

Dr. Wilson asserted that federal spending “reflects the nation’s skewed priorities.”

In the report, he notes that children are not receiving the investment they need to thrive, and despite making up such a large portion of the population, less than 7.5 percent of federal spending went towards children in fiscal year 2020.

Despite Congress raising statutory caps on discretionary spending in fiscal years 2018 to 2020, children did not receive their fair share of those increases and children’s share of total federal spending has continued to decline.

“Children continue to be the poorest segment of the population,” Dr. Wilson demanded. “We are headed into a dark place as it relates to poverty and inequity on the American landscape because our children become the canary in the coal mine.”

Dr. Wilson did note that the Children’s Defense Fund is pleased about President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which, among other things, makes it easier for parents to keep their jobs and provides a lifeline for disadvantaged children.

The $1.9 trillion plan not only contained $1,400 checks for individuals, it includes monthly allowances and other elements to help reduce child poverty.

The President’s plan expands home visitation programs that help at-risk parents from pregnancy through early childhood and is presents universal access to top-notch pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds.

“The American Rescue Plan carried significant and powerful anti-poverty messages that will have remarkable benefits on the lives of children in America over the course of the next two years,” Dr. Wilson declared.

“The Children’s Defense Fund was quick to applaud the efforts of the President. We have worked with partners, including leading a child poverty coalition, to advance the ideas of that investment,” he continued.

“Most notably, the expansion of the child tax credit which has the impact of reducing poverty, lifting more than 50 percent of African American children out of poverty, 81 percent of Indigenous children, 45 percent of Hispanic children. It’s not only good policy, but it’s specifically good policy for Black and Brown children.”

Click here to view the full report.

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She Bought Freedom for Herself and Other Slaves Today a Park is Named in Her Honor

Alethia Browning Tanner saved enough money to purchase her freedom in 1810. “The total amount, thought to have been paid in installments, was $1,400. In 1810, $1,400 was a significant amount; about the equivalent of three years’ earnings for an average skilled tradesperson,” attucksadams.com researchers surmised. 

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Alethia Browning Tanner worked to purchase the freedom of more than 20 of her relatives and neighbors, mostly the family of her older sister Laurana including Laurana herself, her children, and her grandchildren.

In her early years, Alethia Browning Tanner sold vegetables in a produce stall near President’s Square – now known as Lafayette Square – in what is now Northwest Washington, D.C.

According to the D.C. Genealogy Research, Resources, and Records, Tanner bought her freedom in 1810 and later purchased several relatives’ release.

She was the first woman on the Roll of Members of the Union Bethel AME Church (now Metropolitan AME Church on M Street), and Turner owned land and a store at 14th and H Streets, which she left to her nephews – one of whom later sold the property for $100,000.

Named in her honor, the Alethia Tanner Park is located at 227 Harry Thomas Way in Northeast DC.

The park sits near the corner of Harry Thomas Way and Q Street and is accessible by foot or bike via the Metropolitan Branch Trail, just north of the Florida Ave entrances.

“The first Council legislative meeting of Black History Month, the Council took a second and final vote on naming the new park for Alethia Tanner, an amazing woman who is more than worthy of this long-delayed recognition,” Ward 5 Councilman Kenyan McDuffie said in 2020 ahead of the park’s naming ceremony.

“[Her upbringing] itself would be a remarkable legacy, but Ms. Tanner was also active in founding and supporting many educational, religious, and civic institutions,” McDuffie remarked.

“She contributed funds to start the first school for free Black children in Washington, the Bell School. Feeling unwelcome at her predominately segregated church, she & other church members founded the Israel Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. When the church fell on hard times and was sold at auction by creditors, she and her family stepped in and repurchased the church.”

Born in 1781 on a plantation owned by Tobias and Mary Belt in Prince George’s County, Maryland, historians noted that Tanner had two sisters, Sophia Bell and Laurena Cook.

“Upon the death of Mary Pratt (Tobias had predeceased his wife) in 1795, the plantation, known as Chelsea Plantation, was inherited by their daughter Rachel Belt Pratt,” historians wrote.

“Mary Belt’s will stipulated that Laurena be sent to live with a sibling of Rachel Pratt’s while Sophia and Alethia were to stay at the Chelsea Plantation.”

Tanner sold vegetables at the well-known market just north of the White House in Presidents Park. It is possible – and probable – she met Thomas Jefferson there as he was known to frequent the vegetable markets there along with other prominent early Washingtonians, according to historians at attacksadams.com. 

“There are also White House records suggesting she worked for Thomas Jefferson in some capacity, likely doing various housework tasks,” the researchers determined.

Tanner saved enough money to purchase her freedom in 1810. “The total amount, thought to have been paid in installments, was $1,400. In 1810, $1,400 was a significant amount; about the equivalent of three years’ earnings for an average skilled tradesperson,” attucksadams.com researchers surmised.

“Self-emancipation was not an option for all enslaved peoples, but both Alethia and her sister Sophia were able to accomplish this, almost entirely through selling vegetables at the market,” the researchers continued.

“Alethia Tanner moved to D.C. and became one of a significant and growing number of free Black people in the District. In 1800, 793 free Black people were living in D.C.

By 1810, there were 2,549, and by 1860, 11,131 free Black people lived in D.C., more than the number of enslaved peoples.”

Historians wrote that beginning at about 15 years after securing her manumission, Alethia Tanner worked to purchase the freedom of more than 20 of her relatives and neighbors, mostly the family of her older sister Laurana including Laurana herself, her children, and her grandchildren.

All in all, Tanner would have paid the Pratt family well over $5,000. All accomplished with proceeds from her own vegetable market business, they concluded.

“Alethia Tanner, it’s an amazing story of resilience, hard work, and perseverance,” D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation Director Delano Hunter said at the park’s dedication.

“I just learned about this history through this, so it shows how when you name a park, you really educate people on the historical significance.”

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