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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.”

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Tunisia: Raja Amari’s ‘She Had a Dream’ Doc Premieres on AfroPoP

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Amari is one of these artists and Ghofrane is an activist. Exploring how racism has shaped her life in all aspects including her early school days, her romantic life and everyday activities, Amari’s film showcases how Ghofrane uses her experiences as impetus to work to bring change to her country for all people. A compassionate and hopeful exploration of the life and aspirations of Ghofrane, She Had A Dream sheds light on women’s roles in Tunisia’s changing society and one woman’s battle to create change for her community.
The post Tunisia: Raja Amari’s ‘She Had a Dream’ Doc Premieres on AfroPoP first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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By Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D, NNPA Newswire Entertainment and Culture Editor

The documentary She Had A Dream by Tunisian filmmaker Raja Amari premieres on AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange series tonight at 8 p.m. EST on WORLD CHANNEL. Season 14 of the acclaimed documentary series captures Black artists and activists shaping and reclaiming culture, advocating for change and mobilizing for brighter futures. She Had A Dream offers an intimate portrayal of one young Black Tunisian woman’s quest for political office and her fight against racism and oppression in a society that often seeks to overlook both.

The documentary follows Ghofrane, a 20-something Black woman from Tunisia as she walks the path of self-discovery of young adulthood while running for political office in a homeland where many still view her as an outsider.

Watch the trailer below:

A dedicated, charismatic activist and a modern, free-speaking woman, Ghofrane in many ways is the embodiment of contemporary Tunisian political hopes still alive years after the Arab Spring. She Had A Dream follows Ghofrane as she works to conquer her own self-doubts while attempting to persuade close friends and complete strangers to vote for her. As audiences follow her campaign, they also follow the dichotomies of her life as a woman striving for a role in politics in the Arab world and as a Black person in a country where racism is prevalent, yet often denied.

“The 14th season of AfroPoP shines a light on the collective power, strength and resilience of Black people and movements around the world,” said Leslie Fields-Cruz, AfroPoP executive producer. “Viewers will see artists use their platforms to push for progress and human rights and see ‘ordinary’ people do the remarkable in the interest of justice.”

Amari is one of these artists and Ghofrane is an activist. Exploring how racism has shaped her life in all aspects including her early school days, her romantic life and everyday activities, Amari’s film showcases how Ghofrane uses her experiences as impetus to work to bring change to her country for all people. A compassionate and hopeful exploration of the life and aspirations of Ghofrane, She Had A Dream sheds light on women’s roles in Tunisia’s changing society and one woman’s battle to create change for her community.

She Had A Dream airs on AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange Monday, April 11 at 8 p.m. ET on WORLD Channel and begins streaming on worldchannel.org at the same time.

AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange is presented by Black Public Media and WORLD Channel. For more information, visit worldchannel.org or blackpublicmedia.org.

This article was written by Nsenga K. Burton, founder & editor-in-chief of the award-winning news site The Burton Wire. Follow Nsenga on Twitter @Ntellectual.

Follow The Burton Wire on Twitter or Instagram @TheBurtonWire.

The post Tunisia: Raja Amari’s ‘She Had a Dream’ Doc Premieres on AfroPoP first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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Nairobi: Water Crisis Exploits Women & Girls

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “Sextortion” refers to sex being used as currency instead of money for services or products — in this case water. According to the Water Integrity Network (WIN), the testimonies collected from women over the past five years in Kibera and Mukuru Kwa Njenga, which are some of the largest informal settlements in Nairobi, point towards an invisible, unspoken, and sinister consequence of corruption in the water sector i.e. sextortion. Sex for water is not a new phenomena.
The post Nairobi: Water Crisis Exploits Women & Girls first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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BBC Africa is reporting Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya, is facing a water shortage because of changing weather patterns and aging water facilities. The article reports, “Residents in informal communities like Kibra pay private vendors for water, meaning they now control the supply and access to water in the community.” The privatization of water access has led to an increase in the exploitation of women and girls in exchange for water.

“Sextortion” refers to sex being used as currency instead of money for services or products — in this case water. According to the Water Integrity Network (WIN), the testimonies collected from women over the past five years in Kibera and Mukuru Kwa Njenga, which are some of the largest informal settlements in Nairobi, point towards an invisible, unspoken, and sinister consequence of corruption in the water sector i.e. sextortion. Sex for water is not a new phenomena. Check out the 2018 ANEW documentary short below:

The water crisis and the sexual exploitation of girls and women as a result of the water crisis shows no signs of slowing down.

To read more about this crisis, visit BBC Africa‘s series of articles and videos on Kenya’s water crisis and the Water Integrity Network’s (WIN) study on sextortion.

This news brief was curated by Nsenga K. Burton, founder & editor-in-chief of the award-winning news site The Burton Wire. Follow Nsenga on Twitter @Ntellectual.

Follow The Burton Wire on Twitter or Instagram @TheBurtonWire.

The post Nairobi: Water Crisis Exploits Women & Girls first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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#WordinBlack: Schools and Black Students’ Mental Health: The Kids Aren’t Alright

THE AFRO — Prior to the pandemic, in 2019, suicide was the second leading cause of death for Black youths ages 15 to 24, according to the Office of Minority Health. The same report found Black high school-aged girls were 60 percent more likely to attempt suicide than their white peers. And, by June 2020, the CDC saw the rate of Black respondents who reported having “seriously considered suicide” was significantly higher.
The post #WordinBlack: Schools and Black Students’ Mental Health: The Kids Aren’t Alright first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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By Maya Pottiger, Word in Black

It’s no surprise that we’re living through difficult times. After two years, we’re still in a global pandemic, which has predominantly impacted people of color. In addition, Book bans, attacks on critical race theory, and partisan political fights target everything from Black youths’ sexuality, to history, to health.

And we’re seeing the effects.

Prior to the pandemic, in 2019, suicide was the second leading cause of death for Black youths ages 15 to 24, according to the Office of Minority Health. The same report found Black high school-aged girls were 60 percent more likely to attempt suicide than their white peers. And, by June 2020, the CDC saw the rate of Black respondents who reported having “seriously considered suicide” was significantly higher.

For a variety of reasons — ongoing stigma, lack of insurance, most accessible — Black students often rely on the mental health services offered at school.Outside of a mental health-specific practice, Black students were nearly 600 times as likely to get mental health help in an academic setting compared to other options, according to 2020 data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

In fact, mental health services in schools have been steadily gaining popularity among students since 2009, before dropping slightly in 2020 when the school year was interrupted, according to the SAMHSA report. As a result, the rate of students receiving mental health care through school decreased by 14 percent in 2020 compared to 2019.

So how are schools changing the way they address and prioritize mental health — and the specific needs of Black students — since 2020?

The Renewed Focus on Mental Health

For school-aged people, the majority of their time is spent in a school building — about eight hours per day, 10 months out of the year. To help address mental health during academic hours, schools are trying to focus on social-emotional learning: self-awareness, self-control, and interpersonal skills. This includes teaching kids how to be in touch with their emotions and protect against adverse mental health outcomes.

But it’s been difficult.

Though there’s been more conversation, the implementation is challenging, says Dr. Kizzy Albritton, an associate professor of school psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. There was already a shortage of school-based mental health professionals before the pandemic, which has now been exacerbated, as have mental health issues. In addition, though schools clearly recognize the importance of mental health, they aren’t always provided adequate resources.

“Unless there are more resources funneled into the school system, we’re going to see a continued catch-up issue across the board,” Albritton says. “And, unfortunately, our Black students are going to continue to suffer the most.”

In a survey of high school principals and students, Education Week Research Center found discrepancies in how principals and students viewed a school’s mental health services. While 86 percent of the principals said their schools provided services, only about 66 percent of students agreed. The survey did point out it’s possible the school offers these services and students aren’t aware. The survey also found Black and Latinx students were less likely than their peers to say their schools offered services.

Dr. Celeste Malone, the president-elect of the National Association for School Psychologists and a Howard University associate professor, says she hasn’t previously seen this degree of attention to mental health in schools.

“I see that a lot in my role for a school psychology graduate program: the outreach and people contacting me with openings where they didn’t exist previously,” Malone says. “With this increased push in funding to hire more, that’s definitely a very, very positive movement.”

Mental Health Is Not One Size Fits All

Just like with many aspects of health, Black youths need different mental health support from their peers of other races. They need a counselor who understands their lived experiences, like microaggressions and other forms of discrimination or racism, without the student having to explain.

For example, in order to best address the specific mental health needs of Black students, districts need to provide information breaking down mental health stigmas; focus on hiring Black counselors, social workers, and mental health professionals; and fund anti-racist and trauma-informed mental health practices, according to the Center for American Progress.

While she hears a lot of talk, Albritton says she isn’t seeing widespread evidence of these solutions in practice.

“There needs to be a willingness, first of all, to understand that our Black students, their needs look a lot different,” Albritton says. School officials need to understand where Black students are coming from — that their families and households experience systemic and structural racism, which are known to trigger anxiety and depression. The effects of the racial wealth gap also play a role, from the neighborhood kids are living in, to the schools they can attend to the impacts on their health. Students might be bringing worries about these challenges to school, which could be reflected in their behavior. This is why, Albritton says, it’s crucial to also work with students’ families.

The post #WordinBlack: Schools and Black Students’ Mental Health: The Kids Aren’t Alright appeared first on AFRO American Newspapers .

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