[lit-ideas] Re: Bush Tackles Homelessness?

  • From: JimKandJulieB@xxxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 11 Oct 2006 06:59:59 EDT

"hilarious" is hardly the word I would choose.
Julie Krueger

========Original  Message========     Subj: [lit-ideas] Bush Tackles 
Homelessness?  Date: 10/10/2006 10:42:16 P.M. Central Standard Time  From: 
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(mailto:Davidcowen@xxxxxxxxxxxxx) , _MSpiegel@xxxxxxxx 
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Did you ever hear of anything more  hilarious? The big guy really knows how 
to play the game,  doesn't he? 
October 11, 2006

Far From Big City, Hidden Toll of  Homelessness 
TRINIDAD, Colo. â As the Bush administration promotes a widely praised  
multibillion-dollar effort to end chronic homelessness in cities like 
and San Francisco, a growing outcry is rising from rural areas that worsening  
problems far away from urban centers are being overlooked. 
Rural homelessness has always taken a back seat to the more glaring problems  
in cities. Most studies estimate homeless people in small towns account for  
about 9 percent of the 600,000 or so homeless nationwide. But local officials  
and advocates for the homeless in small towns say that economic distress in  
recent years, including closing plants, failing farms, rising housing costs 
and  other troubles, has left more people without homes and in greater need of 
Real numbers are hard to come by because most rural areas, where homeless  
services often means ad-hoc help from church groups or volunteers, are far  
behind a parade of cities taking head counts.  
âWe are concerned that the focus on chronic homelessness may have the  
unintended consequence of shifting services away from families and rural  
communities,â said John Parvensky, executive director of the Colorado 
Coalition  for the 
Homeless, one of several groups pushing the federal government to turn  more 
attention to rural areas. 
Among the homeless here is John Lobato, who offered a tour of his  
surroundings â the abandoned shuttle bus where he sometimes sleeps, the  
assortment of pallets, mattresses and blankets where he and other men  pass 
often drinking, and the Purgatoire River, where he bathes.  
Sometimes he takes his medicine for schizophrenia, Mr. Lobato said, sometimes 
 not. Sometimes he sobers up for a while, but then the bottle calls. 
âI know I need help,â he said, before embarking on a search for a liquor 
 at midday in this isolated town 180 miles south of Denver. âBut I donât 
know  where to get it.â 
Until recently, many small towns like Trinidad coped with those who  
panhandled or set up makeshift encampments in the woods with what Lance  
director of La Puente, a shelter in Alamosa, near here, calls  âGreyhound 
â They handed out bus tickets.  
âThey just send them up to the cities and let them deal with the problem  
there,â said Mr. Cheslock, among the advocates pushing for a new way to 
rural homeless programs. 
The growing visibility of the problem has made some towns reconsider that  
attitude and push for local solutions, although they can be expensive and  
Rural homelessness âdoesnât get enough attention,â said Philip Mangano, 
executive director of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness 
and  the Bush administrationâs chief coordinator of homeless services. But 
Mangano said the problem had been difficult to assess because rural 
communities  by and large had not chronicled their problems with the data-heavy 
planning  documents the _Housing and Urban Development Department_ 
t_department/index.html?inline=nyt-org)  and other  federal agencies 
increasingly demand. 
âLike any profile of the homeless, there is a lot of anecdote and hearsay,  
but you need data and research to create policy,â Mr. Mangano said. 
To confront the problem, he cited the examples of Washington and Michigan,  
where every county, many of them rural, has committed to writing a plan to end  
Here in Trinidad, a former old West coal town of 9,000 near the eastern  
slopes of the Sangre de Cristo mountains, people have long struggled through  
times. The downtown is pockmarked with shuttered storefronts, but new cafes  
and galleries have opened as the town tries to refashion itself as an 
Interstate 25, dotted with motels of various quality and shopping centers,  
slices through Trinidad, leaving tidy Victorian homes rising on a hill on one  
side and modest ranches, several in disrepair, on the other.  
Sandi Espinoza, who directs the Open Door Soup Kitchen, in space borrowed  
from a church, said the organization was serving more meals than ever â  
families, veterans, men just released from prison and a wide assortment of  
smelling of liquor before noon. Some 85 people come daily for lunch,  double 
number from a few years ago, Ms. Espinoza said. 
âWe need shelter here,â said one wobbly man, who when asked where he 
 replied, âdown under the bridges.â 
There is no homeless shelter, only a few drug, alcohol or mental illness  
treatment programs for the indigent, and a loose group of church pastors,  
volunteers and other concerned citizens striving to look after people who have  
âPastor helps me out,â Mr. Lobato said. âThe soup kitchen helps me out 
these guysâ â he motioned to his disheveled companions â âhelp me, 
A couple of weeks ago, officials here cheered the establishment of a  â
transitional housing unit,â a single-family home leased from the government 
for  $1 
a year where a displaced family can live for a year or so until they get back  
on their feet, the first such project started here. The organizers say 
several  families, doubled up with relatives or friends, need a place like 
There is nothing for the men living in the tents and shacks that have popped  
up behind the Wal-Mart, near the river.  
To seek more stable solutions, a small group was recently formed. With  
guidance from Becky Vanderslice, an organizer with Housing Justice, a group  
in Denver, they gathered around a church conference table and discussed  
problems that included the need for rehabilitation programs and families unable 
make ends meet.  
Finally, said Cary T. Nelson, pastor at First Christian Church, the group  
decided to start with the single-family home. Churches and volunteers will  
subsidize the costs of running the house, a foreclosed property held by the  
office of the federal Agriculture Department. 
They called the house Haven of Hope and have begun searching for a family to  
occupy it. One applicant, Brenda Holguin, said she hoped to move in with at  
least two of her four children, who are living with her estranged husband. A  
domestic dispute has left her homeless, living in a nearby domestic violence  
shelter, and such a house would help set her on a steady path, Ms. Holguin 
said.  âHaving a house, my family in one place, would give me more 
she  said.  
Ms. Espinoza, who runs the soup kitchen, said she was hoping that local  
businesses or churches would step forward with donated space for an emergency  
The National Coalition on Homelessness, an advocacy group, is considering  
mounting an effort to make the Agriculture Department, with its many field  
offices and staff members in rural areas, the lead agency for financing 
programs outside urban areas. The task currently falls to the Department of  
Housing and Urban Development.  
âIt should be the department of housing and urban-only development,â said  
Michael Stoops, the executive director of the coalition. âWe should not give 
 on HUD, but we need to get other federal agencies involved.â  
Last year, he said, HUD provided $120 million for 700 projects in rural  
areas, an amount that has remained constant for several years, federal 
This year, the federal government has increased direct spending on homeless  
programs to about $4 billion, up from $2.9 billion and double the spending of  
five years ago. About 10 percent of that has gone toward a new focus on e
nding  chronic homelessness, Mr. Mangano said.  
The approach has fired up hope in Denver, San Francisco, Washington and other 
 cities that headway is being made, but it has dismayed advocates in rural 
areas,  where grant-writing expertise and the Talmudic knowledge of federal 
regulations  are lacking. 
Small towns also lack the network of nonprofit organizations and corporations 
 that often underwrite efforts. 
âThe government wants matching funds and the big city funders only fund the  
big cities,â said Donna Haddow, a member of the Trinidad-Las Animas County  
Economic Development Board. âThereâs nothing left by the time we come  
Ms. Vanderslice of Housing Justice said a prominent foundation would not  
finance the new housing program in Trinidad because it had decided to focus 
of its resources on Denver. 
âThere is a lot of money to end homelessness in the state,â she said. 
âBut a 
 lot is going to the Denver metro area because the mayor there has a 10-year  
Here, she added, âthey are going on open  faith.â

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