Public Utilities

  • Same lake, unequal rates, By Ted Gregory, Cecilia Reyes, Patrick M. O’Connell and Angela Caputo, October 25, 2017, Chicago Tribune: “Lake Michigan water rates have been surging throughout the Chicago region in recent years, squeezing low-income residents and leaving them with little, if any, recourse, a Tribune analysis shows. In this tangled network that delivers water to the vast majority of the region’s residents, the Tribune found an upside-down world, one where people in the poorest communities pay more for a basic life necessity than those in the wealthiest. And the financial pain falls disproportionately on majority-African-American communities, where residents’ median water bill is 20 percent higher for the same amount of water than residents pay in predominantly white communities, the Tribune’s examination revealed…”
  • No Social Security Number? No lights, By Teresa Wiltz, October 17, 2017, Stateline: “In the city of LaGrange, Georgia, an immigrant from Mexico lives with his young family. He’s been living there for 10 years. He’s a homeowner. He doesn’t have a green card, so he doesn’t have a Social Security number. Without the Social Security number, the homeowner can’t get utility services in his name, even though he has a Mexican passport and an individual taxpayer identification number from the Internal Revenue Service. (To protect him, his lawyer does not want to disclose his immigration status.) The city, which is the sole provider of utilities, requires that anyone opening an account have two things: a Social Security number and a government-issued photo ID…”

Aging Out of Foster Care – Milwaukee, WI

Milwaukee advances tiny homes plan for young adults leaving foster care, By Mary Spicuzza, September 11, 2017,  Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Three dozen ‘tiny homes’ would be built for — and with the help of — teens aging out of foster care, under a plan that advanced Monday at City Hall. As many as 36 tiny homes would be built near E. Capitol Drive and N. Humboldt Blvd. through a partnership with developer Gorman & Co., Pathfinders Milwaukee Inc. and the Milwaukee County Housing Division…”

Public Housing – Cairo, IL

Their public housing at the end of its life, residents ask: What now?, By Monica Davey, May 17, 2017, New York Times: “Residents hear mice rustling in the walls at night. Some occupants leave ovens on in the winter, their doors perched open, because furnaces fail. Ceilings droop from water damage, mold creeps across walls, and roaches scramble out of refrigerators. So when federal authorities finally deemed two public housing developments here in the southernmost tip of Illinois unacceptable and uninhabitable, it felt like vindication of what residents had been saying for ages. But then came the solution: an order that everyone must vacate…”

Affordable Housing

  • Affordable housing program costs more, shelters fewer, By Laura Sullivan, May 9, 2017, National Public Radio: “On the south side of Dallas, Nena Eldridge lives in a sparse but spotless bungalow on a dusty lot. At $550 each month, her rent is just about the cheapest she could find in the city. After an injury left her unable to work, the only income she receives is a $780 monthly disability check. So she has to make tough financial choices, like living without running water…”
  • Section 8 vouchers help the poor — but only if housing is available, By Laura Sullivan, May 10, 2017, National Public Radio: “Farryn Giles and her 6-year-old son Isaiah have been living in a crumbling apartment building with her ex-husband, who’s letting her stay for a couple months. Pigeons have infested the walls of the courtyard. Before she lived here, she was sleeping on and off in her car. But Giles, 26, says she recently felt like she hit the jackpot. She was awarded a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher, which will pay the difference between her rent and what she can afford…”

Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program

Federal home heating assistance program is safe, for now, Associated Press, May 8, 2017, CBS News: “The federal program that helps low-income people heat their homes in the winter and, in some areas, cool them in the summer has been saved from elimination in the just-passed federal budget. While that’s good news for people who used the program in the just-finished heating season, next year’s funding will have to be negotiated by Congress as part of next year’s federal spending…”

Lead Poisoning in Children – Los Angeles, CA

Lead poisons children in L.A. neighborhoods rich and poor, By Joshua Schneyer, April 21, 2017, Bangor Daily News: “With its century-old Spanish-style homes tucked behind immaculately trimmed hedges, San Marino, California, is among the most coveted spots to live in the Los Angeles area. Its public schools rank top in the state, attracting families affiliated with CalTech, the elite university blocks away. The city’s zoning rules promote a healthy lifestyle, barring fast food chains. Home values in L.A. County census tract 4641, in the heart of San Marino and 20 minutes from downtown Los Angeles, can rival those in Beverly Hills. The current average listing price: $2.9 million. But the area has another, unsettling distinction, unknown to residents and city leaders until now: More than 17 percent of small children tested here have shown elevated levels of lead in their blood, according to previously undisclosed L.A. County health data…”

Homelessness in Wisconsin

GOP lawmakers offer legislation to address homelessness, including key council, By Dean Mosiman, April 12, 2017, Wisconsin State Journal: “Following spending initiatives in Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget, Republican state lawmakers are offering a series of bills intended to reduce homelessness in Wisconsin, including a high-powered council that’s at or near the top of a key state advocate’s wishlist.  State Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, and Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, on Wednesday will offer a legislative package of four bills that would provide new structure to state efforts to reduce and end homelessness, adjust some current programs and test new approaches…”

Housing and Eviction – Milwaukee, WI

  • Tenants caught in legal tangle get evicted, By Cary Spivak, February 24, 2017, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Briana Shipp is caught in a legal whirlpool that won’t stop swirling. Shipp, a 29-year-old single mother, says in the past year she lost her home and possessions when she was evicted on the orders of Elijah Mohammad Rashaed, long one of Milwaukee’s most notorious central-city landlords. Her possessions, she said, were either thrown out or stolen when she was locked out of her house on N. 41st St.  The August eviction — which Shipp argues was illegal — stems from a bedazzling set of circumstances that left Shipp and a group of other Rashaed tenants unsure of whom to pay their rent. As a result, several ended up in eviction court, which has hampered their ability to find new places because many landlords won’t rent to people with evictions on their record…”
  • No title? No worry. LLC that no longer owns house files to evict Milwaukee family, By Cary Spivak, March 3, 2017, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “The eviction suit filed against Jesse White last month stands out from the nearly 900 other evictions filed in Milwaukee County Circuit Court last month. The difference: Kaja Holdings 2 LLC  — the company seeking to throw the 79-year-old man and his two teenage sons out — does not own the house on N. 26th St. where the family lives. The company lost title to the property on Oct. 31 in a tax foreclosure…”
  • Watchdog Report: Landlord Games, series homepage, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “With little consequence in the courts, Milwaukee landlords have learned how to play the system, leaving taxpayers to foot the bill…”

Lead Poisoning in Children – Indiana

Indiana bill aims to increase lead testing for children in low-income families, By Ted Booker, February 9, 2017, South Bend Tribune: “Only a small fraction of Indiana’s children in low-income families are tested for lead poisoning, but a proposed state bill aims to change that.  Senate Bill 491 — co-authored by Sen. Jean Breaux, D-Indianapolis, and Sen. David Niezgodski, D-South Bend — calls for doubling the number of Medicaid-eligible children tested statewide for the toxic metal, which can cause permanent damage to kids’ developing brains and organs…”

Housing Conditions and Health

  • Philly study finds house calls could help asthma patients living in poverty, By Stacey Burling, January 3, 2017, Philadelphia Inquirer: “Tyra Bryant-Stephens, a doctor who is medical director of the Community Asthma Prevention Program at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, thinks doctors and researchers need to think more about an often unseen factor in patients’ asthma: their housing.  When doctors see poor patients in clinics, she said, they may not have time to ask about their living conditions.  Even if they did, patients might be too embarrassed to tell them…”
  • Seller-financed deals are putting poor people in lead-tainted homes, By Alexandra Stevenson and Matthew Goldstein, December 26, 2016, New York Times: “A year after Tiffany Bennett moved into a two-story red brick house at 524 Loudon Avenue here, she received alarming news.  Two children, both younger than 6, for whom Ms. Bennett was guardian, were found to have dangerous levels of lead in their blood. Lead paint throughout the nearly 100-year-old home had poisoned them.  Who was responsible for the dangerous conditions in the home?  Baltimore health officials say it was an out-of-state investment company that entered into a rent-to-own lease with the unemployed Ms. Bennett to take the home in 2014 ‘as is’ — chipping, peeling lead paint and all.  Ms. Bennett, 46, and the children moved out, but they should never have been in the house at all. City officials had declared the house ‘unfit for human habitation’ in 2013…”

Homelessness and Hunger in U.S. Cities

  • Homelessness declining in nation’s cities, but hunger is on the rise, By Octavio Blanco, December 14, 2016, CNN Money: “Even though homelessness in America’s cities continues to decline, food banks and pantries are still being stretched thin as the number of people seeking emergency food assistance climbs, according to a survey of mayors from 38 of the nation’s cities.  The number of people seeking emergency food assistance increased by an average of 2% in 2016, the United States Conference of Mayors said in its annual report Wednesday…”
  • Charleston’s homeless and hunger problems ranked against other cities, By Robert Behre, December 15, 2016, Post and Courier: “Charleston saw a 6 percent increase in requests for emergency food assistance last year — more than the national average — and local governments and nonprofits distributed almost 1,500 tons of food.  Those statistics are from the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Annual 2016 Hunger and Homelessness Report released Wednesday…”
  • D.C. has the highest homeless rate of 32 U.S. cities, a new survey finds, By Justin Wm. Moyer, December 14, 2016, Washington Post: “The District had the highest rate of homelessness in a new survey that looked at the problem in 32 U.S. cities. The ‘Hunger and Homelessness’ survey from the U.S. Conference of Mayors found that D.C. has 124.2 homeless people for every 10,000 residents in the general population. The city also had one of the fastest increases in homelessness between 2009 and 2016, with a 34.1 percent gain. By comparison, New York had the largest increase during that period, at 49 percent…”

Homelessness in the US

  • US homelessness declines: What’s working?, By Amanda Hoover, November 17, 2016, Christian Science Monitor: “Chester Ross may soon be a rarity on the sidewalks of Boston.  ‘There’s too many homeless people out here,’ says Mr. Ross, bundled in a winter jacket on Boston’s Newbury Street, holding out an emptied plastic cup from 7-Eleven where coins and crumpled dollar bills gather. Sitting with his back against a fence, he’s propped a cardboard sign against his knees that reads: ‘I believe people help people in need and I am in need of help. Thank you, God Bless.’  As he looks down the tree-lined street in Back Bay, one of the city’s wealthiest downtown neighborhoods, he adds: ‘The housing is too expensive.’  But Boston may yet hold some lessons for solving homelessness…”
  • Homelessness in the U.S. was down slightly over the past year, By Pam Fessler, November 17, 2016, National Public Radio: “Homelessness in the U.S. declined over the past year. Even so, there were large increases in several cities, including Los Angeles and Seattle.  Overall, almost 550,000 individuals were homeless on a single night earlier this year, according to a new report by the Department of Housing and Urban Development…”
  • Homelessness drops across nation, but California count rises, By Steve Rubenstein, Jenna Lyons and Kevin Fagan, November 17, 2016, San Francisco Chronicle: “Homelessness across the United States fell slightly last year but increased in California and other West Coast states, largely due to a shortage of affordable housing, federal officials said Thursday.  Around the nation, homelessness was down 3 percent amid growing scrutiny of the problem. In California, however, homelessness climbed 3 percent, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s annual snapshot assessment of homelessness in America…”

Fuel Poverty in the UK

Fuel poverty: How can UK tackle cold homes and high bills?, By Dave Harvey, November 17, 2016, BBC News: “When the temperature drops and the chill sets in, people in the UK are more likely to feel it in their homes than their continental neighbours. In European surveys comparing 16 countries with similar climates, the UK was near the bottom.  Why? Because it has the draughtiest windows and least insulated homes. For many families that means the moment they turn off the heating, the warmth goes out of the windows…”

Ex-Felons and Housing

‘Invisible punishment’ hits ex-felons for life; DOJ, HUD fight blanket rental bias, By Joe Davidson, October 27, 2016, Washington Post: “There’s been a lot of bipartisan talk lately about criminal justice reform. But action is slow.  Too slow for Pedro Collazo, dangling in a web of collateral consequences.  He did 12 years in New York’s Sing Sing prison on manslaughter charges after a beef went bad at a bar where he was a bouncer. He was 22. He has been home nine months and has a good job that allows him to care for his 16-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter.  But “home” is an elusive concept for Collazo, who sleeps on a relative’s couch…”

Homelessness in Los Angeles, CA

A fix for L.A.’s homeless crisis isn’t cheap. Will voters go for $1.2 billion in borrowing?, By Doug Smith, October 20, 2016, Los Angeles Times: “For years, many Los Angeles residents have watched with alarm as homeless encampments spread across the city, from the sidewalks of skid row to alleys in South Los Angeles, behind shopping centers in the Valley and even  on the bluffs above the Pacific Ocean.  Next month, voters will have to decide whether these concerns are strong enough to approve a new tax to fight homelessness…”

Homelessness and Housing – Madison, WI

  • ‘We are failing’: Need overwhelms patchwork of homeless service providers, By Dean Mosiman and Doug Erickson, August 28, 2016, Wisconsin State Journal: “Death, for Roy and Cindy Jacobs, had become preferable to the grind of living on the streets from their 1983 Chevy van.  For months, since their lease was not renewed in the summer of 2015, they sought housing, chased meals, struggled to stay clean and find restrooms, saw degrading and illicit behavior, and engaged the elements as part of a small group of homeless living out of beaten vehicles parked on East Side streets.  By late March, the couple were on the verge of suicide, their despair unbearable by Easter morning. ‘Things were just out of control,’ Roy said. ‘We were right there. I even wrote a goodbye letter.’ That morning, they showed up early, as usual, for volunteer work at First United Methodist Church Downtown, which was providing a meal for the homeless later in the day…”
  • Shelter, at a cost: Madison’s outmoded homeless shelters can be dehumanizing, demoralizing, By Doug Erickson and Dean Mosiman, August 31, 2016, Wisconsin State Journal: “As Madison looks at potentially big changes to its homeless shelter system, its current hodgepodge of ill-suited, outdated drop-in sites has fallen far behind what experts recommend for shelters that promote dignity and contribute to a person’s recovery.  The shelters have long been considered deficient, their flaws readily acknowledged and bemoaned by those who run them.  None of the sites was built as a shelter. Homeless men sleep in church basements. The facility for single women and families is a former Catholic school.  In many areas, from the degree of privacy to the number of toilets and the amount of storage space, they come up short compared to facilities in other cities and models espoused in the field…”

Low-Income Housing in Ohio

Not enough low-income housing is being built in better neighborhoods, report finds, By Rachel Dissell, August 18, 2016, Cleveland Plain Dealer: “Not enough is being done to help build low-income housing in neighborhoods with betters schools and safer streets, according to a report commissioned on behalf of state legal aid programs.  The report found that Ohio gives most of its federal tax credits to developers who pitch projects in distressed neighborhoods that are deeply racially segregated and impoverished…”

Homelessness and Housing – Los Angeles, CA

Is the shift to permanent housing making L.A.’s homelessness problem even worse?, By Doug Smith, August 15, 2016, Los Angeles Times: “As Los Angeles grapples with the nation’s worst homelessness problem, experts have almost universally embraced permanent housing as the best approach for lifting people out of homelessness.  The strategy is to quickly re-house those who are able to live independently, and to provide housing with intensive on-site services for chronically homeless people for as long as it takes them to become independent, or for life if needed.  But the shift toward permanent housing has had a cost: As money has been directed away from programs that combine services with shorter-term housing, the region’s homelessness problem has gotten worse…”

Cost of Living for the Urban Poor

To cut down poverty, cut down the cost of living, By Laura Bliss, August 4, 2016, City Lab: “Proportionally speaking, Americans living in poverty pay more for basic necessities. On energy bills, the poorest 20 percent of Americans spend more than seven times the share of their income than do the wealthiest. Dividing American incomes into three, households in the bottom third spend twice the portion of their incomes on transportation than the top third. High housing costs are hurting everyone—but they’re hurting poor Americans the most…”