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University of Wisconsin–Madison
Poverty-related issues in the news, from the Institute for Research on Poverty

Tag: Cities

Homelessness and Housing

  • San Francisco rolls out long-awaited system to track, help homeless, By Kevin Fagan, September 1, 2018, San Francisco Chronicle: “It’s wonky. It’s a bunch of data and names. And it will most likely save a lot of homeless people’s lives. For the past two years, program managers in San Francisco have been quietly crafting a system to closely track every homeless man, woman and child. The purpose is two-fold: to tailor housing, rehab and other services to them, but also to eliminate wasteful — and costly — duplication of efforts…”
  • Homelessness ruling: sleeping on streets can’t be a crime when no shelters are available, By Bob Egelko and Kevin Fagan, September 5, 2018, Governing: “Cities can’t make it a crime to sleep on a public street or sidewalk when no homeless shelters are available, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday in a case that could affect so-called “sit/lie” ordinances in San Francisco and elsewhere…”

Minimum Wage Increases

Minimum wage increases in six cities working as intended, Berkeley study of food-service jobs finds, By Benjamin Romano, September 6, 2018, Seattle Times: “The minimum wage increases that started four years ago in SeaTac are spreading across the country, but economists continue to study – and disagree about – the impact of the new policies on pay and jobs. The latest look at increased wage floors in six U.S. cities, including Seattle, finds that food-service workers saw increases in pay and no widespread job losses. That reinforces the conclusions that the same group of University of California, Berkeley, researchers reached in 2017 after studying the impact just in Seattle…”

Minimum Wage – Birmingham, AL

In battle pitting cities vs. states over minimum wage, Birmingham scores a win, By Yuki Noguchi, July 27, 2018, National Public Radio: “A federal appeals court handed workers in Birmingham, Ala., a significant win this week. The city is in a battle against state lawmakers over whether it has the right to raise its minimum wage…”

Low-Income Housing

  • As affordable housing crisis grows, HUD sits on the sidelines, By Glenn Thrush, July 27, 2018, New York Times: “The country is in the grips of an escalating housing affordability crisis. Millions of low-income Americans are paying 70 percent or more of their incomes for shelter, while rents continue to rise and construction of affordable rental apartments lags far behind the need. The Trump administration’s main policy response, unveiled this spring by Ben Carson, the secretary of housing and urban development: a plan to triple rents for about 712,000 of the poorest tenants receiving federal housing aid and to loosen the cap on rents on 4.5 million households enrolled in federal voucher and public housing programs nationwide, with the goal of moving longtime tenants out of the system to make way for new ones…”
  • Afraid of “political repercussions,” HUD delayed action on crumbling public housing in Cairo, By Molly Parker, July 26, 2018, The Southern Illinoisan: “As public housing deteriorated in Illinois’ southernmost city, bureaucrats at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development delayed stepping in because they wanted to avoid ‘political repercussions’ and negative attention, according to a scathing audit released Thursday…”
  • Under city program, renters-turned-homeowners could become renters again, By Nikita Stewart, July 29, 2018, New York Times: “Robert Mattox was not in the position to own a home. He was raising seven children in 1980 when New York City turned his Harlem building into a cooperative. He was asked if he wanted to buy his three-bedroom apartment. The city began turning deteriorating buildings over to tenants to save their homes and to help the city in the 1970s. The effort was envisioned as a way to improve a neglected housing stock but also give New Yorkers with low and moderate incomes a financial stake in their homes…”

Homelessness and Housing

  • ‘It’s the new form of affordable housing’: more people are living in their cars, By Mattie Quinn, July 24, 2018, Governing: “When a homeless count was conducted in Seattle this year, the city realized that more people are living in their car than ever before and 46 percent more than the year prior. In King County, which surrounds Seattle, around 25 percent of the homeless population is reported to live in their vehicles. This phenomenon isn’t unique to Seattle…”
  • 22% surge in number of older homeless people catches L.A. officials off guard, By Gale Holland, July 19, 2018, Los Angeles Times: “Andrea Colucci’s long, slow slide into homelessness began, as it does for many, with medical bills. At the age of 67, she had decided to finally transition as a transgender woman. Her insurer balked at paying her surgeon’s bills, so she put them on credit cards. Then her post-surgery housing plans fell through. A hospital put her out on the sidewalk in a paper gown…”
  • Tiny home village for homeless thriving in Denver’s RiNo neighborhood, By Joe Rubino, July 27, 2018, Denver Post: “From the start, supporters have hoped Beloved Community Village would help people beyond the 13 residents who moved off Denver’s streets and into its 8-foot-by-12-foot tiny homes last July. The village, 11 homes, a bathhouse, two portable toilets and a circular common building bounded by a brightly decorated chain-link fence at the corner of 38th and Blake streets, was meant to be a pioneer. It’s a pilot project designed to demonstrate tiny homes, arranged in a community where rules are set by the residents themselves,  should be part of the solution to combating homelessness in Denver…”
  • Seattle citywide day of media coverage on homelessness, compilation of articles, July 19, 2018, Crosscut: “It’s nearly impossible to avoid the tent-homes clustered in the nooks and crannies of Seattle’s cityscape. Every night and every day, thousands of this booming city’s residents find respite in these meager shelters. Others rest their heads on park benches, bus seats and concrete. Today, Crosscut joins a host of local media organizations in dedicating our website and social channels to the stories of these people. Below we’ll be tracking all of the stories produced today, including a joint project by Crosscut, The Seattle Times, KUOW and SeattlePI.com featuring a series of in-depth stories on the changing dynamics of homelessness in Seattle…”

Debt Collection and the Poor

  • Chicago hiked the cost of vehicle city sticker violations to boost revenue. But it’s driven more low-income, black motorists into debt., By Melissa Sanchez and Elliott Ramos, July 26, 2018, ProPublica Illinois: “During negotiations for Chicago’s 2012 budget, newly elected Mayor Rahm Emanuel and then-City Clerk Susana Mendoza agreed to hike the price of what was already one of the priciest tickets vehicle owners can get in the city. Citations for not having a required vehicle sticker rose from $120 to $200. The increase, approved unanimously by the City Council, was pitched by Mendoza as an alternative to raising the price of stickers as well as generating much-needed revenue from ‘scofflaws…'”
  • IRS outsources debt collection to private firms, and the poor feel the sting, watchdog charges, By Jeff Stein, July 23, 2018, Washington Post: “Private tax collectors acting on the Internal Revenue Service’s behalf have collected tax payments from more than 5,000 poor people in the past year, payments that an in-house IRS watchdog says should have been avoided. Nina E. Olson, head of the Office of the Taxpayer Advocate, says a private debt collections program is not doing enough to spare people struggling to pay for food and shelter from additional drains on their income. She has also urged the IRS to stop referring to the private companies cases of individuals whose incomes put them below 250 percent of the poverty line…”

Bike-Share Program – New York City

Citi Bike expands discount memberships to reach more low-income New Yorkers, By Zoe Greenberg, July 17, 2018, New York Times: “Citi Bike has long struggled to expand its bike-share program to reach more low-income New Yorkers. On Tuesday, the city announced that residents who receive food stamps can purchase a Citi Bike membership for $5 a month, a third of the standard $14.95 monthly rate. That discount has been offered since 2013 to public housing residents who signed a yearlong commitment. An annual contract, however, is no longer required for the discounted rate…”

Low-Income Households and Transportation

  • Transit as a lifeline: Low-income metro Atlantans eager for expansion, By Tyler Estep, May 3, 2018, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “The good news: Lauren Dixon had a job interview. The tricky part: It was at the Cobb Galleria, some 25 miles from the single mother’s current home at Rainbow Village, a Gwinnett County nonprofit that provides housing and other assistance to families in need. Thankfully, Dixon was able to find a babysitter and a ride to the closest MARTA station in Doraville that morning. From there, she took a train to the Arts Center station in Atlanta, then caught a CobbLinc bus to take her where she needed to go…”
  • More poorer residents are driving cars, presenting new issues for transit agencies, By Daniel C. Vock, April 9, 2018, Governing: “The good news is that more low-income Americans report they have access to vehicles than they did a decade ago, before the Great Recession. Only 20 percent of adults living in poverty in 2016 reported that they had no access to a vehicle. That’s down from 22 percent in 2006, according to a Governing analysis of U.S. Census data. Meanwhile, the access rates among all Americans was virtually the same (6.6 percent) between those two years…”

Concentrated Poverty in US Cities

  • Metro Detroit’s poverty gets worse despite city’s comeback, By Frank Witsil, April 26, 2018, Detroit Free Press: “A new look at the poorest urban areas in America, despite economic growth and prosperity, puts metro Detroit near the top of the list. The report — from 24/7 Wall St., a New York-based financial news organization — ranks the Detroit area at No. 5 in a list of impoverished communities. It also raises the question: During such good economic times, why are so many getting left behind..?”
  • Despite overall sustained GDP growth in US, some cities still hit hard by extreme poverty, By Samuel Stebbins, April 23, 2018, USA Today: “By several measures, the United States is in a period of historic economic growth and prosperity. Major stock market indices have hit record highs, unemployment is at a near two-decade low, and we are in the midst of what may prove to be the longest period of sustained GDP growth in U.S. history. However, amid all the good news, the poverty rate is on the rise, and several U.S. cities are becoming increasingly geographically and socially segregated by income…”

Eviction in US Cities

In 83 million eviction records, a sweeping and intimate new look at housing in America, By Emily Badger and Quoctrung Bui, April 7, 2018, New York Times: “Before the first hearings on the morning docket, the line starts to clog the lobby of the John Marshall Courthouse. No cellphones are allowed inside, but many of the people who’ve been summoned don’t learn that until they arrive. “Put it in your car,” the sheriff’s deputies suggest at the metal detector. That advice is no help to renters who have come by bus. To make it inside, some tuck their phones in the bushes nearby.  This courthouse handles every eviction in Richmond, a city with one of the highest eviction rates in the country, according to new data covering dozens of states and compiled by a team led by the Princeton sociologist Matthew Desmond…”

Public Transit System and the Homeless – Los Angeles

As waves of homeless descend onto trains, L.A. tries a new strategy: social workers on the subway, By Laura J. Nelson, April 6, 2018, Los Angeles Times: “The early morning commuters stepping off the Metro escalator paid little attention to the 10 people huddled under blankets and curled up in corners at the Hollywood and Vine station. John Gant, 60, lay sprawled on the tile floor, his hoodie drawn over his face. When three social workers stopped to ask if he wanted help, he nodded.  Over hot coffee and pages of paperwork, Gant, who had been homeless for years, called his mother to share the news. He cracked a rare smile, saying: ‘They’re trying to find me a place to sleep.’  The Metro system has been a refuge for homeless people for decades. But as Los Angeles County’s homeless population has surged, reaching more than 58,000 people last year, the sanitation and safety problems on trains and buses are approaching what officials and riders say are crisis levels…”

Homelessness and Housing

  • How many homeless live on streets? The number jumped 23% this year, By Tasha Tsiaperas, March 21, 2018, Dallas Morning News: “The number of homeless people in Dallas and Collin counties has increased again, up 9 percent from last year, according to data released Wednesday from the annual homeless census.  There were 4,140 homeless people counted in the two counties on one night in January, up from 3,789 counted last year. There was also a 23 percent increase in the unsheltered, those who don’t seek housing in shelters and live on the streets…”
  • Denver sold bonds to reduce the human and financial costs of homelessness. The results so far are promising., By Jennifer Brown, March 19, 2018, Denver Post: “They found Robert Bischoff by sharing his photo with a Sinclair gas station clerk who often sold him cigarettes. They met Alexander Jacob after sending his mom a letter, even though he almost didn’t respond because he figured it was ‘trash mail.’ The two men and more than 250 more people — all homeless and high-frequency users of jail, detox and emergency departments at taxpayer expense — have been tracked down by Colorado Coalition for the Homeless and Mental Health Center of Denver outreach workers and given apartments through Denver’s social-impact bond program. About two years into the five-year program, researchers have noted a dramatic drop in jail days…”

Affordable Housing

  • Need a basic 1 BR apartment on minimum wage? You’ll have to work — and work — to afford it, By Linda Robertson, March 15, 2018, Miami Herald: “For renters who need it the most, affordable housing is as scarce as ever in Miami. A person earning minimum wage would have to work 94.5 hours per week to make enough money to afford a modest one-bedroom apartment, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s annual report on the shortage of affordable housing for the quarter of U.S. renters classified as low income…”
  • Las Vegas worst area for affordable housing for poor, report says, By Michael Scott Davidson, March 13, 2018, Las Vegas Review-Journal: “For the second year in a row, Las Vegas was named the worst U.S. metropolitan area for providing affordable rental housing for its poorest families. Also, for at least the fourth year in a row, Nevada ranked last among the states, according to an annual report published Tuesday by the National Low Income Housing Coalition…”

Debt Collection and the Poor

  • Debtors’ prison: ACLU report details ‘criminalization of private debt’, By Jon Schuppe, February 21, 2018, NBC News: “Americans’ reliance on household debt ─ and poor people’s struggles to pay it off ─ has fueled a collection industry that forces many of them into jail, a practice that critics call a misuse of the criminal justice system…”
  • How Chicago ticket debt sends black motorists into bankruptcy, By Melissa Sanchez and Sandhya Kambhampati, February 27, 2018, ProPublica: “By last summer, Laqueanda Reneau felt like she had finally gotten her life on track. A single mother who had gotten pregnant in high school, she supported her family with a series of jobs at coffee shops, restaurants and clothing stores until she landed a position she loved as a community organizer on Chicago’s West Side. At the same time, she was working her way toward a degree in public health at DePaul University. But one large barrier stood in her way: $6,700 in unpaid tickets, late fines and impound fees…”

Los Angeles Times Series on Homelessness

Without a Home, series homepage, Los Angeles Times: “They’re part of the Los Angeles streetscape, as familiar as the swaying palm trees and idling traffic, living under freeways, alongside riverbeds and on canyon hillsides. The mentally ill, the drug addicts, the economically disadvantaged, many with their life belongings in a backpack or shopping cart. In this ongoing series, Without a Home, The Times is examining the crisis of homelessness in our region…”

Homelessness in Los Angeles, CA

L.A.’s homelessness surged 75% in six years. Here’s why the crisis has been decades in the making, By Gale Holland, February 1, 2018, Los Angeles Times: “Some of the poorest people in the city spend their days in the shadow of Los Angeles City Hall, napping on flattened cardboard boxes. On any given day, as many as 20 people take to the City Hall lawn, across the street from LAPD headquarters. They’re there to ‘escape the madness’ in downtown streets, a 53-year-old homeless man named Lazarus said last week. At night, they fan out to doorways or deserted plazas to wait for daybreak. The growth of a homeless day camp at the halls of civic power speaks to the breadth of Los Angeles’ burgeoning homelessness problem…”

Homelessness and Affordable Housing Shortages

  • Into the trees: Rural housing shortages push some into forests, parking lots, By Alden Woods, December 3, 2017, Arizona Republic: “This place provided nothing, so Doug Stewart tried to prepare for everything. He filled his Jeep with blankets for the cold and tents for the rain, ham-and-cheese sandwiches for the hungry and a full tank of gas to take people out of Gila County. Then he drove to Walmart. He rolled into the parking lot, past the people who held cardboard signs at each entrance, past a dozen people who slept in their cars every night. Even more people camped in the woods behind the store, and into the trees walked Stewart, 46, to find Theresa…”
  • Homeless population rises, driven by West Coast affordable-housing crisis, By Pam Fessler, December 6, 2017, National Public Radio: “Homelessness in the United States went up slightly this year for the first time since 2010. During a one-night count in January, 553,742 people were found living outside or in shelters across the country, a 0.7 percent increase from the year before, according to new data released by the Department of Housing and Urban Development on Wednesday…”
  • America’s homeless population rises for first time in years, By Christopher Weber and Geoff Mulvihill (AP), December 6, 2017, US News & World Report: “The nation’s homeless population increased this year for the first time since 2010, driven by a surge in the number of people living on the streets in Los Angeles and other West Coast cities…”

City Minimum Wages

  • Minnesota Chamber of Commerce sues Minneapolis over $15 minimum wage, By Emma Nelson, November 10, 2017, Star Tribune: “The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce is taking the city of Minneapolis to court over the $15 minimum wage, saying the ordinance conflicts with existing state law…”
  • San Diego has fined businesses $60,000 over minimum wage violations, By David Garrick, November 10, 2017, San Diego Union-Tribune: “Investigators enforcing San Diego’s minimum wage law have handled more than 500 complaints against 70 businesses and levied nearly $60,000 in fines since the law took effect last year. City officials say those numbers will increase as outreach efforts make more people aware that San Diego’s hourly minimum wage of $11.50 is higher than the state minimum of $10 for small businesses and $10.50 for large ones…”

Seattle Times Series on Homelessness

Project Homeless, homepage, Seattle Times: “The Seattle Times is launching Project Homeless, a community-funded initiative to explore the causes of homelessness, explain what the region is doing about the crisis and spotlight potential solutions. Today, we examine one of the obstacles to moving people into stable housing…”

Homelessness on the West Coast

Homelessness soars on West Coast as cities struggle to cope, Associated Press, November 6, 2017, CNBC: “In a park in the middle of a leafy, bohemian neighborhood where homes list for close to $1 million, a tractor’s massive claw scooped up the refuse of the homeless — mattresses, tents, wooden frames, a wicker chair, an outdoor propane heater. Workers in masks and steel-shanked boots plucked used needles and mounds of waste from the underbrush. Just a day before, this corner of Ravenna Park was an illegal home for the down and out, one of 400 such encampments that have popped up in Seattle’s parks, under bridges, on freeway medians and along busy sidewalks. Now, as police and social workers approached, some of the dispossessed scurried away, vanishing into a metropolis that is struggling to cope with an enormous wave of homelessness. That struggle is not Seattle’s alone…”