Major developments on homelessness

Monumental shifts in government policy on the issue of homelessness were announced this week at both the federal and New York City level.

"For more than 20 years, federal housing law has counted as homeless only people living on the streets or in shelters. But now the House and the Senate are considering an expansion of the definition to include people precariously housed: those doubled up with friends or relatives or living day to day in motels, with money and options running out." Click here for the full report in the New York Times.

"New York City agreed on Wednesday to codify standards for how homeless families seeking shelter should be treated in exchange for freedom from long-running judicial oversight that has led to millions of dollars in fines and has dictated much of the daily functioning of the city’s shelters." Click here for the full report.

View a timeline of the twenty-five year legal battle (click to enlarge):

This article from the New York Times captures the story of people on the edge of homelessness... to read more.

José Luis Silvera, 41, was happy to be putting New York behind him. He was down to his last $10 and had no clue where he would be sleeping next.

But at least he had his ticket and was heading to South Florida, the place where he had scored his life’s signature victory: On April 26, 1994, after leaving Cuba on a makeshift raft and floating for 17 days across the Florida Straits, Mr. Silvera was plucked by a ship from the ocean near Miami Beach and delivered to the American government, which allowed him to stay, opening the American chapter of his life.

“It was too beautiful, man,” he recalled. “The sea noise, the water. Very, very beautiful, man.”

Mr. Silvera, a wiry man who was one of the first passengers off the bus at every stop, fresh cigarette in hand, said that even though he was a legal United States resident, all of his official identification was either lost or expired. He produced a bundle of documents wrapped in a black plastic bag, including a photocopy of his Social Security card and an expired New York State commercial driver’s license — he was once a truck driver, one of his many jobs in recent years.

He spoke vaguely about past drug and alcohol abuse, and about serving some prison time for an assault conviction. He knew a couple of people in Miami Beach, and planned to call on them, though he admitted that they had no idea he was coming.

“In my way, I’m too free,” he said, and grinned.

Dawn broke near the Georgia-Florida border and the passengers stopped for breakfast outside Jacksonville. Then the bus began to drop off riders: Orlando, West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale.

Mr. Silvera, down to his last 50 cents, worried aloud about how he was going to get to Miami Beach from La Cubana’s office in central Miami. When the drivers said they would take him, Mr. Silvera was ecstatic. “I made the ride with $10!” he exclaimed, pumping the air with his fist. “I’m very lucky!”

The towering oceanfront condominiums of Miami-Dade County hove into view and the traffic thickened. The passengers gathered their belongings and, in silence, marshaled themselves for the challenges that lay beyond the bus’s door.

For decades, New York and Miami have been the capitals of Latino life on the East Coast, linked by culture, business, extended families and a superhighway, I-95. People have flowed easily between the two hubs, and for 30 years, the Omnibus La Cubana bus line has been the transportation of choice for many.

La Cubana's passengers pay a minimum of $159 for a one-way fare. An airplane ticket can often be had for less. But if La Cubana's riders are any measure, the bus is a good deal for those who fear flying, can't find affordable train fares or don't have the government identification to pass airport security -- a problem for illegal immigrants and some legal ones.

For the full article in the NYT, click here