Redlining And Homelessness

homelessness, Housing Policy, Racism

Redlining is the practice of denying services and/or capital to the residents of a neighborhood based on the residents’ race and ethnicity. The practice began in the 1930s when government sanctioned city planners (and later private sector entities) drew red lines around neighborhoods that they believed were inferior because of the racial makeup of the neighborhood. These red lined areas represented areas where government officials planned to withhold services and capital and sustain racially segregated cities and suburbs. It was a very transparent, unapologetically racist strategy for reducing the supply of quality housing for people of color. This system perpetuated housing inequality early on in the nation’s history, promoting and contributing to a high risk of homelessness for people of color.  And while this practice has historical origins, it is still a rampant problem in the United States of America.  The recent lawsuit against Associated Banks shows us how prevalent these despicable practices still are and how they hurt the quest for housing equality for all Americans.

Comedian Larry Wilmore, host of Comedy Central’s The Nightly Show,  recently ran a segment on redlining practices in America.  While the tone of the video clip is comedic in nature, Wilmore disseminates vital information about redlining in an engaging manner.  If you are interested in how institutional racism has affected homelessness and housing inequality this is a good video to watch. Check it out….

CLICK HERE to watch Larry Wilmore’s brief history of redlining on the Nightly Show

For more information on redlining in the past and present check out these sources:

“Redlining: Still A Thing,” by Emily Badger. The Washington Post. 28 May 2015:

“The Racist Housing Policy That Made Your Neighborhood,” by Alexis Madrigal. The Atlantic. 22 May 2014:

Dreier, Peter. “Redlining cities: How banks color community development.” Challenge (1991): 15-23.

Rice, Willy E. “Race, Gender, Redlining, and the Discriminatory Access to Loans, Credit, and Insurance: An Historical and Empirical Analysis of Consumers Who Sued Lenders and Insurers in Federal and State Courts, 1950-1995.” San Diego L. Rev. 33 (1996): 583.


Homelessness and LGBTQI Rights

homelessness, housing discrimination, LGBTQI
Last week, the Supreme Court FINALLY ruled that same sex marriage is Constitutional, yay! What a joyous and long overdue decision!  The seminal court case, Obergefell v. Hodges, guarantees the right to marry for same sex couples.  
There is so much to celebrate this week for LGBT couples who have been waiting so long for this kind of good news!! During this time of excitement, it is also important to remember the LGBTQI people who are experiencing homelessness are still facing discrimination in housing and employment.  Federal housing rules still permit discrimination based on sexual orientation for owner-owned apartments and homes that contain less than four units.  For more information on the specificities of housing and employment discrimination for LGBTQI people, see the June 26, 2015 article in the Los Angeles Times:   
In addition, according to the National Coalition for the Homeless, 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQI.  People who work at shelters and in outreach services for homeless youth often do not have specialized training in the unique needs of LGBTQI youth.  Policies, procedures, and protocols are not designed with the specialized needs of this population of homeless youth in mind.  For resources related to the needs of LGBTQI homeless youth, check out some of the sources below.  
40percent lgbtyouth
1) National Coalition for the Homeless, Resources for Homeless LGBTQI Youth:
2) Kickstarter page for the documentary “Pier Kids: The Life”, a film about LGBTQI homeless youth in NYC:
3) Siciliano, Carl. “Homeless for the Holidays: Portraits of New York City’s Homeless LGBT Youth.”  The Huffington Post.  20 December 2011:

“Skid Row” — History of the Terminology

homelessness, skid row

Have you ever wondered where the term “skid row” comes from?  Or, have you ever wondered if you are using the term in a grammatically salient manner?  Lately, I have been questioning the origins of the term and its correct grammatical usage.  In order to learn more, I consulted the excellent book From Nazareth to Skid Row: The Real Reality of Skid Row: Systemic and and Homiletic Insights, by Rev. Jeffrey R. Thomas, PhD.

Below is an excerpt from the book that gives some insights into the intricacies of this terminology.  This excerpt (from Chapter 1) shows how grammar and language are influenced by class, society, and power.

“The term Skid Row originated in Seattle, Washington, in the early 1900s as a result of transient work that included logging.  As trees were cut, timber slid or skidded from the tops of mountains to the foothills below.  There, transient workers, then known as hobos, were employed to load the timber.  Subsequently, the area became known as Skid Row.  This term was gradually accepted across America to refer to communities of transient and homeless populations.  Thus, Skid Row became a pejorative term.  Consequently, using the phrase ‘on Skid Row’, as is commonly stated, should be considered a ‘double negative’.  The terms ‘on’ and ‘Skid Row’ socially, not grammatically, negate each other in the following way.  No one lives ‘on’ Beverly Hills, they live ‘in’ Beverly Hills. No one lives ‘on’ Brentwood.  They live ‘in’ Brentwood.  In these cases, reference is being made to specific communities.  In the same way, when referring to Skid Row as a community, individuals live ‘in’ Skid Row.  Moreover, if reference to Skid Row is not being made as a community but as a negative social condition, the term refers to derogatory social pathology.  In this way, the term Skid Row is a negative term.  Accordingly, “on Skid Row” is inappropriate terminology.  Thus, respecting the dignity and humanity of individuals residing in the community demands that reference be made as ‘in Skid Row'”.

If you are interested in learning more about the history of Los Angeles’s Skid Row community, watch this oral history video.

City of Los Angeles Further Criminalizes Homelessness

Homlessness, Los Angeles

Last week, the City Council of Los Angeles took a giant step backward when it approved two archaic ordinances that allow for the involuntary removal of the property of homeless individuals from the streets of Los Angeles.  These ordinances, which are expected to be approved by Mayor Eric Garcetti, allow police officers to remove the property of people experiencing homelessness from Los Angeles streets after only 24 hours notice. The previous time allotted for warning was 72 hours.  Property will then be impounded by the City.  Tents will be subject to removal by the police between the hours of 6am-9pm.  Any tents found on the street between the hours of 6am-9pm will be “stored” (or impounded) for 90 days.

People who want to retrieve their personal property must find transportation to the impoundment center (which is a costly and arduous process for people experiencing homelessness).  The city is referring to these centers as “storage facilities”, not impoundment centers, because “storage facility” sounds less cruel and less bureaucratic, but in reality the retrieval of property poses further problems for people experiencing homelessness.  There will be forms to fill out and people will have difficulties navigating the system for retrieving personal property, as is often the case with impounding property.  The city has no “storage” system in place yet to accommodate the new ordinances, which shows that a lack of preparedness will make retrieval of property even more confusing and difficult for people who are experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles.  (City Council members even admitted that this lack of storage preparedness is a problem.)

The only Councilman to vote “no” on these horrible ordinances was Gil Cedillo. Councilman Cedillo was supported by homeless rights advocates and community organizers who were tightly packed into the City Council meeting.  “We should have a war on poverty, not on the poor,” Cedillo said at the City Council meeting.

One particularly eloquent homeless advocate was quoted in the Los Angeles Times on June 23, 2015 explaining the injustices of the ordinances from the point of view of people who support the rights of the homeless: “‘I don’t see how the city can acknowledge the involuntariness of the homeless, make breezy poetry about intent to provide solutions in the distant future and then feel entitled and moral to confiscate people’s property in the immediate,’ said Alice Callaghan, a longtime homeless advocate and director of a skid row school for immigrants’ children.”

Louise Mbella, Downtown Women’s Action Committee secretary was quoted in the Los Angeles Times critiquing the ordinances for their constitutional dubiousness and their lack of compassion: “The new ordinances are just cruel…If you negate the right to occupy public space to certain human beings, don’t call it public…You’re asking them to carry three suitcases on their backs.”

How did the City of Los Angeles get to this terrifying place of cruelty and inhumanity towards people experiencing homelessness?  Business Improvement District advocates have been imploring the City Council and the Mayor’s office to limit the visibility of the homeless in downtown Los Angeles to improve opportunities for financial gain.  Business Improvement District representatives believe that if people experiencing homelessness (and their belongings) are out of sight, then they will be out of mind.  This is textbook example of how “money talks” in politics.  The folks with “business improvement” goals–or gentrification goals–have overwhelming support from local politicians who will be looking for the electoral support of business minded voters in the next election cycle.  People who are experiencing homelessness face far more barriers to voting than business leaders and are therefor, not a valid constituency in the eyes of local political leaders.  If they were considered an important voting block, then they would have more than one City Council member representing their interests.  In Los Angeles, economic capital translates into political capital, leaving business leaders (and supporters of gentrification) to profit while allowing for the demonization and criminalization of people who are experiencing homelessness.

Watch the news coverage here:

CLICK HERE to watch the news coverage from ABC 7

CLICK HERE to listen to and read KPCC’s coverage of this news


This picture depicts people experiencing homelessness and people advocating for the homeless at the Los Angeles City Council meeting where the stringent enforcement of the destruction of encampments was approved.

Picture from: Genaro Molina (


Holland, Gale.  “L.A. City Council OKs crackdowns on homeless encampments”.  The Los Angeles Times.  23 June 2015.

Holland, Gale.  “L.A. vote makes it easier to break up homeless camps”.  The Los Angeles Times.  16 June 2015.

“Homeless, Not Helpless” — The Documentary


The documentary “Homeless Not Helpless”, created and directed by Felix Rodriguez, depicts the complex realities, struggles, and challenges that are associated with homelessness.  The documentary interviews people who are experiencing homelessness and people who work with (and advocate for) people who are experiencing homelessness in New York state.  Non-profit leaders and church representatives speak on the social, economic, and policy barriers to achieving housing equality for all, while the chronically homeless individuals share their stories and experiences.  One man who is “signing”** in the film asks commuters to “take me with you” since they are presumably driving home.

The slogan “homeless not helpless” is a popular organizing phrase for those in the homeless and housing rights movements. The slogan first gained popular usage in the 1980s when it was used by homeless rights activists (mostly homeless and formerly homeless individuals) across the country as a rallying cry drawing more attention to the need for increased basic and supportive services for homeless adults, youth, and families in the U.S..  Basic services include food, water, housing, utilities,  health care for both physical and mental health needs, and safety/security.  Supportive services include addiction recovery services, domestic violence services, education and career development, employment assistance, and parenting support or child care services.

**Signing is the act of holding up a sign in a public space and requesting money for food, transportation, and housing, or requesting work opportunities and housing by writing these needs on the sign.  Many people who are experiencing homelessness use signing as a way to make money for food, shelter, and transportation (bus or metro fare).  So, if you see someone with a sign on the side of the road asking for your help, please try to help in any way that you can!

For more information on this documentary, see this article, written by E. Assata Wright, for the Hudson Reporter (April 15, 2012):–yet-hopeful-NJCU-students-film-documentary-on-JSQ-homeless-?instance=secondary_stories_left_column