Vending machines to offer free items to NYC's homeless people

Using electronic key cards, homeless men and women in New York City will soon be able to get three free items a day from one of these orange vending machines. Basic but necessary items like socks, tampons, toothbrushes, and water will be made available to them. There will also be food, like fresh fruit, chips, sandwiches, and chocolate (all donations from local supermarkets, charities, and shops). One of the most popular items? Books.

The man behind the project is Huzaifah Khaled. He's the founder of Action Hunger, a British charity that is "committed to alleviating poverty and hardship amongst the homeless."

Khaled was recently interviewed on WBUR, and talked about the first machine already being used in Nottingham, England since January:

"The early data and feedback has been very, very promising. In fact, it's far surpassed even our own expectations. It's offering them a little more dignity. It's giving them a little more agency over their own lives. It's really heartwarming to see our service being used exactly as designed."

Thanks, Robin!

images via Action Hunger Read the rest

LA's soaring homelessness is distorting the national statistics

LA's homeless population is up 75% over the past six years; remove LA from the national statistics and the rate of American homelessness is actually in decline. Read the rest

Watch: interviews with Japan's homeless

Greg is a Canadian living in Tokyo. He has a YouTube channel called Life Where I'm From, which explores what it's like to be a Westerner in Japan. For the last year or so he has been working on a serious project to understand homelessness in Japan. In the latest video, he interviews older men in Tokyo's skid row to learn their stories, and profiles Sanyūkai, a non-profit group that supports Japan's homeless population.

Introductory video:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3: Read the rest

California's record poverty and real-estate bubble are creating a "wheel-estate" boom of people with good jobs living in their cars

Extreme housing prices in California -- driven by a combination of speculation, favorable legal/tax positions for landlords, foreclosures after the 2008 crisis, and an unwillingness to build public housing -- has created vast homeless encampments, but there's a less visible side to the crisis: working people in "good jobs" who have to live in their cars. Read the rest

San Francisco SPCA uses a robot to chase away homeless people, because cruelty to humans is just fine

The San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals bought a "security robot" to harass homeless people at its Mission District offices, a move that the city has banned and threatened $1,000/day fines for. Read the rest

Downtown LA: high vacancy rates and catastrophic homelessness

Downtown LA's vacancy rate is 12%, which is the highest it's been since 2000 and triple the overall rate for LA -- and downtown LA is also the site of LA's skid row, whose population surged by 20% last year, thanks to a dramatic increase in homelessness among veterans and under-24s. Read the rest

Homeless in Japan, part 2: who they are

Last week I posted a video on homelessness in Japan. Part two just came out. In this video, Professor Tom Gill, a social anthropology professor at Meiji Gakuin University, who has lived in Japan for 25 years, describes the homeless population in Japan. They are overwhelmingly male, poorly educated, and grew up in rural areas. They came to Tokyo and other urban centers to work as day laborers during the bubble economy in the 1980s. When they can afford it, they live in cheap, pay-by-the-night rooms caled doya (ドヤ, which is a play on a Japanese word for inn, yado, ヤド). About 20% have a criminal record, which makes it hard to find work. Former yakuza (Japanese mafia) members have an especially hard time getting hired because it's easy to spot their missing finger joints and tattoos.

In recent years, Japan has stepped up efforts to assist the homeless, but as one program director explains, a lot of the homeless people don't think they are worthy of assistance so they don't seek it.

This video is from "Life Where I'm From," a Patreon-supported effort to create documentary videos about Japan and the World. Read the rest

Video: Why homelessness in Japan is different than in North America

Being homeless is different in Japan than it is in North America. Professor Tom Gill, a social anthropology professor who has lived in Japan for 25 years cites several reasons why "it's a lot easier to deal with homelessness" in Japan: less drug abuse, institutionalizing mentally-ill people rather than letting them suffer in the streets, and no traumatized war veterans. Also he says that homeless people in Japan rarely beg, and people in Japan rarely give to the few people who do beg.

Read the rest

Adam Savage's Maker Tour: Albert and Tina Small Center For Collaborative Design

Adam Savage is on a tour of maker spaces around the country. He visited the Tulane School of Architecture's Albert and Tina Small Center for Collaborative Design, where students are assigned real-world projects. He went to a local homeless shelter "to learn about one of the center's recent builds: an outdoor space that the class conceived, designed and built in just 16 weeks!" Read the rest

Watch formerly homeless people make jackets that double as sleeping bags

The Empowerment Plan is a Detroit-based organization that creates manufacturing jobs making EMPWR coats that double as sleeping bags:

Via designboom:

the empowerment plan is a detroit-based, nonprofit organization focused on permanently elevating families from the generational cycle of homelessness. it hires single parents from local shelters and provide them with training and full-time employment as seamstresses so that they can earn a stable income, find secure housing, and regain their independence. the individuals it hires manufacture a coat designed to meet the needs of those in the homeless community. the durable ‘EMPWR coat’ can transform into a sleeping bag at night or an over-the-shoulder bag when not in use. since 2012, it has provided employment to 34 homeless individuals—all of whom have now secured permanent housing for themselves and their families—and distributed over 15,000 coats to those in need across the US and canada.

REDFworkshop.org (Vimeo / The Empowerment Plan via designboom) Read the rest

Letter to my black daughter under a Trump presidency

Hi Kid,

On Election Night, you went to bed crying, and this time, I couldn't fix it. Like half the country, you thought you would be going to bed with your candidate as the president-elect. I wiped away a big, globby tear from the end of your nose, proud of you for caring so deeply about your country. I said it was going to be OK. I explained that, "politics goes back and forth, and this year it just wasn't our turn. Remember when I was for Obama and you were for Hillary, and she lost the primary, but you ended up liking Obama?" Your thirteen year-old defiance broke through your tears, as you declared, "No, this is different!"

You then spouted off a litany of things I didn't know you thought much about:

"It's different because Donald Trump doesn't have the basic morals of everything our country stands for. He doesn't even have the morals of a normal Republican. It's not that the other side won. It's that the person who won is literally against half of the people in the country. He doesn't like Muslims, Mexicans, anyone who is LGBT, he definitely doesn't like women, or people of color. He doesn't like ME. It seems like he only likes people like himself -- white males. How can he be our president?"

He's our president because people voted for him and he won the election. I will be raising you under a Donald Trump presidency until you go to college in four years. Read the rest

Parking-ticket bot will now help homeless people get benefits

Stanford computer science student Joshua Browder, whose DoNotPay bot helps you fight parking tickets in London and New York (it's estimated to have overturned $4M in tickets to date) has a new bot in the offing: a chatbot that helps newly homeless people in the UK create and optimise their applications for benefits. Read the rest

Cash grants to people with unexpected bills successfully prevents homelessness

In The impact of homelessness prevention programs on homelessness (Scihub mirror), a group of academic and government economists show that giving an average of $1,000 to people in danger of losing their homes due to unexpected bills (for example, emergency medical bills) is a successful strategy for preventing homelessness, which costs society a lot more than $1,000 -- more importantly, these kinds of cash grants do not create a culture of "dependency" that leads to recklessness, nor does it have a merely temporary effect. Read the rest

Residents of Silicon Valley homeless camp clear 48,000 Lbs of garbage from creek, ask for housing

Silicon Valley's legendary housing crisis -- now several decades old -- has led to the establishment of semi-permanent homeless camps on public lands, including a notable camp on the banks of Coyote Creek, on Santa Clara County Water District land. Read the rest

Artist installs rooms beneath Milan's sewer entrances

Biancoshock, an artist in Milan, created these "Borderlife" installations that appear to be underground rooms beneath the city's sewer-entrances, as a way of calling attention to homelessness, especially in Bucharest, where 600 people are living in the sewer tunnels. Read the rest

LA's new rule: homeless people are only allowed to own one trashcan's worth of things

A new law passed by the LA city council prohibits homeless people from owning more belongings than can fit in a 60-gallon trashcan with the lid on, and allows police to summarily confiscate any tents that are still standing on public property during daylight hours. Read the rest

America's permanent, ubiquitous tent-cities

Homelessness in America dwindled away after WWII, when the GI Bill and generous social programs seemed to finally get on top of a problem that had been with the country since its inception; but starting with Reagan's mass de-institutionalizations and cuts to social services, homelessness has only grown, a phenomenon America answered by criminalizing being alive, and pretending not to notice homeless people in encampments at the edge of more and more US cities. Read the rest

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