04-24-2024  12:18 am   •   PDX and SEA Weather
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NORTHWEST NEWS

The Drug War Devastated Black and Other Minority Communities. Is Marijuana Legalization Helping?

A major argument for legalizing the adult use of cannabis after 75 years of prohibition was to stop the harm caused by disproportionate enforcement of drug laws in Black, Latino and other minority communities. But efforts to help those most affected participate in the newly legal sector have been halting. 

Lessons for Cities from Seattle’s Racial and Social Justice Law 

 Seattle is marking the first anniversary of its landmark Race and Social Justice Initiative ordinance. Signed into law in April 2023, the ordinance highlights race and racism because of the pervasive inequities experienced by people of color

Don’t Shoot Portland, University of Oregon Team Up for Black Narratives, Memory

The yearly Memory Work for Black Lives Plenary shows the power of preservation.

Grants Pass Anti-Camping Laws Head to Supreme Court

Grants Pass in southern Oregon has become the unlikely face of the nation’s homelessness crisis as its case over anti-camping laws goes to the U.S. Supreme Court scheduled for April 22. The case has broad implications for cities, including whether they can fine or jail people for camping in public. Since 2020, court orders have barred Grants Pass from enforcing its anti-camping laws. Now, the city is asking the justices to review lower court rulings it says has prevented it from addressing the city's homelessness crisis. Rights groups say people shouldn’t be punished for lacking housing.

NEWS BRIEFS

Mt. Tabor Park Selected for National Initiative

Mt. Tabor Park is the only Oregon park and one of just 24 nationally to receive honor. ...

OHCS, BuildUp Oregon Launch Program to Expand Early Childhood Education Access Statewide

Funds include million for developing early care and education facilities co-located with affordable housing. ...

Governor Kotek Announces Chief of Staff, New Office Leadership

Governor expands executive team and names new Housing and Homelessness Initiative Director ...

Governor Kotek Announces Investment in New CHIPS Child Care Fund

5 Million dollars from Oregon CHIPS Act to be allocated to new Child Care Fund ...

A conservative quest to limit diversity programs gains momentum in states

A conservative quest to limit diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives is gaining momentum in state capitals and college governing boards, with officials in about one-third of the states now taking some sort of action against it. Tennessee became the latest when the Republican...

Ex-police officer wanted in 2 killings and kidnapping shoots, kills self in Oregon, police say

SEATTLE (AP) — A former Washington state police officer wanted after killing two people, including his ex-wife, was found dead with a self-inflicted gunshot wound following a chase in Oregon, authorities said Tuesday. His 1-year-old baby, who was with him, was taken safely into custody by Oregon...

Missouri hires Memphis athletic director Laird Veatch for the same role with the Tigers

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri hired longtime college administrator Laird Veatch to be its athletic director on Tuesday, bringing him back to campus 14 years after he departed for a series of other positions that culminated with five years spent as the AD at Memphis. Veatch...

KC Current owners announce plans for stadium district along the Kansas City riverfront

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The ownership group of the Kansas City Current announced plans Monday for the development of the Missouri River waterfront, where the club recently opened a purpose-built stadium for the National Women's Soccer League team. CPKC Stadium will serve as the hub...

OPINION

Op-Ed: Why MAGA Policies Are Detrimental to Black Communities

NNPA NEWSWIRE – MAGA proponents peddle baseless claims of widespread voter fraud to justify voter suppression tactics that disproportionately target Black voters. From restrictive voter ID laws to purging voter rolls to limiting early voting hours, these...

Loving and Embracing the Differences in Our Youngest Learners

Yet our responsibility to all parents and society at large means we must do more to share insights, especially with underserved and under-resourced communities. ...

Gallup Finds Black Generational Divide on Affirmative Action

Each spring, many aspiring students and their families begin receiving college acceptance letters and offers of financial aid packages. This year’s college decisions will add yet another consideration: the effects of a 2023 Supreme Court, 6-3 ruling that...

OP-ED: Embracing Black Men’s Voices: Rebuilding Trust and Unity in the Democratic Party

The decision of many Black men to disengage from the Democratic Party is rooted in a complex interplay of historical disenchantment, unmet promises, and a sense of disillusionment with the political establishment. ...

AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE NEWS

Pro-Palestinian student protests target colleges' financial ties with Israel

Students at a growing number of U.S. colleges are gathering in protest encampments with a unified demand of their schools: Stop doing business with Israel — or any companies that empower its ongoing war in Gaza. The demand has its roots in a decades-old campaign against Israel's...

Olympian Kristi Yamaguchi is 'tickled pink' to inspire a Barbie doll

Like many little girls, a young Kristi Yamaguchi loved playing with Barbie. With a schedule packed with ice skating practices, her Barbie dolls became her “best friends.” So, it's surreal for the decorated Olympian figure skater to now be a Barbie girl herself. ...

A conservative quest to limit diversity programs gains momentum in states

A conservative quest to limit diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives is gaining momentum in state capitals and college governing boards, with officials in about one-third of the states now taking some sort of action against it. Tennessee became the latest when the Republican...

ENTERTAINMENT

What to stream this weekend: Conan O’Brien travels, 'Migration' soars and Taylor Swift reigns

Zack Snyder’s “Rebel Moon – Part Two: The Scargiver” landing on Netflix and Taylor Swift’s “The Tortured Poets Department” album are some of the new television, movies, music and games headed to a device near you. Also among the streaming offerings worth your time as...

Music Review: Jazz pianist Fred Hersch creates subdued, lovely colors on 'Silent, Listening'

Jazz pianist Fred Hersch fully embraces the freedom that comes with improvisation on his solo album “Silent, Listening,” spontaneously composing and performing tunes that are often without melody, meter or form. Listening to them can be challenging and rewarding. The many-time...

Book Review: 'Nothing But the Bones' is a compelling noir novel at a breakneck pace

Nelson “Nails” McKenna isn’t very bright, stumbles over his words and often says what he’s thinking without realizing it. We first meet him as a boy reading a superhero comic on the banks of a river in his backcountry hometown in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Georgia....

U.S. & WORLD NEWS

A conservative quest to limit diversity programs gains momentum in states

A conservative quest to limit diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives is gaining momentum in state capitals...

Pro-Palestinian student protests target colleges' financial ties with Israel

Students at a growing number of U.S. colleges are gathering in protest encampments with a unified demand of their...

Olympian Kristi Yamaguchi is 'tickled pink' to inspire a Barbie doll

Like many little girls, a young Kristi Yamaguchi loved playing with Barbie. With a schedule packed with ice...

Modi is accused of using hate speech for calling Muslims 'infiltrators' at an Indian election rally

NEW DELHI (AP) — India's main opposition party accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of using hate speech after...

5 migrants die while crossing the English Channel hours after the UK approved a deportation bill

PARIS (AP) — Five people, including a child, died while trying to cross the English Channel from France to the...

World seeing near breakdown of international law amid wars in Gaza and Ukraine, Amnesty says

LONDON (AP) — The world is seeing a near breakdown of international law amid flagrant rule-breaking in Gaza and...

By The Skanner News | The Skanner News

By Peter Schurmann, New America Media

SAN FRANCISCO – At 18, Valerie Klinker was kicked out of her grandmother's house in San Francisco's Fillmore District. Despite being without a roof, alternating from parks to cars to SROs, Klinker says she never identified as homeless, a fact that, in the eyes of the city, made her all but invisible.

Indeed, advocates for homeless people here say there is a growing number of young African Americans who, like Klinker, are becoming homeless as the ongoing recession and nationwide trend of urban black flight erodes access to traditional safety nets. It's a trend, they add, that's happening largely under the city's radar.

"Today, 55 percent of [our clients] are black, compared to 1998, when that number stood at about 15-20 percent," said Rob Gitin, director of At the Crossroads (ATC). The outreach program, based in San Francisco's Mission District, primarily serves transitional age youth (TAY) between the ages of 18-24, too old for foster care but too young for many of the city's homeless programs.

Falling Through the Cracks

Coming from historically poorer neighborhoods in the city or from communities across the bay, such as Oakland and Richmond, many young people shy away from identifying as homeless, Gitin explained.

"But if you ask them where they're spending the night," he noted, "most couldn't say." In large part that's because the people they once relied on, such as family or friends, are no longer in a position to help, or just aren't there anymore.

According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, the recession has inordinately affected blacks and Latinos. African Americans have seen a widening of the income gap compared to whites from 11 percent in 2004 to 20 percent in 2009. U.S. Census figures for 2010, meanwhile, show that San Francisco's black population has plummeted from 12 percent to just over three percent, mirroring trends nationwide.

"That stable aunt is no longer capable of providing for these people," said Ivan Alomar, who grew up in the Mission District and has worked as a counselor with ATC for six years. As a result, he said, a growing number end up without a roof over their head, homeless in all but name and invisible to city residents and service providers.

"It's possible the count missed them," acknowledges Noelle Simmons, referring to the city's biennial tally of those who are homeless, required of all jurisdictions that receive federal funding for homeless services.

Simmons, deputy director of policy and planning with San Francisco's Human Services Agency (HSA), which is responsible for tracking the city's homeless population, said volunteers simply identify those who are visibly homeless on the street, or are staying in shelters.

And that is a problem, said Alomar, who observed that most young blacks struggling to keep a roof over their heads "don't look homeless" and "don't use the word homeless" to describe their situation.

The latest count from January 2011, put San Francisco's homeless population at around 6,400, a slight decline from two years ago. Four in 10 were black, compared with one-third, who were white, and only one in eight, who were Latino. Simmons noted, however, that the large proportion of homeless African Americans here consisted of males between ages of 35 and 51, well beyond the TAY range.

Fewer Resources

"White kids have known stability, while Hispanics can rely on the support of family," explained Alomar. But he added that in the black community, becoming homeless is simply moving "from one form of instability to another."

Klinker, now a video editor and reporter with New America Media, said her grandmother kicked her out of the house on the suspicion that she'd gotten involved with drugs. Her mother wasn't around to care for her.

"I remember walking by people's doors in the SROs and seeing the occupants masturbating or shooting up," she recalled, referring to the single-room occupancy hotels common in low-income areas.

Despite her situation, Klinker, who now lives with her two kids and partner in the city's Hunters Point area, said she hid her homelessness from those she knew. "I didn't want pity," she stated, adding that she tried to keep up her appearance.

"There's a hell of 'em out there, and they look like me," Klinker emphasized, gesturing to her crisp hoodie top, jeans and sneakers, standard fare for most youth here.

Simmons said that while HSA is the city's main social service agency, it deals mainly with adults and families, leaving it to private organizations to care for youth in situations such as the one Klinker experienced.

But according to Amy Lemley, these organizations are "MIA in the advocacy arena."

Lemley is policy director with the John Burton Foundation, which, through its Homeless Youth Capacity Building Project, is looking to bolster the organizational and fundraising capabilities of the state's homeless youth service providers.

"In California, 5,000 kids age out of foster care every year," she said, adding that out of this number, 30 percent are African American. "They are being discharged from a system that does not have the resources to plan well for their transition," she noted, adding that the 20 percent unemployment rate for 16 to 24 year olds is the "highest since the state began keeping track."

Nevertheless, she said, there are fewer resources now for homeless TAY youth than there ever were before, and many in the homeless-advocacy field see the programs that are out there as "second rate."

The result, said Lemley, is that "almost no public funding" goes to these providers.

Youth "Growing More Desperate"

"It's a trend we've seen over the last couple of years," said Toby Eastman of Larkin Street Youth Services, speaking of the rise in homeless African American youth. Like Gitin and Lemley, Eastman said that the most pressing need for many of these individuals is stable housing.

But Eastman stressed that San Francisco has a "huge bottleneck" of those applying for transitional housing with a waiting list of 70 young people at Larkin. The latest transitional units recently opened in the city's downtown Tenderloin District. They are targeted to providing housing for youth with severe mental health issues.

In San Francisco's Bayview district, Aliya Sheriff is a therapist at 3rd Street Youth Center and Clinic, which provides local youth with medical and behavioral health services. Although not focused on homeless youth, she said that in recent years she's seen a "higher need for places to live" among her patients. Some have tried to pool resources in order to rent a place together, she said.

Sheriff also noted that as the recession economy increasingly taxes family resources, many youth are "becoming more desperate." Stress, sleeplessness and anxiety are on the rise, she said, as Bayview youth wrestle with questions about whether to "go to school, or go look for a job."

Crime is another option -- whether drugs or prostitution -- for making ends meet in a city where being homeless can often cost as much as staying housed. A night in an SRO usually runs around $60, Gitin points out, while constantly having to eat out for lack of a kitchen inflates what is an already high cost of living. For nights without a roof, he says, there's the local Carl's Jr. -- or a long bus ride with no particular stop.

New America Media's Donny Lumpkins contributed to this article.

The Skanner Foundation's 38th Annual MLK Breakfast