“Houseless does not mean homeless,” says Puerto Rican American activist, Tiny (Lisa Gray-Garcia). Tiny is poverty activist and scholar who has lived on the streets and is working today to empower people everywhere who live without a home. She is a poet, educator, organizer, and media genius who publishes and distributes books written by ‘street scholars’ for free. Her 2006 memoir, published by City Lights, “Criminal of Poverty: Growing Up Homeless in America,” is a memoir outlining her life on the streets as a homeless, what she calls a “houseless,” indigenous woman. In the offices of her San Francisco based organization POOR Magazine, Tiny talks with Kellia Ramares about her mother’s indigenous consciousness, about surviving houselessness and her belief that poor people are the real scholars of poverty, and about making art from life.
POOR Magazine is a poor people led/indigenous people led, grassroots non-profit,arts organization dedicated to providing revolutionary media access, art, education, empowerment and advocacy to silenced youth, adults and elders in poverty across the globe.
All of POOR’s programs are focused on providing non-colonizing, community-based and community-led media, art and education with the goals of creating access for silenced voices, preserving and degentrifying rooted communities of color and re-framing the debate on poverty, landlessness, indigenous resistance, disability and race locally and globally.
Tiny empowers those who live without a home by giving them resources to speak and engage strongly within the community they call “HOME.”
WINGS – Women’s International News Gathering Service
Interviewer/Producer: Kellia Ramares
Date: 10 January, 2011
Length: 28:45 min
Background: Individuals Experiencing Homelessness
According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s July 2009
Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress (2009 AHAR)i, on a given night in January 2008:
415,202 individuals were homeless in shelters, transitional housing programs, or on the streets
124,135 of these individuals were chronically homeless (30% of individuals who are homeless; 19% of the total homeless population which includes individuals and members of families)
Over the course of a year (October 2007-September 2008)ii, the 2009 AHAR found that:
1,092,600 individuals experienced homelessness
According to 1996 National Survey of Homeless Assistance Providers and Clients (1996 NSHAPC) data3, 85% of homeless clients were single.
Gender, Age, Race/Ethnicity
Among all sheltered individuals over the course of a year (October 2007-September 2008)iii:
72.5% were male
27.5% were female
2% are under age 18
22.5% are 18-30
51.5% are 31 to 50
20% are 51 to 61
4% are 62 or older
44.6% are White, Non-Hispanic
11% are White, Hispanic
37% are Black/African-American
2.8% are other single races; 4.7% are multiple races
Individuals Experiencing Chronic/Long-Term Homelessness
On a given night in January 2008:
124,135 individuals were chronically homeless (30% of all individuals who are homeless; 19% of the total homeless population which includes individuals and members of families)
Individuals Experiencing Short-Term Homelessness
Research on shelter use in New York City and Philadelphia concluded that:
People experiencing transitional homelessness4constitute 80% of shelter users
People experiencing episodic homelessness5 comprise 10% of shelter users
In New York City:
•Transitionally homeless individuals experience an average of 1.4 stays over a 3-year period, for a total of 58 days on average over the 3 years.
•Episodically homeless individuals, on average, experience 4.9 shelter episodes over a 3-year period totaling 264 days with an average length of stay of 54.4 days.
Data from the 1996 NSHAPC show that about 50% of people who were homeless were experiencing their first or second episode of homelessness, which typically lasted a few weeks or months to one year.
Families Experiencing Homelessness
According to the 2009 AHAR, “The most common demographic features of sheltered families are that adults are women, children are young, the family identifies itself as belonging to a minority group, and the family has two or three members.”
On a given night in January 2008:
249,212 persons in families were homeless in shelters, transitional housing programs, or on the streets
Over the course of a year (October 2007-September 2008):
516,724 persons in families were homeless in shelters or transitional housing programs (32.4% of the total sheltered homeless population)
Of the total number of sheltered households (rather than separate people), 159,142households were families (14.4%)
Among homeless families in shelters, women comprise 81% of adults
In 2009, the National Center on Family Homelessness analyzed state-level data and found that nationwide, 1.5 million children experience homelessness in a year.
According to 1996 data from the NSHAPC:
32% of people who were homeless were women
Among these women, 84% were members of homeless families
About 200,000 children were members of homeless families
Among these children, 42% were under six years old
Gender, Age, Race/Ethnicity
Among all sheltered persons in families over the course of a year (October 2007-September 2008):
80.8% were female
19.2% were male
60.3% were under age 18
21.5% were ages 18-30
16.7% were ages 31-50
1.3% were ages 51-61
Less than 1% were 62 and older
Among all families residing in shelters or transitional housing programs over the course of a year (October 2007-September 2008):
50.9% were African-American
24.4% were White, Non-Hispanic
13.1% were White, Hispanic
6.8% were Multiple Races; 4.7% were Other Single Race
According to 1996 NSHAPC data:
43% are African-American
38% are White, Non-Hispanic
15% are Hispanic
3% are Native American
Traumatic Stress & Substance Use
Over 92% of mothers who are homeless have experienced severe physical and/or sexual abuse during their lifetime.
About two-thirds of homeless mothers have histories of domestic violence.
Compared to low-income housed women, mothers who are homeless have:
•Three times the rate of posttraumatic stress disorder (36%)
•Twice the rate of drug and alcohol dependence (41%)
About 50% of homeless mothers have experienced a major depression since becoming homeless.
Among homeless children, within a single year:
•97% move, many up to three times.
•22% are separated from families.
•25% witness violence.
Elders/Older Adults Experiencing Homelessness
HUD’s 2009 AHAR points to an estimate of the number of elderly people among sheltered individuals:
4% of sheltered individuals and 2.8% of the total sheltered homeless population are ages 62 or older in 2008, as compared with 27% of individuals living in poverty in 2007.
Data from the 1996 NSHAPC showed that 8% of all homeless clients were age 55 years or older.
According to the Homeless Older Adults Strategic Plan for Los Angeles:
On any given night, there are 3,000 to 4,000 homeless older adults, 62 years or older, in Los Angeles County alone
WINGS: Women’s International News Gathering Service is an award-winning weekly radio series covering news and current affairs by and about women around the world. Programs are distributed to noncommercial radio stations and offered for webcasting, and podcasting. The series was founded by Frieda Werden and the late Katherine Davenport in 1986. It is now headquartered in Vancouver BC Canada. Link to WINGS website / or WINGS facebook
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