Reading about the tragic debilitating impact of homelessness is never ending it seems. In many communities around the United States, “the homeless,” are becoming an compromised economic class citizenry. “People of color continue to be disproportionately harmed by contact with the criminal justice system and housing instability—these disparities became increasingly pronounced during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Kelly Walsh, a principal policy associate in Urban’s Research to Action Lab and Justice Policy Center. “As the four selected communities plan for pandemic recovery, the groundbreaking Just Home Project will ensure that housing for justice-involved people is part of that recovery.
How safe is Tulsa, OK?
The metropolitan area’s violent crime rate was higher than the national rate in 2020. Its rate of property crime was higher than the national rate.
On Jan. 8, 2020, Jayson Hill awoke in his tent near Jerrold Avenue and Rankin Street in the Bayview to the voices of police officers informing him he had to leave his camp.
On May 16, 2022 at around 2:30 a.m. on Sunday, officers with the Tulsa Police Department were called to a hookah lounge at Admiral and Lewis after neighbors reported hearing gunshots. “This has opened up our eyes.” When police arrived at the scene, they found a man in a parking lot suffering from a gunshot wound to the head. Officials say paramedics rushed the victim to the hospital, but he was pronounced dead.
As investigators searched the scene, they found more than 100 shell casings of various calibers in the parking lot. ‘Sounded like fireworks’; a Lexington man allegedly shoots at victim 5 times during the fight. Authorities say that led them to believe that “a large gun battle took place.” At this point, officials believe the shooting started in the parking lot and traveled west down 1st St.
“Imagine you are at home with your family when there is a knock at the door,” Hill recalled to Judge Michelle Tong in an August small claims hearing. “It is the police and they do not look happy to see you. You are taken to the end of the road and told to wait; and for the next hour while the officers wait for the bulldozers to come, they threaten you any time you ask to be allowed to retrieve your medication or food for your animals, or at least warmer clothing.”
On Wednesday May 18, 2022, the MacArthur Foundation and the Urban Institute announced the launch of the Just Home Project, a national program designed to advance community-driven efforts to break the links between housing instability and jail incarceration. Through the initiative, four communities (Charleston County, South Carolina; Minnehaha County, South Dakota; City and County of San Francisco, California; and Tulsa County, Oklahoma) were selected to receive grant funding from MacArthur to create a plan for addressing this crisis in their community with technical assistance and coordination from Urban. At the completion of their planning process, each community is eligible to receive an investment from a MacArthur $15 million pool of impact investment funding to implement their plan and acquire or develop housing for populations that are not being served by current housing resources.
The Just Home Project will give the city an initial $370,000 grant plus the opportunity to share a $15 million investment fund to “develop housing for populations that are not being served by current housing resources,” officials said. According to the Housing for Urban Development website there are currently 43 low income or affordable housing properties in Tulsa, OK.
The announcement comes one week after Mayor G.T. Bynum proposed changing a city ordinance to make it easier for police to remove homeless people from sidewalks and other public rights of way and take them to jail if they refuse. The consortium called A Way Home for Tulsa, which comprises more than 30 local organizations working to end homelessness in Tulsa, was not notified by the Mayor’s Office before Bynum announced the proposal to the City Council on May 11, 2022.
According to the MacArthur Foundation, one in four people had periods of homelessness in the year before their incarceration, and the problem has worsened due to the COVID-19 pandemic. People who have been incarcerated face significant barriers to finding and maintaining stable housing. Incarceration can lead to job loss or other financial problems that threaten their ability to pay for housing. People with a history of justice involvement also have limited access to housing assistance through government programs and often face discriminatory screening practices when applying for housing. And experiencing chronic homelessness can increase the chances that a person becomes involved with the justice system due to the criminalization of sleeping, sitting, and asking for money or resources in public spaces. By coupling grant funding with impact investments, this demonstration project seeks to unlock local government innovation, absorb risk that housing providers are hesitant to take, and provide much-needed support for people in danger of remaining trapped in a cycle of housing instability and jail. All four of the selected communities are members of the MacArthur’s Safety and Justice Challenge, an initiative that began in 2015 to reduce the overall jail population as well as racial and ethnic disparities in jails. The project also draws on MacArthur’s experience supporting affordable housing through impact investments and grants as part of its Housing program, which ended in 2019. According to the Safety and Justice Challenge website Families and communities of color pay the heaviest price for America’s overuse of jails. Jails reflect our long history of racism in America. Across the country, Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and other people of color are over-policed, over-charged, and over-incarcerated in jails. Human rights and dignity—especially the rights of people of color—are being denied.
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