Category Archives: USA

Oversize vehicles offer tenuous home amid U.S. housing crisis

Screenshot_2020-03-05 Oversize vehicles become homes amid US housing crisis
A sign in Seattle restricts overnight parking in 2014. Handout photo by Graham Pruss

WASHINGTON, – Judith Ortiz was living in an apartment near San Francisco, working in a restaurant, when she realized she could no longer make ends meet.

Rents had gotten too high, she recalled, and the job was not paying enough.

About a year ago, she took a step that experts say is increasingly common amid the record rental affordability crisis gripping the United States: She left her apartment and bought an RV, a large vehicle equipped with beds, plumbing and a small living space.

Today Ortiz lives in the RV — short for recreational vehicle and designed for camping or road trips — with her sister and two-year-old niece.

The arrangement allows her “to be in the neighborhood and not stay on the street”, said Ortiz, 45.

But it is hopefully only a temporary solution, she said, adding that living in an RV in the street was unsafe and that her sister had been hassled.

“Nobody wants to live in an RV. It’s just convenient because the cost of living is way too high,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from East Palo Alto, California.

A dramatic rise in homelessness in the United States after the recession of 2008-09 has been running parallel to an increase in people living in vehicles, said Graham Pruss, a University of Washington anthropologist.

Those living in oversize vehicles make up a unique subset, he said: “RVs are being used as a new form of affordable housing.”

In places like Seattle, the booming tech industry has made it difficult for those with lower-paid jobs to find a place to live.

“People who work in the service economy can’t live here,” said Pruss, who works with the city of Seattle on homelessness issues. “They have to live 100 miles away — or they’re using these vehicles.”

MOBILITY, PROPERTY, PRIVACY

Especially for those who are newly experiencing homelessness, an RV can be enticing, Pruss said.

They “look around them on the street and see everyone else living in tents, and there’s a valuation, seeing (a) vehicle as better,” he said. “Especially an RV, which has a stove — you have mobility, a certain property right, privacy.”

The number of those living in vehicles has skyrocketed over the past decade, Pruss said — in Seattle, rising within a decade to 3,372 from 881 in 2008, according to official annual counts.

And the anecdotal evidence is clear, he said: RVs have become an incredibly common sight on the streets of many U.S. cities, particularly on the West Coast.

Yet RVs as a housing option pose unique challenges for cities, support services and residents alike, said researchers and activists.

Their size — often more than 20 feet long, and wider than a standard vehicle — makes it difficult to find parking. RVs also often have toilets or sinks, meaning residents have to figure out a way to safely dispose of wastewater, while generators can be noisy.

These factors also make them easy targets for residential neighborhoods that may not want them on their streets, and for cities to crack down on them.

Ordinances to outlaw sleeping in a vehicle rose by 213% in 2019, according to a report from the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. Such bans now exist in 50% of U.S. cities, the report said.

DOWNSIZING

RV residents can also pose an additional complexity as they may not want to move out of their vehicle, said Jennifer Adams, an outreach manager with the Bridge Care Center, a charity in Seattle.

Instead, they may see themselves as having made a purposeful decision to downsize, and thus may not want to access homelessness services that could be of help, she explained.

“A lot of them are a lot more independent — it costs a lot more money to be that way, and they usually have an income,” said Adams, referring to those living in RVs.

The city’s tech industry has displaced roofers, painters, fishermen and other contractors, she said, and those are the types that may consider moving into an RV to save costs.

 

 

 

https://news.trust.org/item/20200304092324-4fz13/

 

Transport Secretary vows to stamp out ‘modern slavery’ of human trafficking

shutterstock_411771103
Woman grabbing fence. Stock image vis Shutterstock

– The Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao, has announced several new initiatives aimed at combating human trafficking, vowing to stamp out use of American transport routes for “this modern form of slavery.”

“It is shocking to learn that in this day and age, something so horrible as human trafficking exists, and there are so many people who don’t believe it,” Chao said Jan. 28.

“But it is happening, and it’s happening in the United States, in our cities, in our suburbs, in our rural areas.” said Chao at the agency’s “Putting the Brakes on Human Trafficking” summit in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday.

Chao was joined by members of Congress, officials from multiple states, law enforcement personnel, and leaders of the transportation industry on Tuesday at the U.S. Department of Transportation headquarters in Washington, D.C.

USDOT launched its new “100 Pledges in 100 Days” initiative to increase the number of transportation companies promising to train their employees to recognize suspected cases of human trafficking.

Chao called on leaders of transportation companies—in the airline, shipping, trucking, and locomotive industries—to take the “Transportation Leaders Against Human Trafficking Pledge” to train their employees.

Currently, there are commitments to train more than one million employees to fight human trafficking, according to USDOT, and Chao listed anti-trafficking initiatives already underway at the agency, with the strategies of “detection, deterrence, and disruption.” More than 53,000 agency employees have received mandatory counter-trafficking training, including special instructions for bus and truck inspectors, she said.

The agency is also partnering with the Department of Homeland Security on the Blue Lightning initiative for the airline industry, providing anti-trafficking training for more than 100,000 airline employees.

The Department also announced an annual $50,000 award for individuals or organizations for “innovative” solutions for combating trafficking, as well as $5.4 million in grant selections

Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), who has authored five laws combating human trafficking, also spoke at the event.

Smith drafted the International Megan’s Law, named for 7 year-old Megan Kanka of Hamilton, New Jersey, who was kidnapped, raped, and murdered by a repeated sex offender in 1994. The law requires convicted child sex offenders to register with the U.S. government before travelling abroad. The government in turn notifies their destination countries, which can refuse to accept the offender.

“Human trafficking is a barbaric human rights abuse that thrives on greed, secrecy, a perverted sense of entitlement to exploit the vulnerable and an unimaginable disregard for the victims,” Rep. Smith said.

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/transport-secretary-vows-to-stamp-out-modern-slavery-of-human-trafficking-27459

Corpus Christi bishop donates bone marrow to save a mother’s life

Saved
Credit: drpnncpptak/Shutterstock.

.- This week, Bishop Michael Mulvey of Corpus Christi reflected on bone marrow donations and the life of the mother whom he helped save.

Before he became a bishop, Michael Mulvey joined the Be the Match Registry, the world’s largest register for bone marrow transplants (BMT), which is run by the National Marrow Donor Program.

After the organization discovered a match, South Texas Catholic reported, Mulvey, 70, traveled to San Antonio to make a peripheral stem cell donation. He had matched with a mother who had been diagnosed with a type of blood cancer.

Although Mulvey has never met the woman, he said he was humbled by the experience and expressed gratitude to be able to contribute to the well-being of this mother and her family.

“Knowing that because of the life I have been given by God – I was able to give back and make a big difference in this person’s life, in the life of her children and her family is something I have thought of quite often,” he told South Texas Catholic Nov. 5.

Mulvey said he was introduced to Be the Match in 2004, while he was a priest of the Diocese of Austin. There, he had met Leticia Mondragon, a donor development and engagement specialist with GenCure who partners with Be the Match.

“When I was assigned in Austin years ago, one of our very charitable and active parishioners was signing up people for Be the Match,” said Bishop Mulvey, according to South Texas Catholic. “I appreciated her commitment and dedication to this cause, and after hearing more about the registry, I signed up.”

BMT replaces unhealthy bone marrow with healthy marrow from an outside source. The procedure is used to cure cancers in the blood as well as diseases in the bones and immune system. Among other illnesses, BMT has been used for leukemia, aplastic anemia, and sickle cell disease.

According to South Texas Catholic, Mondragon said the process to sign up is more convenient than in the past, noting that people may apply through their smartphone.

Unlike blood donations, a match for BMT does not focus on blood type, but ethnicity. Mondragon expressed hope that the new system will add more “people of all ethnic backgrounds” to the registry.

She stressed the importance of BMT donors, stating that life-threatening disorders are discovered every few minutes, and thanked the bishop for his contribution.

“Every three minutes someone is diagnosed with a life-threatening blood cancer or blood disorder, such as leukemia or lymphoma,” said Mondragon, according to South Texas Catholic.

“We are thankful Bishop Mulvey wanted to share his story because it is so important that we have leaders like him promoting our global life-saving mission,” she further added.

Bishop Mulvey described the experience not only as an opportunity for charity but as a spiritual encounter.

“St. Matthew says what you have received as a gift, give as a gift,” said Bishop Mulvey, South Texas Catholic reported. “We must always remember that everyone’s life is a gift and true gratitude is expressed when you are willing to give back and share what you have.”

 

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/corpus-christi-bishop-donates-bone-marrow-to-saves-a-mothers-life-52562

Florida bishops ask governor to stay planned execution

Plea
James Dailey. Credit: Florida Dept of Corrections.

.- The Catholic bishops of Florida have called on Governor Ron DeSantis to halt the scheduled execution of James Dailey, who is on death row for murder in a controversial case from nearly 35 years ago.

The bishops leading the seven dioceses of Florida signed a joint letter Oct. 21. While they noted their objections to any use of the death penalty in the state, they said Dailey’s case is “especially alarming” because of the evidence of innocence surrounding him.

“There is strong evidence that James Dailey’s death sentence was yet another failure of justice,” the bishops said. “Another man, Jack Pearcy, has signed a sworn affidavit that he, and he alone, was responsible for the tragic death of 14-year-old Shelly Boggio.”

Dailey, a 73-year-old veteran, is scheduled to be executed Nov. 7 for the 1985 murder of 14-year-old Shelly Boggio, whose body was found repeatedly stabbed and drowned near St. Petersburg.

There is no physical evidence or eyewitness testimony connecting Dailey to the murder, the Tampa Bay Times reports. Rather, Dailey’s housemate and co-defendant, Jack Pearcy, accused him of taking part in the crime. Pearcy is currently serving a life sentence for the murder.

Inmates at the prison where Dailey was being held were interviewed, initially yielding no results. A few days later, however, three inmates said they had heard Dailey make incriminating statements. The inmates received reduced charges in return for the information, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. One of the inmates was known as a prolific informant, giving testimony over the years that has sent four men to death row and being convicted himself of more than 20 crimes of deception.

Pearcy has acknowledged at least four times that Dailey was innocent of the crime, Dailey’s lawyers maintain, including in a 2017 affidavit, signed by Pearcy, which said, “James Dailey was not present when Shelly Boggio was killed. I alone am responsible for Shelly Boggio’s death.”

However, in January 2018, Pearcy took the witness stand and was questioned about the affidavit. He said some of the statements in it were untrue. When pressed further about which statements, he invoked the Fifth Amendment and refused to answer.

Earlier this month, the Florida Supreme Court rejected Dailey’s appeal, which argued that new evidence discrediting the jail informant testimony against Dailey should be permitted to be introduced. The court said Dailey should have raised this objection earlier. It ruled that all of his “newly discovered evidence claims were either correctly rejected as untimely or based on inadmissible evidence.”

The bishops of Florida voiced concern over the state’s high number of executions – and exonerations.

“Florida leads the nation in death row exonerations,” they noted. “Florida makes more mistakes than any other state in sentencing innocent people to death.”

Dailey would be the 100th execution in Florida since the state revived the death penalty in 1976.

 

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/florida-bishops-ask-governor-to-stay-planned-execution-52181

Gonzaga, Catholic Charities team up to offer immigration legal assistance

Help
Credit: Diego G Diaz/Shutterstock.

.- Gonzaga University Law School in Spokane is partnering with Catholic Charities of Eastern Washington to offer immigration legal assistance to low-income individuals, as well as training in immigration law for students.

Second- and third-year law students under faculty supervision will assist clients pro bono in the “Catholic Charities Immigration Clinic at Gonzaga Law School” starting this fall.

“We’re viewing this almost like a joint venture between the two of us,” Jacob Rooksby, dean of Gonzaga Law School, told CNA.

“The attorney in charge has a vast network through her time at Catholic Charities. We envision the students and the attorney going on-site to different areas of the state to provide walk-up assistance, and that’s going to start as we get further into the project,” Rooksby said.

The law school has several pro bono clinics already, including Indian Law, Elder Law, and Business Law. The students will work with Megan Case, an attorney who formerly worked with Catholic Charities.

Case told CNA that the center has a significant caseload at the moment, mostly on family reunification cases, whereby legal immigrants can petition for other family members to come and join them in the United States.

The center will also work with individuals seeking asylum. Additionally, they have an immigration court hearing scheduled for January in a deportation case.

Case noted that immigration law is one of the broadest and most complicated areas of U.S. law. She said during her time at Catholic Charities, she oversaw a number of naturalization cases, family reunification cases, and green cards, among others. They also helped individuals who qualified for victim-based visas.

She noted that the center assists both documented and undocumented individuals.

“There’s definitely a need for attorneys to assist people in these types of cases, and there’s a lot of work,” Case told CNA.

Rooksby said there is already student interest and client need for the program.

“As a Jesuit institution, I think we’re taking seriously the Catholic Church’s position on immigration as being one of the signature issues of our time,” he said. “So we see this as very consistent with our mission…the need is already there.”

 

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/gonzaga-catholic-charities-team-up-to-offer-immigration-legal-assistance-38220

Free dental clinic in Maryland brings care to over 1,000 patients

Dental
2019 Mid-Maryland Mission of Mercy dental event. Photo courtesy of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington.

.- A free dental clinic hosted recently by Catholic Charities of Washington, D.C., offered preventive and emergency dental care to more than 1,000 patients in need.

“The majority were uninsured, and probably had not seen a dentist in years,” said Deacon Jim Nalls, director of Family, Parish and Community Outreach for Catholic Charities of Washington.

Sept. 13-14 marked the fifth Mid-Maryland Mission of Mercy, hosted by Catholic Charities, the University of Maryland School of Public Health and the Maryland State Dental Association Foundation.

Hundreds of patients waited in line overnight at the University of Maryland’s Xfinity Center in College Park.

One woman, 69-year-old Linda Frazier, stood in line for the clinic beginning at 6:40 p.m. the night before.

Frazier told the Catholic Standard that she was suffering from a painful tooth and had not received dental care in two years, since the last Mission of Mercy in Mid-Maryland. She said she cannot afford insurance and was grateful to have the opportunity to receive treatment through Catholic Charities.

Maryland does not include full dental coverage for patients on Medicaid, so low-income individuals and people without insurance often find themselves struggling to get the dental care they need.

Mission of Mercy originated in Virginia nearly 20 years ago, when Dr. Terry Dickinson, former executive director of the Virginia Dental Association, saw a major unmet need for dental care among low-income patients, seniors, and people with disabilities.

The first small event was held in rural Virginia with a group of dentists from the Virginia Dental Association. “It was widely successful,” Nalls told CNA. “The need was huge. People lined up literally overnight to get help.”

Today, he said, 42 other states have adopted the Mission of Mercy model, creating free dental clinics with volunteer dentists and support personnel to provide services.

Catholic Charities of Washington, D.C., heard about the clinics and wanted to start one of their own. They began in 2013.

This year, the clinic treated 1089 people, an increase of about 20% from the last time the event was held.

The Mission of Mercy event required hundreds of volunteers to run, including professional volunteers – dentists, hygienists, dental assistants, and x-ray technicians – as well as general volunteers, who greeted patients, registered them, and directed them to the correct location.

Patients received both medical and dental screenings, as well as panoramic dental x-rays, Nall said. Volunteer dentists offered fillings, tooth extractions, cleanings, partial dentures, and crowns, among other services.

Dr. Mel Weissburg, who volunteered to do endodontic and root canal work, said the clinic’s dental care can change the lives of the patients being served.

“They are embarrassed because they have missing or cavities in their front teeth,” Weissburg told the Catholic Standard. “They get cleaned up, they get filled, and now they can smile. They can smile when they’re working, they can get a job. The socio-economic impact on that patient and their family, and their children and our society…goes a long way.”

Nalls said patients are extremely appreciative to be receiving care they otherwise could not afford.

“With tears in their eyes, they were grateful,” he said. “It’s a wonderful event. That’s why the volunteers keep coming back, it’s so rewarding to see the immediate response of the people that you’re taking care of, and that the need is so great…Why else would you sleep on a sidewalk overnight?”

One volunteer, Teresa Villanueva, said this is her third time volunteering at the event. She told the Catholic Standard that she is touched to see the suffering of those who do not have insurance.

“Every time they do these events, my heart is joyful,” she said.

Nalls said dental care is sometimes undervalued, both by individuals and the health care system in general.

“There’s no money in the Affordable Care Act for dental services,” he noted. “Dentistry is the red-headed stepchild of the health care industry. It’s treated as if it’s optional or something.”

In reality, he said, dental care is a “very important part of our holistic health” and can cause severe pain and difficulty functioning if problems are left untreated.

With the high turnout showing a continuing need for affordable dental care, Nalls said Catholic Charities will continue to hold Mission of Mercy events in the future.

“Hopefully, we won’t have to sometime soon – if the support system changes and Medicaid covers adult dental, we won’t need to do these,” he said. “But until they do, there’ll be a huge need, and we’ll continue to try to address it as best we can.”

 

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/free-dental-clinic-in-maryland-brings-care-to-over-1000-patients-53714

Archbishop Gomez at Mass for immigrants: ‘We can heal what is broken in America’

1F7B47FD-E261-4BD8-B718-F0D12D84BF5CSept. 7 Mass in Recognition of All Immigrants, Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles. Photo courtesy of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

.- At a Mass in Recognition of All Immigrants, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles called migrants to witness to America the healing love of Christ, which has the power to restore unity to a divided nation.

“My brothers and sisters, as followers of Jesus Christ, we have a mission in this moment, in this challenging time in our country,” the archbishop said. “We need to show our neighbors a better way. The way of Jesus, the way of love.”

In this critical moment in America, Jesus is offering an invitation “to love those who make themselves our enemies, and to pray for those who would try to cause division in our country,” he said.

“We can heal what is broken in America. We can restore the sense of mutual trust and empathy; the shared belief in our common humanity; in the dignity of those who are different from us,” Gomez stressed. “Love is the only way forward for America. And we are the ones who must show our nation the way.”

The Mass, held at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, united Catholics from the diocese of Los Angeles, and the Dioceses of San Bernardino, Orange, and San Diego.

Archbishop Gomez presided over the Mass, which was concelebrated by Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishops David G. O’Connell, Robert E. Barron, and Marc V. Trudeau, Archbishop Emeritus Cardinal Roger Mahony, and Retired Auxiliary Bishop Joseph M. Sartoris, as well as Bishop Kevin Vann of Orange and Orange Auxiliary Bishops Timothy Freyer and Thanh Thai Nguyen.

The Mass concluded a novena in parishes across Southern California, as well as a three-day walking pilgrimage from Orange County to the cathedral in Los Angeles. The 60-mile pilgrimage was a gesture of solidarity with immigrants.

Relics of St. Junípero Serra, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, and St. Toribio Romo were available for veneration following Mass.

In his homily, Archbishop Gomez stressed that “[h]atred can never change the one who hates. Only love can.”

“Christian love is not weak or soft,” he said. “Christian love means working for the good of the other. It means talking to those who disagree with us, treating them with kindness and respect, trying to see things through their eyes.”

Each person present at Mass has their own story, the archbishop noted, with their own fears, hopes and dreams, converging at this moment in Southern California.

While the United States has always been an “exceptional” country, welcoming migrants as a “beacon of hope,” he said, the nation is today seeing exceptional polarization, perhaps the worst since the Civil War.

“But as we stand at this altar today, we know there are no divisions, no ‘us’ versus ‘them.’ No matter who we are, or where we come from, we are one family. And we are sinners, all of us in need of God’s mercy and redemption.”

The death of Christ unites all the faithful in a story of redemption and a call to conversion, Gomez said.

”In Jesus Christ, every barrier, every wall falls down,” he said. “There is no Mexican no Vietnamese, Korean or Filipino; no Russian or Venezuelan, no migrant or native-born. In Jesus Christ, we are all children of God, made in his image.”

When viewed through this lens, it is clear that immigration is not merely a political issue, but a spiritual one as well, Gomez said.

“Immigration is not only about borders between nations. It is about barriers in the human heart — barriers that make us fearful of people who do not look like us; barriers that make us see others as less than human, not worth caring about.”

The archbishop pointed to Mary as a special advocate for America. He encouraged all those present to pray a daily Rosary for the conversion of hearts and the healing of the nation.

When circumstances appear bleak, we can remember that Christ “is the Lord of Creation and history,” he said. “That means this world belongs to him. And we belong to him. And he wants each of us to have a place we can call home.”

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/archbishop-gomez-at-mass-for-immigrants-we-can-heal-what-is-broken-in-america-11439