Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Criminalization of School Discipline in Massachusetts' Three Largest School Districts

 Read this article-- although for poor families and families of color, it's a scenario we know all too well. Want to get involved in changing the picture?  Contact the Springfield Student Advocacy Project, (413) 342-0080, Email: SpringfieldSAP@gmail.com

Arrested Futures: The Criminalization of School Discipline in Massachusetts' Three Largest School Districts

from the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Massachusetts, Citizens for Juvenile Justice
Principal Author: Robin L. Dahlberg
From the Executive Summary:
On October 23, 2007, a 14-year-old boy at the Kennedy Middle School in Springfield, Massachusetts, was arrested after he refused to walk with a teacher to her office and instead returned to his classroom. According to the police report, he yelled at the teacher, bounced a basketball in a school hallway, failed to respond to a police officer’s request to go with the teacher and slammed his classroom door shut. He was subsequently taken into police custody, handcuffed, transported to the police station and charged with “disturbing a lawful assembly.”
This incident illustrates a matter of growing concern to educators, parents and advocates: the extent to which the permanent on-site presence of police officers in public schools results in the criminalization of disruptive behavior. While other research has focused on zero-tolerance policies and the overuse of out-of-school suspension and expulsion as significant factors in feeding the “School-to-Prison Pipeline,” this report focuses on the additional problem of arrest, in particular the use of arrest to address behavior that would likely be handled in the school by school staff if not for the presence of on-site officers.
Published on American Civil Liberties Union (http://www.aclu.org)
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Monday, July 23, 2012

Don't want children and families out on the street? Then PROTEST!


The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is about to make its biggest attack on homeless families to date, by making it almost impossible for homeless families to qualify for shelter.  My guess is that this move will be accompanied by a strong push to get families already in shelter out of there as fast as possible.

If defending these families-- some of whom are our own members-- isn't the central mission and responsibility of Arise, then I don't know what is.  In fact, I can't think of anyone who is poor or progressive who can afford to do nothing.  If you absolutely can't come to the demonstration, then please, please call Governor Patrick and your state legislators.  617.725.4005 or 413.784.1200.  You can find more information at Arise for Social Justice. 

Don't be fooled if the Gov's office says things aren't as bad as we're making them out to be.  Our reading of the regulations (and the reading of the Mass Coalition for the Homeless and Mass Law Reform Institute)  says that families will even be permitted to sleep in bus stations and still not be eligible for shelter.  The Dept. of Housing and Community Development, which oversees the regulations, says it's not as bad as all that.  Then they need to change the regulations!  And that will only happen if we are loud, clear and speak with one voice-- right now! Print Friendly and PDF

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Two important vigils to stop foreclosure evictions

From Springfield No One Leaves:

 For six years we've been making this demand across Massachusetts and backing it up by being ready to resist bank attempts to evict families for no reason at all! Last night at our weekly Bank Tenant Association meeting we discussed the possibility of two of our members (the Mendez Family & the Tucker Family) facing evictions as early as August 3rd. Both families have move-out dates scheduled for July 31st. The BTA voted to use civil disobedience if necessary to block the evictions of the Mendez Family and/or Tucker family from their home. 

Both the Mendez Family and Tucker Family are making demands long made by our movement - we are demanding that Aurora Bank & Deutsche Bank, respectively, stop No-Fault Evictions after foreclosure. Instead, we have a simple solution: 
Both the Mendez & Tucker Family's can afford their home after foreclosure, or can afford rent. In both cases they've offered to buy back at current value - and would even agree to share any equity appreciation in future. The Tucker family has secured financing from a non-profit to buy at current value in cash. But in both struggles, Aurora Bank and Deutsche bank are refusing to negotiate, instead continuing the banks practice of evicting families for no reason at all. 


We'll be ready to block these evictions, but we refuse to sit on the sidelines and simply wait for the bank to evict!. We're going on the offensive. 

On MONDAY JULY 30TH & TUESDAY JULY 31ST we will hold back-to-back candlelight vigils to highlight the immorality of Aurora & Deutsche Bank's actions, make our demands clear, and send out a notice that Springfield will not allow for no-fault evictions of our neighbors! We'll be canvassing neighborhoods, reaching out to local elected representatives, building with ally organizations and getting media attention to spotlight the truly evil and unjust actions of the banks. 

Mendez Family Home - 27 Talmadge Drive, Springfield, MA

TUESDAY JULY 31ST - 7:00 PM (in place of our SBTA meeting)
Tucker Family Home - 53 Palo Alto Road, Springfield, MA

Please save the date - more details to come in the next 2 weeks! 
Peace and Solidarity, 
Springfield No One Leaves/Nadie Se Mude
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Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Insane Cruelty of Gov. Patrick Toward Homeless Families

I am seething with rage.  For months we at Arise for Social Justice have been fighting to keep the proposed new rules about who's eligible for family shelter from becoming too draconian.  With our allies at Mass. Law Reform Institute and the Mass. Coalition for the Homeless taking the lead, we were able to make some small changes in the regs-- not enough to keep many new families from becoming homeless, but something, anyway, and our thoughts were turning toward this fall and winter and what we might be able to do to find shelter for the unsheltered.

Today we found out that the Dept. of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) will be applying the strictest possible interpretations of the new regs-- not that the families described are ones that must be sheltered, but that these are the only families who will be sheltered.  The rest?  Out on the street and out of luck.  The regs were encouraged and signed by Gov. Patrick.

We had a woman in the office today who has a 20 year old underemployed son and an 16 year old daughter with severe autism.  Her husband left them unexpectedly ("I woke up one morning and he was gone.") and she fell behind in her mortgage and every other bill ("He hid how much debt we were in".). Now her house has been foreclosed on, and she has 30 days to get out.  She won't be eligible for emergency shelter. Maybe she'll be eligible for one of the fewer than 500 MRVPs that are supposed to help end family homelessness, or maybe the RAFT Program, a benefit to help families come up with first month's rent and security or other bills....and then what?

Actually we had two former homeowners today.  The second was a 74 year old grandmother with custody of her 10 year old granddaughter.  She hasn't made a full mortgage payment in over a year, and is having trouble getting onto the food stamp program, because she can't provide proof of shelter costs, because she doesn't have any.  They won't be eligible for emergency shelter, either, when they are finally evicted.

Last but hardly least, we met with a young woman with two children and two black eyes.  She's been staying with her sister and her sister's two children in a two bedroom, subsidized apartment.  Her sister was just notified that she faces eviction unless her "company" leaves.  The woman's two black eyes came about because she started hitting herself in the face when she completely lost it, realizing she and her kids were about to become homeless and had no place to go..But she doesn't fall into an eligible category, either.

Every day is like this.

One MLRI lawyer commented, "So we've come to a point where the state's housing agency issues a reg that would define a bus station as a 'housing situation' that is 'meant for human habitation' (because it has lights, heat, running water and toilets).  Thus a family with children living in a bus station is not sufficiently homeless to be eligible for shelter.  This is beyond Kafka."

I feel particularly angry at the service providers and their networks.  In spite of warnings by Arise and others, they put on their rose-colored glasses and gave the new head of DHCD, Aaron Gornstein, a stamp of approval before the evidence was even in. ("He's a compassionate person who really understands homelessness.")  Gornstein and Governor Patrick don't even have the guts to say, "We're done sheltering homeless families,"  but do it all under the banner of doing good for families!

Just as I have said that all poor people in Springfield were victims of last June's tornado, not just those who lost their housing, so all poor people, and the neighborhoods in which they live, are victims of  Patrick's new policies.  The dismantling of the communities of poor people continues.

I'm going to paste some information from the Mass Law Reform Institute about what actions you can take that might help-- we have to try-- try hard and right now.

But first I have to say something about Arise.  We are the only grassroots, poor people's organization from here to Boston and one of only three left in the state that will absolutely go to the mat for poor people, especially homeless people.  I can guarantee you that there's not one organization in a 90 mile radius that, tonight, is anguishing over how poor families will survive and which is also plotting, planning and organizing.  I suppose that's partly because our core members and our staff are all too familiar ourselves with foreclosure, eviction and homelessness.

If you think the work we do simply has to be done, then you've got to support us-- with your commitment, your actions and your cash.  We need donations very much.  Please send us some help at Arise, 467 State St., P.O. Box 5423, Springfield MA 01101.  And call us if you want to take action-- 413 734-4948


Please call today!  Ask the Governor and the Legislature to PUT A STOP to emergency assistance (EA) regulations that would leave homeless children and their families in dangerous situations. (Copy of proposed regulations is attached).

Under the new rules that will go into effect in 60 days unless we stop them, children and their families will be ineligible for shelter even if they
·        have nowhere to sleep except a bus station or a hospital emergency room
·        are in a double up situation where the child is being abused by a neighbor
·        are in a housing situation where the mother is being regularly raped by the primary tenant
·        are in a housing situation that is unfit for human habitation (such as not having running water) and the landlord could fix it but won’t
·        are in a housing situation with lead paint, exposed wires, overcrowding that violates the sanitary code, or infested with rats (as long as the infestation isn’t caused by accumulated garbage)
·        were evicted through no fault of their own (for example, because the landlord wants to put the building on the market) and have no place to go

And many of the families who might meet the new standards won’t be eligible due to new unreasonable third-party verification requirements.

Please call the Governor, 617.725.4005 or 888.870.7770
Ask him to PUT A STOP to these inhumane rules.

Please call your state Senator and Representative via the State House switchboard at  617.222.2000 (or get their direct numbers at www.wheredoivotema.com). 

Ask your Senator and Representative to ask Senate President Murray and House Speaker DeLeo to PUT A STOP to these inhumane rules.

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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

National Alliance Of HUD Tennants Washington, DC June 26, 2012

I was privileged to stand with NAHT this past week in DC. NAHT and MAHT (Mass Alliance of HUD tenants) work tirelessly on behalf of those in danger of losing section 8 housing. Attending the conference were members of NAHT from all over the US. The fight to preserve low income housing is difficult. Workshops on organizing tenants associations and HUD regulations as well as what litigation is presently being considered, were explored in great detail during this 2012 conference. Members of HUD sat on a panel and listened to us and provided some insight as to where they stood on certain housing issues. In addition we meant with government officials in the Senate building who addressed housing. This trip was very inspiring and very enlightening. The housing issue in Springfield has the same challenges as it does in many parts of the US. Please watch this short video as we marched on the MLK memorial in DC. We were stopped at the entrance. We held our protest at the entrance. Please leave questions and comments.
John Morris

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