News in Brief (12.22.2010)

Photo of newspaper bins covered in snow.

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End Homelessness Campaign Led by Solis, Sebelius  

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis was elected to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness to lead the federal plan to end homelessness. Solis will serve as chair of the agency, while Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius will serve as vice chair.  

The cabinet secretaries are first tasked with the implementation of Opening Doors, the first federal strategic plan to both prevent and end homelessness. Nineteen government agencies have teamed up with state and local partners to work on the Opening Doors project.  

“Ending the continuing tragedy of homelessness demands thoughtful and focused efforts,” Solis said in a press release. “I look forward to building upon [Housing and Urban Development] Secretary [Shaun] Donovan’s leadership of the Council to promote the importance of interagency collaboration as we implement Opening Doors. The bottom line is that the best defense against homelessness is a job that pays. That is why the Department of Labor is leading efforts to prevent and end homelessness with job training and employment services for this underserved population.”  

The mission of the Interagency Council on Homelessness is to coordinate the federal response to homelessness and to create a national partnership with every level of government and the private sector to address homelessness in the nation.  

Homeless Melbourne Man’s Stolen Dog is Returned  

In Melbourne, Dougie Walker, who is homeless, thought he would be spending Christmas alone. His best friend, a wolfhound-German shepherd mix, was stolen from outside a restaurant, the Melbourne-Leader reports. Just 48 hours after he went missing, the dog is back in his owner’s arms. He was found outside the Melbourne Aquarium.  

“He seems OK, but I don’t think he understands what all the fuss is about and why so many people were out looking for him,” Walker told the Melbourne-Leader. “I never sleep without him and I haven’t been able to sleep since he went missing. I just don’t know why anyone would take my dog.”  

Police are still investigating the case, but no charges have been made.  

Public Libraries Providing Refuge for Homeless  

Librarians in Columbus, Ohio, said the soft economy and the chilly winter temperatures have driven more people to use the public libraries as a place of refuge, the Columbus Dispatch reports.  

“I think some of our employees fall into that category of what could be perceived as social work,” said Kim Snell, Columbus library spokeswoman.  

But Columbus isn’t alone in the trend. In San Francisco, a full-time social worker is stationed in a library to refer individuals to agencies. Meanwhile, in Florida, a library holds a Monday movie matinee complete with popcorn for homeless people.  

Sol Hirsch, library director of the Alachua County Library in Gainesville, Fla., defends the movie program. 

“We’re just trying to serve the public in any way we can, to entertain them or offer them relief from a stressful situation. If we show them the movie to normalize their lives, why not? Where would you rather they be? They’re not roaming the streets and they may be improving their literacy skills,” Hirsch said.  

Fresno Feeds 1,500 Homeless  

The Fresno Bee reports that Santa paid a visit to the Hope for the Holidays event in Fresno. Volunteers from several agencies and groups served a holiday meal to nearly 1,500 homeless children and their families during the annual event at the Ernie Valdez Exhibit Hall. The event also featured games, informative exhibits, live entertainment and a photo with Santa for the children.  

Hope for the Holidays began in 1988 at a homeless shelter when social workers realized the children living there had no holiday celebration. The event has been held every year since then and has grown to include all homeless families with children in Fresno County.  

Homeless Kansas City Teens Get Holiday Help  

The Christmas Tree Fund, a project that normally helps seniors and the disabled in Kansas City, will open its arms to help homeless teens in the area, the Kansas City Star reports. This year, 320 of the 1,200 $25 gift cards will go to homeless high school students, according to Jackie Powell, the board secretary for the Christmas Tree Fund and manager of the city’s human services division. The gift card count was buoyed by a last-minute donation from a local Walmart. There are about 300 homeless teens in the area.  

Compiled by Dianna Heitz. 

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