News in Brief (08.05.2009)

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NYC Offers Homeless One-Way Tickets Home  

New York City is offering its homeless families a one-way ticket to “anywhere but here.”  

In attempt to reduce the number of families in the shelter system, which costs $36,000 a year per family, the Bloomberg administration is willing to send the families any place where a relative agrees to take them.  

Though the city has successfully relocated 550 families since 2007, some see the program as purely political and ultimately inefficient. There are concerns that the city is merely passing homelessness on to other cities and countries in order to reduce its own homeless population and, earn a better appearance and reputation. According to The New York Times, Arnold Cohen, president and chief executive of Partnership for the Homeless, called the city’s plan “cosmetic.”  

The program does not have a limit for how far it is willing to send families, and in one case, even spent $6,332 on returning a family of five to Paris. Other popular destinations include Puerto Rico, Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas, the program has diverted homeless families to five continents.  

Though the program is not a new concept altogether and has existed in various forms and cities for some time, this initiative is unique in its focus on homeless families. Most other programs assist single or married adult homeless who do not have children.  

Homeless families in the city are free to refuse the offer and choose the shelters instead.  


Homeless Man Leaves $4 Million Estate  

Two years ago, a 76-year-old Arizona man died, leaving his $4 million estate split between a nurse, NPR, and several non-profit organizations. He had no wife or children and was estranged from his brother. He was also homeless.  

According to his friend Rita Belle, a nurse whom he met 13 years ago at a senior center, Richard Leroy Walters slept on the grounds of the senior center and ate at a hospital. He said he had no home. Walters would use the telephone at the hospital or senior center to make what Belle now believes to have been investment calls. She remembers him being very involved in investments and trading.  

Walters did not own a car or a home and had few personal possessions. Though he didn’t express reasons for his bare-necessities lifestyle, Belle said that she never heard Walters complain, and that happiness does not mean the same thing for everyone.  


Seven Percent of Fifth Graders Homeless  

A new study conducted on approximately 5,000 fifth grade students found that 7% of fifth graders and their families have experienced homelessness. For black fifth grade students, the statistic was 11%.  

Researchers from UCLA and the Rand Corp. analyzed data gathered from the 2004-05 and 2005-06 school years. The study included students from Birmingham, Ala.; Houston; and Los Angeles.  

The study also reveals that children who have experienced homelessness are significantly more likely to have emotional, behavioral or developmental issues, more likely to have witnessed violence, and more likely to have received mental health care.  

Students who the study classified as homeless had lived in cars, shelters or on the street. Dr. Tumaini R. Coker of Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA, the study’s lead author, said the report suggests that in a classroom of 28 fifth graders, two students would have been homeless at some point.These findings are reported in the American Journal of Public Health.  


Homeless Men Embark on Odyssey Adventure  

Despite suffering homelessness and the loss of the mentor who inspired them, 24 homeless men in Warsaw, Poland, are banding together to fulfill a common goal: to build a ship and sail it around the world.  

When Father Paleczny, a Catholic priest, set up a homeless shelter in Warsaw, he found a group of men uncertain of their future, lacking goals, and without a sense or purpose. Though he would talk with them every day, it was not until he was hospitalized for tuberculosis and was treated next to a sailor that he came up with his plan for a homeless Odyssey adventure.  

Today, about 25 of Warsaw’s homeless, men from Paleczny’s shelter, are busy at work constructing a ship made from inexpensive and donated materials, sponsorships, and Paleczny’s earnings — and they’re doing so in Paleczny’s memory. After suffering a heart attack in June, Paleczny died at age 50.  

The builders, however, remain inspired. Although not all of the original builders remain a part of the project, it has continued for approximately three years. Since the ship’s genesis, some men have left the area, and some have gotten work. Others have joined in, trying to make a new life out of prison or off the streets.  

When the ship is completed, 11 of the homeless builders and a professional captain will set sail, traveling on a vessel bearing their mentor’s name. Some of the workers say the voyage is a lifelong dream, while others are just happy to have been a part of the construction. The trip will last about a year and will demand the men continue working together as a team. 

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