House The Homeless, Inc.
P.O. Box 2312
Austin, Tx 78768-2312
HOUSE THE HOMELESS, INC.
In Unity There is Strength,Richard R. Troxell House the Homeless- President National Coalition for the Homeless- Board Member
Coming soon: UniversalLivingWage.com - LOOK FOR IT!Homeless Celebrate Flag Day
Jerry, left, and Carol, who both requested their last names not be released, sell the new newspaper, The Austin Advocate (formerly the Austin Homeless Advocate). The Austin homeless will benefit from the proceeds and jobs the paper provides.
Donnie Andrews has returned to the streets of South Austin again since leaving Houston two weeks ago.
After graduating from college 20 years ago, he played professional basketball overseas. But a drug addiction that he cured after returning to the United States left him homeless.
"I lost everything---my job, my wife and my kids," Andrews said. "I spent time in and out of jail, until I finally made a choice to stay clean. And then, I came back to Austin because it's a great city, even if I can't afford an apartment here, yet."
Andrews, along with about 30 other members of Austin's homeless community, celebrated Flag Day Wednesday afternoon by distributing issues of The Austin Advocate along 6th street. Flag Day, which was declared a National holiday by President Truman in 1949, celebrates the history and symbolism of the American flag.
The Austin Advocate, a bimonthly newspaper addressing issues of Austin's homeless community, is written mainly by homeless or formerly homeless people.
"What could be more American than spending Flag Day distributing flags and newspapers," said Richard Troxell, president of House the Homeless, Inc., a local group which helped develop The Austin Advocate.
The vendors, who retrieve their first 10 papers free and are charged 25 cents for each additional issue, request a $1 donation for each paper they distribute. Most profits to the paper are used for printing costs, which average about 10 cents per issue.
"We're not trying to make huge profits or compete with other papers," said Kevin Bersett, who works for The Austin Advocate and is a member of Volunteer In Service to America, a part of AmeriCorps. "Our main goal is allow the homeless community to come together and provide a forum where their voices can be heard."
Many who attended for the Universal Living Wage, which demands that employers pay $10.60 minimum hourly wage, calculated by Troxell to be hourly rate needed to rent an efficiency apartment in Austin.
The Austin City Council has agreed to pay its employees the $10.60 wage. This living wage is currently being demanded by members of The University Staff Association, a UT group that represents the concerns of UT staff, Troxell said.
Most vendors reported distributing about five papers during the two-hour event, but said that the goal of the event was to raise awareness about the homeless rather than sell papers.
"I am not a bad person, I only made bad choices," said Andrews. "This is a chance to show people that most of us are trying to get back on our feet again."
House the Homeless Inc. is a founding member of the Austin Living Wage Coalition. It has also set the standard for the acceptable base income levels for the lowest wage necessary to access housing in every city across America.
It is the position of House the Homeless that all people should receive a fair living wage. Therefore, the current City Council should likewise receive a Universal Living Wage. Efforts to attach the raises to a meaningful index are appropriate just as we urge indexing for the least among us to the cost of housing.
The council created a Blue Ribbon Income Equity Task Force headed by Ray Marshall to look at income inequities for the poorest among us. The report specifically sites the Universal Living Wage formula in that no one should spend more than 30% of their income on housing.
Finally, the Austin City Council, Travis County Commissioner's Court and the City of Rollingwood have now all endorsed the Universal Living Wage campaign. The City of Austin and Travis County Commissioner's Court endorsed under Enlightened Markets, which means that while they do not quite pay the least of their employees $10.60 an hour they do currently pay them $10.00 an hour and provide healthcare benefits which equates to the same thing.Richard Troxell House The Homeless Inc Austin
Police can enforce rest of rule aimed at homeless
By Leah Quin, Austin-American Statesman Staff
A Travis County magistrate upheld most of Austin's no-camping ordinance Tuesday but found that a key part of it, banning sleeping in public, is unconstitutional.
Magistrate Jim Coronado's ruling means that police should probably not arrest people simply for sleeping in parks or other public places, said Assistant City Attorney Fred Hawkins. However, other parts of the ordinance that prohibit camping-related activities, such as storing personal belongings or pitching tents and other temporary shelters, can still be enforced.
Although it doesn't mention homeless people specifically, the no-camping ordinance was created to address concerns about transients living in open areas downtown and in parks and greenbelts.
The mixed ruling---which may still be appealed or overruled---initially drew cheers from about 50 homeless people and their supporters who attended the hearing, but later response was tempered.
"I feel like we're making inroads," said Christopher Standage, whose several tickets for public camping were the basis of the court action. "It's a start. It's understanding that this (sleeping) is a basic human need."
Richard Troxell, president of the advocacy group House the Homeless, was less subdued. "We're elated," said Troxell, who pumped his fist in the air upon hearing Coronado's decision. "The judge found the most damaging piece of this ordinance is unconstitutional."
The findings follow nine months of weekly argument in the case, which landed in Coronado's court after nearly four years of litigation at the municipal, district and state appellate levels.
Standage and another homeless man, Christopher Lyons, were ticketed for violating the city's ban on sleeping and living in doorways, alleys, streets or parks. Before the City Council passed the controversial ban in 1996 with a 4-3 vote, opponents had argued that it violated constitutional rights--- an argument that Cecilia Wood, a lawyer and an advocate for homeless people, took up while representing Standage and Lyons.
Coronado---appointed as district court magistrate in 1991 to handle preliminary hearings, plea bargains, sentencings and other "nuts-and-bolts" court proceedings ---has listened to hours of legal argument since last July, after the Third Court of Appeals asked Travis County to conduct a full hearing on the matter.
Tuesday, he said that arresting someone for sleeping violates a person's right to due process because the wording is so vague it could encourage police to enforce the law against only certain people.
"In particular, it fails to provide any standard for an officer to discern whether one is camping in public or taking an innocent nap in a public place," Coronado said, reading his ruling aloud in court.
Hawkins and Travis County prosecutor Bryan Case, both of whom defended the ordinance, said the judge's decision probably won't have much practical effect. Most parks have nighttime curfews, and sleeping in the doorways of privately-owned businesses or public thoroughfares would violate other laws. Besides, Hawkins said, the ordinance asks police to consider all the circumstances of a person living outdoors, which isn't restricted to sleeping."This just makes it clear that sleeping can't be considered by itself," Hawkins said. He will talk with his superiors about future action, such as an appeal.
The ruling appears to put the ball back in the City Council's court, Troxell said. After Tuesday's hearing, he stood outside the courthouse annex, inviting all present to speak about the issue at Thursday's City Council meeting. "We're hoping common sense will come to all lawmakers, and that they start addressing the root causes of homelessness," Troxell said.
At least one council member said the decision means that the ordinance should be re-examined. "It raises a whole set of new questions," Council Member Beverly Griffith said. "In light of this ruling, we are going to need to haul out the whole ordinance with our legal staff advising us."