Homelessness

People experiencing homelessness are already a vulnerable population, and even more so during a global pandemic.

Oklahoma City nonprofits are ramping up street outreach and coordinating teams to deliver food, supplies and COVID-19 education materials to people who are unsheltered. Kinsey Crocker, the communications director for The Homeless Alliance, says the outreach efforts are critical.

Homelessness is a vexing national problem, but nearly half of the country's unsheltered homeless live in one state: California.

When the icy wind blows off the Spokane River, the temperature can routinely plunge below zero on this city's worn streets near downtown and the I-90 freeway. Trying to survive without shelter out here is almost impossible.

Just ask Mariah Hodges.

"The first night I came here I was almost frozen to the sidewalk," Hodges says.

Kateleigh Mills / KOSU

The U.S. Census helps determine how much federal aid each state gets, but it’s not the only population count that happens. Every year, in late January, volunteers spread out across Oklahoma City to find people who often don’t want to be counted.

Charles Gibson pushes a shopping cart toward his soggy tent on a tenuous patch of a grassy drainage ditch along a bike trail in Santa Rosa, Calif. He's one of nearly 200 people living in a sprawling camp here that has sprung up along a popular recreation corridor. It's a community, Gibson says, that often feels caught between opposing forces who aren't always listening.

"I mean, they [local officials] want us to be able to govern ourselves, but they are not giving us the tools we need," Gibson says. "They don't want you hiding, but they don't want you in their face, you know?"

It's 5 a.m., and the thermostat reads 44 degrees. Cars round the bend of an off-ramp of state Route 24 in northern Oakland, Calif., spraying bands of light across Norm Ciha and his neighbors. They wear headlamps so they can see in the dark as they gather their belongings: tents, clothes, cooking gear, carts piled with blankets, children's shoes and, in one case, a set of golf clubs.

As the homelessness crisis in California grows more acute, Gov. Gavin Newsom is planning to ask lawmakers for $1.4 billion to pay monthly rents, build more shelters and provide treatment to those struggling with finding long-term housing, the governor's office announced on Wednesday.

A new homeless shelter in Seattle is exclusively serving Native Americans, Alaska Natives and Pacific Islanders. It's one of the first facilities of its kind in the country helping to house the more than 1,000 Native people in the city experiencing homelessness.

Eagle Village sits near Seattle's industrial district south of downtown. It's pressed up against railroad tracks and next to a large bus terminal. Gary Fisher has lived here about a month after bouncing around other shelters in the city for three years.

Updated at 1:40 p.m ET

The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear an appeal in a case originating from Boise, Idaho, that would have made it a crime to camp and sleep in public spaces.

The decision to let a ruling from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals stand is a setback for states and local governments in much of the West that are grappling with widespread homelessness by designing laws to regulate makeshift encampments on sidewalks and parks.

The Trump Administration has named its choice to lead the federal office on homelessness: Robert Marbut, a well-known consultant to cities trying to tackle the issue.

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