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51% Show #1285

Franco Folini

It's been a tough winter... particularly if you are homeless. A tough economy combined with a brutal winter...we're taking a look at the issue of homelessness.

According to the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, more than 1.7 million Americans were homeless in 2013  Their average monthly income was less than $350, even though almost half of them did paid work during that month. Put those two facts together, then add the fact that it has been a ferociously cold winter in much of the country. That's a recipe for tragedy. This week, we're looking at homelessness, but let's start with one very cold city and what it's doing about its homeless population.

They're calling it a mega-winter in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The dangerous temperatures and windchills in Duluth have resulted in overcrowded homeless shelters ... and an outpouring of community support. In January Duluth Minnesota  became the first city in the state to establish a Homeless Bill of Rights. Advocates began pushing for the measure after 29 homeless people died in the city in 2013.  The measure passed unanimously by the City Council directs the Duluth Human Rights Commission to study homeless issues and recommend responses to help. 

Lisa Johnson of affiliate KUMD interviewed the head of the local shelter which started the petition for the bill just before the vote.  The original petition called not only for more city assistance, but more affordable housing and the decriminalization of homelessness.

Lisa Johnson hosts a morning show on Duluth NPR affiliate KUMD.

Coming up, first hand accounts of homelessness. The homeless may be sitting in the next seat in the classroom.  

Credit Chris Otey
Kyra Macfarlane

  27,000 students in Washington state are facing homelessness. Kyra Macfarlane is one of them. She has gone from house to motel and back dozens of times. There were times her family didn’t have enough to eat, didn’t have money to wash their clothes, couldn’t even afford toilet paper. Moving so many times made it hard for Kyra to learn and she almost dropped out until she got one last chance to make it. Chris Otey has this profile.

And finally, one last very personal discussion of living in poverty. We'll withhold her name, but her story is worth hearing. Until she was a teenager, this young woman lived in comfort. She had a home and she had no reason to assume that would ever change. What she didn’t see coming was the moment when her family lost everything.

That essay comes to us courtesy of the Open Orchard Productions.

That’s our show for this week.  Thanks to Katie Britton for production assistance.  Our theme music is Glow in the Dark by Kevin Bartlett. This show is a national production of Northeast Public Radio.  Our executive producer is Dr. Alan Chartock.

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