UPDATED: Live from the mayoral homelessness forum

08.21.2007 by AndrĂ© Natta · → 2 Comments

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NOTE: Visit our Election ’07 site for more information on the candidates

We are attempting to provide some coverage of this evening’s forum on homelessness mentioned in our previous post.

We will update this post as needed.

The following candidates were present at the beginning of the debate:

Valerie Abbott
William Bell
Willie Hendrix
Bernard Kincaid
Barry Taylor

UPDATE: Please click READ MORE to see a summarization of the comments and questions from this evening’s forum.

5:34 p.m. UPDATE

Vickii Howell, editor-in-chief of Birmingham View, is serving as moderator for the event. She started the forum by reading asection of the report completed by the mayor’s task force on homelessness. The candidates were then asked to provide five minute “opening statements” to the audience (estimated number in audience – 70).

Valerie Abbott – homelessness was not first on agenda when I arrived on council. Did not get deeply involved in the issues. But have learned a great deal since arriving at city hall. Recognized that people are a few paychecks away from homelessness. Those with mental issues are the ones that people do not know what to do with. Would deal with housing as a part of the solution first (#1 priority) – find housing for them. Some people will not go where someone has control over them. Partnerships are the key to dealing with the issue. Committed to dealing with the solution. Pointed out the issue of public restrooms.

William Bell – pointed out ruling that people . Said that his district has been most impacted by homelessness issue. Greater outcry for solutions that would put them out of site. There is such a thing as human rights. Every individual should be treated equally. Pointed out First Light as an example of support for solutions. Tremendous hole with respect to serving those with mental problems. It is difficult for them to demonstrate their desire to be helped. Said that all candidates are qualified to deal with the issue. He stated that he was the best since he was the one that had served longest.

Willie Hendrix – grew up during the depression. Said he grew up in a subsistence form of living. Said that you must be taught before it is too late. He stated that he is stubborn and that people are stubborn in general. Just because people are hungry doesn’t mean that you have to give them something. He said that you must deal with the issue before it starts. He has worked with several organizations as a volunteer.

Bernard Kincaid – took credit for study (28 member task force). Chronic homelessness makes up 10% that take up 50% of the resources. but there are 648 chronically homelessness in the city (1/3). Both blessed and cursed in the city of Birmingham. Pointed out NIMBY (Not in my back yard) resistance met with in city’s northwest area. Pointed out proposed 142 bed facility. Also spoke about Changed Lives program – they would work and give a portion of their paychecks to the facility. This proposed solution would be paid for through community development block grant (CDBG) funding.

Barry Taylor – Spoke of his past growing up in the city. Spoke of the ability to create a partnership that would focus on the “lack ofs” – lack of education , incentives to go to work.

Questions were then asked to the candidates in attendance:

1. What are you going to do to revitalize neighborhoods to prevent homelessness in the first place?

Bell – Pointed out first of all that the city of Birmingham was mandated by the federal government to deal with homelessness. The government . Bell took a moment to call out Langford to members of the absent candidate’s campaign team for not attending the debate. Said we should take dilapidated housing and make it available to those that need it.

Hendrix – answered saying that agriculture is the solution to the problem. Says he is currently is a farmer himself.

Kincaid – Stated that the question as asked is the wrong one to ask. Pointed out that sometimes education and lack of opportunity contribute to homelessness, but not necessarily the neighborhoods. Government must be “open for business” to provide those opportunities to those that seek it. Talked about homelessness vs. chronic homelessness. Reiterated that the question as asked was a misstatement and that resources need to be made available.

Taylor – Create affordable housing, pointed out his personal experiences. Would create a partnership between business community, religious community and government. Said he would recruit businesses to have p

Abbott – Joked that there was not enough time to answer the question. Stated that the city demolishes hundreds of houses each year – they could be saved if we worked to saved them, provided opportunities to those that want them. Mentioned that 26% of city households make less than $15,000 a year. Joked that if she loses job and becomes homeless that she’d definitely become mentally ill.

Would you be willing to support a living minimum wage?

Hendrix – Continued to speak about self-sufficience. Did not answer the question.

Kincaid – Said he would support it if it was the law of the land or the law of the state. Pointed out the existence of the occupational tax as reason for his stipulation.

Taylor – Said he would support it vigorously.

Abbott – Said that she would support it if it is the state’s law.

Bell – Said that he would support a living wage regardless of whether or not the state passes it or not. Said that the mayor of the biggest city in the state has a powerful voice and should use it when he or she can.

What is your timetable to implement the commission as called for by the report? What would be your timetable to present budget to the city council?

Kincaid – Reported that $2 million of UDAG monies are available to implement the plan. Still working with the Firehouse Shelter to acquire property on Second Avenue (North?) Will be bringing to the city council the task force’s plan to be adopted.

Taylor – Would do it in a year.

Abbott – Would implement it as soon as possible. Said that we have so many housing communities near vacant in city (has 2 communities in her district). Asked why are there so many communities empty when there are so many people looking for places to live. Says that it is difficult to get answers at times to provide solutions.

Bell – Said he would do it as soon as possible. Said that the mayor is a leader and that he/she should make the tough decisions. Told audience that you have to move forward on the tough decisions.

Hendrix – Began to talk about teaching young people about the plan. Said it would take four years.

If your plan is to end homelessness and not manage homelessness why are the homeless being shifted?

Taylor – Said he’d find out why it was shifted. He wants to eliminate homelessness and crime. Would work vigorously to not shift but to end.

Abbott – Said that it may appear that way because there is more homeless than ever before. People are living in the parks and bushes and not aware that they’re there. If there is a formal program, she’s not aware of it. Believes it’s a result of the growing homeless population. Spoke of a homeless person that said they were getting beat up due to possible turf wars.

Bell – Asked if the audience has heard of homeless people living in the outlying communities. Birmingham is not the only place that has homeless people but the city has been targeted.

Hendrix – Returned to his belief that subsistence farming as a metaphor. Said that if we took away the food, the problem would move away.

Kincaid – Said that there is a perception that people are being moved and it is true to a degree. Pointed to ALDOT (state department of transportation) requirement that people have to be removed from beneath the highways. Funding was threatened to be removed and that people had to be removed.

Will you agree to support urban camp ordinances in the city of Birmingham?

Abbott – she is supportive of proposing an ordinance. She would like for alternatives to be developed in a way that would not be developed. Pointed out that resources are most available in downtown. As long as resources are downtown, they will be the focus.

Bell – Pointed out ruling in California that called for alternative housing to allow for implementation of urban housing ordinance. Did say he would support it.

Hendrix – Did not necessarily answer the question.

Kincaid – Said he would veto an ordinance if it criminalizes the homelessness. He would make sure that there were housing alternatives.

Taylor – Would support one. Would support a relocation area at the same time.

Will you have someone to deal with homelessness?

Taylor – Stated he would.

Kincaid – He said he currently does have someone on staff. Pointed out several initiatives that currently exist through the city’s community development department. Spoke about the fact that the funding is based on pre-1960 housing stock in existence in the city. Stated that existing housing should be saved and revitalized.

Hendrix – Said that he could handle the situation confidently. He would have an attorney on staff.

Bell – Pointed out that the federal government mandates the use of CDBG monies to deal with homelessness. He said that he would go outside of city hall to put together a solution.

Abbott – Yes. Said that she’d make sure that the person she hired would have it as their personal mission.

What would you do to insure compassion for the homeless by the police?

Kincaid – Said it would be “intolerable” if the homeless did not get the same respect that any other citizen of the city.

Hendrix – said that he believed that it was part of the department’s code.

Bell – said that you must have a proactive solution as well as a reactive solution. Would suggest sensitivity training for that issue and others.

Abbott – Said that she would conduct program similar to the program that exists with her current employer. Annual or semi-annual training would be an important factor in making sure that their respect was

Taylor – In addition to sensitivity training, stated he’d work with the police chief to hire people that are sensitive to the issue of homelessness.

How will you include the homeless in your plan to end homelessness?
Abbott – Said she believes that those that need services should have input in the process. There are several issues that need to be addressed. Those of us who are not homeless have no idea what they are going through.

Bell – Says that he goes to area shelters to find out what is needed from government. Must tap into people’s deepest needs. He said he would spend every waking hour to make sure that all of the city’s residents are served, “for the good of the city”.

Hendrix – Told audience to watch Henry V. Said he’d do perform a similar tactic to find out what’s going on.

Kincaid – Said to take a look at the title of the piece. He spoke of the adoption and implementation of the plan requiring a regional. Said he would ensure that he had participation in the mayor’s [his] plan.

Taylor – Said that he would work with them to get them some therapy. He said he would give them every opportunity to serve on the commission and would encourage others to get involved.

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Filed under: Alabama · Birmingham · Citywide · Election '07 · politics

2 comments
sampappy
sampappy

I was at the event as an uncommitted audience member who works with the homeless. Abbott was fine but not exciting. Kincaid made some good points but spent way too much time trying to take credit for a Commission that he was required to appoint. The most serious question I had is why Kincaid wants to give $2 million to a new group of churches from outside Birmingham ( Changing Lives) when the existing shelter at the Old Firehouse cannot raise the money they need for a new facilty. Why not give the $2 miilion to them- as the plan recommends? Bell had more fire in his presentation than any other time I have seen him speak. He made me want to give him a second look.

sampappy
sampappy

I was at the event as an uncommitted audience member who works with the homeless. Abbott was fine but not exciting. Kincaid made some good points but spent way too much time trying to take credit for a Commission that he was required to appoint. The most serious question I had is why Kincaid wants to give $2 million to a new group of churches from outside Birmingham ( Changing Lives) when the existing shelter at the Old Firehouse cannot raise the money they need for a new facilty. Why not give the $2 miilion to them- as the plan recommends? Bell had more fire in his presentation than any other time I have seen him speak. He made me want to give him a second look.