Two Texas police officers were recently suspended without pay after an internal affairs investigation uncovered that they had held a competition amongst themselves to see which officer could confiscate the most cardboard signs from homeless individuals in Midland, their area of jurisdiction. Although the officers were suspended due to the fact that panhandling does not actually violate any city laws, they were only relieved of their duties for three days.
Midland Police Chief Price Robinson explained that the officers received a just punishment, and that the situation was made clear to the rest of the staff.
“We want to respect people, no matter who they are — homeless, whatever,” Robinson said. "The situation’s been dealt with. Those officers understand"
The officers Robinson is referencing are Derek Hester and Daniel Zoelzer, both of whom were found in possession of about ten cardboard signs that they had confiscated from individuals throughout the city over the course of about two weeks. According to the Dallas News, Midland has a population of about 300 homeless individuals.
Hester and Zoelzer both claimed that they confiscated the signs after issuing criminal trespass warnings, but there are no police records of such warnings being given to homeless people in Midland during 2013. Vice reports that the majority of the signs confiscated by the officers were innocuous pleas for support, such as one that read, “Anything helps, God bless.”
Although many have argued that Hester and Zoelzer deserved a stricter punishment, the two remain active on the Midland Police force.
Self-proclaimed pro-marijuana activist Mark Roen posted a Youtube video Thursday bragging about arriving at a food bank in his limo and hauling home free supplies.
Roen, also known as “Bong Rip”, admitted that his actions may not be “100 percent morally correct” but that his efforts have exposed how the homeless supposedly exploit the Huntington Beach charity system.
"Look at me, dressed...nicely shaven, hair washed. The lady's asking me if I'm homeless,” Roen said in his video. “I had to say yes. I wasn't really prepared for the whole scam."
The Youtube entertainer added that he lives in his music studio, his limo and occasionally on his parents’ couch. Technically, Roen argued, he is homeless.
Roen also defended his actions by claiming to expose the high sodium products given to the homeless by an unspecified church-run food bank.
In response to the tasteless video, executive director of Someone Cares, a soup kitchen in Costa Mesa, said it was disheartening to see someone like Roen make fun of a person’s unfortunate position.
Lt. Mitch O’Brien of the Huntington Beach Police Department said that while lying to a food bank is disrespectful and rude, Roen technically didn’t commit a crime.
Roen reported that he will return to the food bank Thursday to live stream himself taking food from the kitchen.
Michigan police officers fired 47 shots at a homeless man armed only with a pocket knife. Despite 11 of these shots striking the man and leading to his death, the six law enforcement officials involved in the incident are not going to face any charges.
The incident took place on July 1, 2012 after Milton Hall, a 49-year-old homeless man, was accused of stealing a cup of coffee in a convenience store. When officers arrived on the scene, Hall was still in the parking lot. That’s when a confrontation began, and the officers fired their fatal shots.
Hall’s mother subsequently filed a wrongful death suit, which was investigated by both the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI. Both organizations claimed that, despite the overwhelming amount of video evidence from civilian cell phones and police dashboard cameras, the officers did not act with excessive force.
“After a thorough investigation, federal authorities have determined that this tragic event does not present sufficient evidence of willful misconduct to lead a federal criminal prosecution of the police officers involved,” a joint statement released by the agencies reads, according to Raw Story.
According to MLive, Hall had a history of mental illness and may have posed a threat to the officers. The federal investigation report noted that the officers’ reports were also consistent with what occurred at the scene of the incident.
“In these reports, the officers who discharged their weapons explained that they did so because they believed Hall posed an imminent threat to the officers’ safety,” the report reads, “Even if the officers were mistaken in their assessment of the threat posed by Hall, this would not establish that the officers acted willfully, or with an unlawful intent, when using deadly force against Hall.”
The unfortunate incident involving Hall has brought many members of the Saginaw, Michigan community together to mourn the man’s loss and better prepare for future interactions with local law enforcement agencies.
People will do lots of things for their beloved animals, and for one California family, the decision to be homeless was easy to make if it meant not giving up their cherished dog.
The Devia family of Walnut Creek has Camilla, a lab mix, and Rocco, a pit bull, and they claim that they can’t find a place to live because most landlords are threatened by a pit bull.
“When landlords see Camilla, they have no problem with her,” said Carol Devia. “Everybody will take her. But as soon as they see Rocco, they say ‘Oh no.’”
Rather than give their beloved dog to a shelter, Carol Devia, her husband Peter, and their two sons Leandro and Christoffer have opted to live out of their car for the last year while they struggle to find a home.
“I can’t find a place unless I give up my dog, and everyone tells me to, but I can’t do that,” said Carol to ABC News. “We’ve had Camilla her whole life and Rocco her whole life.”
Carol and her husband both work jobs at night, but they largely live out of their vehicle, opting to plug a crock pot into the car’s cigarette lighter and go to places that have WiFi so they can stay connected.
“It was hard in the beginning but then you kind of consign yourself to it and say okay,” Devia said. “I’m alive, I’m working. I hit bottom, so now I’ve been there and now the only place I can go is up.”
Pit bull advocacy group BAD RAP says that this issue is unfortunately not uncommon for owners of this breed of dog, and they suggest that these people reach out to rescue organizations if situations take a turn for the worse.
In the United States, there are ads depicting lottery winners lounging in enormous pools, thinking about things that they never could have considered before they won the lottery. The idea behind the ads is to encourage citizens to buy lottery tickets by showing them that they can indulge in whatever self-serving activities they want if their money is limitless.
In Hungary, a lottery winner has an extremely different idea of how he is going to spend his winnings.
The winner, 55-year-old László Andraschek, was awarded the largest lottery sum ever recorded in the country at a total of 630 million Hungarian forint (around 2.7 million USD). The man has claimed that the majority of his money is going to be used to set up a foundation for abused women and recovering drug addicts.
The reason Andraschek is going to use the money for such a cause is because he won the lottery ticket while he was homeless. According to Metro, he was on his way to a workshop for recovering alcoholics in Budapest when he used his last spare change to purchase the lottery ticket.
In addition to setting up the foundation, Andraschek has already purchased a car for his children and repaid the debts he owed his family.
“When the car salesman asked me how much I would be willing to spend I held up three fingers. As I had arrived on a bike he assumed this meant 300,000 forints, but actually I meant 3 million,” Andraschek said.
Andraschek’s story is incredible, but there are tons of lottery winners around the world that spend their winnings in a similarly philanthropic way.
According to ABC News, the 2010 winner of Texas’ then-largest lottery award of $144 million vowed to give 60 percent of all his winnings to charity.
It's Illegal For A Homeless Person To Cover Up With a Blanket in Pensacola, and People Are Not Happy About It
An ordinance was recently passed in Pensacola, Fla., that makes it illegal for homeless people to cover themselves with blankets or newspapers, and with the recent polar vortex slamming the country, many people are outraged that homeless people in the city are being forced to freeze in the extreme temperatures.
As noted by Forward Progressive, the “camping ordinance” was passed just this past summer, and now that winter has hit, many are noting how extreme and cruel this ordinance is towards people living on the streets.
Just last month, locals asked Pensacola City Council to repeal sections of the camping ordinance that negatively affected homeless people. Jeremy Bosso was one of those who stood up and pleaded with the council to look at the issue from a humanitarian standpoint.
“Good evening, City Council,” said Bosso in his appeal. "I just wanted to bring to your attention, WEAR ABC News posted a sort of public service announcement, if you will, just reminding people with this cute little meme on their Facebook page. It’s a cute little dog, and it says, ‘If it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for them. Please bring your pets inside. Please share to get out this message.’ I would just like to say that I fully agree with this, that if it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your pets. But I would also like to ask that the City Council extend that same courtesy to our fellow human beings. The temperatures have reached the teens recently. It’s expected to be a hard freeze tonight. And because of that, I’d like to ask the Council to respectfully reconsider the “camping” ordinance that I believe several other people have mentioned, that does prohibit sleeping with a blanket, a sleeping bag. I think we should extend that courtesy to our fellow humans. I mean, we do it for the animals, and I think we should respect life at all stages.”
Author, human rights activist, and former priest Father Nathan Monk started a petition, and it has already received over 7,000 signatures. The petition, which is directed at Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward, asks that the no-blankets ordinance be repealed.
Dr. Jim Withers Of Operation Safety Net Spent 22 Years Dressed Like A Homeless Person To Treat People On The Street
To be able to adequately treat the homeless, Dr. Jim Withers decided he had to do something different.
"Literally, I started dressing like a homeless person and sneaking out at night with a guy who used to be homeless. As far as why, that had a lot more to do with my concern for the way we treated other people,” Withers told The Huffington Post.
Known in Pittsburgh as the "street doctor," Dr. Withers began his outreach work with the homeless in 1992. He and Mike Sallows, a former homeless man, would take to the streets at night dressed as homeless men with a backpack full of medicine, treating those living in alleys and under the bridges of the city. They offered free check-ups, over the counter medications and treatments.
Sallows had two rules for Dr. Withers while tagging along with him at night: don't dress like a doctor, and don't do anything stupid, NationSwell states.
What started as two people offering free medical care has since grown. Four nights a week medical students and volunteers go out and treat the homeless, as part of Wither's non-profit Operation Safety Net -- one of the nation's first full-time street medicine programs, according to Twisted Sifter.
Filmmaker Julie Sokolow followed Withers and his team of volunteers for two days and captured their work in a new short film titled "Making House Calls, To People Without Homes." The film premiered on NationSwell earlier this week.
Dr. Withers work has made a global impact.
More than 90 countries have since developed similar street medicine programs, which Dr. Withers told The Huffington Post is an incredible mark of hope for the future of community health care.
After the death of Joseph John White, a 50-year-old homeless man found dead in the cold Saturday night behind a Safeway store in Hayward, Calif., White’s family as well as community activists want to know why dozens of homeless people must die on the streets every year in one of America’s most affluent areas.
The median household income in Alameda County, at $70,821, is 133 percent of the national average and 115 percent of California’s average, yet the city of Hayward has no homeless shelter for single men.
"Could someone give me the acceptable 'collateral damage' figure for death on the street or just plain human misery before we take action?" said Betty DeForest, a community activist who has led a long campaign to open just such a shelter in the city, in an e-mail to city officials, after learning of White’s death.
In even wealthier Santa Clara County, to the south and home to many of Silicon Valley’s most thriving technology firms, 48 homeless people have died on the streets in 2013. The median household income in that county was almost $90,000 for the years 2007 through 2011.
Alameda County had more than 4,200 homeless people in a recent survey, and 60 percent of those sleep on the streets on a nightly basis.
Santa Clara County has more than 7,600 homeless.
A recent cold spell saw four homeless men die on the streets of Santa Clara County between Thanksgiving and December 5, each succumbing to hypothermia from sleeping outdoors without adequate blankets or outerwear.
Two others, including White (pictured, with his mother), died in Alameda County. The cause of White’s death is still under investigation, but his family members say he was beaten by a group of other men who stripped him of the coat that his sister had given him just two days earlier, and left him in the cold.
"He deserves to be recognized for the person he was. He wasn't just homeless, he was my brother,” Theresa Long, the homeless man’s sister, told KTVU News.
White’s mother Mary Archuleta said that he would sometimes stay with her, but would leave because he didn’t want to feel like “a burden.”
A Santa Clara County homeless-advocacy group, EHC LifeBuilders, recently held a ceremony to memorialize the 48 dead in that county.
"It's heartbreaking to think that every name represents a real person whose life came to an end due to the harsh reality of living on the street," said Jenny Niklaus, the group’s CEO. "This is unacceptable. We can and must do better as a community."
SOURCES: KTVU News, San Jose Mercury News (2), U.S. Census Bureau (2) (3)
Homeless Brazilian man Fabio Beraldo Rigol was discovered sleeping in the same tomb as his dead friend, a habit he had kept up for the past 13 years.
The 47-year-old was found when locals noticed he kept disappearing into the Brotas cemetery in Sau Paulo. He chose to sleep in a large crypt with six burial chambers, one of which held his dead friend.
Rigol recalled that it was raining heavily the night he found the cemetery, and he had remained in the shelter of the tomb.
“I do remember that I asked permission to enter the place,” Rigol said. “After all, it’s wrong for anyone to break into a house.”
During the day, Rigol walks the streets because the graveyard is lonely. He claims not to have seen any spirits and isn’t afraid of sleeping next to a corpse.
“I’m not afraid of the dead,” he said. “I’m more afraid of the living.”
Rigol, a former office worker, became homeless when his family drove him out over drug abuse. He turned to drugs after loosing his job at a company that went bankrupt.
A high school student in Pennsylvania was suspended after dressing up as a homeless man for a class assignment.
Michael Bodomov, 17, made a convincing homeless man even though his drama class assignment went awry. The class participants at Mount Lebanon High School outside of Pittsburgh were assigned to create a character and be that character for an entire day. Bodomov, who reportedly is considering going to college for theater, decided to create a homeless character. He’s apparently a good actor, because school officials had no idea it was him.
Bodomov dressed in layers of coats, smeared ink on his face, wore fingerless gloves, and had plastic bags for socks. His mother reportedly dropped him off at school early, before the main entrance was open, so he tried to get in the side one. A school official questioned him, and he at first tried to stay in character, but when they refused to let him in, he tried to tell them he was a student. They still didn’t buy it.
"At one point, I think I said, 'I might be a student here,'" he told the AP, and the official apparently responded, "No, you can't be. You look like you're 30 and you haven't showered in 10 days."
"It's not like this entire time I wasn't trying to let them know I was a student," said Bodomov. "It was pretty funny to me."
The police were eventually called, and once it was discovered that the homeless man was in fact Bodomov, he was suspended for insubordination.
Bodomov thinks that the school overreacted, but his mother actually agrees with the suspension, saying that it’s comforting to know the school is so concerned with the safety of the students.