New Study Finds That 4.2 Million Kids Experience Homelessness Each Year

Posted on 27. Nov, 2017 by .


Taken from NPR:

Marquan Ellis was evicted from his home in Las Vegas, Nevada when he was 18.

His mother battled with a drug and gambling addiction while he stayed at his godmother’s house. But he couldn’t stay there forever.

He found his way to the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth where he enrolled in the independent living program.

He isn’t sure what he would have done if he hadn’t found that program: “I would have been on the street looking for someone to help, looking for my next meal, looking for my next shower, looking for my next place to sleep.”

Like Ellis, some 4.2 million young people experience unaccompanied homelessness in the course of a year, according to a new study from Chapin Hall a research center at the University of Chicago.

One in 30 teens experience some type of homelessness and it’s more common the older you get: one in 10 for young people aged 18 to 25. The study also found that African American youth are 82 percent more likely to experience homelessness.

Marquan was one of those young black men in Nevada, which has the highest rate of unsheltered youth in the country, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. This refers to people sleeping on the streets, in cars or in parks. Cities like San Francisco, Las Vegas and San Jose had high rates of unaccompanied youth that were unsheltered.

Young people often end up homeless because of family breakdown, abuse or abandonment and it’s a problem that isn’t properly addressed, says Arash Ghafoori, the executive director of the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth.

“We really need to dial back and focus more on prevention,” he says. “There’s certain subsets of homeless youth that really require culturally sensitive and specifically tailored services.”

The LGBTQ community is one of those communities; they are 120 percent more likely to experience youth homelessness than other people, according to the new report.

This population is often hidden, and this new study is a rare look at the scope of the problem; other takeaways include that these young adults often don’t show up for school, or frequently switch between schools. As a result, many don’t have high school diplomas.

“This is a stage in which young people are developing experiences and skills that will stay with them throughout their lives,” says Matthew Morton, a research fellow at Chapin Hall and the lead researcher on the report. “Every day of homelessness is a missed opportunity to support their healthy development and also their capacity to contribute to stronger communities and local economies.”

Schools are uniquely positioned to reach these populations — and some of the biggest school districts in the country are facing this problem too. In New York, new data showed that 110,000 students had no permanent place to sleep at night. The number is double what it was a decade ago.

The same goes for Texas where there are more than 113,000 000 homeless studentsand about 16,800 of those kids were unaccompanied by a legal guardian. Just this week, Texas Appleseed, a public service law center based in Austin, released a report summarizing nearly 100 interviews with young people who had experienced or were experiencing homelessness in Texas.

“Schools are at the front line of this issue to make sure all kids needs are met,” says Jeanne Stamp, the director of the Texas Homeless Education Office, a state program funded by the federal law that protects homeless youth. She trains homeless liaisons in Texas school districts that ensure homeless students have transportation, uniforms or school supplies, and they work to connect families to community resources such as food pantries.

It’s important for schools to be the one stable place for kids, where they can keep their friends and teachers, Stamp says.

“Children who move around a lot or live in poverty tend to not do well academically,” she says. “That instability really undermines their ability to learn.”homeless-students-e870f7206fef60b3cc006b44788c7f4deeafe256-s800-c85

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Pope Francis: Death Penalty is Contrary to Gospel

Posted on 27. Nov, 2017 by .


Taken from Catholic Legislative Network:

In his October 11 speech to the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, Pope Francis issued his strongest statement against the death penalty, calling it “contrary to the Gospel,” and “an inhumane measure that humiliates, in any way it is pursued, human dignity.”

The Council was gathered to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the release of the Catechism of the Catholic Church promulgated by Pope St. John Paul II.

The Holy Father made it known at the meeting that he is calling for the Catechism of the Catholic Church to be revised to reflect this new perspective on capital punishment.

“It is, of itself, contrary to the Gospel, because it is freely decided to suppress a human life that is always sacred,” he said. “In the final analysis, God alone is the true judge and guarantor.”

While allowing for the death penalty throughout its history, the Church has never been comfortable with the concept.  In fact, St. John Paul II had the second draft of the Catechism he commissioned revised by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) to strongly question the use of the death penalty in any circumstances.

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What Explains U.S. Mass Shootings? International Comparisons Suggest an Answer

Posted on 17. Nov, 2017 by .


When the world looks at the United States, it sees a land of exceptions: a time-tested if noisy democracy, a crusader in foreign policy, an exporter of beloved music and film.

But there is one quirk that consistently puzzles America’s fans and critics alike. Why, they ask, does it experience so many mass shootings?

Perhaps, some speculate, it is because American society is unusually violent. Or its racial divisions have frayed the bonds of society. Or its citizens lack proper mental care under a health care system that draws frequent derision abroad.

These explanations share one thing in common: Though seemingly sensible, all have been debunked by research on shootings elsewhere in the world. Instead, an ever-growing body of research consistently reaches the same conclusion.

The only variable that can explain the high rate of mass shootings in America is its astronomical number of guns.

Outside the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Tex., after a mass shooting on Sunday. Credit Callie Richmond for The New York Times

A Look at the Numbers

The top-line numbers suggest a correlation that, on further investigation, grows only clearer.

Americans make up about 4.4 percent of the global population but own 42 percent of the world’s guns. From 1966 to 2012, 31 percent of the gunmen in mass shootings worldwide were American, according to a 2015 study by Adam Lankford, a professor at the University of Alabama.

Adjusted for population, only Yemen has a higher rate of mass shootings among countries with more than 10 million people — a distinction Mr. Lankford urged to avoid outliers. Yemen has the world’s second-highest rate of gun ownership after the United States.

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Worldwide, Mr. Lankford found, a country’s rate of gun ownership correlated with the odds it would experience a mass shooting. This relationship held even when he excluded the United States, indicating that it could not be explained by some other factor particular to his home country. And it held when he controlled for homicide rates, suggesting that mass shootings were better explained by a society’s access to guns than by its baseline level of violence.

Factors That Don’t Correlate

If mental health made the difference, then data would show that Americans have more mental health problems than do people in other countries with fewer mass shootings. But the mental health care spending rate in the United States, the number of mental health professionals per capita and the rate of severe mental disorders are all in line with those of other wealthy countries.

A 2015 study estimated that only 4 percent of American gun deaths could be attributed to mental health issues. And Mr. Lankford, in an email, said countries with high suicide rates tended to have low rates of mass shootings — the opposite of what you would expect if mental health problems correlated with mass shootings.

Whether a population plays more or fewer video games also appears to have no impact. Americans are no more likely to play video games than people in any other developed country.

Racial diversity or other factors associated with social cohesion also show little correlation with gun deaths. Among European countries, there is little association between immigration or other diversity metrics and the rates of gun murders or mass shootings.

A Violent Country

America’s gun homicide rate was 33 per million people in 2009, far exceeding the average among developed countries. In Canada and Britain, it was 5 per million and 0.7 per million, respectively, which also corresponds with differences in gun ownership.

Americans sometimes see this as an expression of deeper problems with crime, a notion ingrained, in part, by a series of films portraying urban gang violence in the early 1990s. But the United States is not actually more prone to crime than other developed countries, according to a landmark 1999 study by Franklin E. Zimring and Gordon Hawkins of the University of California, Berkeley.

Rather, they found, in data that has since been repeatedly confirmed, that American crime is simply more lethal. A New Yorker is just as likely to be robbed as a Londoner, for instance, but the New Yorker is 54 times more likely to be killed in the process.

They concluded that the discrepancy, like so many other anomalies of American violence, came down to guns.

More gun ownership corresponds with more gun murders across virtually every axis: among developed countries, among American states, among American towns and cities and when controlling for crime rates. And gun control legislation tends to reduce gun murders, according to a recent analysis of 130 studies from 10 countries.

This suggests that the guns themselves cause the violence.

An investigator among thousands of personal items left behind after a gunman opened fire in Las Vegas last month. CreditJohn Locher/Associated Press

Comparisons in Other Societies

Skeptics of gun control sometimes point to a 2016 study. From 2000 and 2014, it found, the United States death rate by mass shooting was 1.5 per one million people. The rate was 1.7 in Switzerland and 3.4 in Finland, suggesting American mass shootings were not actually so common.

But the same study found that the United States had 133 mass shootings. Finland had only two, which killed 18 people, and Switzerland had one, which killed 14. In short, isolated incidents. So while mass shootings can happen anywhere, they are only a matter of routine in the United States.

As with any crime, the underlying risk is impossible to fully erase. Any individual can snap or become entranced by a violent ideology. What is different is the likelihood that this will lead to mass murder.

In China, about a dozen seemingly random attacks on schoolchildren killed 25 people between 2010 and 2012. Most used knives; none used a gun.

By contrast, in this same window, the United States experienced five of its deadliest mass shootings, which killed 78 people. Scaled by population, the American attacks were 12 times as deadly.

Beyond the Statistics

In 2013, American gun-related deaths included 21,175 suicides, 11,208 homicides and 505 deaths caused by an accidental discharge. That same year in Japan, a country with one-third America’s population, guns were involved in only 13 deaths.

This means an American is about 300 times more likely to die by gun homicide or accident than a Japanese person. America’s gun ownership rate is 150 times as high as Japan’s. That gap between 150 and 300 shows that gun ownership statistics alone do not explain what makes America different.

The United States also has some of the weakest controls over who may buy a gun and what sorts of guns may be owned.

Switzerland has the second-highest gun ownership rate of any developed country, about half that of the United States. Its gun homicide rate in 2004 was 7.7 per million people — unusually high, in keeping with the relationship between gun ownership and murders, but still a fraction of the rate in the United States.

Swiss gun laws are more stringent, setting a higher bar for securing and keeping a license, for selling guns and for the types of guns that can be owned. Such laws reflect more than just tighter restrictions. They imply a different way of thinking about guns, as something that citizens must affirmatively earn the right to own.

 A vigil after the Las Vegas attack. CreditHilary Swift for The New York Times

The Difference Is Culture

The United States is one of only three countries, along with Mexico and Guatemala, that begin with the opposite assumption: that people have an inherent right to own guns.

The main reason American regulation of gun ownership is so weak may be the fact that the trade-offs are simply given a different weight in the United States than they are anywhere else.

After Britain had a mass shooting in 1987, the country instituted strict gun control laws. So did Australia after a 1996 shooting. But the United States has repeatedly faced the same calculus and determined that relatively unregulated gun ownership is worth the cost to society.

That choice, more than any statistic or regulation, is what most sets the United States apart.

“In retrospect Sandy Hook marked the end of the US gun control debate,” Dan Hodges, a British journalist, wrote in a post on Twitter two years ago, referring to the 2012 attack that killed 20 young students at an elementary school in Connecticut. “Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.”

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Posted on 02. Nov, 2017 by .


Just over a year ago our Sisters were murdered in Durant, Mississippi. Rodney Earl Sanders, a man who had been temporarily living across the street from the two, was arrested and charged with their brutal deaths. No motive has been given to date.2017-10-16

Sister Margaret M. Held, a School Sister of St. Francis, and Sister  Paula J. Merrill, a Sister of Charity of Nazareth, were members of our religious communities.  They were beloved and deeply committed nurse practitioners serving some of the poorest children and families in the country. They believed in the sacredness of life. In the wake of our unspeakable loss, and in light of the five executions scheduled this month, it has become even more important that we renew our call to end the death penalty.

When we heard the tragic news last year, we immediately recognized the need to reiterate our beliefs as women of faith, that we value ALL life. We knew how Sisters Margaret and Paula would have responded to such a tragedy. October provides an especially opportune time to celebrate their lives by renewing our call for an end to the death penalty: October 10th marks the 15th annual celebration of World Day Against the Death Penalty, and in the Catholic Church, October is known as “Respect Life Month.”

This year’s World Day Against the Death Penalty theme highlights the connection between the death penalty and poverty, and is especially fitting. Our Sisters committed their lives to serving those living in poverty and vulnerable situations. The community health clinic where Sisters Margaret and Paula worked is located in the seventh poorest county in the country.  Mississippi as a whole, represents the poorest state in the nation, with over 20% of the population living in poverty.

These women of faith saw firsthand the realities of poverty every day in their clinic. They understood the precarious ways poverty intersects with the criminal justice system.  Rather than working to heal the harm created by violence, the criminal justice system–including the death penalty–disproportionately penalizes those living in poverty.

Poverty is perhaps the single most significant factor to determine whether or not someone will receive a death sentence. Nationally, almost all death row inmates are unable to afford their own attorney at trial. Public defenders often find themselves with unmanageable caseloads and few resources. This often results in poorly handled cases where mitigating factors such as severe mental illness, intellectual disability, or childhood abuse and trauma are not presented.

The five executions slated for this month are examples of the perilous ways poverty can influence the death penalty. Among these five individuals are claims of innocence, as well as situations of poor counsel, mental and intellectual impairment, and childhood trauma.

As we mourn the loss of Sister Margaret and Sister Paula, we know the great pain and suffering acts of violence cause for victims and their families. We also know that the death penalty will not allow us to heal from the harm we have experienced. The death penalty denies our call to be a people of life and is not restorative. It violates the God-given dignity of the human person and favors vengeance over reconciliation and transformation. This is why we are working to heal the harm done and stop perpetuating the cycle of violence with more killing.

We know too well the burden that death of any kind leaves in its wake.

The lives of Sisters Margaret and Paula embolden us to make justice and mercy meet. Their lives and work demonstrated what the Catholic Church calls a “preferential option for the poor and vulnerable.”  Join us in following their dedication to caring for and serving others, to holding all life sacred, by ending the death penalty.

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‘An amazing honor’ for an amazing RGV nun

Posted on 13. Oct, 2017 by .


She has done it again.

Sister Norma Pimentel, the Rio Grande Valley’s uber-ambassador, met last week at the Vatican with Pope Francis to help kick off a new global campaign to assist immigrants and refugees.

That the world leader of the Roman Catholic Church hand picked our Sister Norma is no coincidence. She truly is blessed and she has blessed us all with her unending humanitarian spirit and her strive to show us all how we should treat one another, regardless of religion, age, color, income and government papers.

It seems as though her and Pope Francis are becoming old friends as she has now met with the pontiff in person when he visited the United States and on TV when he personally acknowledged her work via closed circuit TV.

As always, Sister Norma displayed humility and did not announce the trip until after she met with Pope Francis on Wednesday along with 20 refugees from Syria, Africa, Cuba and Ethiopia.

“They’re asking for protection and they’re asking to be safe,” Sister Norma told Monitor Reporter Naxiely Lopez-Puente via phone.

As director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, she was invited to tell about the thousands of immigrants that her organization has helped at the Humanitarian Respite Center at Sacred Heart in downtown McAllen, which she helped to open after a flood of immigrants began coming through our region in 2014 upon being released by U.S. federal immigration authorities.

Women late in their pregnancies, toting babies and without a dime to their name, have found their way to the center’s doors; eating warm chicken soup and gaining strength in the welcoming applause and smiles of the many volunteers there.

Leading them all has been Sister Norma, who insists that all refugees are greeted with the utmost respect, like visiting family. And it is that attitude that has made her a sister to us all.

We hope that her tales will help to inspire other refugees and those opening refugee centers in other countries as part of the Vatican’s new two-year campaign called “Share the Journey.” Spearheaded by the Vatican’s Caritas charity, this program aims to build bridges of understanding and hospitality toward the displaced.

“This is simply to help us understand not to be afraid of immigrants, to understand their journey and see what your role is in helping them,” Sister Norma told Lopez. “It’s definitely an amazing honor to be recognized and be picked among many people doing such wonderful work.”

We are honored to have Sister Norma living within our Valley.

At a time when our nation is so bitterly divided on the issue of immigration, this nun cuts to the chase and stays out of the political fray by addressing the very essence of who we, as humans, and why we are put on this Earth: To help one another.

We hope and we believe her work will temper this division and mellow us all to try to better understand one another.

And so on this Sunday, a day when many give thanks, we give thanks for Sister Norma for helping to put the plight of so many who have crossed through South Texas on journeys of hope and even salvation. We hope her stories will help to guide our political leaders as they search for a way to reform our nation’s policies to better accommodate and fairly recognize those who could contribute and add to our American society.

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