Roundup: Rural Homelessness

Rural homelessness • A secession movement in California • Federal broadband deployment plan gets the go-ahead • Decline in logging affects crime rate in Oregon • Rural veterans have greater needs but lower means to get treated • Comcast/Time Warner merger could be a wall between rural and urban content • Americans support limits on CO2 emissions

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National Public Radio looks at rural homelessness through the eyes of a New York high school student, Desiree Wieczorek. Wieczorek camped with her family in the woods for five months when their housing fell through. Sarah Harris reports:

For [five] months, the whole family lived in the woods in a small camper and a series of tents. There were 10 of them, Desiree says: Kenny, Missy, the grandparents, an aunt, four kids and baby Cameron, who was just a few months old.

"We had no running water, no electricity," Desiree says.

Their camp was highly organized, with specific spots for doing dishes and brushing teeth. They used an outhouse, cooked over the fire and even watched the occasional movie, running a laptop off the car battery.

With the help of a school counselor and community support, the family found housing last fall before winter weather set in. 

The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates there are 30,000 homeless people in rural America, but housing advocates say the number is higher. 

Rural areas of the country often lack the shelters and services like affordable housing and public transportation you find in cities. Instead, people pack into substandard houses, live in cars, double up with other families or bounce around from place to place. Or they live in camps outdoors, like Desiree did.

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Residents of Del Norte and Tehama counties in northern California will vote on whether to ask county supervisors to join a secession movement. The measure would ask county leaders to work with other counties to create a 51st state with neighboring counties. The last time a new state was carved out of an existing state was when West Virginia seceded from Virginia in 1862. Various folks in northern California have been talking about secession for more than a century.

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A federal plan to support the deployment of high-speed Internet service to rural areas got the green light from a Court of Appeals last week. The Federal Communications Commission will be able to move ahead with plans to convert some of its universal-service funds from subsidizing basic telephone service to supporting Internet deployment. The FCC approved the plan, known as Connect America, in 2011. Phone companies sued the FCC to block the change.

In April, the FCC approved another step in the overhaul of the universal service fund to support rural broadband, reports the New York Times.

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Rising crime rates and fewer law enforcement personnel are contributing to a crisis in rural Oregon, according to a series currently running in the Portland Oregonian. Les Zaitz has a three-part series on rural law enforcement in the Beaver State. Zaitz pins the blame for diminishing police resources on the decline of the logging industry:

An investigation by The Oregonian found the criminal justice system in many areas unable to effectively chase, charge and contain criminals. Law enforcement agencies have shrunk, whittled down by lost revenue, outdated tax bases and poor political decisions.

The virtual end of federal logging is the main culprit. As loggers and mills disappeared, so did timber taxes. Congress tried to help with special payments, but those have steadily declined.

Matters worsened under a recession that proved especially crushing in rural Oregon. Thousands of jobs and their incomes were eliminated, leaving some to resort to crime as a way to survive. Rural Oregon has yet to recover, making it challenging to boost local taxes.

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Rural veterans have greater health-care needs but are less likely to seek medical treatment, according to the Veterans Administration’s Office of Rural Health, the Monroe, Louisiana, News-Star reports.

Transportation is a problem, because rural veterans live farther from medical facilities. A Veterans Affairs regional manager says red tape is also a problem. Tommy Sims told the News Star:

“The main thing I hear from them is it’s just hard to get a hold of someone at the (Monroe) clinic. They’ve got this new multimillion dollar facility but the phone system isn’t worth a dime … It can be frustrating to talk to a doctor or a nurse. It doesn’t do anyone any good to have good doctors and nurses and a nice facility but you’re unable to pick up the phone and ask a question, make an appointment or order medicine.”

Veterans also have to wait too long to get medical appointments at the VA, Sims said.

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The proposed merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable will mean the “complete urbanization of a cable lineup,” says an executive of RFD-TV, a cable and satellite station owned by Rural Media Group.

The merger would consolidate one third of the nation under one cable company, said RFD-TV CFO and COO Steve Campione. Campione spoke on a podcast of “Tomorrow Will Be Televised”:

There is a real danger that there is a wall going to be built between our rural programing and urban centers that really don’t have any other outlet to receive this. And it’s very important information. Everybody eats. Everybody needs to know where their food comes from. Twenty five percent of our programming is agricultural related. We do six and a half hours every day of news. It’s not the ag news, it’s rural issue news, but a lot of it is ag, which you don’t really get to see in urban centers, unless there is a massive tornado or a massive drought. But they’re very big issues. The farm bill affects everyone in this country and it really gets a glancing pass in urban based media outlets.”

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A new poll release by Yale University shows the majority of Americans support limiting the amount of CO2 emissions from existing coal-fired power plants. Forty percent of carbon dioxide emissions in the country come from electric power plants. CO2 is a pollutant and thought to be the leading cause of global climate change.

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A literary journal that focuses on the work of women and girls with small-town and rural roots is accepting submissions for its third issue. The them of the next issue of "The Notebook" is "secrets, betrayals, lies and regrets." The publication will consider all genres of writing or digital imagery "as long as some aspect of the theme is related to the experience of rural or small town women or girls, either directly or indirectly," according to an announcement. Details about submitting work are available at  www.GrassrootsWomenProject.org.

 

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