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These renovated motels will help homeless veterans start new lives.

L.A. is creating 500 new housing units with this smart plan.

These renovated motels will help homeless veterans start new lives.

In 2015, Los Angeles declared a state of emergency because of their "unprecedented and growing homelessness crisis."

Since then, L.A. city and county agencies have executed a series of actions, and while homelessness overall has had a slight rise in 2016 — not quite 6% over 2015 figures — the number of veterans without homes has gone down 30%, meaning over 1,200 have obtained places to live.

L.A.'s most recent undertaking is different, though: The city will convert old motels into 500 permanent apartments for veterans who are homeless.

If everything goes according to plan, the 500 units, built with help from Step Up, will be available for veterans to move into by January 2017. Coupled with the 300 units the city already provides to homeless residents, L.A. is on track to create 800 permanent housing units annually.


Image via David Shankbone/Wikimedia Commons.

Repurposing old living spaces as housing for people who are homeless is an unusual idea but not a new one.

The nonprofit homeless housing agency Step Up is helping to facilitate about 400 of L.A.'s motel conversions, and they've been working on developing housing for people on the streets since 1994.

One of Step Up's other transitional apartment conversions — Step Up on Vine in Hollywood — has 34 housing units, and it's been a raging success. Occupants are provided supportive services and may live there as long as they like.

This is the first Step Up on Vine complex in L.A., before and after. Image from Step Up, used with permission.

Images from Step Up, used with permission.

This new housing for homeless veterans in L.A. will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis — hopefully soon.

Step Up plans to use a combination of L.A.'s homeless services registry and their own outreach and engagement team (which actively canvasses the city looking for those in need) to place residents in the new buildings.

This is all part of the city’s plan to achieve a homeless population of functional zero, which means that the number of people who are homeless entering the city every month should be no greater than their monthly housing placement rate.

In addition to the motels, L.A. also has an ambitious 47-point plan for working with the city's ever-growing homeless population in the next few years.

In addition to creating new housing for people on the streets, L.A. has worked to incentivize landlords to make units available those in need. Some of those incentives include guaranteed rent payments and bonuses for holding open housing for someone coming from the streets, too.

"But you can only incentivize so much," said Ben Winters, housing policy specialist for L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti. "The next step is to build more housing."


Photo by Pretzelpaws/Wikimedia Commons.

Building housing isn’t cheap, so the city’s annual budget calls for $138 million to be used to address homelessness.

And there already are encouraging signs that the effort will really work. When the state of emergency was announced, there were approximately 4,362 veterans who were homeless in L.A. In May 2016, the L.A. Homeless Services Authority reported that had decreased to 3,071.

Plus, 500 new units coming soon means 500 more veterans will be off the streets in the months ahead. That’s something you can’t put a price tag on.

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With the COVID-19 Pandemic, Black Lives Matter protests nationwide, and the countdown to the 2020 Presidential election, there has been a flurry of online activity.

We're tweeting about these events, we're sharing news articles about them on Facebook, and we're uploading live videos as events happen during protests. These platforms are being used to communicate, to express outrage, to share what we're witnessing on the streets, to debate ideas, and to campaign for candidates.

This isn't new, of course. Social media has long been a way to get information out quickly.

"When the plane landed on the Hudson, that was one of the first events that was social media first," says Kate Starbird, associate professor in the Department of Human Centered Design and Engineering at the University of Washington. "The news went out via social media first because it was faster. People could actually see what was going on long before people could write a story about it or put it on the news."

Social media has also been lauded as a way for people to get information from a variety of perspectives — everybody can share what they see.

But, she adds, "the problem is that there is some inherent risk and vulnerabilities in getting things at that speed because speed can drive misinformation and mistakes." It's also incredibly difficult to know if all of these voices on social media are real. Some of those accounts might be deliberately trying to spread disinformation.

Disinformation spreads quickly during and after natural disasters, mass shootings, and other dangerous events.

Wade Austin Ellis on Unsplash

In fact, for more than a decade, Starbird has been researching how misinformation and disinformation spread online during these kinds of crises.

During a crisis, there's a lot of uncertainty and fear, so we start theorizing — or rumoring — on what to do and that rumoring can create misinformation. Then, political actors can either create additional misinformation or amplify existing rumors to spread false information for political reasons. "When there's fear and anxiety, we're acutely vulnerable to politicization, misinformation, and disinformation," she says.

For example, climate science denialists can use natural disasters — such as hurricanes or winter storms — to amplify false information that supports their cause.

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Lauren-Ashley Howard/Twitter, Wikimedia Commons

The lengths people will go to discredit a political figure—especially a Black female politician—is pretty astounding. Since Kamala Harris was announced as Joe Biden's running mate, we've seen "birther" claims that she wasn't really born in the U.S. (she was), alternating claims that she's too moderate or too radical (which can't both be true), and a claim apparently designed to be a "gotcha"—that her ancestor in Jamaica was a slave owner.

According to Politifact, the claim that Harris descends from a slave owners is likely true. In their rather lengthy fact check on her lineage, which has not revealed any definitive answers, they conclude, "It seems possible that Kamala Harris is as likely a descendant of a slave-owner as she is an enslaved person." But that doesn't mean what the folks who are using that potential descencency as a weapon seem to think it means.

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When I found out I was pregnant in October 2018, I had planned to keep the news a secret from family for a little while — but my phone seemed to have other ideas.

Within just a few hours of finding out the news, I was being bombarded with ads for baby gear, baby clothes and diapers on Facebook, Instagram and pretty much any other site I visited — be it my phone or on my computer.

Good thing my family wasn't looking over my shoulder while I was on my phone or my secret would have been ruined.

I'm certainly not alone in feeling like online ads can read your mind.

When I started asking around, it seemed like everyone had their own similar story: Brian Kelleher told me that when he and his wife met, they started getting ads for wedding rings and bridal shops within just a few weeks. Tech blogger Snezhina Piskov told me that she started getting ads for pocket projectors after discussing them in Messenger with her colleagues. Meanwhile Lauren Foley, a writer, told me she started getting ads for Happy Socks after seeing one of their shops when she got off the bus one day.

When online advertising seems to know us this well, it begs the question: are our phones listening to us?

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UPDATE/EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was successfully removed from Facebook thanks in part to this article from Annie Reneau and also thanks to readers like you who took action and demanded accountability from Facebook. We're sharing it again as an example of how we can all be part of positive and constructive change on social media. Don't let the trolls win!

Original story begins below:

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As we say in the viral stories world, there's viral and then there's viral. A post with 100K shares in a month would be considered super viral. A post with a millions shares—even over a long period of time—is nearly unheard of.

So the fact that a post about Irish slaves has been shared nearly a million times in just nine days is incredibly disheartening. Why? Because it's fake, fake, fake. And not in an "I don't like what this says so I'm going to call it fake" kind of way, but in a non-factual, already-debunked-by-real-historians kind of way.

As someone with a crapton of Irish ancestry, I find the perpetuation of the Irish slaves myth utterly embarrassing—especially since it's most often shared in an attempt to downplay the history of Black slavery in the U.S. If it were true, that kind of deflection would still be annoying. But pushing false history narratives to deny the reality of the impact of institutionalized, race-based chattel slavery is just gross.

And to be sure, this is false history. To begin with, the photo isn't even of Irish people at all. It's a photo of Belgian miners crammed into a mining elevator around the year 1900.

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Sometimes a boycott succeeds when it fails.

Although the general aim of a boycott is to hurt profits, there are times when the symbolism of a boycott gives birth to a constant, overt and irreversible new optic for a company to nurse.

When the boycott of Facebook began in June and reached its peak in July, it gathered thousands of brands who vocalized their dissatisfaction with the platform.

The boycott, under the hashtag #StopHateForProfit, was launched by civil rights groups. By July brands were fully behind removing their ad spending - resulting in a small financial dent for the social media juggernaut, but a forceful bludgeoning in the press.


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