Tuesday, July 01, 2014

 

Homeless vs. shelter rules—what really happened at IHS in this breastfeeding incident?



Hawaii's law is clear:

It is a discriminatory practice to deny, or attempt to deny, the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of a place of public accommodations to a woman because she is breast feeding a child.

Mitchell says Penley was offered a place to go but she refused.

"We have offered her three different places that are air conditioned and I would think that that would be a much more comfortable place for her to be breast feeding," said Mitchell.


by Larry Geller

The devil is in the details, no doubt, but a common controversy has been brought to light by the Hawaii News Now story from which the pull-quote above is snipped, Homeless mother fights to breastfeed in public, (hawaiinewsnow.com, 6/30/2014).

The issue is rules, rules that discourage or prevent homeless individuals and families from seeking cover at temporary shelters.

Probably there was a conversation between a staff member and Ms. Penley, the nature of which we can’t know. What seems likely is that Ms. Penley was asked to move, to get out of view of others, in apparent violation of the law. Again, we don’t know what the conversation was about.

Check out the video at the above link, though. It appears that IHS was trying to create or enforce yet another restrictive rule, a subject which several homeless people have raised with me with regard to other shelters (not IHS).

An explanation posted to IHS’s Facebook page did not help and drew critical comments of its own:

Today, IHS received a flurry of complaints in response to a story that ran on Hawaii News Now. We recognize it is a discriminatory practice to deny, or attempt to deny, the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of a place of public accommodations to a woman because she is breastfeeding. IHS also recognizes and takes seriously our Hawaii State Laws that allow for breastfeeding in any public or private location. IHS encourages our mothers to embrace all positive maternal health practices for a child’s well-being, including breastfeeding.

We want to make clear that Ms. Penley was not asked to leave the shelter at any time, and that she remains here receiving services. Our goal is for our guests to benefit from the multiple services we offer in order to help homeless ultimately transition into a safe home and a high-quality of life.

The statement and the video are not encouraging. It’s easy to be a couch potato critic based on reading one reporter’s story on the Internet, but I’ve heard similar.

I learned, for example, that at another shelter, apparently some homeless people have been kicked out or banned and then beaten up outside. Again, without knowing the circumstances, it’s hard to evaluate these reports, but in a climate of concern for the welfare of all of Hawaii’s citizens, including those without homes, someone would be checking on this.

See the next article for an example of a community where people care.



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