TX Lege: Pro-LGBT bills see ‘flurry of activity’

Chuck-Smith
Chuck Smith

It’s been a good week for pro-LGBT bills in the Texas Legislature.

Three bills backed by Equality Texas were referred to House committees and another three were filed as lawmakers started getting down to business in the 2011 session.

“There was kind of a flurry of activity this week,” said Chuck Smith, deputy director of Equality Texas. “The lower your bill number is, the greater opportunity you have to have a committee hearing sooner rather than later. It’s possible that either the birth certificate [bill] or some of the bullying bills may have hearings in the next couple weeks, and that’s certainly positive.”

HB 415, by Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, would allow same-sex parents to record both of their names on an adopted child’s birth certificate. The bill was referred Wednesday to the House Committee on Public Health. Two years ago, Anchia’s birth certificate bill received a very favorable hearing in the same committee, Smith said.

“There’s a decent chance we could have another good hearing. I’m hopeful that we might be able to win a vote in that committee,” he said, adding that testimony two years ago came from children of same-sex parents who told legislators they merely want accurate birth certificates. “It’s a pretty straightforward and compelling argument.”

—  John Wright

If you heard gunshots in the area of Cedar Springs and Kings Road on Sunday morning …

James Huffer Jr.

… It’s because the gentleman shown here, James Huffer Jr., was allegedly chasing his girlfriend around an apartment complex at 4600 Cedar Springs, firing a gun out the window of his vehicle at about 4:30 a.m. But what happened next is even more unusual. After being handcuffed by police and placed in the back of a patrol car, Huffer somehow managed to get his hands around to the front of his body and hop in the driver’s seat. Then he took off in the patrol car, evading police as he hopped on Stemmons Freeway, Highway 183 west, then Highway 360 South, before ditching the car near Avenue H in Arlington. As of this morning, he was still at large. From DPD:

Dallas and Arlington officers are actively searching for suspect Huffer. Anyone with information on his whereabouts is asked to contact a local police department at once. It is likely he is still handcuffed. Crime Stoppers is also offering a reward for information leading to his arrest and indictment. The Crime Stoppers number is 214-373-8477.  A photograph of suspect Huffer will follow this announcement. He is a white male, 6 feet tall and approximately 170 pounds. He has blue eyes and brown hair. He is believed to have acquaintances in the Arlington and Grand Prairie area. Suspect Huffer is likely to face a variety of charges including Escape, Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle, and family violence Assault.

—  John Wright

DFW’s homeless gays heading north to Denton, advocate says

HUD housing intervention counselor Michael Raven says what has traditionally been considered an urban issue is growing in rural areas

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Michael Raven

HUD housing intervention counselor Michael C. Raven, says he has seen an increase in the number clients who are gay and homeless moving into Denton.

Raven serves as secretary for HOPE, Inc., which provides financial assistance and case management to families who are homeless or at-risk of being homeless and seeking to secure permanent housing.

Before coming to HOPE, which is non-faith-based, Raven worked for the Salvation Army.

Rven said that compared to Dallas, homeless numbers in Denton are low. The latest count is 103 people in the city of Denton and 547 in the county. Homelessness is more of a rural problem in Denton County, he said, and many of the county’s homeless live in tents in the woods.

Raven, who is himself gay, said the biggest problem he has seen with gay homelessness in Denton County is that the Salvation Army provides Denton’s only shelter — and that organization does not welcome gays or lesbians.

“It takes awhile to get someone off the street and into affordable housing,” Raven said. “We give them three years to graduate into self-sufficiency.”

Raven follows everyone who contacts his office.

“With housing counseling, we hope they’ll have a surplus each month,” he said.

The goal is to get them into transitional housing and then something permanent.

Among the many reasons for homelessness are mental health issues, drug and alcohol abuse and family violence. But unemployment is the top reason for homelessness currently in Denton.

Of those who reported a cause, 20 percent said loss of a job and another 15 percent were “unable to pay rent or mortgage,” mostly related to employment issues.

Not everyone who is homeless was without work, Raven said, but some may be working at a much lower-paying job or only finding part-time work.

Raven said he has notes about available jobs all over his office and is constantly checking a number of sources. If he knows a client has a particular skill, he tries to make the connection.

But he said employers are terrible about taking advantage of the homeless.

Raven cited one case of a client with a degree in accounting. A retail store didn’t have an accounting position open, but hired her as a cashier and taught her the accounting process for their business at the same time. After four months, she was doing most of the store’s accounting work but was still being paid as a cashier.

A major retailer hired another of his clients. When they found out that she had a degree, which required a higher salary by their own company rules, they fired her, Raven said.

Once every two years, Denton counts its homeless population. Raven is part of that counting process, which will start after the New Year.

He said he doesn’t like to just show up and take census figures, so he asks his HOPE donors for personal care items and blankets to distribute on counting night.

While usually associated with urban areas, Raven said homelessness is increasing in rural areas.

During the recession, he’s noticed that everyone’s watching their money. But he thinks that people are just being more prudent because homelessness could happen to anyone.

Contact HOPE at 940-380-0513.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 10, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens