High Barriers Put Refugees at Risk for Homelessness

Byline: 

Tirth Raj Pokhrel, right, sits at a computer while working his English speaking skills during an ESL class at ReWA (Refugee Women's Alliance) in Seattle. Pokhrel, 42, is a Bhutanese refugee. (Joshua Trujillo, Seattlepi.com)

 

InvestigateWest interns Emily Holt and Cassandra Little, both 2010 graduates of Seattle University, spent three months working on a project about family homelessness as part of Seattle University's Journalism Fellowship on Family Homelessness. Seattle University received funding for the fellowship from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. InvestigateWest's full project on family homelessness will be published this fall.

InvestigateWest reporter Carol Smith worked closely with Holt and Little as they developed sources. Smith, who has years of experience reporting on complex social issues, mentored the Seattle University fellows as they explored different aspects of homelessness. Their work took each of them into the field where they spent hours observing and interviewing subjects for their stories. Here's a look at some of their work:

By Emily Holt
InvestigateWest

Tirth Raj Pokhrel pushed his resume across the table like anyone else in need of work.

For the 42-year-old Bhutanese refugee, the hope of employment was a lifeline that could mean the difference between keeping a roof over his family’s head, and homelessness.

Homeless Young Adults Need Specialized Job Training

Byline: 

InvestigateWest interns Emily Holt and Cassandra Little, both 2010 graduates of Seattle University, spent three months working on a project about family homelessness as part of Seattle University's Journalism Fellowship on Family Homelessness. Seattle University received funding for the fellowship from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. InvestigateWest's full project on family homelessness will be published this fall.

InvestigateWest reporter Carol Smith worked closely with Holt and Little as they developed sources. Smith, who has years of experience reporting on complex social issues, mentored the Seattle University fellows as they explored different aspects of homelessness. Their work took each of them into the field where they spent hours observing and interviewing subjects for their stories. Here's a look at some of their work:

Young adults make up a fourth of the homeless population in Washington, yet very minimal research has been conducted on the job training needs of this population.

With unemployment high, and unemployment for young adults at a record 19 percent, jobs are scarce. For young adults without family resources and high school or college degrees, many of the hurdles for finding jobs are even higher.

Housing is an especially tough barrier in the Seattle metro area.

According to the Washington Center for Real Estate Research, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in King County is $917 per month. To reasonably afford a one-bedroom apartment in King County, a person has to make about $19 per hour.

But young adults are unlikely to qualify for a $19 per hour jobs without specialized job training programs to help prepare them for the workforce.

Homeless young adults, for example, may have not have learned basic life skills, such as budgeting and conflict resolution that would be helpful on the job. Many homeless young adults are often also in need of mental health services.

Cruise lines dodge states' tougher rules by dumping in Canadian water

Byline: 

The Holland America Lines Amsterdam docked at the Port of Seattle's Smith Cove
cruise ship terminal • Paul Joseph Brown / InvestigateWest

After a week aboard the Carnival Spirit, its passengers can’t help but hit the pier a little tired. They’re grinning too, even as they struggle with baggage and finding their hotels and taxis to the airport. Their vacations on the ship, standing 13 decks tall behind them, are still fresh in their minds. With its 16 lounges and bars, three restaurants and four swimming pools – one with a cascading water slide – the Spirit offered quite an adventure for the 2,124 people on board.

Owned by Carnival Cruise Lines, the biggest cruise operator in the world, the Spirit docks weekly in Seattle’s Elliott Bay. It’s the biggest of the ships home-ported in Seattle in 2010. And its size is also a symbol of the burgeoning Alaska cruise market increasingly making Seattle its home and expected to bring nearly 900,000 tourists through Seattle by the end of the 2010 cruising season in October.

Cruising pumps dollars into Seattle and Washington state, $1.7 million into the local economy every time a ship docks in Seattle and about $16 million in state and local tax coffers annually. But those benefits come at a cost. Money from the cruise industry – which generates billions in profits every year – trades on environmental health. The very attractions that draw tourists to Alaska-bound ships, such as pristine sanctuary waters, marine wildlife and mountainous seascapes, can be harmed by pollution from cruise ships.

Lifesaving Drugs, Deadly Consequences

Healthcare worker? Take our survey here.

Read the full story here

Secondhand chemo – like secondhand smoking – is an apt description for disease that occurs after chronic exposure to low doses of a drug intended for someone else. And like secondhand tobacco exposure, it can have deadly consequences.

 An InvestigateWest investigation has found that the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration does not regulate exposure to chemotherapy in the workplace, despite multiple studies documenting ongoing contamination and exposures and their potentially deadly consequences for human health. Studies as far back as the 1970s have linked increased rates of certain cancers to nurses and physicians. Occupational health experts believe that’s because when nurses, pharmacists,technicians and increasingly, even veterinarians, mix and deliver the drugs, accidental spills, sprays and punctures put  them in close, frequent contact with hazardous drugs. These are drugs that can save lives of cancer patients, but ironically, are also human carcinogens themselves.

 A just-completed study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, 10 years in the making and the largest to date, confirms that chemo continues to contaminate the work spaces where it’s used, and in some cases is still being found in the urine of those who handle it, despite knowledge of safety precautions.

Lifesaving Drugs, Deadly Consequences

Byline: 

‘Secondhand chemo’ puts healthcare workers at risk

 

Healthcare worker? Take our survey here.

 

Chelsea Crump kisses her mother, Sue Crump

 

Sue Crump braced as the chemo drugs dripped into her body. She knew treatment would be rough. She had seen its signature countless times in the ravaged bodies and hopeful faces of cancer patients in hospitals where she had spent 23 years mixing chemo as a pharmacist.

At the same time, though, she wondered whether those same drugs – experienced as a form of “secondhand chemo” -- may have caused her own cancer.

Chemo is poison by design. It’s descended from deadly mustard gas first used against soldiers in World War I. Now it’s deployed to stop the advance of cancer.

Crump knew she had her own war on her hands. She wanted to live long enough to see her 21-year-old daughter, Chelsea, graduate college.

And she wanted something else: She wanted young pharmacists and nurses to pay attention to her story.

Crump, who died of pancreatic cancer in September at age 55, was one of thousands of health care workers who were chronically exposed to chemotherapy agents on the job for years before there were even voluntary safety guidelines in place.

Campus sexual assault: Does 'honor code' system squelch justice at Oregon school?

Byline: 

Three young women tell similar stories of being discouraged from calling police after reporting sexual assault to Reed College authorities, and of a campus investigatory process so intensely secretive one student was unsure she could even talk to her parents about it. The students’ allegations were not vetted by trained investigators or faculty, but by a student board without expertise in sexual assault.

Former Reed administrator Lisa Moore, a licensed social worker, confirms she took one of the students to the health center when she came to her crying and saying she had been raped by a former boyfriend in January of 2009, but did not know the student was later turned away without an appointment. Moore has since left Reed and now works at Boston University, in part because of her inability to change the Reed system. None of the recommendations of a sexual assault task force she assembled has been implemented, she said.

Two outside experts in how colleges handle sexual assaults criticized the system used by 1,400-student Reed, a highly secretive process based on a student Honor Code and enforced by a student Judicial Board, in which students act as a fact-finding committee and participants are barred from discussing their cases with anyone except a designated advocate, a procedural aide and medical professionals.

Sexual Assault on College Campuses: A Culture of Indifference

Many college women say their experiences after being sexually assaulted -- often in date rape situations -- illustrate a culture of indifference and denial that results in one in five young women being assaulted during their college years. Unclear and conflicted internal disciplinary systems can compound their suffering, according to this series by InvestigateWest journalists Carol Smith and Lee van der Voo and edited by Rita Hibbard.

Stephanie S. reported being sexually assaulted in a University of Washington dorm room in 2001.
Credit: Dan DeLong/Special to InvestigateWest

Athletic club weekend weekend turns into nightmare for college freshman
But her ordeal brings change to state system

Emily Lorenzen turned to college administrators for help after she was hazed into drinking too much alcohol and woke up naked in bed next to a persistent upperclassman whose advances she had spurned. She found a lack of concern and a desire to protect the university, and says the college investigation and disciplinary process victimized her again. But the experience spurred her father, then head of the board of higher education in the state of Oregon, to begin making changes in that state that could have long-ranging impact for young victims like Emily in the future.

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Study sees parking lots dust as cancer risk

Byline: 

Chemicals in a cancer-causing substance used to seal pavement, parking lots and driveways across the U.S. are showing up at alarming levels in dust in American homes, prompting concerns about the potential health effects of long-term exposure, a new study shows.

The substance is coal tar sealant, a waste product of steel manufacturing that is used to protect pavement and asphalt against cracking and water damage, and to impart a nice dark sheen. It is applied most heavily east of the Rockies but is used in all 50 states.