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Homelessness In America January 30, 2008

Posted by Reginald Johnson in Culture, Life, Mental Health, News.
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Homelessness is defined as “people without a home of any kind”. In America alone millions of people become homeless each year. The questions we should be asking are how we as a society can prevent homelessness and how can we fix our broken systems so that millions more don’t become homeless? Some of the factors why some individuals become homeless are personal problems, domestic violence, lack of education, alcoholism, drug addiction, mental illness and lack of social skills.

Nearly 1 out of 5 (19.1%) of DC residents—or roughly 104,000 people—live at or below the poverty line. This makes the District of Columbia, the jurisdiction with the 3rd highest poverty rate in the nation. These numbers compare with rates of 8.2% in Maryland, 10.0% in Virginia, and 13.3% in the United States, as stated by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Many factors contribute to homelessness; the main cause of homelessness is due to economic reasons. Some people simply do not have the economic resources to make it on their own; thus why so many homeless people are housed with families and friends. Many people who are classified as homeless have jobs and chances are they won’t stay homeless for more then few months or up to two years the most. Legally anyone who is staying in temporary housing or has unstable accommodation is considered being homeless. Clearly anyone who is homeless and mentally stable would agree that homelessness isn’t the direction in which they saw them self and would like a better life in the long run. Based on factual research, here are some statistics.

DC is the jurisdiction with the highest child poverty rate in the United States, with more than 2 out of 10 children—32%—living in poverty, compared with 12% in Maryland and 13% in Virginia. 17% of DC’s families live in poverty, compared with 6% of Maryland’s families and 7.4% of Virginia’s families.

54% of DC’s children live in low-income (less than 200% of poverty) families, compared with rates of 29% in Maryland, 29% in Virginia, and 39% in the United States, making it the jurisdiction with the highest rate of low-income children in the United States.

Only 2.7% of families and 7.4% of individuals living in Ward 3 live at or below the poverty line. Conversely, 33.1% of families and 36% of individuals in Ward 8 live in poverty.

In 2006, 9,369 individuals and families were homeless in the District of Columbia, a 13.5% increase from 2004. 1,891 people were chronically homeless, meaning they had a disabling condition and had either been continuously homeless for a year or more OR had at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three (3) years, as stated by DC Government.

Research shows that numerous social problems—such as poor health, low school performance, violence, and teen parenthood—are tied to family poverty and neighborhoods with high-poverty levels. For example, the poorest fifth of DC neighborhoods experienced 34% of the violent crimes in 2000 compared with 6% in the quintile with the lowest poverty.

Respectively, African Americans and Hispanics make up 12.1% and 14.5% of the U.S. population. However, these two groups make up nearly half of those living in poverty. As of 2005, 9.2 million or 24.9% of African Americans were living in poverty, as were 9.4 million or 21.8% of Hispanics.

Research shows that child poverty is very costly for the U.S. economy. The costs to the U.S. associated with childhood poverty total about $500 billion per year, or 4% of the GDP. For example, experts estimate that child poverty each year: reduces productivity and economic output by about 1.3% of GDP; raises the costs of crime by 1.3% of GDP; and raises health expenditures and reduces the value of health by 1.2% of GDP.

There are various reasons why and how a person can become homeless. Research suggests that each reason and cause depends on the individual. With that said, the focus should really be on how to end homelessness for those individuals that want the help and to have a better understanding for those with mental illness that might seem other wise content with being homeless. Although most homeless people can carry out normal lives like keeping a full-time job and paying most of their bills, not having a home to go to the end of the day takes serious emotional strain on that person.

Unemployment rates are reasons why homelessness exists. With minimum wage being $7.50, it’s nearly impossible to afford rent anywhere in the United States, causing more people to get two jobs just to pay rent.
In reference to the questions we previously covered, perhaps homelessness can’t be fixed for every homeless individual in America. Even with support from communities and our government, chances of preventing homelessness all together is uncertain but the fact remains that with expensive care and attention from the government and each community, homelessness can decrease and those people can lead a more satisfying and fulfilling life.

While some of factors that cause homelessness does include mental illnesses and addictions and some these individuals choose to stay homeless as a way of freedom; research confirms that mental illness isn’t a permanent fixture for all people. Some people with mental illnesses can be treated with proper help and guidance. As for the addictions, it’s easier for the addict to feed his or her need of drugs on the outside world, where as in a shelter they would be restrained from their habits.
How can we end homelessness among people with serious mental illnesses?

Here are some suggestions:
•“Encourage the adoption of evidence-based practices for services, treatment, and prevention of homelessness.”
•“Establish partnerships with Federal agencies, state and local governments, and public and private agencies to reduce barriers to services and increase resources and funding.”
•“Conduct research that addresses important gaps in knowledge. “

Consistently reaching out and providing treatment options is a good method to helping the homeless with mental illnesses. People are more likely to except help from strangers if they feel they care and that they are trying to build some personal relationship. Another good method is to provide support within housings and give continuous attention from the homelessness to the housing stages.

As I have mentioned the different cases of homelessness and its affects on an individual’s emotional and mental state; another important and yet overlooked problem is children who are homeless or under the guardian of homeless parents. In any given week, it is estimated that more then 200 000, children have no place to live. Over the course of a year, as many as 1.4 million children experience homelessness. Forty two-percent of these children are under the age of five, where as homeless families take up forty percent of the total homeless population.(Burt)

Some factors that contribute to family homelessness are traumatic abuse to single mothers, mental health problems and interpersonal problems. Research suggests that the population of homeless single mothers with dependents is significantly higher then coupled parents. Due to an increasingly large population of teenage pregnancy’s and more young couples having children out of wed log, its no wonder there are so many single mothers can’t afford to support their children in a stable home. Being homeless has its effects on the children as well it would have on any adult.

The Sanyo Xacti VPC-C5 Review January 29, 2008

Posted by Reginald Johnson in Electronics, Technology.
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Today I will review the Xacti VPC-C5.  It’s one of the latest ultra-compact “hybrid” digicam and tapeless video camcorder that Sanyo has to offer. The first model was the VPC-C1, most of us in the U.S. probably know it better at the Fisher FVD-C1, a 3.2-megapixel camera. The new C5 includes many high-end features like a 5-megapixel imager, 5x optical zoom with auto macro, digital image stabilizer, VGA (640×480) sized MPEG-4 movies, and a swiveling 2.0-inch LCD. This is a stylish point-n-shoot model that can be used easily by anyone. The default Auto mode will automatically select the best of four scene modes for you. Advanced users can manually change the ISO sensitivity, the metering or focus mode and the white balance. There are a total of six scene modes (sports, portrait, landscape, night view, fireworks, lamp) and three digital filters (cosmetic, monochrome, and sepia) to choose from.

Ergonomics were great. Unlike the Sony M1, the C5’s controls are well placed and useable – Sony’s little round-topped buttons are a complete disaster. The C5 and the M1 are the only cameras I’ve reviewed that can be used by both right- and left-handed photographers due to their pistol grip style body and controls. Most of the super-compact cameras are awkward to hold, this is not the case with the C5. The mostly metal exterior has a well built feeling to it and should survive an active user’s lifestyle. The only negative thing is that it’s difficult to keep your fingers off of the lens, I visually inspected it often and wiped accordingly. Making changes to camera settings is a snap with its logically organized menu system. The 285° swiveling 2.0-inch LCD offers versatility with viewing angles that are just not possible with the typical “fixed” position LCDs. I found it worked well outdoors, even with harsh sunlight beating directly onto it. The LCD is a trans-reflective type, it can be operated in bright light with the backlight turned completely off. When shooting in low-ambient lighting, the image does not “gain up”, however its metering system is very sensitive, allowing you to see with the slightest amount of ambient light. It does this well when the ISO is set to Auto, if you lock it in at ISO 50 or 100 the display can be rather dark. There is no optical viewfinder, all framing is accomplished on the LCD.

The C5 was quite the performer. Power up to first image captured measured approx. 2.1 seconds. Shutter lag, the time from depressing the shutter release and capturing an image, was 1/10 of a second when pre-focused and about 6/10 of a second including autofocus. When shooting a sequence of still images, the shot to shot delay averaged 2 seconds without the flash and 3 – 4 seconds with the flash. The C5 does not offer any type of Burst mode. Switching from record mode to playback or vice versa takes about a second. All of our tests were done using an ATP 60x 1GB SD card, with the image size/quality set at 5M High, Program Auto mode, preview off with all other settings at default (unless noted.) Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera setting, media, etc.

The C5 offers five recording size choices for Movie mode. You can use 640×480 TV-SHQ (30fps @ 3Mbps bit rate) or TV-HQ modes (30fps @ 2Mbps bit rate) for movies to be displayed on your television. The C5 is unique in that it has both a composite video and S-Video output for a TV, VCR or DVD recorder. The 320×240 TV-S (30fps) and Web-HQ (15fps) modes are great when wanting to conserve space on your memory card. There’s also a 176×144 Web-S mode (15fps) which creates small file size movies for email transmission. It’s almost impossible to capture steady movies with a consumer digicam unless you have a tripod or monopod; but who really lugs one around just to record a movie? With the C5’s digital image stabilizer feature, this is no longer a problem. There are two modes to choose from (A and B) which are really the same, but Mode B displays a border around the LCD to show you what is actually going to be captured. We found this was the best way to use this feature. Another unique option on this hybrid was its Wind Noise Reduction mode. It virtually eliminates any noise caused by a slight breeze, which is one of the downfalls to most digicams. Audio is recorded in Stereo thanks to the two built-in microphones. Overall it captures high-quality movies, with very little compression noise when using its SHQ mode. The autofocus does a great job of keeping up while panning and zooming. You must be careful when using the zoom control or you will shake the camera when going from wide angle to telephoto and vise versa.

I was also very pleased with the overall image quality when using the 5M High mode. Outdoors it captured sharp images with good contrast. The exposure and white balance systems did well in a wide variety of lighting conditions, and colors were nicely saturated. There were average amounts of noise in low contrast areas, but almost no CA (Chromatic Aberration) present in high contrast areas. It also does a very good job of exposing the sky, with beautiful cloud detail. Although you can see the noise when viewing an image at 100%, it is very unlikely that you will even see any traces in your prints. In fact, our 8×10-inch prints were great and 4×6-inch prints were awesome. The only thing missing is a specific 3:2 mode for “perfect” 4×6-inch prints – maybe the C6 will have it. The 5x optical internal zoom lens produced sharp results throughout its 38 – 190mm (35mm equivalent) range, with moderate barrel distortion at wide-angle and only slight pin cushioning at full telephoto. The zoom mechanism is smooth and quiet throughout its range and can be used while recording movies.

When shooting indoors, I found the flash had a pretty short range, but it’s to be expected from such a small camera. Tiny camera + tiny battery + tiny flash + large LCD = fairly short flash range, mostly to conserve precious battery power. I found it was sufficient for close-ups or solo portraits; if you’re going to shoot a group portrait make sure there’s plenty of light. There’s a digital Cosmetic filter, which Sanyo claims will enhance skin tones in your portraits. We did notice some slight changes with the overall appearance of skin tones being a bit warmer, brighter and softer when using this filter. Although there isn’t a dedicated red-eye reduction mode, we noticed very little red-eye in our portraits and that’s amazing given the proximity of the flash the lens. The autofocus system did surprisingly well in most low-ambient lighting, even though it lacks an AF-assist lamp. When you half-press the still image shutter release it will “gain-up” to help lock focus. The C5 is very good at Close-up (macro) shots. It “throttled down” the flash output nicely for nearly perfect exposures every time. The default “automatic” focus mode covers both normal and macro distances without the need of pushing a button, very handy.

Power is supplied by a tiny 3.7v 720mAh Lithium-ion rechargeable battery, which is charged either in-camera when placed in the handy docking cradle or separately in the AC adapter/charger. Sanyo claims it will allow the C5 to capture 113 images or up to 60 minutes of 640×480 HQ video on a full charge. I would have to say that the battery life was pretty good, we were able to capture a large majority of our sample images (over 100 shots and about 15 ten second clips) before the battery was exhausted. I recommend the purchase of an extra battery pack and a large 1GB size SD card if shooting movies frequently – and with this camera you will!

Bottom line – the Sanyo Xacti VPC-C5 is a hybrid digicam that produces great movies and even better still images. It can be slipped into almost any size pocket or handbag, and with its speedy performance, you can always be certain it’s ready to capture those special moments. The only downfall is its limited flash range, but this is heavily outweighed by the positive attributes of this camera. The 5-megapixel images it yields have enough resolution for photo-quality prints up to 8×10-inches, maybe larger. The jury is still out on its interpolated 10-megapixel images – there is more resolution but the image quality suffers. Although it’s a bit expensive, with a suggested price of around $699, we feel the C5 is worth it. I had a blast using this camera, it really is fun to use and it’s a great conversation starter – people will definitely ask you about it. If you’re a “lefty” living in the righty world then you owe it to yourself to check out this unique little gem.

Note: The Sanyo C5 is difficult to find here in the U.S. and I think that the Sharper Image is charging way too much for it so – you can get it from Plemix.com for ~$395 (note that I cannot be responsible for your purchase, the transaction, the delivery and etc. Expect rather expensive shipping as the product is only delivered via 2-day FedEx.)



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