Yet another blog for spewing. This one may end up with a lot of religious and social content.


Homeless Fundamentals

What does it mean to be "homeless"?? Poor? Crazy? Addicted? Loser?


Let's look at the basic etymology of the word - home-less: home = place to live with walls and roof, -less = without, minus, lacking. So homeless is "without (a) place to live". Simple, no?

Now, what causes this?
* Is it addiction? No, lots of alcoholics and drug addicts have homes, and not all homeless are addicts.
* Is it mental illness? No, lots of mentally ill people have homes, and not all homeless are mentally ill.
* Is it poverty? Yes and no. The poor that can't afford homes where they work end up homeless, but being poor does not in and of itself cause homelessness.
* Is it lack of will? No. The homeless hustle a lot more just to eat, drink, keep their stuff, find a place to sleep, etc, than many of us with housing, and lots of losers have places to live.

To be really, really blunt: being homeless is caused by the unavailability of housing that you can afford.

In many urban areas, a full time minimum wage job (CA: $7.50/hr * 168 hr/mo - taxes = $1,017.30 {/2 = $508.65}, AZ: $5.15/hr * 168 hr/mo - taxes[no state income tax] = $733.48 {/2 = $366.74}) does not pay enough rent a cheap, run-down studio in a crappy part of town, much less a safe place to live (figure half of take-home). State and Federal Disability payments are not enough either. ( - most here are out in the boonies, rv spaces, or shared housing).

There are a limited number of "Section 8" units in these areas, and the waiting lists for them is usually several years long. Where do the people live in the meantime? On the streets, or on the couches of already overcrowded friends and family.

Several years ago, an older couple we knew was forced out of their apartment by a greedy landlord who wanted to "remodel" and get "market" rent (about twice what the couple was paying). They could not find another place. They literally put their stuff into storage and moved into my living room for 2 years. We had 6 adults living in a small 4 bedroom, 1 bath house. Technically, they weren't "homeless", but they still had little privacy.

So I figure that for every person living on the streets, there are two more "couch surfing" or otherwise crowded into inadequate living conditions.

This problem has grown from almost non-existant in the early 70s to an epidemic today. Why? The lack of federal and state funding for construction and maintenance of affordable (and accessible) housing units. Many previous (pre 1980) units have been "privatized" - returned to "market" rates - and removed from the affordable pool. This, coupled with the gross decline in the buying power of a minimum wage job, has led to the current "crisis".

The gutting of the affordable housing programs started before Reagan, but accelerated each time we had republican majorities in Congress (they who control the purse).

Most "homeless assistance" programs today are just band-aids on a sucking chest wound. They can only open shelters - crowded, demeaning, and unstable, because they cost less than building real, long term affordable housing. There is at least an order of magnitude difference in funding.

If we got shed of Bush's Iraq war, and put that money instead into building affordable housing, retraining the returning GIs for new careers, and paying down the deficit, we would be making an important investment in the future of this country.

Reference: “Without Housing: Decades of Federal Housing Cutbacks, Massive Homelessness and Policy Failures”

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