Thursday, December 7, 2017

It's Going to Get a WHOLE Lot Worse Long Before it Gets Better

Just take a look at this Associated Press link that tracks homelessness stories:

https://apnews.com/tag/HomelessCrisis

This excerpt sums it up rather well:

"Homeless advocates and city officials say it’s outrageous that in the shadow of a booming tech economy - where young millionaires dine on $15 wood-grilled avocado and think nothing of paying $1,000 for an iPhone X - thousands of families can’t afford a home. Many of the homeless work regular jobs, in some cases serving the very people whose sky-high net worth is the reason housing has become unaffordable for so many."
"The booming economy, fueled by the tech sector, and decades of under-building have led to an historic shortage of affordable housing. It has upended the stereotypical view of people out on the streets as unemployed: They are retail clerks, plumbers, janitors - even teachers - who go to work, sleep where they can and buy gym memberships for a place to shower."


And yet it's often the very tech bros causing the problem who call homeless people lazy, and want them out of sight.

The photos at the link are every bit as heartbreaking as the stories. And it's going to get much worse when the government passes its tax bill this month, and destroys Social Security and Medicare through "entitlement reform" in 2018, which has been their plan all along. Unless people unite and go on strike nationwide for living wages, things are going to go back to Great Depression-era desperation.



Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Vox.com Revisits Homelessness


Vox.com producer Carlos Waters has a video on YouTube about how city planners design spaces that deter people experiencing homeless from using public space.

Also, I have a small legal matter I could use some help with--it's a win-win situation if you choose to participate. Check out the details here.

Thank you for your support--it's deeply and tremendously appreciated!




Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Everyone's a Critic -- Responses to the Vox Article from March 2016

It never fails.

No matter *WHAT* a person's homelessness is due to, there is always a large subset of people who are absolutely certain that ending up in that situation is 110% your fault. Somewhere in life, you morally failed, or didn't do something you were supposed to do, so your homeless plight is all on you.

For that crowd, homelessness can never, ever, EVER can be caused by lack of affordable housing and lack of a living wage. To them, this recent story in the Associated Press is a profile in how many people over the last several years have increasingly "failed at life" through their "poor life choices," and became homeless. To them, it's never this:
“I’ve got economically zero unemployment in my city, and I’ve got thousands of homeless people that actually are working and just can’t afford housing,” said Seattle City Councilman Mike O’Brien. “There’s nowhere for these folks to move to. Every time we open up a new place, it fills up.”
Take his word for it. The new term for these conditions is "working homeless."  And the picture is exceedingly bleak:  





I think people who blame the homeless for their plight do so because if they actually looked into it with any depth, they'd have to do something about it, and people don't like to be responsible for things that don't personally affect them. Look at what's happening with the sexual harassment victims lately--they are rarely believed, and almost always blamed.

My own critics usually fall into one of two categories: 1) Women who blame me for not getting married, and 2) Men who are over a year's salary in credit card or other debt, counseling me about an imaginary inability to handle finances properly. Then, there are the usual jerks who are convinced that people who don't even have boots can just pull themselves up by their (non-existent) bootstraps.

So here's my responses to some of these geniuses, who commented on my Vox article from last year:

In the article, I wrote: "My moderate savings was destroyed in my 30s by health care costs that insurance wouldn't cover."

So one critic who clearly didn't read the article said, "Sounds like she choose [sic] not to have health insurance at a time when it wasn't mandatory." 

Got that? I had insurance, and that insurer denied my claims, but the reader goes straight into their blame-the-victim bias.

Another critic wrote: "I think I have less sympathy for the writer of this article. I'm willing to bet she made some pretty piss poor choices to be in her situation at 50. Keep in mind she didn't go to college so she has no loans."

Well, I did go to college, but went pay-as-you-go, and had to leave school when my hours were cut at work so I couldn't afford both school and rent. With people like this, it's considered a "poor choice" to not go into debt because I didn't qualify for loans or credit cards. Institutions don't lend money to poor people--that's why rapacious payday lenders exist. And when poor people can get a loan, it's often at usury rates that will keep them trapped in debt and poverty forever.

Another critic opines: "I don't feel pity for homeless people...To me, all it takes is a little resourcefulness to dig yourself out of a bad spot. Why didn't she move to a better place? She wanted the immediate gratification that contract work affords. Why didn't she accept permanent work so she could prove her value?...Why didn't she get a second job? Ask a friend to let her crash on the couch? Offer to house sit? Pet sit? The possibilities seem endless in this world." 

Let's unpack that shitshow: 1) You can't move to a "better" place if you are poor. You need thousands of dollars for moving expenses and deposits and rent; you need to find a new job in the new location and live off meager savings until you do, and all of that costs money a homeless or working poor person doesn't have. 2) Contract work wasn't "immediate gratification" --it was all that was available. 3) I did have permanent work periodically, but left for better-paying opportunities that resulted in layoffs (e.g., dot com bubble, downsizing) or other dead ends. 4) I worked a full-time job, a part-time job, and went to trade school part-time. Then, 9-11 hit, and my area of the country went into a deep recession. 5) Most friends were struggling themselves, and their leases don't allow long-term guests or people not on the lease to stay with them. 6) People with money don't want to hire homeless people to house-sit, pet-sit, or do odd jobs for them--get real. 

And then there's age discrimination:
"Older workers are at a particular disadvantage," says Joseph Carbone, president and CEO of the Bridgeport, Conn., jobs development group The WorkPlace. “If you’re 50 or older, you face an almost impenetrable wall of discrimination,” he says. “Companies have a very narrow view of what they want. When you walk into an interview with a lot of gray hair, it’s usually over very quickly.”  -- Time Magazine
So to my critics, taking contract jobs that paid better, not going into debt, not doing drugs or alcohol, living in an area that wasn't expensive when I first moved there, and then not having enough money to leave when it did get pricey, on top of aging out of the workforce, are all my personal failings, and why I deserve to be homeless.

But it's not just people like me they blame. Homeless families are on the rise, and those rugged individualist critics are the first to ask, "Why did you have kids if you can't afford them?" Answer: No one had a crystal ball when the kids were born years ago to foresee that the bankers would destroy the economy, and the government would abet their crime by letting thousands lose their homes to foreclosure. 

This is now the brutal reality:
“Americans raised at the top and bottom of the income ladder are likely to remain there themselves as adults. Forty-three percent of those who start in the bottom are stuck there as adults, and 70 percent remain below the middle quintile. Only 4 percent of adults raised in the bottom make it all the way to the top, showing that the “rags-to-riches” story is more often found in Hollywood than in reality.”
 -- Forbes Magazine
Some people just need you to draw a picture. Here's the graph of the relationship of employee wages to after-tax corporate profits:


Source: https://twitter.com/rortybomb/status/930928492992221184


And finally, there's 34Justice's detailed account of how policymakers (such as Paul Ryan) use a structured playbook to justify dunking on the poor to serve the rich. Here's an excerpt:


3) Imply that poor people’s personal failings are what’s holding them back. You can’t pull off the enlightened nice-guy routine if you’re blaming poor people for their problems outright. So you need to do it subtly: say that what we really need is worker training and programs that encourage people to work (again, who’s going to be against that?). Never mind that there’s little actual evidence of a “skills gap” and that most people who can work already do. People are predisposed to believe that our success relative to those less fortunate is a result of our superior work ethic and talents (rather than a product of race, class, gender, and/or other forms of privilege and sheer dumb luck). The more you tap into that predisposition, the more people will oppose downward redistribution and support imposing burdensome requirements on the Have Nots instead.

And there you have it: blame the victim for their plight, so you don't have to actually do anything to address their legitimate grievances.





Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Fourth Time's a Charm -- Status Update & Vox article



Thanks for visiting!

Vox.com has published an article of mine that updates many things since I wrote the book back in Spring, 2013. 

For the ONPA award-winning article about me and the book from 2013, visit here: 
http://www.dailytidings.com/article/20130201/NEWS02/302010303 

--VH

PS--I've gotten so many emails and messages of support from so many wonderful people--THANK YOU! It may take awhile, but I promise I will reply to every single person who wrote as soon as I can. I'm packing to get ready to move out, so my time (and internet connection) is limited. Thanks for your understanding. :)


Sunday, March 6, 2016

Staggering Numbers About San Francisco's Homeless Population

71% of San Francisco's homeless population used to be housed residents in the city.

  • http://sfist.com/2016/02/11/71_of_sf_homeless_once_had_homes_in.php
  • http://www.sfexaminer.com/despite-help-homeless-population-increases/
  • https://sfgov.org/lhcb/sites/sfgov.org.lhcb/files/2015%20San%20Francisco%20Homeless%20Count%20%20Report_0.pdf
  • http://www.48hills.org/2016/02/16/five-myths-about-the-homeless-problem-in-san-francisco/

That's nothing short of unbelievable.

From the article in the last bullet point above:

The vast majority of the people who are homeless today used to be housed – in San Francisco. According to the city’s 2015 homeless count, 71 percent of the people on the streets were living in San Francisco when they lost their housing. That means seven out of ten homeless people used to be your neighbors – before the tech boom and the eviction epidemic. Those are, to a significant extent, people who are homeless not because they did anything wrong but because they aren’t rich enough to live in Ed Lee’s San Francisco.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Let the Fast Food CEO's Try to Survive on Their Worker's Wages!

A truly depressing story from PBS thoroughly illustrates the absolute struggle of one fast-food working mother of seven who tries to get by on $8 an hour. An excerpt:
"Over the past several months, activists and some fast-food workers, including Shenita, have been organizing for higher wages. They point out that, like Shenita, almost 40 percent of all fast-food workers are 25 or older, and more than 25 percent are raising children. It's not just teenagers flipping burgers part-time."
And what is the response of many commenters on the story? Generally one of two things:

  • It is not the responsibility of companies to pay a living wage.
  • Don't have kids if you can't afford them.

So there you have it. The ideas that the whole reason people work is so they can afford to live unassisted is lost on many people, as is the idea that it's wrong-headed that only rich people should have kids. Any wonder the problems aren't being addressed, let alone solved?

Voltaire got it right: "The comfort of the rich depends upon an abundant supply of the poor."

Monday, September 2, 2013

Happy Labor Day! American Wages Are Flatter & Lower Than a Decade Ago in Spite of Increased Productivity!

The International Business Times has noted that American workers' wages are flat and in some cases, lower over the last 13 years, in spite of increased productivity. Not to mention that more than 1 in 5 Americans have zero or negative net worth.  

It's not like the reasons are a secret. The cause of the problem is articulated perfectly by Lawrence Mishel of the Economic Policy Institute:
"Policy makers should be viewing broad-based wage growth and the quality of jobs as the lens through which they view economic policy. Right now, economic policy is focused on promoting high consumption and low prices, which lead economic growth to be dependent on cyclical asset bubbles and precipitous accumulation of personal debt."
Critics argue that higher wages for workers means inflation and a higher cost of living, but as you can see from the Times article:
"Groups like the CATO Institute say that the key to economic prosperity is to freeze or eliminate the federal minimum wage rather than increase it -- because they claim higher wages leads poorer people to lose their jobs as companies seek to offset payroll rises. But if stagnant and lower wages are the key to economic prosperity, then the U.S. economy has had more than a decade to prove that.
It hasn’t."
So on this Labor Day, take a look at the short animation fact presentation from the EPI, and understand why all those fast-food workers are striking. And think about what YOU will do this upcoming year to improve your economic standing in a system completely rigged against you.