Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Giving Money Directly to the Homeless is a Good Thing

There is an excellent article by Matt Broomfield in the British periodical New Statesman titled, "Why you should give money directly and unconditionally to the homeless" that's well worth a read. Excerpt:

"Don’t second-guess whether people are “really” homeless. Those who think begging is a shortcut to easy money should try humiliating themselves daily in front of thousands of total strangers who won’t even look at them or acknowledge their existence. It is gruelling, soul-destroying work. If people are desperate enough to beg, they need it."...
"Of course, it is true that your drinking habit and theirs are fundamentally different. Addiction is rooted in material circumstance – alcohol is the obvious example, but think how many skiing accidents end in courses of opiates far stronger than anything you’d find on the street without any long-term compulsion developing. It can only be tackled by raising people out of poverty, and a brute-force severing of cash flow is not going to starve people into seeking help from authorities they know will not, or cannot, help them."

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Homelessness Is Expensive

Many peopleparticularly critics of the homelessthink that homeless people have no responsibilities such as mortgages, car payments, etc., so they can live for free on the streets, scrounging whatever they can to survive. 

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Housed or not, the day-to-day cost of living is expensive for everyone. It's even more difficult for the homeless, employed or not. Working homeless people have expenses like everyone else (food, clothing, transportation to/from work). The cost of living will vary based on their geographical area, and the size of their family, as well as whether or not there are public resources such as charities or social agencies in their communities.

Just the basic survival needs for living in a car, and to not look like a homeless person to avoid detection, are as follows:

These very basic expenses can eat up a part-time paycheck pretty quickly (on top of the logistical difficulties of working while homeless). In my case, for example, luxuries such as haircuts, hot meals, or clotheswhich are hardly considered luxuries to housed peopleare a non-starter for me. I trim the dead ends off my hair as best as I can, and for the last three years, I've worn whatever clothes I've found in various "free" boxes around town. Even when I had a roof over my head, my clothes were purchased BY THE POUND at a local Goodwill Outlet store, because it was all I could afford. Shopping in a mall or online is not even a remote reality for me anymore. 

Critics of homelessness also advise moving to a less expensive area to live, but moving costs money (particularly for gas) which poor people obviously don't have a lot of. It also costs money to live in the new location with no job or support or resources. So it's not as easy as the critics like to think, simply because poor people don't have the same resources as the critics who (conveniently) don't understand poverty. 

The solution is what it's always been: affordable housing and living wages. Sadly, neither are in danger of happening anytime soon, thanks to the plutocratic oligarchy we have been living in for a long time in the USA. 

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Articles on the Neuropsych of Homelessness; and US Workers are Totally Screwed Compared to Other Nations

A couple of really good recent articles on homelessness of note:

Hanna Brooks Olson wrote a terrific piece on Medium about the neuropsychology of (unfounded) assumptions the average person makes about homeless people, and the causes of their poverty. An excerpt:

"There has, for more than 30 years, been a resounding refrain that poverty is the fault of the poor, and that if you are not poor, you are somehow better, stronger, more capable, and more deserving of food, housing, and peace of mind."

Of course, in the minds of average people with money, homelessness could never have any possible connection to working conditions, as this piece from Eric Levitz at New York Magazine shows. An excerpt:

"But a new report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) offers a more straightforward — and political— explanation: American policymakers have chosen to design an economic system that leaves workers desperate and disempowered, for the sake of directing a higher share of economic growth to bosses and shareholders.
The OECD doesn’t make this argument explicitly. But its report lays waste to the idea that the plight of the American worker can be chalked up to impersonal economic forces, instead of concrete political decisions. If the former were the case, then American laborers wouldn’t be getting a drastically worse deal than their peers in other developed nations. But we are."

Saturday, June 2, 2018

I Told You So...

From the 3/30/18 issue of the magazine "The Week":

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Why Poor People Are Poor

Bad public policy that is pro-plutocrat and anti-worker contributes heavily to poverty in the richest country in the world.

See for yourself:

I spent most of my adult life missing one of the three legs of the stool of stability: Food, Shelter, and Medical Care. 

Most of my life I was missing medical care, but I compensated for it by not drinking, doing drugs, and becoming a vegetarian at the age of 20. Still, I had medical bills for things that insurance companies denied when I did have insurance. (Most women know how hard it is to get "women's health" medication and therapies covered by insurance, and end up paying for expensive but necessary medication out of pocket. It's easier to buy a gun in the USA than it is to get hormone replacement therapy (HRT).)

These days, at middle age in abject poverty, I have food stamps and Medicaid covering those two legs of the stool, but no shelter/housing. Many people, like me, spend our entire lives just trying to survive. We work twice as hard for half as much, and are then blamed for our poverty. We never get to fulfill our potential in life because we're always trying to scrape together first, last, and deposit, or cover the latest car repair, on low wages. Spending time in college we can't afford, or taking trips or other luxuries, are absolute non-starters for us. Things most middle-class and rich people take for granted--like having a washer and dryer to do laundry instead of trekking to laundromats; or not having to cut your own hair because you can't afford $25-$50 to have a pro do it; or eating out, (even at an inexpensive restaurant), or even enough money for a full tank of gas--are luxuries we rarely attain. 

Article at https://democracyjournal.org/arguments/bold-versus-old/

One thing people who hate homeless people conveniently forget is that most people have someone or something that supports them: a job, family, a government subsidy, a tax break, or friends who will help when they get into trouble. 

Homeless people don't have a support system like that. Most of us have been completely on our own all of our lives, and remain that way because society hates the poor, and hates the homeless even more, blaming them for their plight. 

It doesn't have to be that way, but change toward a fairer society in the USA isn't even remotely on the horizon.

And then there's this

So anyone at this point who hasn't figured out the system is rigged against working people is deliberately sticking their head in the sand. 

Monday, April 30, 2018

The Sickness of Society

The mystic and philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti once said, "It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society." I just finished Rolling Stone investigative reporter Matt Taibbi's latest book, "I Can't Breathe: A Killing on Bay Street," about how the NYPD cops who murdered Eric Garner got away with it because of a severely broken judicial system and a corrupt, byzantine, city bureaucracy designed to delay in order to eventually deny anything even remotely resembling justice.

This page from the book is totally profound, and though it describes Garner and his situation, it is something that could easily describe any powerless or homeless person's situation of where America stands in 2018:

The plutocratic nightmare that we have been living in for quite some time is not in danger of ending anytime soon. I am almost wholeheartedly in agreement with George Orwell these days, when he stated, "If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever." I have no idea when, how, or even if this type of "some people are more equal than others" strata in American society can ever be permanently, or even partially, rooted out, but my guess is that if any progress is going to be made, it's not going to be soon, and it's is most certainly not going to be peaceful. True societal change never is.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Those Who Have the Least Are the Most Generous

Years ago, a Moroccan friend of mine told me that when he was a car valet, the people with the ordinary cars tipped the most, while those with the luxury and exotic cars tipped the least. As a journalist and scientific data lover, I'm not a big fan of anecdotal evidence at all, but that doesn't mean I don't find it interesting at times. 

Glenn Greenwald, the Pulitzer-winning journalist who you may remember from a few years ago for publishing the Edward Snowden material, resides in Brazil. This recent tweet by Greenwald is an interesting anecdote that reminded me of my Moroccan friend's experience:

Greenwald, along with his partner, David Miranda, has established an animal shelter run by homeless people in Rio de Janiero. As many of you know from my writings about my cat, Scooter, pets and homeless people have bonds that run far deeper than those of ordinary pet owners. That's because your pet still loves you when society has turned its back on you, and prefers that you don't exist. From Greenwald's guest column in The Dodo:

"The compassion, empathy and self-sacrifice defining the relationship between those who are homeless and their pets is extraordinary. It is difficult to explain how affecting it is to watch a hungry, homeless person receive a desperately needed meal and, without a second thought, instantly divide it in half to share it with their hungry dog or cat. Leslie Irvine, a sociology professor at the University of Colorado, has devoted much of her academic career to studying this unique relationship, and even named her book on the topic, 'My Dog Always Eats First.' "

Irvine's book is scholarly and tedious to read, but I'm glad I did slog through it. She traveled around the San Francisco Bay Area with a veterinarian on wheels who provided free vet services for the pets of homeless people. The book documents those experiences.

Finally, the true causes of homelessness are starting to dawn on the mainstream media. I was pleasantly surprised to find a quote of mine extracted from my Vox article in the national magazine The Week. The article very succinctly sums up the problem--and the lamentable solution: more affordable housing is needed now, but won't be built for years, if ever. Still, the article does wonders in changing the stereotypical narrative about homeless people to one that is accurate--and obvious--to anyone on the West Coast witnessing the problem right in front of them. Without living wages and affordable housing, homelessness will only increase.