Homelessness in America is baked-in. Income inequality, entrenched racial bias and “not-in-my-neighborhood” sentiment ensure that homelessness will remain as solvable as war in Afghanistan.
Last year, distance between average income of the top 1 percent and bottom 99 percent in New York exceeded $ million and over $1 million in California, Florida, Texas and Washington — states where 54.45 percent of America’s 554,000 homeless resided.
Black persons constituted two-fifths of that population but 12.6 percent of America’s population. The 2018 unemployment rate for black people was two times that for white persons.
Joe Public wants to see the homeless work. Last year, President Trump issued an Executive Order billed as “common-sense reforms to restore prosperity by helping Americans move from welfare to work.” It met quick resistance. Nationalhomeless.org. said, “We know that the real direction of work requirements as welfare reform is punitive.”
The Department of Housing and Urban Development says the solution for homelessness is transition shelter, then permanent homes, when available. Attitudes about that approach to a homeless solution might be exemplified by this San Jose homeowner’s comments: “I think it’s a great idea if you wanna put people up in a house, some facility,” he added later, “but don’t build it in my backyard.”
The solution this guy commented about was San Jose’s scheme to build 500 “transition” homes for its homeless. The homes would be 70 to 80 square feet for single persons and 120 square feet for couples — no plumbing, no municipal electricity — and no permanent homes to transition to.
San Diego chose industrial-sized tents as its “transition” homes. The tents hold 324 people with 70 dogs, all with neatly spaced, numbered bunks. Trouble is, says a homeless services provider, “Folks with jobs and good credit and college educations, they can’t find places to rent … If (housing) was there, we’d be taking them (homeless) out by the friggin’ busload.”
Truth is, the growing income gap has all but eliminated solutions to homelessness in areas where the homeless are most concentrated. And, seemingly, nobody wants ’em in their backyard.
Here’s how that goes: On April 29, a Manhattan judge gave city officials a big OK to begin housing homeless in a vacant apartment building. But there’s a problem. The vacant building is in “Billionaires’ Row,” backed up against a residential skyscraper. In 2014, Michael Dell of Dell Computers paid $100 million for a condo in that skyscraper. Its affluent residents plan to “immediately appeal,” claiming the vacant building in question is unsafe for homeless people.
In Los Angeles, the housing vacancy rate is 2 percent. Income inequality mandates that even LA’s public school teachers commute to the city in which they teach. They can’t afford an LA house.
LA and its surrounding counties have the second largest homeless population in America, but New York City has more, by far. So back in 1987, New York initiated a novel homeless “relocation” program where homeless folks can receive a one-way bus ticket to some place, any place, really. Other major cities, including LA, quickly adopted that solution.
Over 12 years, LA has generously financed thousands of one-ways to places. New York City has financed thousands of one-ways to places like Los Angeles. About 20 percent even leave NYC in style, on airlines, heading to faraway exotic lands like Mexico, Nigeria, India, even New Zealand.
There is huge cost incentive to solve the homeless problem. A HUD official told The New York Times in 2012 that it would take $20 billion to eliminate homelessness in the United States. Each chronically homeless person costs taxpayers up to $50,000 per year. LA’s budget projection for homeless shelters is $356 million each year. New York City budgets $2 billion for shelters.
In San Francisco, simply to clean drug paraphernalia and human feces from the sidewalks cost $70 million per year. Workers are known as the Poop Patrol. Their annual salary is $71,760 but increases to $184,678 per year when mandated benefits are added.
There have been strides. According to government statistics, the number of homeless was cut from 650,000 in 2010 to 550,000 in 2017. The government also says the number of homeless veterans — a high-profile segment — was cut in half during those years.
However, federal goals set in 2010 included ending chronic homelessness and the homeless veterans problem by 2015. When that year rolled around, the deadline bumped to 2017.
Last year the number of homeless people rose again. As to the veterans, the Veterans Affairs administration backed completely off its target of zero homelessness by 2017, but promises it’s not giving up.
Liberal website HuffPost.com recommends this approach for money to eradicate homelessness: end capital gains tax cuts, corporate meals and entertainment tax write-offs; cut nuclear weapons spending; and end taxpayer subsidies for the oil industry.
Good luck with that.