More and more people call the streets home

July 19, 2012

Ken Williams

OPINION By NOOZHAWK COLUMNIST KEN WILLIAMS

Still again, harsh voices are raised against those who find the streets home. For some, there is an underlying assumption that the poor are, at best, a nuisance, and at worst, a threat. Certain people view those without homes outside of any historical, political or economic context. [Noozhawk]

Here are some basic truths. We are in the fourth year of the Great Recession, the deepest and longest economic contraction since the Great Depression. Millions of Americans have been without work for years, and millions more barely scrape by with part-time, low-paying jobs. And millions have seen their economic well-being wiped out — personal wealth obliterated, and their retirement savings and plans disappear.

We cannot overlook this most important of facts. Some seem to think that jobs are plentiful and only the lazy lack work. This, of course, is a great disservice, and an even greater insult to those unemployed and underemployed who bare not only the financial but also the psychological scars of this great failure of our economic system.

Millions of our fellow citizens lost their homes during the past four years. Federal funding for affordable and/or subsidized housing has been decimated during the past 20 years. So-called “welfare reform” has denied economic help to hundreds of thousands of families across the land when “term limits” were applied to the poor. Fifteen million children — more than 20 percent — live in poverty.

Do most locals know that the welfare benefit level for single adults (general relief) has been frozen for more than 20 years? Have rents? Fuel? Food or clothing? Can you imagine trying to exist on what your income was 20 years ago? Also, during this time, the stock of low-income rooms available to the poor — both working and unemployed — have seen a radical reduction. Seven low-income hotels with hundreds of beds that used to provide housing have either gone out of business or were converted to upscale tourist hotels. When the poor, who no longer have access to housing, turn up at homeless shelters, they and the shelters are scapegoated like it is their fault.

The societal infrastructure of our country — commonly referred to as the “safety net” — has been decimated. And still some cry for even more cuts as if hunger and homelessness are the only motivations that the poor understand.

One only has to look at the scandalous treatment of the mentally ill and veterans of our society’s addiction to war to see this lack of services to those who go without. Even after having worked the streets of our city for more than 30 years, I am still shocked, dismayed and extremely saddened when I walk down State Street and witness what the failure of our mental health delivery system for the homeless mentally ill means: an open air asylum. The other high-volume treatment center is the jail.

It seems that the best we can do is to criminalize a sickness and make criminals out of the afflicted. Perhaps we can employ this creative strategy next with diabetics, people afflicted with cancer or the blind. It makes as much sense.

And then there is the morality of treating a vulnerable group in such a callous and inhumane fashion. Let us break out of the “politically correct” paradigm of seeing the homeless as all being one. It may make us feel more comfortable with our prejudices, but it isn’t real.

Read the remainder of this editorial at Noozhawk.com.


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16 Comments

  1. rogerfreberg says:

    Ah, and where is all this money supposed to come from and what does society get in return? America can not long afford to do business as usual…

    BTW, the government has responded to looming unemployment and the threat of homelessness (theirs) by hiring 12,000 IRS agents at a pop ( some say the biggest job creation bill of all time)…. however, I see this less as an effort to address societal problems with additionally generated revenue than to control a growing vocal and dissatisfied citizenry.

    The problem of the 1%’s you speak of is more a problem of folks getting paid more than their worth… is a college President really worth half a million or a million a year? How many college, university, city and county administrators are making more than 100,000 a year… are they really worth it?

    Money spent foolishly isn’t going to develop a better future. For example, we see lots of stimulus money being spent on jobs building roads for today… but isn’t that really like giving someone a fish for today’s meal …rather than teaching them to fish and letting them feed themselves forever? Their has to be a prize for playing this game.

    Lastly, all jobs are honorable… and the fact that you may not wish to do them doesn’t detract from the fact that they are worthy and often lead to better jobs.

    (4) 8 Total Votes - 6 up - 2 down
    • justme says:

      A hundred grand a year to assure that foriegn kids learn well how to kick our economic asses when they get back home.

      (2) 2 Total Votes - 2 up - 0 down
      • The Gimlet Eye says:

        The “sanctuary state” of CA is a many splendored thing.

        (1) 1 Total Votes - 1 up - 0 down
  2. Slowerfaster says:

    16,600 dollars a year is not a livable wage for anyone. It is institutional slavery. Forced work for not even bare subsistence. That is full time 40 hrs/week, 52 weeks a year, NO vacation, gross pay before taxes.
    Try living on that anywhere in America.

    All of you ‘think you got it made’ , or wishing wannabe future millionaires recall the worst job you ever had. Would you now work for the same wages you did then for the crap job?
    Or would you say ” HELL NO ! ” ?

    The rich take from the commons. They use way more of what society does collectively than ordinary working people, but they refuse to pay for it. So who foots the bill ? YOU DO. and most of you dimwits don’t recognize how the rich are stealinfg from you every day, every hour, every minute.
    And you put up with it. You even join their ‘amen chorus’ of robots repeating the same tired slogans direct from Rush and Fox.

    Hey, they are making millions and know that they are exploiting the stupids. They don’t even halfway apologize for it anymore.

    Republicans are the enemy. Republicans are the problem.

    (-9) 21 Total Votes - 6 up - 15 down
    • leatherpink says:

      Democrats are the enemy. Democrats are the problem.

      Democrat equals socialism

      (2) 18 Total Votes - 10 up - 8 down
      • Slowerfaster says:

        Socialists care.

        Anarchists don’t care.

        Republicans are sociopaths that have no concept of what caring even means.

        America will progress when Republicans like Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Kevin McCarthy, Paul Ryan, Michele Bachmann, Louie Gohmert, Willard Romney et al, are extinct or nowhere near any power anywhere.

        When fascists can exert power anywhere, everyone else loses.

        (-2) 12 Total Votes - 5 up - 7 down
        • leatherpink says:

          And the crooked democrats like Luis Capps, Boxer, Feinstein, Brown, Obama, Reid, Pelosi, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharton, Charlie Rangel, Kennedy, Barnie Frank, former SF mayor Gavin Newsom, LA mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Al Franken, MARION BARRY, MAX BAUCUS, MAX BAUER, JASON BEAN, MELISSA BERGER, SANDY BIDEN, JOE BISHOP, BLAGOJEVICH, ROD BLUMENTHAL, RICHARD BURRIS, ROLAND BYRD, ROBERT CLARKE, YVETTE BILL & HILLARY, COAKLEY, MARTHA CONRAD, KENT CONWAY, JACK CONYERS, JOHN CONYERS, MONICA COONS, CHRIS CORZINE, JON CUOMO, ANDREW DALEY, RICHARD DASCHLE, TOM DECHEINE, ROBERT DEFAZIO, PETER NORM DICKS, DIMORA, JIMMY DIXON, SHEILA DODD, CHRIS DURBIN, DICK DURKEE, KINDE EASLEY, MIKE EDWARDS, JOHN ELLISON, KEITH EMANUEL, RAHM EPSTEIN, DAVID ETHERIDGE, BOB FEINGOLD, RUSS FEINSTEIN, DIANE FLAKE, FLOYD FORD, HAROLD , AL FRANKEN and more.

          Oh and all the 95% of the greedy weathly democrat Hollywood actors making sums amounts of money and handing nickels & dimes to film set crews, corrupt Hollywood ran by democrats.

          And then you have Ron Paul, the true republician and a true democrat Dennis Kucinich.

          (-2) 18 Total Votes - 8 up - 10 down
          • bobfromsanluis says:

            Wow, go off your meds often? At least half of the names you have listed look like you simply made them up or really got the mixed up. Here’s a tip; if you are going to go off on a rant, try to keep a few facts sprinkled in there to help your rant look like you are not totally crazy. Jeepers.

            (-4) 10 Total Votes - 3 up - 7 down
            • Slowerfaster says:

              bfsl …I think lp is a charade, a parody.

              But, I thought Glen Beck was a clever prankster spoofing El Rushbo at first !

              (-4) 8 Total Votes - 2 up - 6 down
              • bobfromsanluis says:

                I really don’t think LP is a parody; there seems to be too much emotion for a parody.

                (-1) 3 Total Votes - 1 up - 2 down
      • kettle says:

        Democrats are Democrats.

        enemy? Why do you hate America?

        (0) 8 Total Votes - 4 up - 4 down
  3. leatherpink says:

    Well if these homeless people are to remain out of work then what is it going to take to get them back on their feet again? Some of these homeless people living in their motorhomes are going on 3 to 5 years and some more are still going no where. Service jobs my stink but if you made a good salary before and are not willing to choose anything less if you lost that good old job, doesn’t mean you can’t start over again and build your way back up again.

    We have an average of 2000 illegal immigrants coming into California everday from Mexico, while I am rationally against it, these people are working and are not homeless. Many of the homeless are American citizens sitting in their trailers or collecting cans while these illegal immigrants are doing what they should be doing.

    Even if the pay sucks, you need to be phyiscal to keep your body healthy especially living in the a trailer on the side of the road illegally and eatting low class food.

    What do you do? Do you donate money or do you deport all the illegal immigrants to have those service jobs open or something else?

    We have 310 million people living in the United States currently where we have 155 million people supporting the other 155 million people on some form of social benefits, so we have too many Americans remain dependent on free money as it is and with all the free money, people are not getting off their feet, even if their is no cutbacks or more cutbacks. Do you suggest we take 100 million to support 210 million people to collect?
    Theirs a book called “National Suicide” by Martin Gross that is talks about the money being handed out on all these social programs and how much people are getting and not paying anything back.http://www.amazon.com/National-Suicide-Washington-Destroying-American/dp/0425231372 and video here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eB0_U4lQhaI

    Where do you draw the line on this problem?

    (3) 17 Total Votes - 10 up - 7 down
  4. bobfromsanluis says:

    Ken: Thank you for a well written piece. I think too many people only notice those that choose to be homeless, those that spend most of their time panhandling and just “hanging out” in public spaces like downtown areas and assume that that small percentage represents what being homeless is about. Those that choose to not have a job, that choose to camp where ever they can find a spot, those that lounge around looking to sponge off of those of us who do work and are getting by do those who are homeless due to circumstances beyond their control a great disservice. We need voices like yours to remind the rest of us that there are many people out there who do not want to be homeless, that would very much like to have a job, to be a productive member of society, but as you have noted, the jobs are not really available, especially if one does not have a permanent address or access to simply facilities like a hot shower and a razor blade. I really have to wonder if Ronald Reagan had any idea how society would look after thirty or forty years after he started closing the governmental mental health facilities in California so long ago. A real shame on our society to not only allow such a thing to happen, but to continue to demonize those that are suffering for no real fault of their own. The fact that we have even one homeless veteran really makes me sad for our country.

    (8) 22 Total Votes - 15 up - 7 down
  5. Slowerfaster says:

    The most important sentence in the article : “Some seem to think that jobs are plentiful, and only the lazy lack work. ”

    This is so true. as there are plenty of “jobs” and things to do…but actual work has been so devalued, so ridiculously unimportant over the last thirty plus years; that only the really stupid would continue to work for a static servitude in poverty. This is a condition equivalent to slavery. Full time employment, doing the worst types of tasks unpleasant or drudgery, guarantees living in poverty.
    Why would any sane person do this to themselves ?

    This all falls directly at the 1% that have been killing fellow Americans since time immemorial.
    France just celebrated Bastille Day.
    Americans need to have Our “Bastille Day”.

    (-4) 18 Total Votes - 7 up - 11 down

Comments are closed.