Tag Archives: poverty

Homelessness is a concurrent disorder in a number of ways

When we talk about the Poor in 2023, we speak of the Homeless. In some but not all ways, this makes sense. Anyone without a home is by default poor (unless you are very rich). And it makes sense that tackling homelessness is the best way to tackle the problems that poor people have. But it’s not enough to stop at homes: we need to treat poverty as a concurrent disorder.

If someone has addiction problems and mental health problems, professionals like those at CAMH in Toronto will treat the addiction first while taking into account the mental health problems. I think the same has to be done with poverty.

Indeed, this piece at newscientist.com says that “decades of research have shown that focusing on housing, without making sobriety or mental health treatment a prerequisite, is the most effective way to reduce homelessness”.  People need shelter first if they are to improve their lives.

But shelter is just a start. As this shows, “110 unhoused people died last year in Toronto homeless shelters”. Poor people need more. Otherwise they will have a bed (if they are lucky), but die if they are not cared for.

Part of the challenge is the homeless poor can be difficult to care for due to many reasons. It takes a special set of skills to do so, as this piece shows: “You Have to Learn to Listen” How a Doctor Cares for Boston’s Homeless. It’s not enough to just provide facilities and insist they should go to there.

Another part of the challenge is that people don’t care, either because they are indifferent or they have a peculiar moral code that stops them from providing for those suffering from being poor. So you have politicians providing ridiculous restrictions on what poor people can get with SNAP in the US: No more sliced cheese under Iowa Republicans SNAP proposal. Or you have a councillor voting No when Toronto’s council declares homelessness an emergency and asks for more aid to deal with the growing problem.

So the Poor need homes. They need better care. They need food. All basic needs. Some of them need more, like help with addiction problems. From there they need to develop skills. Otherwise they run into the problem of what to do with themselves when they no longer need to scramble to find money to buy booze, as this piece showed.

There are others besides those who are Poor who need those things: those of us who are not Poor. Shelter, food, healthcare, occupation…we all have those needs. We need to find a way that all of us can get access to that, not just for the betterment of individuals, but for the betterment of our society as a whole. Right now our society has a concurrent disorder. Dealing with homelessness may be a good way to start to tackle it, but we need to take into account more than that as we move forward. It’s the only way out society can get better.

P.S. For more on the SNAP cutbacks, read this: No SNAP for you – by Pamela Herd and Don Moynihan. Thing you could live on what SNAP provides? Read this: Snap Challenge | Budget Bytes.

Food insecurity is often tied to other problems, like whether to get food or heat and other utilities. This is a striking story that illustrates that cruel fact.

It doesn’t help if we don’t know how many homeless people they are. According to this, there are over half a million homeless people in the US. And they may not be where you think. For example, the state with the second-highest per capita homeless rate in the US is…. Vermont. That surprised me.

This also surprised me: the story on how the mayor of  Bend, Oregon who helped the homeless ended up becoming homeless himself.

Finally, this piece about how in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont., the problem of chronic homelessness is being addressed by a community of tiny homes called A Better Tent City had me thinking continually about homelessness and poverty since I came across it.




Homelessness and how it is being dealt with in some places

I believe in the future we will no longer have homelessness problems. We are not there yet. Some cities, like Houston are making progress, as this piece explains: How Houston Moved 25 000 People From the Streets Into Homes of Their Own. Other cities, like San Diego, are taking initiative. Much has to do with the city. NYC, for example. This is a piece discussing their failure:  City targeted same homeless New Yorkers over and over in encampment sweeps. But at least some people are looking into new ideas, as this shows: What Would It Take to Move Street Homeless New Yorkers into Housing?

Meanwhile in Canada, there are small scale initiatives being tried, as this piece,   Shower project, and this piece, Man forced to stop building tiny homes for Toronto’s homeless now has a new project, illustrate. The solution is proper housing. Stop gap measures are just that: stop gaps.

If you want to deal with homelessness, you need to know roughly how many  people are homeless. This explains how many there in Toronto.

Finally, here are some pieces that are related to the issue:  Is Our Homelessness Crisis Really a Drug Problem?, and “Maid” author Stephanie Land on what it feels like to be shamed for being poor, and teen transitions to sobriety and higher education.

I think about homelessness all the time. Hence these links and these pieces.


The solution to poverty and crime and homelessness is simple

And what is the solution? GIVE PEOPLE MONEY. Just give it to them.

Here’s what I mean. Case study #1: Liberia’s stunningly effective way to reduce shootings and other crimes.

Case study #2: The expanded child tax credit lifted 3 million children out of poverty.

Read and see. Over and over and over again, it’s always the same. You give people money, much of our social problems go away. Much? Most. All? Not all.

Shouldn’t we give them jobs? Jobs is a way to give people money. Good jobs are a great way to give people money. Crappy jobs, not so much. In fact, many jobs are an indirect way of giving people money, it’s just that people sit in an office for eight hours a day filling out online forms or sitting in meetings because someone has a sense that they are needed so that someone else can have someone give them money.

Where does the money come from? From people who have more money than they know what to do with. From programs we fund now to the hilt because we worry about crime. From taxes on people and organizations that harm our society, that pollute, that run their businesses on the assumption that it doesn’t matter that they treat people badly.

Won’t this cause moral hazards? It’s a good tradeoff to have.

In the future we will be harshly criticized for not doing the thing that is obvious to alleviate all our problems because of our inhumanity towards others. For allowing people to be homeless. To be hungry. To suffer needlessly. The obvious thing is to give people money.

Once they have money, then the next thing is to help them with the things they need to have a better life.


Not every act of kindness is good

It’s tempting when reading these two pieces

  1. Community fridges pop up in Toronto neighbourhoods during COVID-19 pandemic–
  2. Councillor blasts group building shelters after altercation at Dartmouth park

to say, “at least they’re trying”. Or to ask “what’s the alternative”. Or even to think “you don’t support these ideas because you are “heartless, bourgeois, selfish,” etc.

First off, let me say the impulse of these initiatives are good. And the alternatives — lack of food and shelter — are terrible. So in that way these are good ideas. Some food and some shelter is better than none.

But in comparison to any other initiative involving food and shelter these ideas are poor ones. These shelters are good because they are shelters and nothing else. And the idea of having a community fridge is a disaster waiting to happen.

I’m glad that these initiatives provoke the comfortable to make a better effort to help the poor and homeless. But I will never think these are good works for any reason other than the basic ones.

Not every act of kindness is good, and sometimes a small act of kindness allows a bigger problem to fester.

To improve society, you need governments to want to improve society

To improve society, you need governments to want to improve society. This seems obvious, unless you see government function as either wasting money or punishing the worst off in our society. But governments can function very effectively to improve society, and these two articles illustrate this:

  1. Trudeau’s Child Benefit Is Helping Drive Poverty to New Lows – Bloomberg
  2. Jobs, Houses and Cows: China’s Costly Drive to Erase Extreme Poverty – The New York Times

In both countries, poverty isn’t declining by magic or the invisible hand of capitalism. It’s being driven down by specific policies and programs with an aim to eliminate poverty.

A better world is possible. Progress is possible. We just need people and their governments to want it to become possible. Never believe that progress is impossible or an illusion.

(Chart above from here. The downward line is people living in extreme poverty, while the upward line is people not living in extreme poverty.)


How living in a poor neighborhood changes everything about your life (and this was before the pandemic)

This is a really good explanation piece on how living in a poor neighborhood changes everything about your life (Vox).

It is focused on the United States, but is not unique to it. Well worth reading. It can also explain why people who live in poorer neighborhoods are more likely to suffer the effects of the pandemic.



We don’t talk much about poverty anymore. We talk about the middle class a lot. We don’t talk about the upper class or the rich anymore: instead we talk about them in terms of percentage points. And we don’t talk about the poor as much as we talk about those who are homeless. But there are still poor people in our society, and one member of that group wrote about it here: Falling.

He has a home, he was middleclass, and now he is poor. The story is sad but not exceptional.

I don’t know why we don’t talk about the poor so much any more. Perhaps we see poverty as shameful, not for the people who are poor, but shameful for people who don’t see themselves as poor. I don’t know. I think we do need to talk about it and the spectrum of financial status, and I think we need to work towards a fairer and more equitable society. First, we need to look and talk about it more clearly.


Can homelessness be reduced?

Definitely yes. Here’s how two cities are doing it:

  1.  New Orleans
  2. Helsinki

It can be done. These cities are showing how it can be done. Other cities need to strive for similar or better results.