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.
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.
It’s tempting when reading these two pieces
- Community fridges pop up in Toronto neighbourhoods during COVID-19 pandemic– …
- 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. 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:
- Trudeau’s Child Benefit Is Helping Drive Poverty to New Lows – Bloomberg
- 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.)
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.
Definitely yes. Here’s how two cities are doing it:
- New Orleans
It can be done. These cities are showing how it can be done. Other cities need to strive for similar or better results.