Lunchtime Riffs on… homelessness and housing

Went to my very first City Council meeting since my term ended last July.

What I saw is what I had seen. A privileged group of neighbors decrying a low-income housing complex as dangerous, degrading to their way of life, not a place they would even let their kids go past… And on it went for an hour.

To one person it was evidence of the “ghettoization”of his neighborhood (we have so many low-income housing complexes in this part of town–they are clustered here).

The same night, different part of the meeting, the discussion turned to homelessness and the city’s efforts to deal with its challenges.

People are (have been) demanding action on this growing problem.

One person said it was time to admit that some people were beyond help, didn’t want it, weren’t going to change, and, therefore…


I mean really… what?

In the room sat two of the irredeemables, apparently now redeemed. But would the speaker have eliminated them from the “largesse” of the community back then when they were ensconced in the downtown with no hope?

One wonders.

The bottom line is that people in this educated town prefer their own beliefs about homelessness to what the evidence actually shows.

In this they demonstrate themselves to ascribe to a faith-based approach to homelessness: faith in themselves because they JUST KNOW that if you provide services more homeless people will crowd in and overwhelm our town, that homeless people are dangerous, bearers of disease, and beyond help: people who are not even from here–not ours, not our responsibility.

The facts, of course, are different. The majority of homeless people in town are “our children.”

Homeless people don’t come here for services (except perhaps a bed in the coldest months–but even that appears to be waning). They come here for the same reason everyone else does: jobs, family, education.

The facts, of course, say that if you want to make a dent in the most difficult forms of homelessness (the chronic variety, accompanied by trauma, untreated mental health conditions, and the attendant self-medication that chains people to hopelessness), you need housing first. Put people in houses and then we can deal with Maslow level two (as our homeless outreach coordinator eloquently stated).

But this is California and our “progressivism” melts in the face of the messiness of housing these folks in our “nearby.”

And that brings us back to the first part of the meeting–the low-income housing “problem”.

DO SOMETHING about homelessness but don’t provide them with housing close to me because, I will have to see things I don’t like to see.

DO SOMETHING about homelessness but don’t provide services because that will just attract more of “them.”

DO SOMETHING about homelessness but don’t spend my money, ask for my assistance, disrupt my life… (Isn’t this the “state’s” responsibility?)

DO SOMETHING about homelessness but don’t forget I am the one that pays taxes here and so don’t make the “doing” anything unpleasant for us “good folks” (they don’t have to say “makers” and “takers” but… Ayn Rand lurks at our door).

When we are expected to squeeze down the margins within which we can legitimately act in these ways, the only true solution is removal, banishment, and the final dehumanization of people who are not “people” to us in any significant way.

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