Living Amongst America’s Homeless

Over the past 30 years Americans have grappled with the problem of homelessness on a large scale. As many of us drive by them on the corner, or step over them on the sidewalk, it’s hard to avoid the feeling that we live amongst the homeless.

When analyzing this problem, many fall back on the political blame game. And yes, although the federal cutbacks in mental health services and affordable housing in the 1980’s created a spike in homelessness at the time, it’s hard to just blame Republicans for this problem. Since that time, both parties have failed to restore the social service safety net while also radically altering America’s economy. The changes in our economy have created much uncertainty for both the middle and lower-middle classes.

In the past 30 years inflation has taken a toll on real wages as automation and globalization have changed the job landscape. These factors, when combined with the credit and debt boom, have created a situation that results in many Americans with very little or no savings. As a result, there are many homeless who were pushed into this life after losing a job. What sometimes starts as a temporary setback of living out of their car often turns into a several month ordeal that changes their life forever. Sadly…some find that once they lose their housing, they’re never able to recover. As opposed to thinking of the homeless as mostly scam artists or drug addicts, we need to recognize that many of them would prefer to be employed and living a normal life.

As typical with many political issues these days, neither political party can be relied on to totally improve the homeless problem. As with many political topics, actual solutions require creative thinking involving both parties putting the interest of America first, and the dogma of their party second.

Interestingly, President Trump’s protectionist economic policies have actually helped supply a boost in employment. Although these protectionist policies will eventually give way to the globalist trend well established, it needs to be recognized that improving employment opportunities can definitely help the homeless situation.

However, boosting employment alone will probably not bring America’s homeless to as low a level as it was in the 1970’s. To achieve this we need to also improve the budget for affordable subsidized housing. In line with this, as a way to reduce the stigma with subsidized housing, policies that allow renters and owners to take ownership and have responsibility for the appearance, cleanliness, and maintenance of these dwellings should help. These policies can help reduce the stigma of subsidized housing while also improving the value and safety of the properties.  

Since many homeless have mental health problems compounded by the drug crisis, we should find ways to improve the budgets of mental health service on all governmental levels. This makes sense since it’ll help to not only get many mentally ill off the streets; it’ll also give some a chance to normalize their life. In line with this, looking for ways to reduce access to opioids and other hard drugs such as methamphetamines and LSD, will help.

American history shows periodic spikes in homelessness that has often followed wars or economic dislocations. Obviously, our 30-year period of high homelessness needs to end soon for this to be looked at as merely a spike and not an American way of life.

Since employment helps people focus on improving their lot, it’s worthwhile to look at continuing some of the employment-boosting free-market measures now taking place. In addition, it’d also be wise to create a government workforce that can be used for infrastructure maintenance. This government workforce can employ some of the homeless that show aptitude in both temporary and permanent jobs.

As with any political problem, there are solutions to the homeless crisis. However, although the solutions are right before our eyes, finding the will to look for in-depth and concrete political solutions is difficult. If we want to put America truly first again, we’ll need to put our heads together from the left to the right, to reach solutions that are best. Combining all political ideas from across the spectrum is the only real way that we’ll start getting the homeless off the streets, and into homes.

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15 thoughts on “Living Amongst America’s Homeless

  1. Certain people are too busy spending tax dollars to feed the thousands coming across the border. There’s nothing left for our own children and homeless. As the years progress, the US is becoming a country fewer and fewer citizens working and paying taxes, but the amount of people being supported by welfare programs increases in leaps and bounds. The country keeps borrowing money from other countries to the point where our debt can never be paid back. Take a look at the ever increasing national debt….
    http://www.usdebtclock.org/

    1. Hi GP, I’m so glad that you stopped by my blog to comment. I’ve learned much over the past few months from your blog + appreciate the time you put into making WW 2 history come alive.

      Yeah…I hear your justifiable concern about our debt + the fact that the immigration situation has become so complex + political. Without a doubt, if someone is trying to keep our debt down + is looking for ways to take care of our own homeless problem it’s disconcerting to realize that we’re supporting people who are not yet paying into the system in the form of taxes.

      Since America has adopted debt-based Keynesian economics since the 30’s we’re kind of seeing it play out-debt-wise, in a way that even Keynes didn’t foresee. Basically, politicians add to the debt willingly without much thought to consequences often.

      The 1st blog post I did highlights this situation:

      https://economicpolicythoughts.com/2014/04/

      Hopefully, we can resolve our immigration crisis in a way that doesn’t tear the country apart. In relation to homelessness, I feel it’s always best to have jobs available whenever possible to help create a situation where more people can become self-sufficient. In addition we need to address better the drug situation + realize that some of the mentally ill on the streets need treatment as opposed to being released back onto the streets.

      Thx for stopping by GP!

  2. Hey Perry, The solution is obvious. And every town and city in America will go for it.

    Many different suggestions include supplying them with little campers to live in. Everyone agrees that they should have porta-poddies of some kind so that they don’t have to go to the bathroom on the street. They should be given enough nutritious food so that they stay in good health. They should be given clothes for their back. They should be allowed to live out of shopping carts without getting in trouble for taking a cart from a store that doesn’t belong to them. They should be valued and loved, and accepted as equal and important members of our society.

    And the bottom line, which all of the above has been prefaced on, is one which every city, town or principality can agree on, The homeless should be provided all this and given whatever help then need in order to live productive lives in someone else’s town.

    We love the homeless as long as they are anywhere but here.

    1. Hi luvforall1959! So good to hear from you again!

      Even though I detect that your comment was a bit tongue-in-cheek 🙂 , you hit upon things that are quite relevant here.

      First off, the main thing that you hit upon was the fact that many people claim to want to help the homeless as long as they go to another town. This is a very important point. The NIMBY Concept-“Not In My Back Yard,” is something that’s very prevalent on many levels. And yes, although many of us want to do something about homelessness, the sheer complexity of the situation, when combined with the Us vs Them politics that we currently have, basically results in an inability to work together on solutions.

      I truly appreciate you pointing this out!

      Thx for coming by again luvforall1959. Interesting ideas as usual!

  3. It pains me to hear people say we are wasting our tax payer dollars on the homeless, the poor or on immigrants. Are we investing our money wisely? How we spend on the disadvantaged is worthy of debate. I cringe even more when I hear equal rights be the justification for stripping others of their rights or that we can solve these problems by taxing the rich. The reason I find a liberal bias more offensive than conservative bias, is because bias, based on a lack of information, is bigotry, plain and simple.
    I can respect emotions as fundamental to a person’s worldview. However, I am disappointed when I see intelligent people fanning the flames of emotionalism instead igniting the embers curiosity.
    The growing numbers of homeless and economic migrants are due to the inversion of investments from earnings that is driving the disparity of wealth around the planet. Historically, horses and fast ships have put physical distance between the spoils and the victims from whom they were taken. Asset investment on the other hand is the engine of sustainable wealth. Even so, the extractive method of wealth is now sublimely refined. All manner of legal, technological and physical protections exist to funnel resources from extraction to private holdings. No one is going to argue the motive needed for capitalism, but is this model sustainable?
    Frontiers were conquered and wilderness tamed by the endowment principle. Getting people invested in an area creates wealth and created nations. A person so vested, will move to protect that investment, thus, home owning citizens are more likely to obey laws and pay taxes. The disenfranchised, socially and economically displaced migrants aka, homeless, are not invested in any location or system thus have less of a reason to obey any rules that may further constrain their survival. That does not mean that all migrants and homeless are criminals, just to say they have less reason to be constrained, and even less so, if they have no hope of investing.
    The endowment principle is the same force of nature at work for any investment mechanism and is the basis for legal tort. A party must demonstrate their investment in order to have standing. The same principles are at work in our corrective systems. For persons in violation of social norms, if there is no way for them to redeem themselves, then there is little motivation to rehabilitate. Conversely, if given a chance to invest in socially appropriate behaviors with the promise of meaningful return, most will.
    There has to be motivation to do more than simply survive. To strive, to innovate and to excel, one must have a powerful incentive, but how can we sustain this when each unit of investment provides incrementally less per unit in return when distributed mathematically or fairly amongst the increasing number of investors? The horrors of forced socialization or communism are that motivation is lost when drive is removed by guaranteed sustenance. The same lack of motivation is seen in any status quo system, whether it be individual welfare, favorable corporate tax rates or protectionist trade policies; innovation stagnates.
    How do we deal with the homeless, migrants, the incarcerated, and the environment? We give them value and provide a way to invest that value back into the economy so it is sustainable. That should guide how we spend our tax dollars. The question of who pays taxes and how much, kind of misses the point. Why do we pay taxes? Why should corporations and individuals invest in fair and sustainable economic assets? Because we want solid financial returns, or, because we don’t want to end up physically and morally bankrupt? I think it imperative to note our founding fathers were well aware of the need for motivation to invest in a new nation. That investment was for the perpetuity of a perfect union, not the profit of one.

    1. Hey Tom…thx again for the in-depth comment!

      Yes, liberal bias can at times be interpreted as bigotry + it’s interesting to note that bigotry can exist in liberals. After all, the basic concept of bigotry is the inability to comprehend a point of view that’s different than one’s own. Often, bigotry is just looked at something conservatives have. In a nutshell, all of us are capable of bigotry at some time.

      Although equal rights is a worthy concept, it is interesting to note that some, although not all, liberals push for equality of outcome as opposed to equality of opportunity. As we all know, equality of opportunity is one of the cornerstones of the American concept. However, equality of outcome can veer at times close to the Marxist ideal of communism which has proved almost impossible to implement.

      Regarding homelessness, you’re so right to point out the big picture when it comes to things such as how we utilize our population’s productive capacity. And yes, I admire the fact that you aptly point up how the endowment principle needs to be looked at so that we can move beyond the “stuck in the mud” political landscape that we have now that reduces issues to caricatures on the right + left. These caricatures reinforce for some on the right that a totally free-market can exist to right all wrongs + on the left we have the caricature that a totally equal socialism can be had if only we envision it.

      As you cleverly point out, finding solutions to the homeless situation requires us to look beyond both stereotypes. After all,creating incentive within the individual is the key to everything. And yes, creating incentive need not be looked at as just a free-market concept. It’s a concept which empowers us all.

      Like you said + as I talked of, the economic changes in the past 30 years with globalization, automation, + the financialization of our economy, have created a situation of high debt + high risk for many middle class families. And yes, although we don’t want to create an totally equal society, it needs to be noted that the changes to our economy the past 30 yrs has created a situation where wealth inequality has increased to the point that a certain instability for the economy as a whole-especially the middle class, is setting in.

      Although many homeless are drug addicted or mentally ill, there are many who are in this lifestyle due to the high debt nature of our current economy. These people cannot afford to lose a job or else they become homeless. It’s these people that we hope to reach by working to creating a society that rewards + incentivizes all to work hard + save to protect themselves + their families.

      Simply put, total socialism-or communism doesn’t work due to lost incentives. However, a total free-market mindset ignores the fact that wealth has become even more concentrated, + ignores the fact that many with motivation are hampered. After all, it’s hard to pull oneself up from the bootstraps if one doesn’t have any boots on their feet.

      As I said earlier Tom, your endowment principle provides much to think about to help create a society where hard work + motivation clearly rewards all. This concept can be looked at to deal with the homeless situation.

      Thx so much for the input Tom!

  4. I can’t claim to know where the solution lies. All I can do is state my personal experience. Years of being homeless in the San Francisco Bay Area exposed me to an undying assault on my dignity. It was assumed I was unemployable. It was assumed I was mentally incapable of maintaining a decent place of residence. None of the social workers believed I was capable of pulling myself out of homelessness. The socio-economic factor that glares in the Bay Area was overlooked completely. The fact that the demand for affordable rentals far exceeds the supply in that neck of the woods was glossed over, if ever mentioned at all. Social workers referred to me as “riff raff” I and other homeless people were herded around like cattle at feeds and other service locations, and orders were barked at us as though we were criminals in a jailhouse. A person can only take so much of it. I took twelve years of it, and it took a particularly demeaning experience with a homeless shelter for me to finally tell myself I was bigger and better than all of that bullshit.

    I don’t want to make this a liberal vs. conservative thing here. Social workers come from right-wing Christian organizations such as the Salvation Army, an they also come, perhaps more predominantly, from a leftis perspective of do-gooding that unforuntately devalues the strength of the individual and doesn’t do much for the overall morale of the community they endeavored to serve. If I hadn’t have gotten a loan on a one way bus ticket to a lower rent district in a “Red” state, I would never have been thrust immediately into the position where it was generally assumed that I could and should get a job. I had a one year lease on an apartment and a part time job within a month after I moved from California to Idaho. I have paid my rent on time for over two years now, after not being able to hold down a rental in the Bay Area for more than a few months, over a period of twelve years, and always winding up back on the streets.

    Did a guy who goes by A.P. change that drastically on a 48-hour Greyhound trip to another State? No, he did not. What changed was I left an environment where nobody believed in me, and moved to a place where nobody had any reason not to. And that made all the difference — for me — in the world.

    1. Thx for the intriguing comment AP! Your story is testament to the strength + resilience of the human spirit! 🙂

      To me, this comment is illuminating since its not written by a journalist, academic, policy-wonk, or government spokesperson. Its written by someone who lived thru the experience of being homeless. And yes, because of that fact your insight carries so much more weight to me.

      Your comment hit on an overlooked fact regarding homelessness in the major metro areas. An important factor you talk of is the fact that the cost of living is so very high there. In addition, as you eloquently talk of, many people who become homeless can then fall into a trap of going thru revolving doors, both physically + mentally, that often reinforce the problem by adding to a sense of hopelessness.

      As a believer in offering people a “hand-up,” I do believe that one thing that may help in these areas is an increase in subsidized housing. However, as you allude to, a great + realistic option for those homeless in a major metro area is to pursue life in a more rural area where the cost of living is cheaper.

      AP, I’m so glad you were able to break this cycle + am so glad that you have the ability to take care of yourself. After all…such as I saw with your amazing piano-playing, you have many fine things to pursue.

      Thx for stopping by AP!

      1. No problem, Perry. I enjoy reading your intelligent, thought-provoking posts. I’m also impressed by the fact that you’ve served in capacities for both of the two major parties in our current two-party system. Me, not being a politically-minded person by nature (more of a “sensitive Artist type”) I hesitate to point toward possible political or economic solutions to this malaise.

        However, I think the Tiny House Movement holds a lot of promise, especially for the more independently-minded individual who may have found themselves becoming homeless (viz., Yours Truly). I personally would rather live in a small shack and retain my privacy and personal autonomy, rather that in one of those glorified jailhouses they call “homeless shelters.” And I’m pretty sure (though not 100% positive) that the establishment of tiny houses would be more economically feasible, per capita along a strata of homeless people, than subsidized housing. (Of course, increased funding for either would be greatly appreciated.) Here’s a pertinent Wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiny_house_movement

        One thing I’ve noticed in the past two years of living indoors is that I am far from being the only ex-homeless person who is airing their views on the matter. I’ve tuned in especially to Ms. Adora Myers, whose recommendations on this pinned Quora post seem to me to be well worth considering, as well as is the detail with which she answered an offensive question without bothering to dignify it: https://www.quora.com/Should-homeless-people-be-rounded-up-and-forced-into-work-camps.

        You have to scroll down a bit to get to the detailed practical suggestions, once she finishes with citing the 13th Amendment, and all that.

        Thanks also for your appreciation of my piano stuff. I obviously never got a chance to practice when I was homeless, not to mention no one would have dared give a homeless cat a key to a church building with a Baldwin Grand. So maybe I’m making up for lost time — but I’m sure enjoying myself. Cheers –

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