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Airwaves: The Universal Living Wage

Will work for food

The final month of 2010 was an action-packed one for Richard R. Troxell. Of course, every December, for the past decade or so, has been devoted to the Thermal Underwear Drive. In fact, that project moves to the front burner earlier in the year, in November, around the time of the annual memorial service, recalling those who have perished on the streets of Austin, and reminding us of one real, concrete way to help prevent the loss of more lives in the future. (It went great, by the way.)

In the midst of all this, Richard was a guest of Blog Talk Radio host Wayne Hurlbert, who was kind enough to make the recording of the Richard R. Troxell interview available to anyone at any time, through the magic of the World Wide Web.

One of the ideas Richard wants to get across is that people experiencing homelessness are not one big homogenous mass. They have different abilities and needs, just like anybody else. He has taken the trouble to conduct a number of very detailed surveys in Austin, Texas, and if activists in other cities followed this practice, it would probably be a big help in educating the housed public.

Among adults experiencing homelessness, there are three major groups. Many homeless substance abusers are currently in no shape to work, and maybe never could be returned to productivity. Others could be returned to the work force with intervention and treatment, over time.

About 40% of people experiencing homelessness have serious mental health concerns, and, of course, there is some overlap with the substance abuse group. They are disabled and can’t work, although this could change too. Many people who are seriously impaired in this way could become sufficiently rehabilitated to hold jobs. Warehousing them in institutions was not an acceptable answer, but turning them loose with the expectation that they could be depended on to take their medications was not a viable answer either. If psychotropic drugs work at all, it’s within a matrix of stability, good physical health, proper diet, and medical supervision to monitor and adjust the medications. There is hope in that area too.

But right now, we’re talking about the approximately 50% of adults experiencing homelessness who could perfectly well be working if there were jobs, or who are working, but still not making enough for the basic needs of shelter, food, and clothing. So about half of the current homeless adults are not able to work at the present time, and half are. The ones who could work, what they need is not support from tax dollars, but the opportunity to support themselves.

Another thing shown by surveys is that nationally, the fastest-growing segment of the homeless population are single mothers and their children. They fall into both categories, because for a mother who is physically and mentally able to work, taking a job means finding child care, which is another back-breaking expense. (Of course, child-care workers need to make a genuine living wage, too.)

Realizing the expense to the working poor who have children, various governments at various times have subsidized child care. Which leads to questions about the paradoxical weirdness of having people work to pay taxes, so part of their taxes can be used to pay somebody else to take care of their children. A lot of people ask, wouldn’t it be simpler to just pay them to take care of their own children? But that’s another topic.

The Universal Living Wage was designed to help the working poor who are doing their best, and still can’t make rent, and the unemployed but able people experiencing homelessness, who need an opportunity. Do yourself a favor and let Richard explain how the Universal Living Wage could get half the homeless people off the streets.

Wayne Hurlbert has obviously done this interview thing before. Unlike some media personalities, he takes the time to review the material beforehand. He asks relevant questions and then lets the guest talk — basic good manners and good journalism. All authors should be so lucky as to have such a platform to express our views, and to have such an enthusiastic supporter. Hurlbert also published a review of Looking Up at the Bottom Line, at Blog Business World, which concerns itself with business, marketing, public relations, and SEO for successful entrepreneurs.

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Source: “Richard Troxell: Looking Up At The Bottom Line,” BlogTalkRadio.com, 12/07/10
Source: “HTH Health Survey Results 2010 for Austin, Texas,” HouseTheHomeless.org, 10/12/10
Image by twicepix, used under its Creative Commons license.

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