Three things stand out about Tim Chamberlain’s review of Looking Up at the Bottom Line: The Struggle for the Living Wage! He calls the book “part memoir, part call to action,” but it is Chamberlain’s own concise summary that throws light on another aspect of the book. What becomes obvious is something we may not have noticed before. It is also the biography of a city.
For many years, Austin, Texas enjoyed the reputation of being one of the outposts of civilized and humane living in the United States. A very hip, very cool place to be. Looking Up at the Bottom Line is a chronicle of the struggle for social justice in Austin during a certain span of years. It is the story of one facet of the city’s greatness — how it cares for people.
The review says that Richard makes a compelling case in a strong voice. Yes, this is very clear, and speaking out is something we can always benefit from hearing about. A lot of us just keep our heads down and muddle through, until an event happens that brings us face to face with some unconscionable bit of reality, and we decide that, as the famous line from the movie Network goes, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more.” When we reach that stage, we look to people like Richard R. Troxell who have honed their community action skills and can teach us how to take “get mad” and turn it into “get results.”
Third, and most significant point Chamberlain brings up cannot be stressed too much:
No matter your stance on the Universal Living Wage or homelessness in general, you would be hard-pressed not to be touched by the stories told in this book.
The operative words are “no matter your stance.” This idea can be expanded. No matter where a person comes from politically, there seems to be general agreement that a society is not in good shape, when a large proportion of its people are out there roaming around loose. It is difficult to imagine anyone who does not see homelessness as a problem. Some people think it’s a problem because they are tired of being asked for spare change. Others think it’s a problem because they are tired of asking for spare change.
A thank you goes out to Hopeton Hay, host and producer of Economic Perspectives, a weekly talk show broadcast from Austin via KAZI 88.7 FM. Its concerns include finance, small businesses, and economic development in underserved communities. Richard was a guest on November 7. House the Homeless welcomes every opportunity to help raise awareness of the very dire situation the country is in, and to discuss the universal living wage. This is everybody’s problem.
Getting back to the big idea, there are perfectly good arguments for ending homelessness that can be made to almost anyone. Here are a couple of examples.
If you’re a fiscal conservative, study up on the stats. In Canada, they have found that while it costs X number of dollars to maintain the present system of mentally ill people on the streets, it only costs a fraction as much to put them into some kind of housing, with some kind of assistance in meeting the demands of life. We are not making this up. Here’s the deal, from chairperson Janet Yale of the Leadership Table on Homelessness, Ottawa’s community-based initiative whose focus is the end of chronic homelessness. Yale says,
As we have outlined in our 10 year plan: Destination Home, it costs us about $100,000 per person per year to keep them exactly as they are versus the $18,000 per person per year it would cost to find them real homes and provide them with the supports they need to help them stay housed. Beyond costly shelter per diems, allowing this revolving door to remain open means we are also paying for unchecked visits to hospital emergency rooms, mental health stays, incarcerations and police and emergency responses. The impact to our businesses, tourism, public safety and our sense of community is also at stake.
We’re talking about tax dollars — fewer of them to house the homeless than to continue on the present course. The Canadians say they got the idea from the Americans, but if they did, why aren’t we practicing that idea?
If you’re religious, it’s a no-brainer. It comes as no surprise that faith-based organizations consistently take the lead in offering sustenance to people experiencing homelessness. If you’re Christian, all you need to do is look at the example that was set. When it came to blessing the poor, Jesus was The Man. The Quran is also pretty specific about giving to the less fortunate. If you’re an old hippie, all you have to do is call to mind Arlo Guthrie singing, “Maybe your ticket on the last train to glory is the stranger who is sleeping on your floor.”