Creating Homelessness in the Antelope Valley, Part 1

High Desert ViewSpeaking of veterans, there’s a guy named Joey Gallo, a disabled vet with three serious medical conditions. Up until recently, he was living on his own land, with his cat and dog, in a remote location in California’s Antelope Valley. Officials began to show up and order him to get rid of stuff — at first, trash and weeds. Next, it was a motor home they said he couldn’t keep. Then, they escalated their demands and made him demolish some sheds.

Finally, they came back and ordered him to tear down his home. You’ve heard of the Stand Down, an event where homeless veterans can get help. Adding outrageous insult to injury, one government minion presented him with a flyer giving the date and location of the next Stand Down — as if to say, “Welcome to your new life, loser.” Will Gallo’s next stop be Skid Row? If so, he may meet some neighbors there.

We have already offered (satiric) lessons on “How to Become Homeless.” One way is to be a resident of this high desert region which is, unfortunately, only an hour or so travel time from Los Angeles. The local administration is trying very hard to cause massive homelessness out there. The photo on this page gives an idea of the sparseness of the population in the high desert region. There might be half a mile between dwellings. Yet the authorities insist that anonymous neighbors are constantly making “eyesore” complaints about various structures and vehicles, many of which are only visible from the air.

Under the aegis of the L.A. Weekly, Mars Melnicoff devoted six weeks to investigating the horrifying situation, and accomplished what promises to be an award-winning piece of journalism, “L.A. County’s War on Desert Rats.” A message comes through loud and clear: the victims of the Antelope Valley Land Grab are living national treasures, the quintessence of all the qualities that made America great.

The writer shows how the rugged individualists at the hardscrabble butt-end of nowhere are being systematically removed from their homes for some murky, as-yet-unknown reason. It’s kind of like one of those “sweeps” of the homeless that cities do before the Olympics or the political convention. Except these folks are on their own land — or what used to be their land — so the process is taking just a bit longer.

Melnicoff says,

The government can define land on which residents have lived for years as ‘vacant’ if their cabins, homes and mobile homes are on parcels where the land use hasn’t been legally established. Some have been jailed for defying the officials in downtown Los Angeles, while others have lost their savings and belongings trying to meet the county’s ‘final zoning enforcement orders.’ Los Angeles County has left some residents, who appeared to be doing no harm, homeless.

Melnicoff tells their stories. Some are retired people, who thought they were finished with hard labor, and figured they had earned the right to enjoy the little corner of the world they had paid for and fixed up to their liking. She tells of people who live frugal, thrifty, minimalist lives, and sincerely practice recycling far beyond sorting trash into different-colored buckets.

They came here to get off the grid, practice “VONU,” make monumental art, race their dirt bikes, commune with the spirits of the ancestors, or whatever. That’s why people settle in environmentally inhospitable areas in the first place: they possess a fine willingness to trade the convenience and amenities of the city for the space and opportunity to do things their way. They are people who can’t afford lawyers when they’re being railroaded, hogtied, and hung out to dry. They came here to get away from the depredations of gang members, and ran afoul of a much more dangerous gang — the bureaucrats of Los Angeles County.

(To be continued.)

Source: “L.A. County’s Private Property War,” LA Weekly, 06/23/11
Image by AlishaV (Alisha Vargas), used under its Creative Commons license.


The Mentally Ill Homeless: Cause and Effect

ProfessionalIn Looking Up at the Bottom Line, Richard R. Troxell suggests that the arrangements made decades ago for the care of America’s mentally ill have resulted in another case of good intentions gone wrong. It was a reform movement, concerned with disability rights and independent living. Some institutions were terrible places.

Richard says,

Disgruntled, underpaid workers were physically and mentally abusing our mentally ill citizens. Legal Aid in Chicago filed a lawsuit that called for deinstitutionalization. Similar lawsuits swept the country. This coincided with the advent of psychotropic drugs such as Lithium. Mental health providers faced heavy social service dollar reductions. There was the hope that these things could be balanced by treating people on an outpatient basis. They would treat people while they were on a kind of invisible tether.

We have talked about why the consequences didn’t match the theory. When Richard was drafting the Homeless Protected Class Resolution, about one-fourth of the adult homeless in America suffered from some type of mental illness. When he was writing Looking Up at the Bottom Line, the low-side estimate was more like one-third. When House the Homeless in Austin conducted its 2010 health survey, 175 of the 501 respondents had been diagnosed with mental illness.

This was an issue in the struggle over Austin’s No Sit/No Lie Ordinance earlier this year. The ordinance was bad enough already, but it discriminated against people with disabilities of all kinds, and especially against those with mental disabilities. With the help of several other agencies, House the Homeless was able to file some of the roughest edges off the ordinance.

Unintended consequences are the dark side of any social experiment. When plans are being made, the person who says, “But, wait…,” and describes a possible bad outcome, is often labeled as a naysayer and a negative thinker. But sometimes optimism, especially optimism based on the availability of funding, turns out to have been unjustified.

Our country in the 1980s was not prepared for a massive influx of troubled and dysfunctional people into the mainstream. Maybe it all happened too fast, maybe nobody was thinking ahead. Whatever programs and protections were organized for the support of so many confused individuals turned out to be inadequate, and the situation has only gotten worse.

A fascinating brand-new report from Dr. Guy Johnson and Prof. Chris Chamberlain of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia reveals a surprise:

They found only 15 per cent had mental health issues before becoming homeless, while 16 per cent of the sample developed mental health problems after becoming homeless.

Are you getting that? Half of the mentally ill homeless became that way after becoming homeless. Australia is a lot like the United States, and has about the same proportion of the mentally ill people experiencing homelessness. It wouldn’t be at all surprising to learn that half of America’s mentally ill homeless, too, got that way after becoming homeless. It’s enough to tip anybody over the edge, especially in a life already filled with stressors.

Worse, the Australian research shows that the young are most vulnerable to mental health challenges that are caused by or exacerbated by the homeless condition. And, even worse than that, the young are apt to develop substance abuse issues along with mental health problems.

Dr. Johnson, who is a researcher for the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, seems to be saying that treating mental illness is too little, too late. It may lop off some of the problem’s branches, but it does not attack the root. Homelessness is the root of a large share of mental illness, not the other way around.

Concentrating on mental health, he says, deflects attention from the lack of housing, the inability of people to pay for what housing there is, and the inevitable family breakdown that results. The belief that mental illness is the primary cause of homelessness sends the wrong message to policy-makers about exactly what services are needed to end homelessness.

Dr. Johnson goes for the Housing First approach, saying:

Homelessness does cause mental health issues, particularly anxiety and depression, and is a serious problem for a significant minority of homeless people… For homeless people directly affected by these structural factors, the solution lies outside the medical arena – and research indicates that providing housing to homeless people before treating their mental health issues is actually a more effective approach.


Source: “Looking Up at the Bottom Line,” Amazon.com
Source: “Research sheds light on homelessness and mental illness,” RMIT.edu, 06/06/11
Image by AR McLin, used under its Creative Commons license.


Homelessness and the Disabled American Veterans’ Agenda

Trash pit-fireArthur H. Wilson, National Adjutant of the Disabled American Veterans, sees the group’s mission as educating lawmakers about the disabled veterans’ issues. He says,

Ensuring that this country lives up to its responsibilities is one of the DAV’s primary objectives.

In the March 2010 issue of the DAV Magazine, Thom Wilborn reported on a rather monumental event. The backstory: From 1962 to 1975, 15 different herbicides and defoliants (Agent Orange, etc.) were dumped on Vietnam — millions of gallons of the stuff — and large amounts of these chemicals had found their way into the bodies of Americans. For many years, the government denied any connection between that exposure, and the subsequent health problems suffered by the veterans.

Veterans Administration Secretary Eric K. Shinseki shook things up, and finally they got something called the “presumptive service connection rule.” It said that veterans would receive disability compensation for three conditions that are now accepted to have been caused by the herbicides: Parkinson’s disease, some forms of leukemia, and ischemic heart disease.

Wilborn says,

If they suffer from any of the diseases, it is presumed that their illnesses are service connected, making them eligible for compensation and VA health care. The VA estimates that more than 150,000 veterans will submit claims in the next 12 to 18 months, and 90,000 previously denied claims, including death claims, will be reviewed for possible entitlement to service connection…The price tag for the new presumptions is estimated to be $42.2 billion over the next 10 years.

Needless to say, if thousands of vets started to receive payments for being 60%-100% disabled, that could go a long way toward cutting the numbers of homeless vets. Problem is… nobody’s got 42 billion dollars, except the people who profited from the Vietnam war the first time around, and can now profit from it again when the government borrows from them to pay for things like veterans’ health care and disability compensation.

Anyway, it’s been about 14 months since that story was published, so we looked at the Agent Orange page of the Department of Veterans Affairs website for an update. The most recent Agent Orange newsletter was posted in July 2010. If anybody knows how many of those estimated 150,000 affected veterans have actually applied, and how that’s going, and what’s happening with the 90,000 previously denied claims, it sure would be interesting to know.

The same issue of the DAV Magazine also included an article on a much more recent cause of dioxin exposure for the American troops. On bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, both the Department of Defense and the military contractors Halliburton and KBR customarily maintain burn pits. KBR has even been sued for it. (This outfit also works in the United States as, for example, one of the contractors for the Waller Creek project in Austin, Texas. Wouldn’t it be great if they employed a whole lot of veterans in compensation for having contributed to the disablement of a whole lot of veterans?)

Jet fuel is used to incinerate trash and anything else the military is done with, in giant open-air conflagrations with no filters, scrubbers, or any of the amenities expected of, for instance, a factory in the U.S. Over there, America doesn’t give a damn about the environment or the future health of its own soldiers, either.

The dangers at a base in Iraq were assessed by Air Force Lt. Col. Darrin Curtis, who found that…

… dioxin levels at Balad were 51 times what the military considered acceptable. Similarly, particulate exposure was 50 times higher than was considered acceptable… When the DAV learned of Curtis’ study, its leadership was concerned. Of peak interest was information regarding cancer-causing dioxins that had left thousands upon thousands of deployed troops exposed.

The DAV Magazine piece tells the stories of the typical affected service members and their families: a vet with a brain tumor; a vet who has had 15 surgical procedures and lives on 22 different medications daily; and, of course, a family whose home is being foreclosed. So here is another enormous group of veterans who will be affected forever, and there is a statistical certainty that a great number of them will end up homeless, that is, the ones who aren’t already homeless or dead.

The Disabled American Veterans organization has a very long list of things it wants for its members, in the way of disability compensation, long-term health care, and other benefits. Every year, it has a national convention to decide which legislative goals to work on. The adoption of any or all of these measures could go a long way toward preventing veteran homelessness.

Let’s just pick a few of these items at random, and imagine the impact on veteran homelessness if they moved from the wish list to reality:

* Ensure that priority access and timely, quality health care services are provided to service-connected disabled veterans.

* Ensure proper screening and treatment for traumatic brain injury and post-deployment mental health issues.

* Support increases in grants for automobiles or other conveyances available to certain disabled veterans and to provide for automatic annual adjustments based on the increase in the cost of living.

* Provide an increase in the specially adapted housing grant.

* Extend military commissary and exchange privileges to service-connected disabled veterans.

* Support legislative measures assisting disabled-veteran-owned businesses.


Source: “VA links new illnesses,” DAV Magazine, 11-12/10
Source: “Agent Orange,” publichealth.va.gov
Source: “Burn pits: toxic exposures impact Iraq, Afghanistan veterans, families and survivors,” DAV Magazine, 11-12/10
Source: “DAV’s legislative agenda 2011,” DAV Magazine, 11-12/10
Image by octal (Ryan Lackey), used under its Creative Commons license.


Shozna: One Homeless Person Redeemed, Several Million to Go

Shozna in gown by RaishmaIn Britain, the recent marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton was attended by a formerly homeless young woman who has one of the trademarks of celebrity: a single name, and it is Shozna.

Last fall, an organization called Centrepoint held a fundraiser where Shozna told her story and related how Centrepoint helped her to escape homelessness. Prince William calmed her nervousness before the speech, and blew everyone’s mind by hugging her after it. In the course of planning for the royal wedding, a hundred “Golden Ticket” invitations were extended, with William inviting representatives from all his favorite charities, while Kate invited folks from her parents’ village. Keri Sutherland of the Sunday Mirror reports,

Shozna’s struggle began when, while training in childcare, she had a stroke and needed a heart operation. Shortly afterwards she left home, staying with relatives and friends until her council referred her to homeless charity Centrepoint. Shozna, who asked us to withhold her last name, said: “I moved into Centrepoint housing in July. It was difficult, but luckily I’ve pulled through.”

Shozna was raised in East London, and Fay Schlesinger tells us how the enthusiastic student with career plans suffered a stroke at age 18 and became half-paralyzed. Months of medical treatment, surgery, and rehab followed. The reasons for Shozna’s subsequent break with her family are not told, but we do know she lived in a hostel and then a homeless shelter. Eventually, she moved to a council flat, which is what they call government-subsidized housing in Britain. (For an exercise in broadening the mental horizons, check out the comments of various British subjects at the blog London Muslim.) As far as Shozna’s future, the lingering effects of her heart problem and the stroke have eliminated some possibilities, but she now hopes to get into retail and work her way up to store manager.

For the great event, Shozna was accoutered by Warren Holmes (hair), Armand Beasley (makeup), Irresistible Headdresses (fascinator), Kyles Collection (jewelry), Jimmy Choo (shoes), and of course Raishma of London (dress.) Couturier Raishma describes the excitement from her perspective

I decided to go for a 50s style prom dress in a block colour scheme of papaya orange and red to give the look a modern take for 2011. I designed an embroidered border with delicate silk roses and hand beading to be positioned on her neckline… I then started worrying about the complete look… I styled Shozna from head to toe for the Big Day…

For the ceremony, the young woman’s escort was Centrepoint chief Seyi Obakin. The London Tonight crew filmed not just Shozna at the wedding, but the entire preparation procedure, one of the world’s most thorough and glittering makeovers. Question: At what point did the ITV network enter the picture? Because, surely, the royal couple did not expect Shozna to show up wearing something from the Oxfam charity shop.

On the one hand, thanks to this sequence of events, the word “homeless” has reached the ears of more people, and that’s a beautiful thing. On the other hand, it’s so easy to cheer for a lovely young woman, and to want to turn her into a fairy-tale princess. But one Cinderella is not enough. How nice it would be if we could see that all homeless women need the resources to take care of themselves and present their best faces to the world.

This includes the girls who become sloppy fat from soup-kitchen diets, which tend to be heavy on the starch; and the mothers whose hair has fallen out from anxiety as they experience homelessness with a passel of kids to worry about. It includes the women who have lost teeth through violence, poor nutrition, or lack of the most elementary facilities for self-care. Also, the abused, the tattooed, and yes, even the alcoholic and addicted.

In our own land of America, the Universal Living Wage can end homelessness for over 1,000,000 minimum-wage workers, and prevent economic homelessness for ten million minimum wage workers. Including a heck of a lot of women.


Source: “Royal wedding: Woman who was once homeless tells of joy at personal invite,” Sunday Mirror, 04/17/11
Source: “From homeless shelters to a front row seat,” Daily Mail, 04/17/11
Source: “Shozna the homeless Muslim Royal Wedding girl,” London Muslim, 04/18/11
Source: “Dressing Shozna from Centre Point Charity for the Royal Wedding,” Raishma.co, 05/03/11
Image of Shozna in gown by Raishma used under Fair Use: Reporting.


The No Sit/No Lie Ordinance and the Americans with Disabilities Act

Homeless VetFirst tangent: Really, at this moment, the thing to pay attention to is the upcoming Tax Day Action. So, hop over to that page to find out what part you can play in making the Universal Living Wage a reality. Then come on back here, okay?

Second tangent: Did you ever accidentally run across some little tidbit of news or information that just makes your day? Sometimes it even does more than that — sometimes it lifts the heart and gives hope for the future. For instance, Nicole Pariser, having completed a combined honors degree in Global Studies and Anthropology at Wilfrid Laurier University, is now at York University, in Toronto. These words are from her Graduate Student Profile:

In broad terms, my research focuses on migration and mobility; who is allowed to move and who is not, and how these choices are justified, particularly by nation states to their citizenry… My research has primarily focused on human trafficking, however following experiences in Vancouver’s downtown eastside, as well as San Francisco, specifically relating to homelessness and the passage of ‘no-sit-no-lie’ policies, my research interests have expanded to include the ways in which migration and mobility come to be constrained not only across national borders, but within them as well… I believe… in the transformative power of engaged anthropology and activism to expose, contest and change that which is unjust.

Now back to our regularly scheduled post. We’ve talked about Austin’s No Sit/No Lie Ordinance before, but not in as much detail as the subject deserves. Here is the background. In 1989, Richard R. Troxell created House the Homeless (HtH) and began challenging the No Camping ordinance that criminalized the homeless for their economic circumstances by fining them $500 for sleeping outdoors. He is still fighting for change in the rules of that excellent Texas city.

Being especially appalled by the treatment of people experiencing homelessness who are also disabled, HtH strives to banish ignorance by collecting facts. As Richard testified to the Health & Human Services Committee of the City Council in July 2010, the HtH surveys found that nearly half of the homeless have medical (including psychological) conditions that make them need to sit down from time to time. Sometimes it’s the effect of their medication that makes them need to sit down, but they’re on medication because they have medical problems, so it amounts to the same thing. But there were no exceptions for this group of people, not even if they were on crutches or wearing a leg brace. Sitting around in public was good for a fine or a jail sentence.

HtH took the position that Austin was out of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), one of the federal laws that states really are supposed to observe. Also, the ADA is not the Americans with Physical Disabilities Act.

HtH garnered support from other organizations such as Mobile Loaves and Fishes; St. David’s Episcopal Church; Legal Aid for the Homeless; Advocacy, Inc.; and the National Coalition for the Homeless. They were asking for 20 exceptions to the harsh law, but the city would not consider any of them. Among those expected to stay on their feet at all times were people newly released from hospital treatment; people officially recognized as unable to work by the fact that they receive disability checks; patients waiting in line at health clinics; and disabled veterans. Particularly, the city seemed to target people with mental disabilities, who can be persecuted and prosecuted without very much complaint from the voting public. As Richard says,

…people suffering with mental health disorders are routinely treated with very powerful drugs that often cause them to become woozy and dizzy. They often have sunlight and heat sensitivity that depletes them of their energy and causes them to need to temporarily sit and rest.

A mentally ill, disabled person experiencing homelessness is particularly vulnerable to being punished for her or his condition. How does a person like this go to court and prove that they were, on a certain day, at a certain time, suffering from pain, weakness, nausea, faintness or dizziness? But the city insisted that the accused must “create an affirmative defense.” Richard met with various authorities, including the chief of police, but reports, “The Chief said that he simply did not want disabled homeless people sitting and lying down all over the city.”

So there you have it. You’d think the city was being invaded by commies or rabid biker gangs or Black Panthers or terroristic Islamists or interplanetary aliens. But no, it’s worse. It’s a bunch of people who are in the midst of being pretty badly beat up by life. And they have the gall to sit on the ground, or, worse yet, lie on the ground. That is the threat from which the police are happy to defend us.


Source: “Anthropology Graduate Student Profiles,” York University
Source: “Austin City Council Discriminates Against the Disabled,” housethehomeless.org, 01/19/11
Image by Kevin Wong (Marlith), used under its Creative Commons license.


I Am My Brothers’ Keeper… but for Everyone?

Minimum-wage workerAgain this year, 3.5 million people will experience homelessness in America. In the land of milk and honey, this is unconscionable.

Let’s examine the word homelessness for a moment. Who are the homeless? Well, clearly they come from all walks of life: homeless veterans, single women, women with children, people with mental health disorders, people with substance abuse problems, and the list goes on.

In January 2009, House the Homeless conducted a Health Survey of 501 people experiencing homelessness in Austin, Texas. Our survey showed that 48% of the people experiencing homelessness were so disabled that they could not work at a full-time job.

And in December 2007, another House the Homeless survey of 526 people experiencing homelessness showed that 37% of those surveyed were working at some point during the week, with 97% expressing a desire to work. In fact, we have come to understand that homelessness, for all its components, can be viewed in two major categories: those who can work and those who cannot work.

Reports from the last several U.S. Conferences of Mayors show that a person working full time, in a forty-hour-a-week, minimum-wage job, is unable to afford a basic, one-bedroom apartment, and remains homeless.

Who Are the Working Homeless?

They are the someone in our schools serving green beans and corn to our children in the cafeteria lines. They are the people in local dry cleaner operations pressing our suits and dresses. They are our janitorial staff cleaning our office buildings and urinals after we’ve gone to bed. They are the motel/hotel workers who change the sheets and clean up the trashed out rooms that we have left. They are the cashiers who cheerfully ask how they can help us.

They are our restaurant workers who work at below minimum wage ($2.13) and rely on us to (hopefully) boost their base pay with tips. They are poultry processors who work in our nation’s processing plants nationwide. They are farm workers who, even today, stoop behind the field machinery and continue to pick thorny cotton by hand.

They take our tickets in movie theaters, so we can see the next exciting 3-D movie. They are the healthcare aides in nursing homes who constantly turn over our loved ones to prevent bed sores. They do all the “dirty jobs” that you see on TV, and they flip our burgers at all the fast-food restaurants, and fold and refold the linen at every Wal-Mart.

And yet, the federal government continues to tell businesses nationwide that they only need to pay a minimum wage — not a living wage. A living wage would afford them basic food, clothing, and shelter. But as it is, nowhere in this country can receptionists, daycare aides, garage attendants, car washers, manicurists, grocery baggers, landscape workers, data entry workers, and elderly care aides afford the basics without a second job or relying on some outside support. That’s just wrong.

Who Should Pay?

Who should pay a wage sufficient to afford life’s most minimal necessities? Who profits from their labor if not business? Clearly it is businesses who benefit from their labor. So why are taxpayers footing the bill for food stamps when someone is working? Why do able-bodied individuals qualify for general assistance or the Earned Income Tax Credit, which is just another tax-sponsored program that would be unnecessary if businesses acted as responsible/ethical community partners?

If half these people who are homeless can work, why should you or I as taxpayers have to support them? I don’t want to. In fact, as a society, I’m not at all convinced that we could afford to support these millions of people indefinitely anyway. If a person is not disabled, then their homeless situation is really just an unmet economic need. This should be dealt with at the source: “A fair wage for a fair day’s work.”

When I was growing up, the saying was, “If you don’t work, you don’t eat.” I still believe in that postulate; however, that begs the question, if you work 40 hours in a week, shouldn’t you be able to afford the basics? If you work a full 40 hour week, shouldn’t you be able to afford a roof over your head (other than a bridge)?

I work in a homeless shelter. Every day I arrive to see hundreds and hundreds of people, half of whom are able-bodied. What they lack is opportunity.

There needs to be a spot on that shelter floor that I can point to and encourage people to get up off their chairs and go to that spot. It should be a spot that provides the big “O”: Opportunity. A spot where if they tuck their head down, lean into the wheel with their shoulder, apply themselves, they’ll know that, ultimately, they will be able to work themselves off the streets of America.

In other words, we simply need living-wage jobs. Then, as a compassionate taxpayer, I can get down to the work of helping people with disabilities. Perhaps in time, many of them will also be able to stand on that spot.

Take Action!

Tell President Obama that as he provides incentives for businesses to help in our economic recovery, he also needs to balance the equation by instituting the Universal Living Wage. Call the White House: 202-224-3121/1-800-459-1887, or email the President using the form at the White House website, http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/.

Richard R. Troxell
House the Homeless, Inc.
National Chairman, Universal Living Wage Campaign

Source: “Mayors National Housing Forum Fact Sheet” (PDF), U.S. Conference of Mayors.
Image by schmuela (Karen Green), used under its Creative Commons license.


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.


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.