Earlier this month, Hawaii State representative Tom Bower (D) began walking the streets of his Waikiki district with a sledgehammer, and smashing shopping carts used by homeless people. “Disgusted” by the city’s chronic homelessness problem, Bower decided to take matters into his own hands — literally. He also took to rousing homeless people if he saw them sleeping at bus stops during the day.
Bower’s tactics were over the top, and so unpopular that he quickly declared “Mission accomplished,” and retired his sledgehammer. But Bower’s frustration with his city’s homelessness problem is just an extreme example of the frustration that has led cities to pass measures that effective deal with the homeless by criminalizing homelessness.
City council members in Columbia, South Carolina, concerned that the city was becoming a “magnet for homeless people,” passed an ordinance giving the homeless the option to either relocate or get arrested. The council later rescinded the ordinance, after backlash from police officers, city workers, and advocates.
Last year, Tampa, Florida — which had the most homeless people for a mid-sized city — passed an ordinance allowing police officers to arrest anyone they saw sleeping in public, or “storing personal property in public.” The city followed up with a ban on panhandling downtown, and other locations around the city.
Philadelphia took a somewhat different approach, with a law banning the feeding of homeless people on city parkland. Religious groups objected to the ban, and announced that they would not obey it.
Raleigh, North Carolina took the step of asking religious groups to stop their longstanding practice of feeding the homeless in a downtown park on weekends. Religious leaders announced that they would risk arrest rather than stop.
This trend makes Utah’s accomplishment even more noteworthy. In eight years, Utah has quietly reduced homelessness by 78 percent, and is on track to end homelessness by 2015.
How did Utah accomplish this? Simple. Utah solved homelessness by giving people homes. In 2005, Utah figured out that the annual cost of E.R. visits and jail says for homeless people was about $16,670 per person, compared to $11,000 to provide each homeless person with an apartment and a social worker. So, the state began giving away apartments, with no strings attached. Each participant in Utah’s Housing First program also gets a caseworker to help them become self-sufficient, but the keep the apartment even if they fail. The program has been so successful that other states are hoping to achieve similar results with programs modeled on Utah’s.
Holy shit, go Utah.
The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money.
Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.
But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in ten years’ time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.
This was the Captain Samuel Vimes ‘Boots’ theory of socioeconomic unfairness.
Terry Pratchett, “Men At Arms”
This is one of the best breakdowns I’ve ever seen of how expensive it is to be poor. (via slephoto)
this is true on so many levels
I always think about the money my parents have spent fixing up our house or various used cars over the years
This is actually a widely acknowledged “theory” in economics (I say theory because some idiots will argue against it but it’s been pretty well evidenced). Tax cuts to people making under 200,000 are generally more effective because people making under that usually have to consume every dollar they earn on a year to year basis, so the money they gain back in a tax break circulates within the economy. Where as those making above are more likely to save the money, or invest in a way that doesn’t add money back into the economy.
Heh! Someone finally planted the Maple. Rah’s had it since before she wrote up her thesis proposal: bought it at the Japanese Gardens during a sale near her birthday. She’s carried it in a pot with her through two years and four apartments.
May 20, 5:34pm
So after all that, your writer worked a full day. It was the most relaxing day I’ve ever had on the job. I had the chance to recount my adventures, and some people who had lived in New York shed telling light on why Rah’s building budget had gotten so high so fast: We’d been using debit cards instead of cash to buy many of our purchases, which in the smaller local shops added up to sales tax.
In New York, you have to spend money in order to spend money. The sales receipts Rah kept confirmed the story. My co-workers also gave me some first-hand accounts of how they had experienced being homeless in New York. A lot of it matched up to the observations Rah and I had made, and there were some surprises and clever solutions we hadn’t even guessed at as well.
Off the clock at 5:30 pm, I was eager to return home so I could bathe and sleep…but I had to stop when I saw the demolished garden in the daylight.
May 18, 7:43am
“Mm?” She’s already wide awake, dressed for the convention, cream-gold and black skirt and strappy shoes and a black and white sash, and trying to eat something in spite of not being that hungry just yet. I’ve just sat up from a dream about painting fish and I’m currently sizing up my day.
We have an airplane hanger full of people, a cab ride, a new airport, a very long plane ride with a layover in Minneapolis again, a max-line trip and a bus ride home…and then for me, back to work. This was technically a very long vacation and I’m still not sure what my work schedule will look like after this. I decide to complain about the obvious.
“I don’t know how you got me through customs. Is it just California and Canada that have problems with folks smuggling their exotic fruit over the border?” Rah smiles. She’s worrying about me, which means she won’t be worried about herself. That’s something at least.
We’ve gotta go meet Deb if we’re riding in. Hope I can score coffee and that both of us are ready for breakfast by the time we reach the Javits center.
(This photo dedicated to Martin French, Head of PNCA’s Illustration Department. We both immediately thought of you when we passed by.)
Deb peeked in around the time I finished the prior post to ask us what our plans were. Dinner as a group was still nebulous and Team Fishboot was both quite done for the day…and had yet to really explore New York. And here we were, in the heart of Manhattan. Earlier in the trip noises had been made about us visiting the Highline park, and so Rah chirped up about going there.
Deb lit up with a smile like sun through a fogbank.