Mr. President, You Don’t Fool Me
Our president is chastising California for having a very serious problem with homelessness.
Now, can anyone truly say, straight-faced and one hand on The Bible, that he is sincerely concerned about homelessness? Come on! This is the same president who, in all of the budgets he’s proposed, severely slashed Community Development Block Grants, Emergency Shelter Grants, HOME and other programs coming out of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. He is also the president who proposed eliminating the Community Services Block Grant, the core funding source of Community Action, which uses it to run the Sixth Street Shelter. In fact, if he got his way, Community Action would probably not exist.
Let me introduce a few facts:
A family of three with no income collects $403 in cash assistance each month. That amount has not increased since 1985.
The fair market rent in the Lehigh Valley, according to HUD, is just under $1,200. That would require three times what she collects, just to pay the rent.
That rent number would require someone renting that unit to have a total household income of just under $20 per hour, almost three times the minimum wage.
Federal funding for housing assistance programs has been slaughtered by Washington since Reagan was first elected.
The only entitlement to housing subsidies in this country is given to those who take the mortgage interest deduction on their taxes. Yep, that means the people most able to afford a home are guaranteed the subsidy. And the subsidy costs the US Treasury $101 billion. Poor folks, along the way, have no such guarantee. They wait in line for a couple years for the privilege of living in the federal government’s Soviet-style cinder block buildings or the opportunity to be exploited by a slum landlord.
It is true that many folks who are homeless struggle with mental illness and/or addiction, but they are still, after all, human beings. Doesn’t a civilized society accept some responsibility for protecting people from themselves?
Homelessness is a function of a robust local market more than a depressed community. Housing is much more expensive in the former than the latter. That’s why homelessness is much worse in California, Denver, Portland and Washington than in struggling communities.
It makes me sick to watch the unraveling of all of the normal conventions of what was once an otherwise civilized nation. Great countries, Mr. President, don’t leave people behind, fending for themselves on the streets in the shadows of wealth. Great countries are led by people who bring people together to take care of their own, not cast adolescent aspersions on those prospective partners.