Sure as Santa replaces Halloween costumes on store shelves, pseudo-heart-wrenching reports about homelessness pummel us between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Tis' the season of befuddling accounts “documenting” our nation’s "progress" fighting homelessness.
With decades of paltry federal homelessness-abating efforts failing to stem the tide of individuals and families finding themselves roofless, HUD’s recent claim that homelessness is decreasing might cause a raised eyebrow or two. But no, mainstream media dashes off a drivel-filled dab pronouncing: Mission accomplished. Tomorrow, the US Conference of Mayors releases their annual hunger and homelessness report. With decades of perusing these documents, I could save them the money and write it myself:
Hunger and homelessness is decreasing for some, increasing for others. Federal investments in programs to address these crises are decreasing. Economic conditions continue to worsen. More people are suffering.
One might be inclined to ask, with the dramatic loss of affordable housing, record un- and under-employment, brutal sequester-related cuts to social safety net programs, decades of ravaging federal support for anything to do with keeping people from the worst of poverty…how do the numbers of homeless people decline? This, after all, is the era of epitome Scrooge-like behavior on the part of government, ebbing corporate generosity, and, oh yeah, those pesky paychecks can't keep pace with the cost of living either.
How do HUD officials pass off their Annual Homelessness Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress with straight faces? Why doesn’t the headline “Homelessness Down, but Poverty Up” get attention for the absurdity factor?
Little consideration gets paid to how the majority of the 99% struggle to pay for essentials, like housing, health care and food. The recent NYT article describing struggles of working stiffs unable to pay the rent points out some indisputable facts: “Today, millions of poor Americans are caught in a similar trap, with the collapse of the housing boom helping stoke a severe shortage of affordable apartments. Demand for rental units has surged, with credit standards tight and many families unable to scrape together enough for a down payment for buying a home. At the same time, supply has declined, with homebuilders and landlords often targeting the upper end of the market.”
What about those dire circumstances would allow homelessness to recede?
A recent report by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies confirms the impact of the shortage of affordable housing on the legions of income-challenged households. As Bryce Covert on Moyers & Co. points out, “There is very little affordable housing available. These low-income renters who make $15,000 or less would have to find housing that costs less than $375 a month, yet the median monthly cost for housing that was built in the last four years is more than $1,000. Less than a third of those units rents for under $800, and a mere 5 percent go for less than $400. There were just 6.9 million housing units that these renters could afford in 2011, but there are 11.8 of these renters, and to top it off, 2.6 million of the affordable units are occupied by higher-income people.”
She adds, “The availability of low-cost housing has been declining for decades — in 1970, there was an actual surplus of 300,000 low-cost rental units, but by 2011, there was a shortfall of 5.3 million units.”
So, ‘splain it to me like I’m a 6-year-old. How do decades of declining availability of low-cost housing units, rising long-term unemployment, inadequate wages, slashed government investments in human essentials, long-lasting global economic demise, increasing numbers of renters, sequester government spending slashing, and a growing population combine to REDUCE homelessness?
Seems like the same folks foisting Santa on unsuspecting lil’ kids are at it again, making believe that a housing fairy is flitting about as the bamboozlers steal cookies from the plate on the kitchen table. And the US Mayors Conference drank the kook-aid. Fa-la-la-la-la….
Also posted on Diane's AlterNet, Speakeasy page.