OPINION: Homelessness, Thinking Small

OPINION: Homelessness, Thinking Small

Homelessness in the United States is caused by misdirected priorities

OPINION:

Homelessness, Thinking Small

By Trevor K. McNeil

 

T’was Ever Thus

Homelessness as a social issue is far from new. A problem that has existed for millennia, whether it as acknowledge or not, came to wide, social attention during the late 19th through the pioneering of the likes of Charles Dickens and the Pre-Raphaelite painter William Holman Hunt. Now, as then, one of the biggest issues perpetuating homelessness is lack of public and political will. Are logistics an issue, yes, though really nothing that can’t be addressed with some strategic planning. Cuba certainly has its downsides but at least everyone has somewhere to live.

Sharp Clarity

The decadence of the 1980s, cleaved to so strongly in the 1990s came into sharp focus in the early 2000s, particularly in the sub-prime mortgage crisis. A case of designed obsolescence for short-term gain, as opposed to an unforeseen tragedy. The 2008 recession was the net result of the fraudulent  tactics used by the financial sector for decades, finally reaching the heights where they collapsed. Society finally realizing that the system, as it was, was no longer tenable. Even if the perpetrators of the crises were largely “punished” with early retirement including lucrative pension schemes.

Dollars and Sense

Even with the echoes of the 2008 recession still echoing in the ears of many, the issue of homelessness goes far beyond resources. It would be insane to argue that housing prices haven’t gone up. They have but a fact that very few, especially those who make fortunes from it, want to admit is that it largely imaginary. The ‘housing market’ is based mostly on the ‘interest rate.’ A largely arbitrary and most imaginary measure of future values, most ‘futures traders’ having no more real insight than psychics.

Homes For the Homeless

In terms of cost, both in materials and labor, housing is among the most over-valued commodities, mostly because if it’s relative scarcity. Diamonds and gold have no inherent monetary value, their value stemming from their beauty and the fact they are hard to find. If tin were similarly scarce one would be paying a lot more for a cooking pot. It might seem bizarre but, at an outside, a two-bedroom house can be build in 24 hours for $4,000 with a 3-D printer. Using Habitat For Humanity have been knocking together full, family-sized homes in record time for years.

Do It Yourself

If you are willing to go a bit smaller and use a generator or solar, there are cottages in a box, which are literally small houses that come in an IKEA-style flat-pack, being sold on eBay for $10,000 for those who have their own land which, depending on where you live, is getting cheaper all the time.

Thinking Small

Another option for those who own land is to join the tiny house movement. While it has gotten some pretty weird press over the years, this doesn’t always mean living in a converted school bus. It is more than possible to build a smaller, simpler house for not much money. Most jurisdictions have minimums on how big a house needs to be but they usually top out at 500 square feet. And that only applies to what is called the ‘foot-print’ of the structure. Therefore, it would be perfectly within the rules to build a 300 square foot tiny house with a 200 square foot deck.

Going Mico

Live in a city with limited space? There’s a solution for you too! Micro-apartments are the newest trend in the notoriously expensive city of Vancouver, B.C. which has been struggling with it’s own housing crisis for years. Pretty much what they sound like, micro-apartments are very small housing suites, some as small as 500 square feet, in buildings built in the gaps between existing buildings.

THE VETERAN AND PTSD

 

 

The Pain Of Veteran’s Day

Often soldiers don't come home. Some come home with PTSD

The Pain Of Veteran’s Day

By Anna Hessel

Is It Enough?

We often see flags waving on porches across our country and special social media posts of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall, or the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, or one of the National Cemeteries, with prayers or poems on Veterans and Memorial Day in honor of those who have served our nation. There are many restaurants that offer free meals, movie theaters offering complimentary admissions, and other giveaways to vets on November 11th, and a national hair care chain offers free haircuts as a thank you for veterans; often our former and current servicemen and women are asked to stand for a round of applause at sporting and concert events, but are these accolades enough?

The Tragedy of PTSD

How are we really taking care of those service women and men who suffer from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder)? Many of our veterans return home to find they have no home. More than 40,000 of those who have served our country are homeless. And PTSD is a major factor in causing homelessness.  It is estimated that as many as 33% of veterans, suffer from this debilitating illness. Mental illness is a significant factor in homelessness among veterans.

Recognizing Symptoms

There are 3 main symptoms of this disorder. First, “arousal”: anger, difficulties with sleeping, or concentrating. Second, “reliving”: nightmares and flashbacks which can impede daily activities, and can lead to loss of employment income. Third, “avoidance”: a feeling of utter detachment from life and those around them, often leading to depression so severe it is not possible for the sufferer to function well enough to keep, a job or take care of a home.

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Resolutions For The Next Decade

Resolutions For The Next Decade

By Anna Hessel

Resolving for the New Decade

Happy 2020!  This start of a new decade makes me ponder the tradition of New Year’s resolutions.  Hopefully, we are all resolving to show peace to all, abolish intolerance, and offer acceptance to those who are different from us.  I realize many of us have personal resolutions to enrich and better our own lives, but I think there are times when we must be resolute in our compassion to pray and work to fulfill the needs of others.

Where We’ve Been

In the latter half of the past decade, we have regressed from working to provide health care for all Americans, to legislation designed to repeal the Affordable Care Act. We’ve gone from sanctuary cities to children in cages at our southern border. We’ve gone from the establishment of affordable housing to the greatest percentage of homelessness in American history.

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THE VETERAN AND PTSD

THE VETERAN AND PTSD

By Anna Hessel

Is It Enough?

We often see flags waving on porches across our country and special social media posts of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall, or the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, or one of the National Cemeteries, with prayers or poems on Veterans and Memorial Day in honor of those who have served our nation. There are many restaurants that offer free meals, movie theaters offering complimentary admissions, and other giveaways to vets on November 11th, and a national hair care chain offers free haircuts as a thank you for veterans; often our former and current servicemen and women are asked to stand for a round of applause at sporting and concert events, but are these accolades enough?

The Tragedy of PTSD

How are we really taking care of those service women and men who suffer from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder)? Many of our veterans return home to find they have no home. More than 40,000 of those who have served our country are homeless. And PTSD is a major factor in causing homelessness.  It is estimated that as many as 33% of veterans, suffer from this debilitating illness. Mental illness is a significant factor in homelessness among veterans.

Recognizing Symptoms

There are 3 main symptoms of this disorder. First, “arousal”: anger, difficulties with sleeping, or concentrating. Second, “reliving”: nightmares and flashbacks which can impede daily activities, and can lead to loss of employment income. Third, “avoidance”: a feeling of utter detachment from life and those around them, often leading to depression so severe it is not possible for the sufferer to function well enough to keep, a job or take care of a home.

What We Can Do

There are multiple ways that PTSD can cause homelessness; but this does not have to be the sad reality for countless veterans suffering with this illness. The actual events leading up to becoming homeless, and the realization that you no longer have a roof over your head, can add further stress and worsen the already debilitating condition. A traumatic event such as homeless can exacerbate mental illness symptoms significantly.

Reduce Triggers

We as friends, neighbors, relatives and community members must recognize that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a very real condition.  Our veterans served us. They need us now. We must help them.  Now, is never too soon to help our veterans afflicted with PTSD. To do that we must offer non-judgmental support – simply listening and allowing a person to verbalize what they are remembering. Talking is not always easy. Understanding and accepting that a veteran may not be able to talk ‘about it’ and not press them to do so.

Mental Health

Avoiding loud noises such as fireworks, or high action violent films can help reduce triggers. An emotional support animal can be very helpful for those that are coping with PTSD. Making sure our veterans have strong support systems against this illness will lessen the number who are homeless or suicidal. Providing strong mental health care is key in assisting those living with this ailment. There is hope – for more information please visit the following websites:

http://nchv.org/
https://www.va.gov/homeless/

Veteran Homelessness

RESPONSE to “IN MY OPINION: Clean and Sober”

RESPONSE: to “Clean and Sober”

By David Shadrick

Introduction

Hello, my name is Reverend David Shadrick but I’d appreciate it if you would just call me Dave. I run a small non-profit called Street Level Resources. I would like to respond to Jennifer’s Troy’s two recent articles; “Homeless Helping Homeless” and her follow-up article, “Clean and Sober.”

For Education

Education is my goal, not conflict. Most people understand that a large part of the homeless population are mentally ill, or are alcoholics or drug addicts, or all three. The reality of homelessness is that 85% of the chronically homeless are mentally ill.  “Chronically homeless” is a category that describes people who are homeless in excess of one year.

Who Are We Talking About?

I’m not sure how the homeless participants for the Kenton Women’s Village were selected.  Did the project contain only handpicked people who complied with certain prerequisites?  Were they required to be clean and sober? Were they on prescribed anti-psychotic medications? The reason I ask is because Jennifer’s results are very good when the demographic for the homeless is applied. One to two participants out of such a group of 14 is good.

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Homeless Helping Homeless

Portland, Oregon is a beautiful city with a large homeless population

Portland, Oregon is a beautiful city with a large homeless population.

Just My Opinion:

HOMELESS HELPING THE HOMELESS

By Jennifer Troy

More Homeless Communities

Tiny house communities established by charitable agencies and social welfare groups for the homeless are sprouting up nationwide.   The primary concern is getting people off the streets and into a safe place. A big step. But then what?

Still Lost

What happens now that food, shelter and a safe haven to sleep at night have been given to these people? Is there any real expectation that any of them will re-enter the 5 day-a-week work world? Will they be able to move on into non-subsidized housing? Is there a place in society for them to return to? Even though they are off the streets they may still lack social, physical and monetary resources to keep themselves off the streets in the future. These people have been  lost and need help reintegrating back into the normal world.  Training and/or re-training is needed. Learning how to compete for jobs, interviewing techniques, correct language use, clean and presentable dress. All these skills need to be learned, before self-sufficiency can be achieved. Without such training the risk is more damaged self-esteem and failure.

Reality Bite

As I see it, what needs to happen within these communities is a mirroring of what life is like for everyone else working their way through this crazy thing called life. Not just three hots and a cot. But, a safe place to relearn, or learn for the first time, the skills needed to function and be self-sufficient in American society. A place where they can be given a “trial run”,  before facing the world again.

Bucking Trends

In many ways this runs counter to current trends. Many seem to think all we as a society need to do is  offer subsidized housing forever to the chronically homeless.  I believe that these people can do more and be more than we are asking of them.  “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime,” Chinese quotation.  Let’s give them more than a bed, let’s give them an opportunity.  Let’s teach them how to fish. This is where the idea of the homeless helping the homeless comes from.

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Homeless Housing….Beneficial or Detrimental?

HOMELESS HOUSING:

BENEFICIAL OR DETRIMENTAL?

By Jennifer Troy

Beneficial Or Detrimental?

This may seem an odd question. How could housing the homeless be harmful? While the primary concern is getting people off the streets and into shelter, there are no means implemented to further their self-sufficiency and independence.

Homeless Housing Increasing

New communities of tiny homes and pods are sprouting up everywhere. The communities provide shelter, food, pet supplies, and cohabitation with others who all take part in the daily workings of the community. This is a tremendous step toward providing homeless housing for street people. Yet no measures are in place to keep the ball rolling.

As An Example

I live in Portland, Oregon and I can only speak from my experience in that geo-political sphere. Take for example the recently implemented Women’s Village in the Kenton area of North Portland. Two years ago community resources came together and took fourteen women off the street and housed them in individual “pods” where they can have a sense of privacy and safety within a working community.

Neighborhood

The surrounding neighborhood has wholeheartedly supported this endeavor. Neighbors made it their mission to drop off donations of food, clothes, toiletries, bedding, furniture and pet supplies, etc…to provide for the needs of the women in the pod community. This neighborhood’s heart warming embrace of the Women’s Village has been amazing.

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Affordable Housing: When?

Affordable Housing: When?

By Jones William and D.S. Mitchell

Struggling Families

HUD is one of the most important departments of the federal government.  A primary function of HUD is to provide subsidized housing for the nation’s poorest citizens. One-in-four poor Americans receive a housing subsidy. Through rent subsidies HUD turns “un-affordable housing” into “affordable housing”. Most people receiving housing subsidies are the elderly and/or disabled. Without government help low-income people are in danger of eviction, and homelessness.

Affordable Housing Under Ben Carson

HUD Secretary Ben Carson will  through budget requests and accompanying legislation, increase rent burdens for everyone in HUD subsidized housing. The timing for this action is difficult to understand. “As homelessness increases and affordable housing and the housing crisis intensifies in communities across the country, the administration is focusing its efforts on increasing rents and other burdens for the lowest income and most vulnerable households,” said Diane Yentel, president & CEO NLIHC (National Low Income Housing Coalition) in a Feb. 5, 2018 editorial.

An Uncomfortable bed

Affordable housing in America has become both a social and economic crisis, with those on the lower socio-economic strata being forced to bear the brunt of the suffering. The most recent estimate of homelessness in the United States is 553, 000. That’s about the size of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Location, Location

Cities such as New York, Seattle, and San Francisco have higher than average living costs. In Seattle the minimum wage is $13.00 per hour.  Despite such a high minimum wage it would still require $26.00 per hour just to keep up a modest one bedroom apartment under the 30% established affordable housing threshold.

The New Minimum Wage

An American worker must earn no less than $20.30 per hour to afford even a modest two bedroom apartment and not pay more than 30% of his income on rent and utilities. Take note, that is triple the federal minimum wage. It means the worker earning the current minimum wage “would need to work 16 hours a day, every day of the year to be able to afford a basic two bedroom apartment. If someone is sleeping eight hours a night, they would only have time to work or sleep-and that would be it” says Andrew Aurand, V-P for research at the National Low Income Housing Coalition which is responsible for the study. This may be just one of the reasons that Bernie Sanders found such a devoted coalition among voters old and young.

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