Homelessness Isn’t Just an Accident—It’s a Plan

We know we’re one paycheck away, one injury away from being that homeless person our policymakers wish would leave town if we can’t keep up with exorbitant rents. Why do our political and planning representatives continue to build unaffordable housing instead of addressing the most pressing housing needs?

A homeless man sleeps outside a building advertising units at sky-high rents. New buildings are constantly built — but not to house the poor. Photo by Robert L. Terrell

 

by Carol Denney

The average monthly apartment rent jumped 10.1 percent to $1,811 in July 2012. California’s minimum wage is eight dollars an hour, or $1,280 a month. If you did the math just then, you’ll know why I’m saying what comes next: Homelessness isn’t an accident.

Homelessness is a plan.

We all know how people manage this treacherous sleight-of-hand because we, our friends, our sisters, our brothers, are the ones working the night jobs, hoping the unpaid internships turn into money, and selling our books, our records, the painting, the old Martin guitar.

We know we’re one paycheck away, one injury away from being that person our policymakers just wish would leave town if we can’t keep up with exorbitant rents or if we can’t find jobs.

Why do our political and planning representatives continue to build unaffordable housing instead of addressing the most pressing housing needs?

The media is full of coverage of this schizophrenic policy; the high-end penthouses are celebrated in city press releases even as homeless people are chased up and down city streets, trying to figure out where they can sit long before the anti-sitting law was even enacted.

This policy has long been tradition here in California. The wealthy classes want our labor, our strong backs, our willing hands and hearts. They want our music and our brilliant ideas. But they don’t want to live anywhere near us.

Just don’t ever think it’s an accident — it’s a plan.

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“And Now Where?” Lithograph by Rockwell Kent

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