Problems like homelessness have no simple answers. For decades, we’ve seen poverty and housing costs rise. Wanting to avoid development sprawl, and enjoy a healthy environment, we contained new housing. And we knew it would result in higher costs, and the poor would suffer.
Eliminating poverty is not a local option. For many years, I served on the board of directors of the local, federally-funded poverty agency with a mission to end poverty. The agency has been consumed just aiding our local poor to keep hope and children alive.
Building affordable housing is closer to a local option. State and local funds, coupled with local zoning and development authority have allowed some reduced price housing to be built. Federal, state, city and private funds have opened and closed shelters when it got too cold and wet.
So we shouldn’t be surprised by a movement that demands we do a better job of getting our most vulnerable residents into permanent housing without wasting money cycling them through shelters, or trying to change the behaviors mostly brought on by being homeless and poor.
What should surprise us is the ease with which our representatives are moving to end homelessness without asking us to answer the question “What sacrifices are we willing to make?” .
If we can’t make the poor richer, and we’re not willing to dispoil our environment so badly that housing costs drop, then it looks like our only options are to either: 1) squeeze solutions out of housing developers (and all non-poor housing seekers); or 2) squeeze currently-housed residents to provide new taxes to subsidize poor housing development; or both.
I vote for both, and I think we should have a full community discussion about it.
Putting aside the effort to authorize raising our taxes, here’s my workplan to begin a stronger partnership with shelters and housing developers.