Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Northwesterners United Against Panhandling

Crosscut had one of their interns compare and contrast approaches to homelessness in Vancouver, Portland, Seattle, and Spokane, and here's his conclusion:
The new consensus on dealing with homelessness appears to be a major step forward, and governments across the Northwest are providing funding and making concerted efforts, with varying degrees of success. All of these efforts, however, are in jeopardy due to the continually rising real estate market and rental rates. Unfortunately, in most cases the governmental attempts to provide housing for homeless people has not led to a net gain of low-income housing. Governments are currently pursuing courses of policy that are insufficient to address the growing crisis of affordability for renters. Until there is a solution to the structural problems that are eating up low-income stock, homelessness will not go away.
The full article is worth looking at. While he takes the Ten Year Plan approach at face value and completely misses the trend toward criminalizing the poor, he gets that federal actions don't match their rhetoric, and that the market is killing us. Not bad at all for a dilettante.

Amazingly, a quick search turned up recent articles about new anti-panhandling legislation in Portland and Tacoma, the ugliest anti-panhandling flier in the history of the world from Salem, OR, an anti-panhandling op-ed in Vancouver, plans for a panhandling education campaign in Spokane, a new panhandling ordinance in god-forsaken Billings, Montana, and an anti-panhandling campaign in Denver. And, of course, the Seattle campaign. Is there something in the water? What is this telling us?

2 comments:

Bruce said...

So, if the real-estate market collapses, will that help end homelessness?

Fun Robert Freeman article: http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2007/08/29/3490/

Maybe in thirty years we'll all be living it up in the new urban slums made up of the condos built today? That's a lot of SRO space once we do the "re-versions."

William Echols said...

"Not bad at all for a dilettante."

Thanks! I think. However, I would point out that I did not *completely* miss "the trend toward criminalizing the poor." I wrote, for instance, that "Portland in particular is notorious for its attempts to impose civility laws banning sleeping on the streets and “aggressive” panhandling." At the time I wrote that (this article was published three weeks ago) the Portland City Council was waiting on the most recent iteration of their anti-sit/lie laws, which is why I used the word "attempts." The new law has since been passed.

To respond to the previous commenter, I'm quite aware that a housing market collapse will hurt, and hurt almost everyone. I wouldn't argue for that. I would argue that the federal gov't needs to massively increase its spending on affordable housing, and particularly needs to actually fund new units (as opposed to merely replacing existing stock and giving people vouchers for market rate housing, which increases the pressure on the rental market). I would also argue that the state gov't needs to implement a condo conversion cap, and cities need to make it easier to build rentals of all sorts.

Finally, you should also check out this article, which is a nice rant (not by me) on the way Seattle treats homeless people.