One of the ways in which the people that are ending homelessness like to pretend they're succeeding is to talk about opening and closing front and back doors, a image that, to me, always brings to mind a very large, crowded and windy hallway, probably with florescent lighting and substandard ventilation.
What they mean by this is that institutions that deal with poor people — mental health centers, prisons and jails, hospitals, and foster care systems — should all take responsibility for their own poor, as opposed to shoveling them off for containment in emergency shelters. This is one of the ways in which Ten Year Plans hope to accomplish their goal of ending homelessness by simply being smarter: Get other systems to expend their resources.
The assumption here is that homelessness, in large part, is all just a big misunderstanding, and with just a bit of inter-agency cooperation and some help from the private and nonprofit sectors, we'll be able to clear it all up. The problem, of course, is that the other systems serving poor people are broken too. Worse, in times of widespread budget deficits and growing numbers of expendable poor, those systems are subject to funding cuts as well.
The technocratic do-gooders will do almost anything to avoid facing up to the logic of their own system: poor people are expendable. During a time when Democratic Washington State Governor Chris Gregoire's own budget calls for eliminating the $339 a month General Assistance - Unemployable benefit for the 9,000 or so people who need it to live, the truth of this should be rather obvious, no?
But this is just too unpleasant by half. This is why some "homeless advocates" need to convey success, no matter what the evidence. While the news is filled with burgeoning tent cities, freezing homeless people, depleted food banks, and families in cars and such, the USICH website is simply bursting with good news. Street and chronic homelessness are down:
The street/chronic decrease represents a reduction of more than 52,000 people living on our streets or languishing in our shelters. Given an average length of stay in homelessness of 5 years, the reduction represents more than 260,000 years of homelessness coming to an end. That means quantifiable cost savings in health and law enforcement systems in cities across the country.Wow. 260,000 years of homelessness has ended. That's quantifiably amazing.
Even better, the CEOs, with their high standards of accountability and savvy business acumen, have taken charge:
In the past year, more jurisdictional CEO's are committed to 10 Year Plans. When the year began 529 mayors and county executives had committed in 321 plans. At the end of this year these number had increased to over 860 CEO's and more than 355 plans.Impressive. In just one year there was a 10.6% increase in Ten Year Plans, but this was accompanied by a 62% increase in CEO involvement! At this rate, can the end of homelessness be far off? Heck, no!
But wait, somethings wrong! It appears that new institutions that deal with poor people have turned to shelter-dumping as well. KOMO reports that last Sunday, the downtown Seattle Greyhound station sent a busload of stranded passengers, kids and all, to the severe weather emergency overflow shelter at Seattle Center, and when it became apparent that the shelter was unprepared, the bus just drove away. Kind of gives new meaning to "Go Greyhound!"
As the economy worsens, look for other businesses that serve the downscale consumer to follow suit. Southwest and Frontier will be the first among the major discount airlines to implement Greyhound's revolutionary cost saving strategy.
These bottom-line savvy innovations are not limited to the discount transportation industry. Taco Bell lobbyists are no doubt working the halls of Congress to bring back the government surplus food program, and hope to soon have finely grated surplus cheese subsidies supplied to their 5,845 U.S. locations. I also expect that corporate buyers for Payless Shoes and Ross Dress For Less to soon be scouring the racks of Goodwill for slightly distressed items that can be sold at 800% mark-up.
According to Kraven F. Ückwadde, a Taco Bell senior executive and one of the newest CEOs to join the fight to end homelessness, "The dynamic nature of American capitalism demands that businesses adapt. When you wake up one day to find that your cheese has moved, you either give the consumer less fucking cheese, or you find a way to get the cheese at someone elses expense. We make $2 billion a year just by covering up bad food with free hot sauce. If that's what it takes to keep the profits coming, we can cover up homelessness as well."