Dan Rodricks complained that a recent Baltimore City ordinance on panhandling failed to address “the underlying issues.” He has failed to address them either; so, I thought I would. Here are those I personally see:
|✓||TREATMENT ON DEMAND. Drug and alcohol treatment needs to be available on demand. This doesn’t affect me personally, but does affect panhandling — and prostitution, petty theft, shoplifting, smash-and-grabs, larcenies, and in fact all crime of any type. It’s not just traffic fatalities — half of all crimes are committed while someone is either intoxicated or seeking drug money. I have personally known addicts who wanted to get treatment, and got turned away from every center in town for lack of room. The effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of treatment are beyond dispute.Who is an addict seeking treatment?
For an addict seeking treatment today, it needs to be available today. Tomorrow is too late.
|✓||LOGISTICS. I must take all my worldly possessions with me everywhere I go. This severely impairs my ability to commute to any job; and I don’t know what impression it makes at any job interview. Many men have rented storage lockers at places like Fort Knox, or share a locker with others. I can’t afford to do either one.|
|✓||THE SHELTER’S RIGID HOURS were discussed here.|
|✓||PUBLIC HOUSING in Baltimore City is not available to able-bodied adults without children.|
|✓||TRANSITIONAL HOUSING: PROS AND CONS. There must be several thousand transitional housing units, or halfway houses, in Baltimore City. Such a place would let me quit carrying my belongings with me everywhere I go, and I could accept a job with any hours. However, (1) each one has its own eligibility requirements, application process, and rules. One can obtain a listing of them all, but must investigate each one on one’s own. It would be extremely helpful if there were a centralized clearinghouse or registry, a uniform application and uniform rules. (2) I’d eventually have to pay rent, and don’t know how I’d do that without first having a job. (3) I’ve heard many horror stories of addict residents running amok. I saw enough “drama” at the rooming house where I lived 2006-2011 to satisfy me for a lifetime. I want my own place.|
|✓||AFFORDABLE HOUSING. This issue didn’t come onto my radar until I had interviews for several positions any one of which would pay ca. $30,000/year. The rule of thumb is that one month’s rent should not exceed one week’s pay. I’d like to find myself a studio apartment in a safe neighborhood. Whether I can do this on $600/month is very much in doubt.|
|✓||HOUSING FIRST? About this, all I know is that I’ve read in the papers. And that began with an article about a family facing eviction as its subsidy ran out.|
|The movement teaches that shelter life, let alone street life, posts barriers to attaining sobriety and adequate employment. Give the person housing first, they say, and those other goals can be more quickly met. From what I’ve said about logistics and the shelter’s rigid hours, it’s clear how that applies to me.|
|The programs, however, understandably give first priority to families, and then to individuals who are much worse off than me. No one has suggested to me that this may be available to me.|
|✓||DENTAL COVERAGE. I have none.|
|✓||“BACKGROUNDS” are discussed in these posts. If it were made illegal to discriminate against candidates based on charges unrelated to the job, I don’t know how that would be enforced. The online applications either do or do not ask me “have you ever been convicted …,” not “in the past ___ years.” Many job descriptions say the candidate “must pass a background check,” which is hopelessly vague.|
|✓||REINSTATE THE DRAFT? An employer of last resort — whether a WPA-like entity or a conscripted civilian service — could cut homelessness in half, limited only by the availability of affordable housing. The great need of the job market is a matching of candidates to opportunities. The online job search is an endlessly depressing, needle-in-a-haystack proposition. Am I matched to a job I don’t particularly like? That requires me to move to Minnesota? Too bad — if I really want a job. Any job at all makes me far more competitive in the job market than no job at all, which is what I’ve got now. And this isn’t “slavefare:” as things stand, but for SNAP and PAC, guys like me have no benefits at all. I question, however, red states’ willingness to fund it.|
|✓||THE WAR AGAINST THE MIDDLE CLASS. By the time I can re-enter the middle class, there may no longer be a middle class to enter. I see the possibility that, in our time, median household income may fall below the poverty level.|
|In the 1980’s, it was a commonplace among liberal Christians that Reaganomics meant to eliminate the middle class, for reason that a large and prosperous middle class has the clout to demand justice. Whether or not that intent was there, the same result obtained; as witness articles like these, which I do not know to be from left-wing sources:|
|An Obituary for the American Middle Class
Vanishing Mid-Wage Jobs Are Choking the Life Out of the Middle Class
Here’s What’s Actually Killing The Economy… The Decline Of The Middle Class
The Decline Of The US Middle Class Is Getting Even Worse
|A few points made in these sources: (1) the middle class began to disappear 40 years ago, that is, at the dawn of the Reagan era; (2) tax cuts for the rich do not “trickle down;” (3) the real power to effect change lies in the private sector.|
|I constantly encourage my neighbors to seek to create wealth, and thus “grow the pie” to benefit everyone rather than re-slice it to benefit oneself alone. For all their talk of wealth creation, however, I have to wonder if the Andy Kesslers of the world mean it at heart; given the current appearance that so many of the rich want to take away the poor man’s last dollar.|
The Serenity Prayer:
God, grant me
the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can, and
the wisdom to know the difference.
Saturday night 11/08/13, I needed to pause and assess my immediate situation, lest I no longer be able to write the rest of this piece as originally planned. I had two recent interviews for jobs both of which were within walking distance of the shelter, would have paid ca. $30,000/year, and would have had hours such that I could work full time and still stay at the shelter. At this writing, it appears they both fell through.
I can’t change that.
What I can change, from moment to moment, is whether or not I will make the best of a bad situation. I can either live in frustration at the obstacles before me, or instead navigate around them. The path may twist and turn, but to one who truly takes things in stride, it appears straight and level.
My circumstances do not define me, nor will I let them confine my spirit. I can seek to make the most of every opportunity that presents. I can choose to maintain a positive attitude towards myself and each person I meet; and at the end of the day, even hold my head up and take pride in the fact that I have, in fact, made the day the best I could possibly make it.
That which is priceless costs nothing.
(Originally posted 12/07/13.)
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