by Larry Croix Larrycroix@msn.com
It seems almost daily that I read, hear, or think about what is often described as the plight of the homeless. On the one hand we have the homeless, those who are on the edge, the good people who are trying to help them and those who are frightened by having a homeless camp nearby. On the other hand we have an empty public treasury.
Sociologists slice and dice the homeless into all manner of sets and subsets. They confuse some of us with their complex dissertations. In the end there are only three distinct groupings that matter. First are individuals who, for whatever reason choose living on the streets as a life style. Second are those who are incapable of doing anything else as a result of one life challenge or another. Finally there are those — many of them — who are homeless because we as a society have made choices that played a large part in putting them in the street.
You read that correctly. The fastest-growing homeless group is on the street because we, you and me, made choices that put them there. If we are lucky, when the recession ends this trend may abate for a while before it resumes it upward journey.
I have heard the shouting. The cries of “if only you uncaring, selfish barbarians who believe in every man for himself would pay more taxes we could solve this problem.” The only thing more taxation is going to do is move some number of people on the edge of the middle class into poverty and some number of people at the bottom rungs of poverty into homelessness.
As far as I am concerned, one of the most damaging phrases to ever enter our political discourse is “for the greater good”. Those four words started out as benign and somewhat apt. The words have morphed into the unassailable justification for actions that the middle and upper segments of our society wish to take. In many cases, these actions are to the extreme detriment of the poor and homeless.
Strong stuff you say? You may not want to think about the homeless. You may want to block it out. You would certainly like to dismiss this column as the ranting of a crank. If you want, you can choose all to the above and allow the downward spiral of the least of us to continue.
Alternatively, you can open your eyes.
I don’t know when society’s propensity for making things ever more difficult for the less fortunate among us began. It has certainly been ratcheting up at an exponential rate for the last 30 years. We have enabled regulators who are willing to require any price from the public for any increment of property improvement, no matter how small, showing no regard for lost opportunities or the crushing effect it has on those in the lower socioeconomic portion of our society.
We long ago reached the point where every new restriction on land use or every new addition to building codes increased the cost of housing to levels where someone became homeless or drifted into poverty.
We long ago reached the point where each new business tax and regulation cost jobs and someone became homeless or drifted into poverty.
The introduction of regulations currently on the horizon will mean many more will become homeless or drift into poverty.
We have built grand structures to house our government officials. We have too many people who are too highly paid on the public payroll. We have tunnels, marinas, golf courses and large tracks of land obtained for the “future.” Is it any wonder we have no money and people are on the streets?
On the very day the article that prompted this column appeared, there also was an article endorsing a candidate for reelection. The endorsement cited as a positive the candidate’s willingness to commit large sums of very scarce resources to playgrounds and facilities for the more affluent. Is it any wonder we have no money and people are on the streets?
For the greater good, we have “moved the county forward” and spent all the money on our own and the politicians’ vanity. The best that remains for the homeless is a 12-by-12 box in the woods. Why these choices have not brought shame on our political leaders and shame on “we the people” who applaud them is beyond my understanding.
It seems we are destined to continue our obsession with the perfect environment, the perfect use of land, the perfect park; creating more homeless while wringing our hands exclaiming what are we going to do; what are we going to do?
Larry Croix may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
re-printed by courtesy of the Kitsap Sun