I noticed this article recently in USA Today, and in light of the closing of Tent City in Huntsville two months ago, I thought I’d do some additional Internet research on the subject of “Tiny Homes.” It seems there is a downsizing trend throughout the housing market that fits the needs of many people who have been economically marginalized, not just the homeless.
For the homeless, though, it’s a sugarcoated prophecy designed to be politically correct while recognizing the trends that will make “Tiny Homes” more prevalent for them in the future. The shack is back! Everyone knows the story’s of the “Hooverville’s” of homeless people that sprang up during the great depression. Even though the great recession didn’t really compare with the economic disaster in the 1930’s, the fact is we are headed that way.
So what are those trends? First and foremost, in spite of pep-talks by aspiring politicians during the campaigns, this country is in economic decline, and has been for at least 30 years – and we haven’t bottomed out just yet. For society, It isn’t the overnight cataclysmic emergency like the 1929 stock market crash. But for individuals who sink into the abyss of poverty, it might as well be. My guess is that we will continue our economic slide through at least two more economic cycles, which will be anywhere from 8 – 16 years each. For the American economy to finally become consistently stable on a long term basis it may actually take more than thirty years.
But what makes this prophecy “Hillaryous” isn’t just the politically correct sugar coating at face value, but other long term trends as well. Hillary Clinton represents the recognition of women’s rights, and their advancement through the “glass ceiling” into more professional jobs and corporate America over the last …30 years. Like it or not, there is a parallel curve not just with homelessness in general, but with a higher percentage of women and children and complete families, that have become homeless during that time period. It apparently works this way. Better educated and more successful women tend to marry men who are also well-educated and successful. Ipso facto, the guys working for minimum wages marry each other. This has created a widening economic gap between the two groups. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer, and there are more that are getting poorer than ever before – and without a living wage, becoming homeless.
Some more of what makes this a “Hillaryous” prophecy is the mostly Democratic notion that illegal immigrants should be able to invade this country and take jobs away from good American citizens. Some people have said that people who are opposed to illegal immigration are somehow racist. I like Mexican folks just fine and I never have understood that line of thinking – especially since young black men seem to be the first to be pushed off the economic ladder. Capitalism is based on supply and demand. Flooding the American market with cheap labor is an unfair practice that allows employers to circumvent the need for higher wages and better working conditions. If an American doesn’t want that job, you have to pay more, pay better benefits, and meet requirements for working conditions. When there is a flood of cheap labor, more people are pushed off the economic ladder into homelessness.
It all adds up. In the future, there will be more people than ever who are capable and ready to work, who simply cannot find a sustaining wage. Public housing is already overburdened, socialism has already run out of someone elses money, and people have to have a place to live. The sugar coated version includes fancy tiny homes built to code with adjacent communal shower, toilet facilities, etc. for about $5000 each. But that solution, said to be for the “chronically” homeless, will only meet the needs of someone who has been homeless for many years already, and won’t address the rest of the problem. More and more, shantys, shacks, and Hoovervilles are going to crop up all over this country – built by the homeless themselves.
The problems are compounded by the militarization of municipal police forces in this country. They often view innocent homeless people as “the enemy” and have little or no regard for their constitutional rights. The recent closing of Tent City in Huntsville, by the State of Alabama, is the perfect example. Many of the people there were driven onto Grey Hound buses and out of town by various other means. What ALDOT did was inherently unconstitutional, and therefore illegal, because bridges and overpasses are the immanent domain of homeless people throughout the world, and because that particular area was the least common denominator.
When talking about Tent City, and reviewing some of the other areas that have been shut down by the City of Huntsville and ALDOT, some have suggested that anything would be better than the situation as it was. That simply isn’t true. There are literally hundreds of thousands of people sleeping on a public sidewalk, or on a park bench, in this country every single night. Dispersing Tent City only makes the problem less visible. Larger cities like Birmingham, New York, and San Diego, have large populations of Homeless living that way – some of which may have been driven out of Huntsville.
I’ve recommended reading Kevin Barbieux and his blog “The Homeless Guy” before. I don’t always agree with his perception of problems or their solutions, which I think tends to be miopic and self-centric – but give the devil his due. Once living in Nashville, he now sleeps on the sidewalks of San Diego where he reports there are 45,000 homeless. Recent reports say there are 6000 homeless in Alabama.
In the future, the problem will also be compounded by growing factionalism in this country. The illegal immigrant population usually moves into the same area of a city together, and subsequently patronizes their own stores and shops. They become an insulated, autonomous, community. It is a scenario that is echoed by the current legal proceedings of Huntsville City Schools, who is seeking unitary status in redistricting. Lol. Superintendent Casey Wardynski has all but verbalized the concept of “separate but equal” when explaining why racially segregated schools is about where people choose to live, not racism. The more segregated and factionalized our neighborhoods, employment, and social policies become, the more likely there will be unrest and violence on that basis, and the more likely that urban “gorilla warfare” will escalate and become more well defined. This is actually why municipal police forces SHOULD NOT become militarized. Because, as soon as you start fighting groups of people as though they are part of an army, they most likely will organize in a manner so as not to let you down. We live in a country were individual rights are the law of the land: “All men are created equal.” This is also why democrats are usually in favor of gun control. Apparently the feel that if you can’t solve the problem, you can just treat the symptoms.
Yet another problem in the equation. Barack Obama has repeatedly said that corporate America must pay it’s share. The trouble is, we are no longer an autonomous nation economically, and we cannot control the economic policies of every other country in the world. Too much regulation and taxation here at home, just means the business goes elsewhere. Elsewhere often means sub-standard working conditions, slave wages, and under-age labor – but it’s not our jurisdiction. And in fact, that’s why we are in a long term decline – facilitated largely by the inevitability of NAFTA and GATT. The simple fact is, the so-called minimum “living wage” in this country is more elusive than ever – and is likely to remain so.
So, homeless people are going to build shacks. Municipal governments and police forces would do well to recognize that individual constitutional rights, and unalienable rights, supersede the arbitrary regulation of city, country, and state governments. A review of the current state of homeless advocacy in this country, and in Huntsville, suggests that so-called “advocates” are often motivated by unrealistic political or religious agendas, apparently hoping to drive the country into outright socialism from the bottom up. They tend to ignore the long term situations because they have an unrealistic expectation that there is only plan A, or plan B, and that, along with a can of beenie weenies and a blanket, should cover every situation. In Huntsville, that fallacious thinking was revealed when the IMS and First Stop apparently made no real concerted legal effort to fight ALDOT over violating the constitutional rights and human rights of Homeless people. The tale is also told when you notice all the advocates ask for is beenie weenies, blankets, and money to run the program. I don’t really know what the “program” is, but as best as I’ve been able to figure out, the paid people do two things, coordinate the volunteers to hand out beenie weenies and blankets, and second, point in the direction of the food stamp office, mental health center, and public housing office.
It seems to me the advocates should take a more pragmatic approach, accept the reality that regulation can be met in spirit if not by the county inspector, and do more to facilitate a structured shelter especially for the chronically homeless. I don’t mean to suggest that it’s an uncomplicated equation. Even still, individual situations can be evaluated and then building materials, propane, carbon monoxide detectors (battery powered with readouts), solar panels, and maybe even electric and water hook-ups, can be provided resulting in a more responsible “due diligence” when the well-being of the individual is placed ahead of political agendas and arbitrary regulation that has no legal validity in context anyway.
If that sounds a little like Habitat for Humanity, maybe so. But I have to say, for all the good Habitat does, it may very well be they are pulling the rug, and the sink, and the floor boards, and the 2×4’s, and the siding, out from under the reach of homeless people who would have access to those materials to build their shack, if they weren’t being scooped up for sale their retail operations. I even heard of one case where Habitat built a home costing $500,000 for an individual who needed wheel chair access. I can’t help but think, 100 tiny homes could have been built with that much money – and many of those could be handicap accessible. It also seems to me that Habitat, not unlike the other advocates already mentioned, has become part of the leviathan that they were originally attempting to defeat. And they too, should follow a more pragmatic path.
So there you have it – my Hillaryous prophecy. I can assure you it’s only a matter of time. Don’t like it? Don’t agree? Well, aside from the compound problem of professional pick pockets, and in the words of the immortal Henry Adams: “It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”
© 2014 – Jim Casey
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