Since homelessness is a massive problem, it needs a pretty massive and bold solution. Some states are coming up with…a solution. New York City, a city that some say is the greatest city on the planet, has a program where they pay homeless people’s rent for a year…if they go to New Jersey!
Now I know some of ya’ll wondering, why not just pay rent for a year in New York City? Because they don’t want any poor people living in the greatest city on Earth. What do you think this is, Atlanta or Chicago or Cleveland or St. Louis…? Ok, you get the idea.
Look even the cops in New York City get to tired of going after the same homeless people that they buy them a one way ticket our of town! And this is encouraged as a viable solution. Displace the displaced, because making the problem exponentially worse has always worked in America! This is not what people meant when they said, fight fire with fire! New York City is literally saying (NYC Accent) “Forget about it” to the Homeless.
New York City has also deregulated rents, but those that already lived in the apartments are grandfathered in and don’t have to worry about rising rents. But don’t worry, there’s ways to fuck these people in the face. These sort of practices are what increase homelessness in the City.
And really New York City is the Greatest city in the world…for Exploitative Capitalists or if you want to become an exploitative Capitalist. If you want to become a sociopath with no feelings, there’s a fun island you go to and practice not having feelings. But hey you get to see the Lion King on Broadway sometimes.
Housing is the primary issue that leads to homelessness and in this case the problem is the solution. Various states and even nations have been putting forth the Housing First program, which simply gets homes for the homeless.
In America there are 2 different types of Housing First options. The Permanent Support Housing is for those folks that are chronically or permanently homeless. This way have a home and can focus on getting cleaned up, get mental health services and learn how to get a job. The second is called Re-housing. This is for those that need a little time to get back on their feet.
For those that think this is a handout, think of it a little differently. Housing First is the boots these people need to pull themselves up by. You can’t pull yourself up by your bootstraps if you don’t have any boots to begin with. Most likely because the cops took your boots away when they arrested you last for peeing on a bank – which I think we should all be allowed to do once a day. Housing First gives homeless people a leg to stand on rather than knee capping them from start.
In Salt Lake City, in the first year they decreased homelessness by 90%! In most other cities that have tried this program it’s at minimum 75%! Turns out when you offer people some compassion and housing, they can focus on bettering themselves and get their lives on track. But when you put profit first, it’s more likely to limit their opportunities and wreck lives.
Homeless folks in the Housing First program have a higher likelihood of getting a job and a keeping it. Their mental health improves thanks to regular therapy and, if needed, medications. Plus their physical health improves because they get regular meals and showers.
And I know, I know, I have to answer the big question: “Where’s the money gonna come from!?!” A program like this significantly decreases homelessness and humanizes these people for the first in a long time. Can you really put a price on that? Well some people have and its $20 billion.
Now before you roll your eyes at this unthinkable number, remember Wall St. got a $6 trillion handout and our current War budget is over $700 billion! A fraction of these amounts get people off the streets. The rest can get everyone a Universal Basic Income, Medicare For All and a pony for every American. So when your child asks you why they have a pony, you let them it’s because of the Military Industrial Complex and the fucking bankers!
But some cities are doing something a little different to budget for Housing First programs. Before Capitalism and Climate Change made Austin less weird and more inhospitable, they had implemented a Housing First program who’s budget came from Defunding the Police.
Austin was housing the chronically homeless in empty hotels. This cost about $12 million to make happen, $6 million of that from the police budgets. Following that $6.5 million will be set aside annually to help Austin’s Housing First initiative, which for one hotel will cost $1.6 million/year to run. Austin’s police budget was slashed another $20 million getting rid of Cadet classes, license plate readers and standard issue aviator sunglasses. They now have discount gas station sunglasses, but it still gives them the same level of douchiness. Plus an additional $80 million was cut from civilian services which will be allocated to a different department.
I know that sounds like a lot, but remember even after their budgets were slashed by over $100 million they still have a fuck ton of money to employ cops. And I know, I know, the reaction to this news is going to “OH man, here we go! Crime is going to sky rocket in Austin! People are gonna commit murders and start jacking off in the streets!” RELAX! Austin isn’t going to get that weird!
Actually Housing First decreases the cost of emergency services. It saves cities about $31,000/person/year! Multiply that by the hundreds and thousands of people that wind up being homeless that are now taken care of, this program is actually saving cities money. This means over funding the police departments, as Joe Biden and a majority of Democrats & all the Republicans want, would be doubly unnecessary and an insult to basic math.
The Housing First program has also found success various countries from Canada to Czech Republic! In the Czech Republic this program is used to help the Roma or Gypsy population re-enter the housing markets. When the program started they were thinking success rate would be about 80%, but 100% of the families in the program from 2017 are still housed.
In this program kids are given a stable environment to get a good education, the family’s physical and psychological health improved and the expenditures decreased, giving their lives some all around stability.
In Canada, places like Saskatoon can reach temperatures of minus 30 degrees. Harm Reduction Centers are designated warm spaces and because of the pandemic have had to cut down on their beds. They’re calling for 24/7 warm spaces to help the homeless which would include Housing First programs. Its genuinely incredible that Canadians don’t just hibernate in the winter. It falls below 50 degrees and I never want to leave the house. But I do suppose in order hibernate you’d need a home, which makes another great argument for Housing First.
In Edmonton, Canada, this program has helped over 12,000 people since 2009 and currently houses about 1,100 people. They’ve budgeted that 30 clients can be taken care with $800,000. And in Canada, they take booze to their clients. And before everyone huffs and puffs, remember that Homeless people are people too and they have to right to alcohol just like the rest of us! There’s unending proof that Housing First works and improves the conditions of these humans and decreases homelessness.
Isn’t it strange that we need proof that compassion is an effective and financial sound method of addressing some of the deepest & most troubling issues that Capitalism has created? Further proving that Capitalism is a system that creates more inequalities & thrives on it. Compassion, logic & empathy should be our default setting, but when you have a dominant economic system that rewards cruelty, it’s easy to see why compassion needs to be proven as an effective solution.
Housing First also puts the choice in the client’s hands. That means if they don’t want to they don’t have to. But there are some people who’ve looked at Housing First programs and see it as unfair. Why would these people get free housing when the rest of us have to work hard to get homes and apartments?
Arguments like are made towards ending student debt too. The right to shelter is a basic need that should be recognized any basic government. And yes, I’m all for Housing First & cancelling student debt. As someone who does work really hard for what they have and paid off their student loans by being broke a lot, I’m 100% fine with a homeless person picking their home and given a leg up to get their lives back on track and canceling all of the student debt.
And if it’s someone with a job and they no longer have to worry about rent, even better. Maybe that’ll get us realize that the notion of rents and mortgages don’t seem to make sense in an unequal system that prioritizes profits over humanity. Model UN’s have dealt with homelessness better than the United States.
Wrong! Work shouldn’t be just about earning money as a way to not lose your home. And most workers do wind up losing their homes or cars because of corporate deregulation and a society obsessed with fetishizing billionaires. It’s almost like some folks can’t get aroused without seeing a few zeros in your bank accounts…before the decimal point.
Giving people a home to have less to worry about would mean our society would then be able to spend time, energy & money on coming up with innovative solutions to fix most of our problems. Right now there could be a brilliant Climate scientist homeless on a bus to New Jersey! For fucks sake do we really want to send a potential brilliant person to be stuck in New Jersey, aka Yankee Florida!?
Solutions to homelessness are right at our fingertips and they don’t come from making these people illegal and invisible. It comes from showing them compassion and acting out of logic. Once we do that the profit will automatically follow, if you care about that kind of thing. First thing we need to do is give these people their humanity back by letting them have a home, a sandwich and a beer on us.
Krish Mohan is a socially conscious, Indian standup comedian and writer who regularly tours the country. He performs at small theaters, bars, comedy clubs, colleges, DIY and house venues. With his quirky attitude, charming personality, and intelligent humor, Krish captivates and engages audiences of all backgrounds, tackling hot button topics like race, religion, war, immigration, while adding an optimistic, philosophical & sociological twist!