Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Makers and Takers: Homelessness Revisited

(Status update: On Friday morning, after which I went online but didn't post anything here, I earned $19; once again a light misty rain just wouldn't stop until everyone had left the Friday Market, and all I dared to display were bottled drinks, and of the very few shoppers who came out most weren't even thirsty. After buying groceries for the weekend and bottled drinks for the next market day, I had very little pocket change left. On Sunday, once again my market buddy didn't want to go up to Wise County. My income so far this week has been $8, which brings this blog post to you from an unhappy, grudging local lurker who says you should pay some of the cost of maintaining this blog already. If you were living in the United States during the past year and your income was above US$12,000 for the past year, you need to support this blog.

https://www.patreon.com/user?u=4923804 .)

Someone at a members-only forum posted something about the reported impending crisis of homelessness in the United States.

Here's what this web site had to say about homelessness a few months ago:


Has not changed. So, here's what I posted on the forum:

One thought that may cheer you is that homelessness is being misrepresented by greedy agencies and motel owners.

A large portion of the homeless population in the U.S. became mentally ill after using certain overprescribed medications in the 1950s, and remained incurable for life. That generation is disappearing.

There will always be people who lose their homes due to fires and other disasters, everywhere. That's a problem, but not an overwhelmingly big one.

In some places, there are people who lose their homes because rent rates are higher than retirement, disability, or unemployment pensions can be stretched to cover. I worked with Mitch Snyder, who used to try to present that as the main cause of homelessness, and believe he sincerely thought it was--he was passionately sincere, but not the sharpest knife in the drawer. It did happen, and still does happen, that people who have low-paid jobs or have just lost their jobs can't afford decent homes in the places where they used to work or may still be working. As Marge Piercy illustrated with a composite fictional character in The Longings of Women, these people are competent and resourceful and often find ways to make it hard to tell that they are homeless. They want to believe their homelessness is temporary, like that of the Holy Family in Bethlehem, and in many cases it is. This type of homelessness is not an overwhelming burden to government agencies either, except when people who've refused to plan for life with disabilities become unable to work and have to seek help...and some of them won't consider it as long as they can stand up, even if they have relatives who are willing, and planning, to offer them homes.

But greedheads are encouraging welfare recipients to whine for "more low-income housing now" when these people actually have homes, but they claim their homes are "substandard"--by which may be meant perfectly livable, but older, oldfashioned, hard to heat, too small for a young family, too big for a geriatric patient, etc.

As long as things like leaks, broken windows, and (horrors!) wallpaper on the walls, are being used to define people as "homeless, in need of more subsidized apartment buildings" rather than "low-income and/or unskilled, in need of basic home maintenance work," I can't worry too much about "homelessness."

Though some individuals really are still homeless, and, for those who know where they are and why they're homeless, they really are a problem...or have a problem, or problems.

Well, I own a home. That's been the main source of worldly happiness in my life as a widow: a home of my own where I can be alone with the cats and work on potentially profitable projects in peace. I don't leave my home, or invite people to see it, or disclose where it is, without a very, very, very good reason.

Houses are, of course, financial dependents on their owners. If they're not maintained and "kept up," they deteriorate. Squirrels tear metal or shingles off roofs. Rodents chew siding off walls. Foundations settle lower into the earth. My home doesn't smell moldy, but that's the result of daily work; the basement has always reeked of black mold, as most basements in my part of the world do, such that, before I made a study of fungi, I thought the distinctive odor of Stachybotrys atra was what basements smelled like. Windows need caulking. Screens need replacements. Chimneys need repairs. The older part of the house needs rewiring. The newer part of the house has always had only a temporary, unsatisfactory roof and, although it does have proper drywall, in a moment of manic whimsy one of my elders pasted wallpaper over some of the walls anyway. The water heater and composting toilet, as installed by my brilliant father, work surprisingly well on solar power alone--for one person--but wouldn't work efficiently enough for two.

Over the weekend, during the off-and-on rain, I did some of what an old lady can do all by herself in the older part of the house. (I no longer let my mother do physical work, although she still does all kinds of things that cause anyone who happens to see her to rush up and grab things out of her hands...) The condition in which some things had been preserved was a joyous surprise; the condition into which other things had sunk was an unhappy one. Inevitably I looked at things that need fixing, but require more than two hands or a "reach" of more than six feet off the floor, and remembered a few well-meaning people who've said, "That's dreadful! That's unlivable! You're living like a homeless person! You could easily qualify to move into a low-income housing project in town..."

How many ways is it possible (or necessary) to say: I do not want a low-income housing project in town. I have a home. It's adequate for my survival needs, and likely to remain so for as long as I'm likely to live, even if neither the house nor I ever look any better than we now do. I want to scream, to broadcast the sound all the way to Richmond and all the way to Washington: DO NOT SPEND TAX MONEY ON LOW-INCOME HOUSING PROJECTS FOR PEOPLE LIKE ME. HELP US MAINTAIN AND IMPROVE THE HOMES WE HAVE.

I've already spent as much of my life as I ever want to spend watching other people's toilets flood into my ceilings, overhearing other people's noise day and night, being exposed to other people's colds, seeing other people's faces distorted with hate and envy whenever I felt or looked cheerful, stepping on the insects that breed in other people's dirty kitchens...that's not what I call living, and it's not what I endured places like that, in my formative years, to be able to stay out of as an adult.

I've not actually lived in a building that had bedbugs, thank God, and touch wood (blogger touches head). Not yet. But relatives who truly were disabled, whose foster children failed to move back in and maintain their lovely old historic home with them, have been forced into a four-storey hovel infested with bedbugs. People who wanted to reproach me for not being able to do what a Virginia landowner ought to have done, for those relatives, have made sure I received all the lurid details of how the bugs got into a geriatric patient's surgical wound. Not in my name, and not with my property tax money, should anyone ever fall for that anti-American meme about "older and disabled people needing to be in small apartments rather than separate houses."

Personally, if I couldn't live in my own house, I'd live in the cave above it. Or I'd just move directly to the bottom of the local lake, before I'd consider moving into a low-income housing project in town.

Well, that's my personal point of view. I am, as regular readers know, an introvert, a person whose brain and nerves have developed more completely than some people's ever do, thus a person who enjoys plenty of personal space and solitary quiet time. I enjoy congenial company; that does not include the company of extroverts, whose brains and nerves are, from my point of view, as poorly developed as dogs are, and who can therefore be loved only in the way that dogs are loved. (I do love dogs, but I've never wanted to commit to living with one permanently.) Extroverts enjoy dashing aimlessly about and making low-content, repetitious chatter with lots of different faces. Extroverts probably like living in small apartments in housing projects.

Extroverts are often reported to be the majority personality type in these United States, but after age fifty, the older the median age is, the lower the percentage of extroverts becomes. As a group extroverts do not live as long as introverts do, nor do they age as gracefully. They're very seldom, if ever, the people who build meaningful lives around major disabilities, either. So, any effort to help aging and disabled people should be designed for introverts; even if we're not a solid majority, we are the ones who continue to enjoy life and make positive contributions to society after becoming "old" or disabled.

That means single-family houses, with designated care givers of our own individual choice if necessary to replace our spouses and children (or help care for our spouses and children!), with green space, with gardens, and with rooms of our own that have doors that lock from the inside.

Not that most of us are asking for tax money to be spent to give us those things. Most of us already have those things. What we need is to keep more of our money, and our freedom to pay people we find competent and congenial, to ensure that we keep the homes we have.


(Y'know...personally and confidentially...if, as his wife, I was cut off from receiving any financial benefits from looking after my Significant Other if he ever became really disabled...I think I wouldn't shove him into a nursing home and walk out to get a higher-paid job, the way so many able-bodied younger spouses do. He really is...all I'm allowed to say is "a man you don't meet every day"; the sort of person that somebody might choose to stay with, and help, just out of respect. But what would I live on, if I didn't even have time to peddle my handcrafts? I have sooo been there, with my late husband who wasn't a veteran but was phenomenal in other ways, and I say nobody should ever be there. If the disabled partner is entitled to benefits at all, then those benefits should include support for the caregiver of the person's choice.)

I'm destitute, and desperate, but not homeless. Grandma Bonnie Peters is destitute, and desperate enough to be trying to do physical labor at the age of 82, but not homeless. Forget the "homeless" meme. Forget the whole stupid, harmful idea that people can only be helped by directing massive amounts of money into massive assembly-line-type, one-size-fails-to-fit-much-of-anybody "federal programs." As long as people are conscious, it doesn't serve their Higher Good to allow them to "pauperize" and depend on financial handouts, whether those handouts are given in the hope of buying forgiveness for individual sins or are extorted from the taxpayers. As long as people with fully developed introvert-type brains, with consciences, are conscious, it is acutely painful to them to suggest that they need or can use handouts, anyway. It is cruel to pour money into these monster "programs."

If the federal welfare programs were created in order to keep conscience-impaired types from battening on the charity of individuals who don't realize how they're being exploited...which is why most Republicans and "conservative" Democrats, the vast majority of Americans, voted to build and maintain federal welfare programs in the first place...well, there may be some use for tightened-up federal "safety nets," but I say as a poor person that we still must never depend on federal programs as the primary way to keep even people with minor disabilities alive.

What we as a nation have been doing is saying to people "Here, take these food stamps to buy food until you can get a job," and most of us have been emphasizing "get a job!" all right, but we've not been looking at the larger picture:

* Jobs may not be available--and in some areas, federal programs or even charity-funded programs that try to "meet needs" are directly to blame. (For example, in my part of the world, do-gooders funding Mountain Empire Older Citizens have put hundreds of taxi drivers out of work...while also making it difficult or impossible for able-bodied people to take jobs even five miles from their homes, or take college or trade school courses, or even take advantage of advertised sale prices on groceries.)

* Jobs may be available, but able-bodied food stamp recipients may do the math and feel that they're better off turning down a part-time job and keeping their food stamps and subsidized medical care. (For example, while investing her life savings in a business, GBP found her business failed partly because the needy people she wanted to employ found it unprofitable to work for a living.)

* Jobs may be available, and some able-bodied food stamp recipients may be young enough to be considered for entry-level jobs (which, here I stand to testify, most of the adult population are not)--but they may be discriminated against because, due to not owning cars or being able to afford new clothes and so on, they arrive at job interviews in a sweaty condition.

And it's the same way with what's currently being described to unsuspecting taxpayers as "homelessness." Real homelessness as my generation remember it is actually declining. Today's "homelessness" is being manufactured by deliberate efforts to pack more people into more overpriced and inadequate slums, and the kindest, most humane thing to do is to ignore the chatter about it. Houses exist. Technology to allow people to work from those houses exists. Most of the new "homeless" population will be much happier and healthier if we as a nation just tell the social workers to shut up, because these people are not homeless (or, if they have become homeless, they didn't and don't need to be), and tell these people to go home and go to work. All we have to do is remove the silly protectionist regulations that keep them from earning a living in their homes, and they'll be just fine, thank you very much.

This is still a good first book, but it's been out there for a while, and it doesn't go far enough. This web site can and will update what Arthur Brooks had to say, with more about what real poor people do and don't need.

One-to-one "giving" is actually more efficient than either medieval-style almsgiving or socialist-style handouts, but it has to be done right...and that's where the "conservative" part comes in, and yes, even Ayn Rand's ideas about never "giving" but always "trading," properly understood. Ayn Rand was not as good a writer as her admirers wanted to think; she expounded her views in a language that was foreign to her, in novels written for Hollywood, and presented herself as even more of a hard-boiled greedhead than she was--so in some ways her books are as cautionary as they are exemplary. But let me say this again, as a poor person. I don't want you to "give" me anything. I want you to acknowledge that you're "trading." If you don't think this blog offers something worth paying for, I want you to tell me what you are willing to pay for, and pay me to do that.

"Lady Bountiful" is a fool, and deserves to know that the people to whom she dispenses her bounty have been exploiting her as a fool for years. That's not because she shouldn't have been helping her neighbors in a mindful, intelligent, hard-headed-fiscal-conservative way that would have been building up her community; it's not because she should have been paying an ever-more-bloated totalitarian scheme to crush her community, which is what socialism always was, no matter how willfully the Old Left have refused to recognize it. It's because everyone but a hospice-list, brain-damaged quadriplegic--even a hospice-list quadriplegic who still knows where s/he is!--has something to offer, and it serves everyone's Highest Good if those who want to help recognize what they have to offer.

Stop saying "Ooohhh, those poor, needy, hungry, homeless people, we need a big federal program to meet their needs."

Start saying "If my neighbors are hungry or homeless, and I'm not, I need to be helping them--in a respectful, evenhanded, responsible way--by paying them to do things that meet my needs. I need to be spending less money on corporate products and more on the goods and services my needy neighbors are able to provide."

Don't walk past panhandlers; don't steer them to those "programs" of large-scale grift that, in Washington at least, are likely to have set them out on the corner to panhandle. When you pass panhandlers, carry a reasonable amount of cash, and offer it to a reasonably alert panhandler in exchange for escorting you through the neighborhood or helping carry your bags. I've known people who were able to go from panhandling (after an injury that was indeed disabling, for a while) to owning businesses...Asian-born people, who had that goal in their minds; I've not seen native-born U.S. citizens do that, because we as a nation have been blathering about our Welfare State for so long that unless they've known Asian or African-born people our native-born panhandlers don't realize that it's possible.

Don't confuse people selling stuff on the streets, or people "marketing" stuff from their homes, or people asking for money for things they do, with panhandlers. Recognize them as entrepreneurs, which they are. If you don't want to buy what they're selling, tell them honestly what you do want to buy from them, and talk to them honestly about what it would take for them to start selling that.

In the "marketplace of ideas," a few people have been decent enough, respectful enough, to tell me things like "I'm not funding your idea because I'd rather be funding an engineer's invention or a comedian's comedy novel or some other project that you, writer known as Priscilla King, wouldn't be qualified to undertake even if you wanted to steal that other person's idea." I respect that. I don't blame you-the-individuals-who've-said-that (Neil Gaiman is the one whose name other readers know; I continue to respect and support Neil Gaiman, although he no longer needs much support). And I've never, ever, turned down a valid suggestion of what people needed to have done, either for elitist reasons (people who advertise any connection with Berea College are saying we don't turn down any job for elitist reasons) or because someone else could do those jobs better than I could; I've helped find that person for the people who wanted that job.

Feel free to say to me, "I don't like a book site." (If you say that while funding something else, no worries--the book site will still be here for those who do like it!)

Feel free to say, "I don't agree with your politics or want to read about them." (If you say that, no worries--I have absolutely no doubt that the correspondents who keep sending the political links and discussions will carry on. The political contacts I personally don't follow, and flag as spam when their names turn up in my e-mail, continue to feed content to other people who forward it to me.)

The effective, respectful, legitimate way to say those things is to say, "I do want to see this, and I'll fund it." Two ideas that came in last week were a romantic comedy novel in Twitter form (yes, I'd be willing to do that if people pay for it), and a forum about forums about chronic health issues (I'm not sure how profitable that can be, but a correspondent wanted to fund it and the McDougalls will undoubtedly continue to be a great source of updated information for it). Feel free to send in other ideas if you don't want to fund those.

In real life, the reason why I've advertised odd jobs has always been that I know people who think writing isn't Real Work. They're wrong, of course, but they're partly right--the writer's brain and liver do need the stimulation of physical labor. I both want and need physical labor jobs to feed my writing, for more than merely financial reasons. Local people may feel free to say "I want you to help wash windows or weed hedges or extirpate poison ivy." I not only do those things; I enjoy them.

And I want you to feel free to say those things to other "needy" people, too--individually and collectively. Nobody should be rewarded in any way, even through the "reward/punishment" of having to report to bossy social workers, for sitting around whining "needy-needy-needy." Instead, we should tell the people who are claiming to be homeless and hungry, "Houses and land exist. Go home and go to work"--

...And then wait. These people know what the problems they face are. Listen to what they're saying, and then start thinking and talking about ways to address those problems. Maybe there are legitimate needs for programs to help people make their homes more accessible, to pay for individual in-home care from the individual a disabled person trusts, or just to remove barriers to entrepreneurship in the neighborhood. Maybe there are legitimate needs for elected officials to toss the "ball" of responsibility back to local communities and individuals. In Virginia, at least, no "real" lady or gentleman ever could eat while neighbors were hungry, and I for one want to get back into the "Lady Not-Bountiful-But-Actually-Helpful" position for which I was born and brought up. I want to be part of a community of people who have something to give, not that horrible colony of parasites social workers have parked on Jackson Street to sit around going "needy-needy-needy." (Admittedly some of those people deserve to be there, bedbugs and all, but not in my name would anyone I ever knew ever have gone there.)

There are not legitimate needs for more federal handout programs. There is a need to cut those programs, in order to de-pauperize poor people and put America back to work.