It is 8 a.m. I am in the small offices of Street Roots, a weekly newspaper that prints 10,000 copies per edition. Those who sell the newspaper on the streets—all of them victims of extreme poverty and half of them homeless—have gathered before heading out with their bundles to spend hours in the cold and rain.
Meanwhile, some fuckwit is on the tube discussing the supply and demand of housing stock solely because he wants to elevate or depress the prices to reinforce the bet(s) he has made on them. Ain’t that America…
It extends far beyond America and is rampant through the Western Capitalist Societies. It was announced here in Vancouver that a well to do neighborhood was going to get Social Housing for low income peoples. They organized and rallied claiming that while they CARED about the poor people this meant to help , it should be done in other neighborhoods as low cost housing would lead to crime, be a threat to their children and lower property values.
In another case a local First nations Reservation has entered into some agreement way back in the 1950’s that offered up homes on their reserve for a fraction of market value. It was a long term lease type arrangement wherein the peoples living in them paid far under market value for some 50 years. These people all driving expensive cars and living the wealthy life even as the First Nations people in poverty.
The lease ran out. The First Nations people indicated they were raising the lease payments to market value. There was a public uproar as the First Nations people were accused of “gouging seniors”.
On the other hand, I have seen a lot of times where these low-income housing projects are just money making deals for greedy quick-buck artists. The housing is cheap, poorly constructed, poorly insulated shacks built with one-thing in mind - profit for the builders and owners. They are rammed through local officials with bribes rather than public input and the residents and communities are the losers. One facility I am familiar with in Maine (where believe it or not it gets cold in the winter), they have one wall-mounted electric space heater for the entire apartment. The residents pay big bucks for inefficient electric heat (where actually they just stay cold) and no one can sleep because the place is always interrupted by police sirens for drugs and domestic quarrels (probably over the thermostat setting!). The government shells out big bucks for rent reimbursement and the owners rake in the money. Very little is spent on maintenance and the places are falling apart.
There can be decent public housing but it has to be done with public minded companies rather than scam artists.
Oh I agree. The “Private developer” , Government mix just does not work as it really about the bulk of Public spending ending up as profits for some Corporation.
Food Stamps are another example of this. The Wal-Marts underpay the worker. The worker is allowed food stamds due to having low income. The Food Stamps are spent at Wal-mart so they are in essence subsidized for the low wages they pay.
Chris Hedges…this article literally made me shake. The writing was so poignant and descriptive, I felt the plight of the homeless like never before.
The dilemma: As written within the article–some steal for drugs. Therein lies the “fear” that many people have of the homeless. They will steal from you and maybe even kill you for drugs. So how do you take that chance and trust that when you stop to help, even a little, that you won’t become a victim?
I like the part about the MSW’s. So true! So many “forms” to sign, papers to read, hoops to jump thru. Pure bureaucracy!
Profit! Profit! Profit!!! I’m so sick of this! I used to think that donating used stuff to Goodwill or Amvets, or whatever…would help homeless people. No! The stuff is sold for (you guessed it) profit! What to do?
Other than try to extend love and compassion and respect to everyone I meet whether on the street or at a store…I don’t know how to help. It’s like bringing a drop of water to the desert. Overwhelming!
Chris–you presented the issue, wrenched our guts, how about if you could come up with some great ideas as to how we can help. Did you ask those homeless people that question?
I recently was contacted via my work cell phone after hours by a group asking for money for a worthwhile cause. I agreed to donate.
Ever since my work clee phone has been ringing non stop with poeple soliciting donations and this is what I learned.
The various Charities “contract out” funding raising to private individuals or companies. These guys robo-call all phone numbers trying to get someone to donate. When someone agrees they SELL the list of persons who have donated to other groups (for a profit). These groups then Robo-call.
To that stuff that is donated, be it locthing at those drop boxes or books. Private Corporations bundle this stuff up and it loaded into massive shipping containers. It is then sold to firms in India or China or some other third world country where the clothing is torn up and then broken down in machines that convert it into thread and fabric which is then remade into clothing and sold back to the Western States.
A percentage of the monies received by the firsm collecting and selling these clothes to those comapnies in the third world is then donated to Charities.
There are a handful of organizations that will collect clothing and see it donated directly to people in need but these tend to be small and very local (Such as the Union Gospel Mission here in Vancouver).
Thank you so much Chris, for another piece of real journalism from the world of reality—the mean streets of this “exceptional” and “Christian” nation.
Or better yet, done by a dedicated New Deal-type government agency, akin to FDR’s WPA.
A great many housing units could be built for the cost of just one F-35 fighter plane!
Greedy capitalist warmongering pigs only care about more profit for themselves while having zero respect for humanity, an incurable sickness.
Photo essay. Images can be powerful.
Here in Corvallis, some 80 miles south of Portland, we’ve recently had our own game of politcal football at the expense of those experiencing homelessness in our midst.
A very viable plan for colocating various programs - the cold weather shelter, social services, free meals - at the southern end of our downtown business district was on track for approval by the city council, until a local business owner came out against the plan, and essentially succeeded in scuttling it.
The planning for the upcoming season is back to being kicked around, moving programs from place to place, scattered about the town, with those operating them frustrated, once again, by any logical approach to providing services.
This is a local version of what Chris Hedges accurately identifies as the ‘corporate state’ mentality prevailing in human affairs, our relationship with fellow citizens of our communities.
One irony about this is that Corvallis prides itself on being a sanctuary city, but not all who reside here see that as being universal.
It the “No money you are not a person” mentality. The Corporations have lots of money so are more “Persons” than are those people that are homeless. In this new world being a Person is NOT having two arms and two legs, a brain and a heart and lungs that breathe, memories good and bad, emotions and thoughts . A person is MONEY and nothing more. You have money you are a person and the more money you have the better you are treated as a person.
It fucking insane.
Mr. Hedges as usual, gets it! If the saying is true that a country is judged on how it treats it’s poor and destitute, …
When I was young I paid attention to what all the wise men have forever been warning about materialism. I didn’t feel comfortable in my society and the idea of competing just to survive completely turned me off. Not having any desire to work hard at anything I decided that I would try to live as frugally as possible. And thanks to the civil service I never had to work too hard, compete except by civil service promotion exams or worry about anything thanks to the security my career with the NYC Health and Hospitals provided. I was also very satisfied to be participating in a system that provided health care to all even if they couldn’t pay for it.
I decided that I would never marry or have children in order to keep my needs minimal. I do have a family I never wanted but I only got to know them when I became a grandfather. I also did marry my late wife, who died from cancer in 2004, when she had grown up children and was happily pursuing her independence and career. I was very lucky to have attracted self-sufficient people like myself during my life; it made it easier for me to live with minimal expenses and worry.
Our owners advocate austerity for everyone but themselves, and I have happily practiced austerity my whole life. Luxury can be detrimental to comfort due to worry and maintenance of possessions. I am among the freest of people because I am among those who need the least. I rarely worry about anything as I’m always lost in the moment with plenty of free time to do so. The best things in life really are free and satisfaction increases the freer they’re given.
I blame the capitalist dog eat dog society for homelessness and I pity most people who are stuck in its rat race, a few paychecks away from losing everything.