Friday, August 28, 2015

Susie Cagie — Best way to solve homelessness? Give people homes.

Homelessness has always been more a crisis of empathy and imagination than one of sheer economics. Governments spend millions each year on shelters, health care and other forms of triage for the homeless, but simply giving people homes turns out to be far cheaper, according to research from the University of Washington in 2009. Preventing a fire always requires less water than extinguishing it once it’s burning.

By all accounts, Housing First is an unusually good policy. It is economical and achievable. The only real innovation lies in how to inspire the necessary compassion and foresight to spur governments into building those needed homes.

But Housing First is not very popular. It runs directly counter to the US meritocratic mythology, where one is presumed to fail or succeed by one’s own hand. The homeless are presumed to have earned their place on the street.

Complement to the Job Guarantee. Food, shelter, health care and a job guarantee are vital needs that should be recognized as human rights in developed societies. The opportunity cost is low when compared with the alternative — a dysfunctional society that perpetuates itself. 

The argument against it seems to be that this would destroy incentive and undermine a capitalistic economy, where capital is prioritized over people and the environment. Societies with socialistic economies get this, however, since they prioritize people and the environment over capital.

Moreover, the argument might have made sense when people had access to resources for obtaining food and shelter by their own initiative, but since primitive accumulation and the proliferation of private property that no longer applies, especially in modern urban life.

It is societal institutions that produced this change and therefore it is up to society to address the consequences adequately so that the social fabric is maintained and no one suffers needlessly where there are adequate resources.

Aeon Magazine
Best way to solve homelessness? Give people homes
Susie Cagie


Dan Lynch said...

You already know this, Tom but just as a reminder, FDR's proposed 2nd Bill of Rights included "the right of every family to a decent home."

Peter Pan said...

The commentators on that article have other ideas.

Ryan Harris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Random said...

Best way to solve unemployment? Give them jobs!