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Where do Americans Live?

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Our country is big, almost 4 million square miles, and at that size, the third largest in the world. This land is both mine and yours, from California (or Hawaii) to the New York island, from the redwood forests to the Gulfstream waters, the song says it all. We have, according to another song, amber waves of grain, purple mountain majesties, and fruited plains.

It seems like enough space, and plentiful bounty, for our 300 million citizens and more. Some of these citizens live in mansions while others live under bridges, but most live rather modestly, comfortably even. By far, most of these people deserve to live here, having that right by birth and many of the rest are working on it through naturalization, then they too will have that right.

But the right to live within these United States does not automatically confer a place to live. Some estimates for 2011 state that there are 1.5 million homeless people; around 41 percent of them families with children. The reasons range from lack of affordable housing, unemployment, or poverty to mental illness, substance abuse, or domestic violence. But regardless of the reason, don’t these humans, fellow Americans, deserve a place to live? Many of these people are, according the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, lacking in basic human rights, such as safe drinking water.

Some recent studies have suggested that as much as 30 percent of the homeless suffer from mental illness, and although it is hard to estimate the exact number, it is suspected that a high percentage of these ailing people also abuse some substance; it is not clear if the substance abuse is causative of their homelessness. At any one time, more than 100,000 of these homeless people are military veterans, on the streets for many of the same reasons as non-vets, but with the additional complication of Post-traumatic stress disorder. Don’t we owe these vets, who risked their lives so that you could sleep safe in your home, at the very least, a place to live? In fact, don’t all of these people, be they sick or poor, deserve that same comfort that so many of us take for granted?

Although it is popular to vilify the rich for the problems of the poor, in the case of homelessness it is much closer to the truth, than not. One of the primary reasons for homelessness is lack of homes. As cities grow, they frequently overrun the areas where low income families live; razing their homes to replace them with upscale houses, condominiums, or mcmansions. This is not just an American phenomenon, but exists wherever there are large cities. In America we call them slums and in Brazil they are known as favelas. Note in the two pictures (Rio de Janerio and Detroit) the similarities. Do we want all of our cities to look like this?

Wouldn’t we like to be known as the generation which made homelessness a thing of the past?

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About One Americans Rant

  • “As cities grow, they frequently overrun the areas where low income families live; razing their homes to replace them with upscale houses, condominiums, or mcmansions.”

    Gentrification is the term.

    Also, you’re rather hard n fast attributing homelessness to mental disorder(s)– it’s an easy out. As to lack of housing, what of all the foreclosed properties which are held by the banks?

    Rather glib treatment of the homelessness crisis, I’d say.

  • Maurice

    OAR – the title of your article caught my attention because 2 of my five children have gone homeless a number of times.

    I am so grateful to the Boise Rescue Mission and the Lighthouse that have housed my kids in the past. I now have them in my bill pay and send them money every other week. Thank God for these selfless people that know and understand homelessness better than any of us.

    My sons chose homelessness because I would not let them do drugs in my house. I once asked my middle son how many of the homeless people at the mission were drug addicts. He replied “All of them”.

    It is important to realize they were all drug addicts but not all were active users. I think it is also important to realize that some of these people use drugs all theirs lives and then turn it around at 50 or 60 years of age and then live the rest of their lives drug free.

    Never give up on your addicted loved ones.

  • Roger,

    Glib was not my intent, I had a hard limit on word count for my first few articles. I absolutely understand that mental illness is not the only cause, but I have several cites that show that is a PRIME cause right behind affordable housing. I will post them tomorrow in these comments.

    If you know of some way to force banks to let people in need use those properties, then by all means get the info out. I personally think it would be a good idea, but I know few bankers. Maybe someone reading this will be able to help in that regard.

  • Maurice,

    I regret what you have had to go through. I have family members that have BOTH mental health issues and drug problems, thankfully not yet to the point of homelessness. Both of them are in treatment and/or homes and are receiving the care that they need.

    I hope that in the future we as a society can come up with a way to provide more help to substance abusers. Our current method of locking them up in prisons doesn’t seem to work.

    Since I have a personal concern with this topic, I will likely come back to it from time to time as new thoughts occur to me.

  • OAR,

    I’m certain your intent wasn’t to be glib. I just don’t think homelessness is anything but a symptom of what’s wrong with America, and to discuss it apart from the major causative factors is rather myopic.

    Many working families are only a paycheck away from eviction, if they’re so lucky to even have a job. Nothing wrong with these people that a decent wage and stable employment wouldn’t cure.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    OAR –

    If you get the chance, go to Canada sometime…and see how many homeless there are there. There’s not many, at least not in the cities.

    I notice this every time I go from Seattle to either Victoria or Vancouver B.C., particularly the latter, which has four times the population of Seattle, but by all appearances it has fewer homeless.

    Our homeless population took a big influx back when Reagan slashed funding for asylums…and where did the people go? You said it yourself – many of those in the streets have significant mental problems.

    If we want to end homelessness, we’ve got to be willing to pay for it. We have to be willing to pay the taxes necessary that provide jobs so that the homeless can afford food, shelter, and clothing. Unfortunately, too many people in America are afraid of any increase in taxes even though under Obama our overall tax burden is lower than it has been for the past sixty years.

    Note – are you sure that second picture is Detroit? It looks a lot like Manila (where I’m at right now)…and there’s two palm trees on the left edge of the picture.

  • Baronius

    OAR – Don’t worry, you didn’t do what comment #1 accuses you of. You presented mental disorder as one of the causes of homelessness, which no one would disagree with. Comment #1 is a deliberate attempt to twist what you said into something more provocative. You’ll get used to it the more time you spend on this site.

  • Baronius is his occasional simplistic self because of his refusal to look reality in the face.

    Consequently, he opts for his simplistic equation: homelessness equates to mental disorders.

    A usual way out for anyone who is simply either too lazy or too challenged to think.

    Should be comment of the year for you, Baronius, and you’re about to win hands down – only thirty days to go.

  • Glenn,

    I’ve been to Vancouver, would move there if it were practical, and I would like to snowboard Whistler very much. I have visited Seattle several times and like it there as well, and during one of those trips, drove up to our friendly neighbors to the north.

    I thought the picture was of Detroit, Detroit Slums is what the caption said. When I zoomed in I could see the palm tree fairly clearly, so, I don’t know. I certainly didn’t mean to misrepresent some foreign slum as being American – we really don’t need any help there.

  • troll

    meanwhile the real occupation of the commons and source of homelessness continues worldwide…it’s enough to make one mentally ill and medicinally dependent

  • Hmm, something is warning me not to respond to a troll, but…

    I suspect that it is a self-sustaining cycle. Whether originally ill or abusing, living on the streets makes it more likely to become ill or start abusing.

  • @11

    Don’t let the handle mislead you. There’s a reason for this madness.

  • Roger,

    I wouldn’t assume that he (or she) was trolling – I will wait until I have more info before deciding.

    Up-comments I had said that I would post my cites for this article. Instead, I wrote another article with more detail, and a proposed solution. It is pending and should show up by tomorrow.

  • @13

    Anything but trolling.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    OAR –

    The picture might have been wrong, but the point was still accurate. I didn’t point that out to beat you up about it, because I largely agree with you.

    BTW, looking at the reference, I have no doubt whatsoever that the second picture on that page is Detroit. The first picture – being posted by “Mbeki” – could also have been of Nairobi (been there, too, while escorting a shipmate home).

  • Comment #8. Good grief, Roger, you should ask yourself, “Self, what the heck is your deal lately?”

    You just told a bald-faced lie about Baronius. Anybody can go up just one comment, to comment #7, and see that you are lying.

    I can’t blame Troll and Cindy for opting out of conversations with you lately. Who would want to associate themselves with someone who (pathetically and ineffectively) tries to ruin reputations by lying?

    You may think you’re above the rules of civility that apply to everyone else, but you’re not, Roger. If you have a cause you are passionate about, don’t cheapen yourself, and more importantly, that cause, by such low behavior.

    Mend your dang ways.