Since the 1900 U.S. Presidential campaign and election the Red, White, and Blue stars and stripes firmly became the offspring of the colonial Imperialist family of powerful nations that were Belgium, Great Britain, France, Denmark, Holland, Spain, Portugal, Russia, and Sweden. After the victory of the Spanish-American War (Part I) it cemented our ‘divine right to prosperity and exploitation‘ of weaker people and put us at the same carnivorous dinning table as the other nine juggernaut nations. With the Monroe Doctrine enforced and the Spanish colonies of the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico acquired from a defeated Spain, hungry insatiable American mercantilism then set out to “civilize and industrialize” Central and South America for the next two centuries (Part II) with very minimal to no investment back into local infrastructure or economies of those Latino countries.
Two hundred years of exploiting Central, Caribbean, and South American resources without significant reinvestment into those cultures saw the U.S. father and nurture the current Pan-American immigration crisis (Part III) which in turn fathered and nurtured our illegal domestic Grey and Black Underworld markets done primarily by American business owners/contractors and corporations. These two underworld markets—the white-collar grey market and the criminal black market—have sprouted a most inhumane insidious 14-tentacle monster of which I examined briefly five specific, toxic, anti-social markets (Part IV). In this final fifth part, with thousands and millions of Latinos fleeing their homeland and the U.S. created immigration crisis in Central America, why would these legal and illegal Latinos want to risk their lives, enter, and work for shitty wages in the United States when here in the American nightmare (not dream) there is an obnoxious, rising, threatening socioeconomic inequality and homeless problem for those very people? Is this simply transference of crises from one spot to another?
History has shown repeatedly that these are the very sociopolitical conditions that set in motion civil unrest and revolution. Was it not ironically the exact same despair the Latinos are fleeing in their homelands and more ironically, unless you are a Native American descendant, what most of our own ancestors in the 18th and 19th century escaped from in Europe to start a better, freer life in the United States? Bizarre? History repeating itself? A classic Euro-Asian socioeconomic stratification simply redressed then brought across the Atlantic Ocean.
Primary Causes of America’s Homeless/Housing Problem
Through mechanisms such as scapegoat contracting by American business owners, suppression of state minimum compensatory wages, skyrocketing tuition for trade-school, under and post-grad degrees, the persistent climb of housing and rent, all stimulate a corporate grey market followed by the criminal black market. The latter two markets exploit the chronic desperation of the struggling bottom percent of society. From Bloomberg Businessweek:
A toxic combination of slow wage growth and skyrocketing rents has put housing out of reach for a greater number of people.
The reason the situation has gotten worse is simple enough to understand, even if it defies easy solution: A toxic combo of slow wage growth and skyrocketing rents has put housing out of reach for a greater number of people. According to Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored housing giant, the portion of rental units affordable to low earners plummeted 62 percent from 2010 to 2016.
Rising housing costs don’t predestine people to homelessness. But without the right interventions, the connection can become malignant.
President Ronald Reagan dubiously argued that homelessness was a lifestyle choice. By the mid-2000’s, though, the federal government was taking a more productive approach. George W. Bush’s administration pushed for a “housing first” model that prioritized getting people permanent shelter before helping them with drug addiction or mental illness. Barack Obama furthered the effort in his first term and, in 2010, vowed to end chronic and veteran homelessness in five years and child and family homelessness by 2020.
Rising housing costs are part of the reason some of those deadlines were missed. The Trump administration’s proposal to hike rents on people receiving federal housing vouchers, and require they work, would only make the goals more elusive. Demand for rental assistance has long outstripped supply, leading to years-long waits for people who want help. But even folks who are lucky enough to have vouchers are increasingly struggling to use them in hot housing markets. A survey by the Urban Institute this year found that more than three-quarters of L.A. landlords rejected tenants receiving rental assistance. […]
Then there’s the moral argument for action. “It’s outrageous to me that in a country with so much wealth—and certainly enough for everybody—that there are people who lack even the basics for survival,” says Maria Foscarinis, founder and executive director of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. […]
But efforts to build are often delayed or blocked by people who don’t want homeless or lower-income people nearby. A strong undercurrent of Nimbyism—motivated by fear of falling property values, ignorance, racism, or concern over crime—can get nasty. Opponents of proposed homeless shelters took to the streets to protest in Koreatown and spewed boos and catcalls at a town hall in the beach community of Venice. (emphasis mine)
The poignant article goes on to say that “doing nothing isn’t doing nothing.” Doing nothing ends up costing everyone more money, more resources from law-enforcement, and drains an already strained, under-funded public mental-health and drug rehab system but continually feeds its (very profitable) prison system. Blaming those who are trying to get their feet back under themselves, back above water, is in fact the “least productive way to solve the crisis.” The fact that the U.S. is and has been the wealthiest, most capable nation on the planet to fix these 20, 50, or 100-year chronic socioeconomic problems is not just mind-boggling, but shamefully embarrassing.
Examining four indicators of U.S. income per capita, Kimberly Amadeo of TheBalance.com reports:
According to Zillow.com’s home value/price index, as of May 14, 2019, the median home value/price was $226,700 for an average 2,687 sq ft home. This however, is not the listing price. And the majority of American home-building corporations, for some not-so-mysterious reasons, construct single family homes around 2,500 sq ft—it’s more safely profitable for them and their lending corporations. To determine what it is state-by-state go here.
The U.S. Census Bureau’s latest numbers for median income per capita can be found here, but nationally as of 2017 it is just below $32,000 per year for legal U.S. citizens. Most loan-financing/home mortgage lenders require that applicants for a 30-year house mortgage earn between $58,200 to $64,400 minimum gross household income annually. However, this amount and interest-rate (5%) reflect an applicant(s) near excellent credit score(s). A large percentage of lower middle-class and lower-class Americans that have been living paycheck to paycheck (approx. 70% – 79.3% of the population) do not have excellent or even above-average credit ratings for such decent mortgages. This leads us to renting costs in America.
According again to Zillow.com’s indices, the median list-price rent index as of March 2019 in the U.S. was $1,675 monthly, or for a 12-month lease $20,100 annually. But here’s the catch. Most all private-sector leasing-management corporations require the renter(s) to earn 2- or 3-times that rental amount in net wages. Therefore, $1,675 jumps to either $3,350 to $5,025 monthly, or $40,200 to $60,300 annually. If some renters are on the cusp of their leasing requirements, then housing managers demand a hefty upfront deposit which ends up disqualifying many/most applicants living paycheck to paycheck.
We are back to reality, our chronic homeless dilemma and crisis as the wealthiest nation in the world.
America’s Chronic Homeless Problem Provides More Exploitation
The 2018 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress provided by the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), reports that between 2016 and 2018 that instead of the downward trend since 2012, homeless and unsheltered numbers rose across the nation by 10% (p. 13, Exhibit 1.1). They are expected to continue rising under current unchanged socioeconomic and political conditions. However, this can be slowed or stopped in two to four years if changes are made in those same influencing factors, reversed and returned to pre-2016 trends in six years with significant changes.
My hometown of Dallas, TX is not listed in these 10 worst cities, however, as the state’s largest metroplex and one of the nation’s largest metropolises it has its serious homeless problems too. Our Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance reports to-date Dallas and Collin Counties (the latter is one of the wealthiest counties in Texas) have risen by 9% since 2016 with a 16% increase in Emergency-Sheltered homelessness. As mentioned at the end of Part III, I have three personal stories to share from homeless individuals within 1-mile of my home.
Three Dallas Voices of Homelessness
One of my first impressions after briefly speaking with these homeless, sometimes just loitering before moving down the street, is that homelessness is not represented by one gender or one particular race. That’s one false notion those far removed from the struggle have of these unfortunate situations. The other impression I found which wasn’t much of a surprise to me were their backgrounds and stories.
The majority I spoke with came from situations of unstable families while children and/or teenagers. With one man I spoke with he had been abandoned by his biological dad and step-mother at the age of thirteen. For all the others I spoke with their backgrounds were all too familiar. Drug abuse and dealing, alcohol use and abuse, and often the two dysfunctions were accompanied by physical and sexual abuse/assaults.
Every single person I spoke to with drug, alcohol, and sexual/physical abuse histories had indeed been in rehab treatment programs, several times, but without the financial means to even complete a 30-day, much less 60-day program, facilities could not keep them more than 10-12 days. Some could only detox for three days and had to be discharged. And those facilities are the state- and federal-supported programs, not the highly expensive private clinics and hospitals with adequately staffed premier doctors, nurses, and counselors. Regarding those nice private hospitals, one homeless gentleman told me “those are the places and beds for the best insurance policies or rich parent’s kids.” I knew exactly what he meant. Mom and myself dealt with the same difficulties and oddities with my own sister the last 40-years. Still do. My sister has been homeless and living on the streets many times in her life.
Originally from Ardmore, a small town in Oklahoma, Ricki was about 30-35 and when we talked on a partly cloudy, sunny day she had left a downtown shelter that had been overcrowded and her bed was infested with bed-bugs. She showed me her waist and stomach covered in bites and welts. I asked her how long she’s been homeless, “since I was 19.” Did you finish school, I asked. “No, because my momma was alcoholic, unmarried and I got tired of the abusive men that came and went.” Ricki had moved out as a teenager with no high school diploma to escape one or two domestic problems to take her chances on different bigger problems. Her older sister had done the same about three years earlier than she and not faring any better. Her sister has been in and out of homeless shelters and alcohol-drug rehab houses in Little Rock, AR.
Ricki was also manic depressive and recently diagnosed (inside a low-cost county hospital) with Type 1 diabetes. Most of the time she can’t afford both meds, sometimes neither of them. Her combination of emotional and medical problems—most likely other secondary psychological issues I’m assuming too—meant one med without the other kept her in constant volatility with one or the other for all these years. This was my guess anyway. “The low-wage jobs I was able to find and keep for a month or two,” she explained “the supervisor didn’t have any patience with my mistakes and knew nothing about mental-illness.” This was one primary cause for Ricki’s chronic homelessness for 11-12 years.
When I asked her if there was one wish she could have granted for the next 6-12 months, what would it be? She answered, “If they would just give us some place to go where we wouldn’t get run off every other night, or after a week or two, that would work for me to get on my feet.” She had a point. If you have to keep worrying about your next meal(s) and where you will sleep for the night or next week, it makes it much more difficult to be reliable for a boss at a low-paying job. I thought it pointless, probably an insult to ask if she had means of transportation to get to and from a job.
Adam or “Addie”
Addie is a 34-year old male originally from Georgia, but recently from Mississippi, which was what struck up our first conversation. A military brat/kid, he moved around many times; four times before he was age twelve. In Mississippi was where the U.S. Marine Corp. recruiter talked him into enlisting, told him he would see the world and become a new man. During boot camp in San Diego, CA, Adam was smoking weed with other recruits, but he was the one busted and made the example to his recruit-class.
He moved back in with his dad in Mississippi, but being former military himself his dad soon kicked him out. “I tried for a couple of months living with an aunt in Ohio,” he shared “but she had too many strict rules.” Many friends-with-couches later and only a diploma, Addie eventually ended up in DFW, sometimes in a shelter, other times on the streets.
Everything has a long line at shelters that often takes an hour or two to stand in, and sometimes you don’t get what you wait for. Beds are often infested because they’re not regularly sanitized. Roaches everywhere getting into your stuff. The staff-workers have their favorites and don’t treat everyone equally. And temporary affordable housing for us takes a long, long time to obtain. Why? It’s non-existent or too expensive in DFW. I want to work, hold down a job, but it all seems like a Catch-22.
Bouts of alcoholism have crept into Adam’s hard times. When I saw him last he was considering drifting up toward Kansas City for the summer (cooler temps) if he was put off again or kept on the housing waiting list at two shelters a fifth time.
Walt is a former truck-rig driver from Ft. Worth, TX. He is about 47 – 50 years old, I’m guessing, and due to his high blood pressure from being severely overweight—he says from always being on the road/highway living in his rear cab for 330-days out of the year—lost his CDL (commercial driver’s license) because of those medical problems. In our conversation Walt exhibited several signs of depressive disorders so I asked if he has ever been seen by a psychologist or psychiatrist.
“Yes. Once right after I got out of prison and then through my caseworker at the shelter.” I asked him what they said. “That I needed both counseling [psychotherapy] and regular anti-depressant meds for at least two years.” Of course I asked how that was going. “I can’t afford it after a week or two.” Walter said it had been over a year since he has done any counseling or had meds. When I asked about family his entire affect changed. He started talking about his mother and father, in broken mumbled sentences, but then had to stop. He had no idea how they were or where they were—his mom disappeared when he was little. The last time Walt saw his dad was 1984 and of all places… Richardson, TX, just 10-minutes away.
I asked Walt that other than truck-driving, once he reacquired his CDL, has he been able to find work:
For the last two years I’ve been trying to get into a program for housing for the displaced. After you stand in line for your caseworker for hours, you are usually told it is pending or I’ve been told I don’t fit their requirements. At most shelters you must stand in line by 2:00pm to secure a bed. If you get to your caseworker by 4:30pm, you have much less time to walk everywhere seeking a low-wage job. But sometimes you have to choose between a bed for the night or a possible job you’ve already applied for months earlier. Because I don’t have semi-permanent housing I can’t clean-up and dress to look my best at any job interview. [he gave a half chuckle]
Though not all homeless cases are mental-illness related, America’s public mental-health, mental-illness infrastructure and operation is for the most part only one fragile cog in our nation’s dysfunctional three-cog public services. The second cog is our Homeless-to-Housing cog. It fluctuates greatly and is rarely the same from year-to-year or elections-to-elections. The third cog is thriving and over the last 2-3 decades has become profitably fat: prisons.
Should you want to view the other 94 – 95 U.S. companies clearing profits from county and state corrections facility services, click here. The grossly disproportionate social needs wheel above begs the question, What is the real priority for American businesses and their government constituents? Then ask yourself why can’t housing projects, and state/county mental-health programs keep up with a noticeably smaller (yet fast growing) percentage of the population? Any bets whether you are back to the first question of priorities?
There is another alarming ripple-effect of the U.S. corporate grey market and black underworld/market destabilizing the nation’s struggling middle-class and sinking lower-class: a falling life-expectancy. Neurosurgeon and Emmy-winning CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, hosted a special HBO documentary called One Nation Under Stress and examined the reasons for the historic decline in life-expectancy inside the world’s wealthiest country who ironically has spent the most on healthcare by any developed nation around the globe.
If you are unable to watch or stream the HBO documentary, here is a 25-min overview of Dr. Gupta’s findings. He reveals the multiple causes all pointing to one single epidemic: the chronic, prolonged levels of abnormal stress. I highly recommend watching this documentary and sharing it with family and friends. If you don’t have anyone close suffering from long-term stress and its many side effects, then watch it as an introductory briefing so you might recognize the many symptoms and one day help a stranger or acquaintance.
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Now that this five part series is concluded and covered the entire historical spectrum from 1900 across the North, Central, South Americas and Caribbean, to recent and present-day criminal and corrupt back-office, domestic businesses, to the end product of an ill, decaying middle and lower socioeconomic class in the U.S., share your thoughts or questions below. I hope this series and the discussions will cause you to ask yourself, What more can I do? Then inspire to act.
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