Fw: Stopping Homelessness

H. C. Covington -- I CAN America (icanamerica@email.msn.com)
Thu, 21 Oct 1999 07:13:34 -0400

Forward of an Original Message From: Talmadge Wright
Sent: Wednesday, October 20, 1999 6:57 PM  Subject: Stopping Homelessness

Note: Tom, Catalina, Virginia, Alan and I had a chance to meet Dr. Wright
last December in Louisiana.  He is a well experienced and respected
researcher on Homelessness and practical ways to deal with it.


I hear the frustration in your voice. I also share that same frustration.
In researching the topic and working with street people, and teaching
courses I have tried to come up with an answer. All of the recommendations
including the ones in Baumohl's book all presuppose that the Welfare State
as we have known it is still supported by the business community. What may
be depressing is that those reform policies which gave rise to Keynesian
economics of state expenditures on social wages were predicated upon
the necessity of preserving social order at the national level while
business enterprises were in their infancy. Now that corporate capital has
accelerated capital mobility and speed and is rapidly breaking down
national barriers, including forcing neo-liberal policies down everyone's
throat, the prior need to maintain the social wage (such as housing
subsidies, health care, etc,) is being reduced to a minimum.

Privitization, deregulation, and lowering worker wages are all marks of
this new era we are coming into. The prospects are indeed very bleak for
the poor. Especially since prisons have proven more lucrative than social
welfare. Of course, some social provisions will be made - workers can't be
allowed to just die in mass in the street, and business owners have to buy
enough of worker loyalty to prevent riots and widespread acts of violence.
Why is this happening now? If we take Gary Teeple's thesis
seriously (Globalization and the Decline of Social Reform) it is simply
because the social contract between labor and management enforced for 50
years was broken in the late 1970s. As financial markets expanded
they were able to roam the world at will, with occasional meltdowns as
in Russia and Asia. The consequences have been high rates of social
inequality in every country dominated by the "free" market. This will only
increase, unless workers organize to fight back globally. In the meantime,
more homeless people will be created and more prisons filled. It really is
quite simple. You want capitalists to put their money where it will not
produce a profit - that is what you want, not them. The end goal of this
game is capital accumulation and expanded markets with high profits.
Social welfare is a drag on these - so get rid of it. That is the new

It would be worth while for all of us to pay attention to what is
happening in Germany. Germany also has a huge homeless problem. My
colleague counted 15 housing encampments each containing about 300 people
just in and around Berlin. Irene Glasser estimated about 45,000 were
living in emergency shelters in Cologne. And this in a society with a high
social wage, good benefits, good wages, but high unemployment. Schroader's
plan, like Tony Blair and Clinton is to cut the social wage to make
Germany "competitive" with other low wage countries. This has been
resisted successfully so far by the German people. For how long we don't
know. The pressure from international capital to create more homeless is
on. Creating more jobs by lowering the social wage will ultimately create
a situation of reducing worker benefits to th elevel of the less
developing countries. Why should capitalists owners think any different
than the way they think? They are doing the "rational" thing by protecting
their investments.

The problem is not homeless people's behavior, deficits,
disabilities, or mental states as many on this list would like to believe.
Those are merely the end products of a widespread social neglect, because
it does not profit the few to support the many. The welfare state is dead.
What is next?

> In the past few weeks I have been putting a great deal of thought into
> the idea of "how to prevent homelessness."  The whole idea of it leaves
> me without any answers.  In the HOMELESS IN AMERICA text, it is
> suggested to target those who are "most at risk" of becoming homeless
> and stopping the problem before it actaully becomes one.  The author of
> the text also suggests that the "most at risk" population stems from
> people with backgrounds of mental hospitals, prisons, jails, substance
> abuse, etc.
> As I see it, sure, the government and other private orgainizations have
> made strides toward prevention, but the issue at hand, homelessness, is
> still a large factor in today's society.  Ther are FMR's, but they even
> have waiting lists and shortage of financial funds.  There are SRO's,
> Soup Kitchens, Halfway Houses, etc, but due to genterfication, they are
> being shut down.
> My guestion then, is what can really be done to STOP homelessness in our
> society.  Are there any true answers?  Homeless people are real people
> too, and I feel that more needs to be done to help the homeless
> population, but I don't know what.  What is it going to take to succeed
> in actually preventing homelessness?
> I know there are answers out theree, but they don't seem to be stopping
> the problem.  If anyone has any ideas, I would love to hear them, for my
> own reference.  You can email me at KayserK@cwu.edu
> Thank you!

* Talmadge Wright (773) 508-3451 *
* Dept. of Sociology/Anthropology     FAX:(773) 508-7099 *
* Loyola University Chicago        *
* 6525 N. Sheridan Rd.        *
* Chicago, Illinois 60626        *