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Sage Against The Machine.
Libertarian Humanist.

Accepting American Slums

December 1, 2019

Do you know that phrase, "like a bat out of hell?"

I don't think you can truly appreciate a phrase like that until you have actually gone "like a bat out of hell."

We were screaming east on I-20 trying to make the 120 mile trip from Dallas to Kilgore Texas in as close to an hour as possible.

My cab driver kept complaining how exhausted he was because he'd been up for 24 hours and he didn't plan on a 2am 120 mile fare, but couldn't pass it up.

My flight had been incredibly late, all the rental cars were sold out and I was running an all day social media clinic starting in 6 hours at 8am in Kilgore.

We stopped at a gas station for pick me ups. I got several 5 hour energy drinks and the largest Diet Coke they sold. He got sunflower seeds. He swore sunflower seeds were a great stimulant. Maybe that was something he learned in India as a kid. But all it did was make me more tense driving faster than I had ever driven before as he complained about not being able to keep his eyes open.

To keep my mind off my impending firey death I made small talk. I asked him how he came to America.

He said he was obsessed with the show Dallas as a kid living in India. He LOVED it. He loved the wealth. He loved the huge houses. He loved the wide open spaces. All he wanted to do was move to Dallas so he could live that life. He said he believed as a kid that roads were actually paved with gold in America.

That's why he lived in Dallas Texas his entire adult life.

Naturally, America wasn't all his childhood dreams were cracked up to be. He still loved living in Dallas. But none of the streets were made out of gold and very few people lived like JR Ewing.

The truth of America is much different than the marketing messaging.

We are currently living in a very interesting era.

Today, while unemployment remains low and the economy is doing exceptionally well, wage growth has remained stagnant.

I don't want to lose you to talking about mind numbing economics. So look at this graph:

The top 1% of the American population is getting more and more of the total pie of money. And 49% of ‘new income goes to the top 1%.

It wasn't always like that.

Look how the share of the top 1% and top .1% share of income decreased during what is called "The Great Compression"

From 19371967 income inequality fell dramatically. This was the height of the middle class. People were buying houses. You could raise a family on one income. And you were paying to send your kids to college.

Today, this inequality just keeps growing. The inequality expansion last year took place at the same time median household income nationwide increased to almost $62,000 last year, the highest ever measured by the American Community Survey.

Yes, the median household income is awesome. But in America today that just means that people at the top people are making a lot more and the bottom people are making a lot less. Very few people are actually making $62,000.

For example, in Akron Ohio the median income is $36,223.  That's a MASSIVE difference than the $62,000 overall American median income. And keep in mind that the Akron median income of $36,223 is also MASSIVELY different than what is really going on in reality. In my circles a person with a $750/month social security benefit is the belle of the ball. People with $190/month food cards are also hugely popular.

I don't need to belabor this point.

What I'm getting at is the way America is currently structured, extreme poverty is just the reality of the situation. Of course we're going to have 500,000 people living on the streets of America. This is what the bottom of income inequality looks like.

The destruction of unions, outsourcing good jobs to other countries and automation are  major contributors to this income inequality. And the rich are incredibly powerful in America today. Both parties suck up to their chocolate fountains of money. They will do anything to keep the money flowing. Income inequality is the price we pay for this late stage capitalism ecosystem.

Fixing income inequality is not my cross to bear. I am focused on the homeless condition in America. I'm not interested in what America might look like in 10 years. I'm interested in what America looks like today and I want to fix it TODAY.

Today we have 500,000 people living on the streets of America.  We have to accept it and end the war we are waging on these people.

It is pointed out in this LA Times article: We don't need protection from the homeless. They need protection from us.

People are being beaten to death just because they are homeless and cities, such as Akron Ohio, all over the country are implementing these bizarro dystopian camp raids that just make homeless people go around in circles camping in places they were thrown out of a month ago.

And the way we are "fixing" it now is equally as trippy and surreal.

In Los Angeles they are building apartment units for homeless people at an average cost of $531,373 per unit.

In comparison, we are doing the exact same thing here in Akron Ohio. Our most recently created homeless apartment complex, Stoney Pointe, cost $11.3 million for 68 units. That comes out to $166,176 per unit.

The median listing price for an entire single family home in Akron is $80,300.

That means we could buy 2 entire houses for the cost of one unit at Stoney Pointe. (One of our homeless transitional houses we bought from the Land Bank cost $5,000.)

I live in a duplex I paid $106,000 for. It has 2 two bedroom apartments in it, a 3 car garage and a nice backyard.

We are living in a truly insane world.

We have to accept the fact that the chickens have come home to roost. We made this mess and we have to live in it. I see absolutely no indication that we are going to change course any time soon.

We need to accept the fact that we need American slums.

We need a place for people at the very bottom of the system we have created can live.

But here's were the story actually turns good. It turns out capitalism is, as Homer Simpson says, the "cause of and solution to all our problems."

We have SO much money flowing around this country. And there are many people willing to share it.

Look at this overhead shot of Community First Village in Austin Texas:

This is a highly structure, highly organized community built for chronically homeless people. They all are required to pay rent. It's around $300/month. But it's significantly less than what rent costs anywhere else in Austin Texas. This is a community built and designed for chronically homeless people. Most people who live here have been homeless over 10 years.

Look at these tiny houses in Community First Village:

They are temperature controlled, they have electric and wifi. And they are very near community kitchens and bathhouses where a person can go into a room and lock the door and have privacy.

American slums do not have to be what slums are like in third world countries. I only used the word "slums" to get your attention.

I also used the word slums because we already have slums in America.

Here's a picture of Skid Row in LA:

These types of unstructured homeless tent communities exist all over America for one reason: We don't want to admit we have a homeless problem in America.

We shun the homeless. We scorn the homeless. We arrest the homeless. But it does nothing to actually fix homelessness.

We absolutely MUST have structured, organized and planned villages for homeless people that are disruptively affordable. It is only at that point that we will be able to systematically work with them and treat them for all the conditions that come with living on the street for years.

We are never EVER going to solve homelessness by building single unit apartments that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars each. It's completely unsustainable.

A REALLY good tiny house can be created for under $10,000. And an emergency tiny house can be created for under $1,000.

We are going to have to do some initial triage that's going to look messy. I'm talking tents and sheds. But that's only because we have been ignoring these people since the 80's when we took away mental health services and when we took away welfare in the 90's. We have some ugly cleanup to do.

But once we get that under control then we can start making things that really play to the strengths of Americans. We can create innovative, creative dwellings and communities that have never been thought of before.

It's not for a lack of compassion, creativity and innovation that is holding us back from ending homelessness in America. It's bureaucracy and a complete lack of interest from our elected officials. All they care about is sucking up to the people with all the money.

Paid For By The People for Sage Lewis

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