Sunday, July 4, 2010

HOMELESSNESS ,a Mythological Mask

The word "HOMELESSNESS" masks a multitude
of  unmentioned maladies and contributory ailments,
self inflicted or otherwise. It even includes people down
on their luck so to speak. Hidden in the terminology are
single mothers and their respective children who are now
called family yet single individuals are and have  been what
I would say is discriminated against in what may be seen as
a non hostile fashion. The smoke and mirrors originates in
HUD created definitions which mirror politicians crafting
the language to suit their purposes.

Of the many paths that research could follow within
the mask of Homelessness, the Family designation is
the one I choose to delve into right now. Other aspects
deserve attention, just not now,not here. Buried in our
Societal thinking resides beliefs and values we "treasure"
or at least claim we do. Family is that word in our rhetoric
collection which carries an almost Holy or religious
connotation. Protecting an ideal which no longer means
what we hold sacred today. We hold an notion of what
we would want it to mean, even if it is a created rendition
a la Hollywood in successive generations.

A nation of outcasts thrown upon the continent by
over burdened royal plunderers we seem to have
picked up some of their entitlement issues. Meaning
we have in a way become our abusers. The landed
gentry ,where property rights don't provide for in some
way , something for those who do not own their own
home.Single Family homes represent a "Mans" castle.
Our whole incomplete system, and I repeat, our
incomplete system is underwritten by the entirety
yet the entirety includes those who rent and receive
no subsidy from the taxation system for their housing.
Somehow we trim off the negative concept  that
includes community participation and such and
focus on the positive Icing on the cake. This trimming
happens to the words we live with and by. We forget
the past, a selective forgetting.

We have created a class system which includes an
outclass ,an out caste system which is concealed
behind the mask of Homelessness. This declared
ending of  Homelessness is going be interesting as
we peel the layers beneath the mask. There is a
Hydra hidden beneath this face.What are the magic
words we will need to recite? Erstwhile this hydra
will just grow double the heads we severe. And this
is why I choose to focus on Family versus single
discrimination. A housing concept offered as an
economical possibility is called by many names,
but particularly Single Resident Occupancy. Also
SRO has been coined for Single Room Occupancy.
A novel rebirth to the Efficiency apartment,the JR.
Executive Studio all of which translate to Dollar per
square foot costs of developing and building a
housing model which can fit into our antiquated
zoning system.What worked in 1976 utopia no
longer translates to todays housing needs.

It became particularly discriminatory when the SRO
concept got tagged to Homelessness.The Word single
got tagged to single people and was "Discovered" to be
discriminatory against....(drum roll please)...  Families !!
It only took 8 years for the County of Fairfax, which touts
itself as an international location for business, to wake
up to the Housing "No No" it was considering. Exit turn
left and they posed a new question diverting the attention
to other existing categories for consideration and as
yet no mention of the SRO.

Somehow Homeownership seems to be the goal
for the Homeless,thats the problem's obvious solution.
Not Housing but Home Ownership. Fannie Mae has
developed a training course on financial concepts
which aptly pertain to "white middle class" suburbia.
The Homeless Housing Ready programs make it a
requirement to keep your bed.The 1976 utopia I referred to
earlier became the Business plan for the American dream.
HomeOwners associations telling you what color you can
paint your shutters and easements across your front lawn
for Emergency vehicles. Take it or leave it. You want a
bed in the Homeless Shelter then you will participate in
these programs or risk going back out into the street.

The relationship is black and white, take it or leave it.
You get the help they offer when they offer it. Spend
6 months on a waiting list and somehow your definition
changes and that time is lost and back to square one.
Start all over again. The Quasi Governmental charities
are all posing for the same funding in enough  ways that
if you dont serve their needs you are not served either.
Same person I was last week but now that I have found
housing I am cut off their list.If I had been found housing
by them then I suspect the relationship would have
continued.But it didnt and I dont.  Thats an example of
Definitions in action. Excuses that make abuse okay.
The word "abuse" may press emotional response  buttons
that question if the word is being used to create a negative
picture and you would be correct. But as mentioned earlier,
not a hateful , nor hostile one. Just accurate enough to
justify the need for change.

The Alternative for singles is to share a
"single family home" with other singles who are not
part of their family or occupy a 1Bedroom single
family home of convential thinking and our sensibilities.
 A family would require requisite number of bedrooms
and would have little hesitation in sharing the necessary
a bathroom. In the case of Fairfax county, in the website
 it states clearly the minimum room sizes for people and
it is clearly less than the proposed SRO concept considered
adequate and comfortable for 1 or 2 people. (my addition to 2)
The Economic reasoning behind building smaller
economical units is really the question and the utopian
zoning that hampers what might be considered the new
urbanism and struggles to maintain it's status quo by
pressuring and support of larger units. We confront
what is known as BY-Right Zoning and its effect upon
housing. Single Family  Zoning which inturn is
understandable by Single family Owners.
The Mass of American Dream Holders.

Singles by right can only number 4 unrelated individuals
in a Single Family house. A family with blood relations
can number on average 6 or so with 2 roomers in the
mix.  Making it 4 unrelated by blood and children when
you consider Man and Wife are not generally related
by blood but through marriage. Practically speaking,
they neglected to mandate the number of bedrooms or
a Bathroom to occupant  ratio in this By-Right listing, but
they certainly seem to discriminate against single unmarrieds
or against children who can be accommodated with lesser
standards. But if you look closely at housing you will  see
how we underwrite and subsidize famillies .
Families who own put down roots and pay taxes.
Even the fundamental basis for individuals owning
property is known to foster an atmosphere of Commerce
and such. Other systems have and do exist.

Much of what I am attempting to point out are subtle
and obvious to a point that its easy to dismiss the
underlying importance which has become so sublimated
in our society. The Economy which can be compared to
an agreed upon game of sorts makes room for what maybe
we all want but what all dont necessarily obtain regardless
the reasons.Look at the three financial pie charts , one for
each ,the Federal government, the State and the County
and you discover  in order the greatest expenditure per
government is these: Federal/Military,  State/ Prisons,
County/ School ,everything else comes in a far far
second at best. In the case of Fairfax , the Police and
Fire Budgets are about equal to what we spend on
Social concerns. So apparently we value WAR,
Catching the Bad guy and teaching our kids how to
be good employee's.

HOMELESSNESS is just the catch -all for those
unlucky enough to fall off the playing board our economy
has created , a way to hide externalized expenses we
stopped paying decades ago in mental health , and continue
to punish  and disenfranchise those who have broken our
laws. Without  Homelessness we have no way to
threaten children who appear lazy, continue punishing
law breakers after they have served their sentence and
support and foster recidivism so that re-offending
becomes easier and quicker. How else would we get
away with breaking our agreement to provide safety
and security to a select few who we might even agree
don't deserve protection anymore  since the numbers
are so small in the scheme of things. The right to pursue
happiness is predicated upon our inalienable right to pursue
our safety first. The American Dream of a Family home may
be the prize but all the players ,either voluntary or
conscripted, don't necessarily want or need that
Housing Model.

The economics supporting the existing Housing
model are also causing millions of gallons of gasoline
to be burnt upon our roadways ,in and out of the county,
at least 5 days per week.Week after week the latest
batch of commuters created by our Utopian zoning
stranglehold burn gasoline as an externalized expense
of the housing sprawl which Loudon county and to a
lesser degree Prince William Counties have absorbed.
And unfortunately we are on track to repeating the
behavior that led to the first round of  deficits.
The mathematics which can be calculated based upon
"The Beltway Burden" report  are considerable.
All because of what?  A 'Master Plan" for the County
based upon out dated aspirations?

Families are no longer the Market which predominates
and demands the Housing model focus.  What has
worked in the past is no longer a sure thing for the future.
The current Housing stock dates from the 1950's and 60's
are in need of retrofit and refurbishment. Zoning is like
handcuffs on the homeowner. Making whatever is
allowable also easy to comprehend is vitally important.
 Respecting Singles in the Economies at hand may not
be so easy if we maintain the existing set of standards.
Higher density and respect and acknowledgment for the
 bottom 20 Percent of our residents must accomplish
more than lip service.

Affordable Housing must expand to cover the fringe
2 or 3 percent which has been ignored while being
created by our shortcomings. No housing should be
assigned the name 'Homeless" housing.  Economics
are what we agree to make it become ,by our actions
we add importance to details and definitions that matter
to people who make up that bottom 20 percent.
Our ideas about Plantations and Estates forget to include
the expanded uses that extended beyond simple single
family housing.  We need to reconfigure our figurative

Quotes for Affordable Housing

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