Amid all the talk about what the stimulus bill will do for homeowners facing foreclosure, the latest issue of Left Turn contains a timely observation: “In the 30 years since the federal government’s move to deprioritize low-incoming housing led to the modern homelessness epidemic, homelessness has become a separate issue from housing.” The insight is part of a great, manifesto-like article (not yet online) coauthored by “a bunch of folks” at Picture the Homeless, a grassroots advocacy group founded and led by homeless people in New York City.
The stigma attached to homelessness, the coauthors argue, only serves to segregate the very poor into two groups—those who have housing, and those who don’t. “Frequently, we find our demands at odds with organizations. . . who on the surface would be our allies,” they write. “Housing groups organize tenants to fight eviction and block rent increases, but their demands for the creation of ‘affordable housing’ are targeted at income ranges well above the poverty level. . . . Long-term community residents fighting against gentrification and displacement frequently fail to feel any solidarity with homeless people who already have been displaced from those communities.”
As the feisty folks at Picture the Homeless tell it: “There is not a homeless crisis, but there is a housing crisis, with homelessness being one result.” It seems like their approach is gaining traction, too. Over at Change.org, Shannon Moriarty chronicles some of the decidedly housing-oriented ways that cities plan to spend their share of the $1.5 billion allotted to homelessness prevention.