I recently met a woman who fled her home several states over because of a failed forced marriage. I can only imagine what would impel this docile bride to jump from a lifetime of servitude/security into uncertainty and destitution.
My brief conversations with her leave me with a multitude of concerns:
- Her naivety equals her poverty.
- Her social support network appears slim.
- Her judgment slips and slides on impulse.
- Her anxiety gushes like an opened fire hydrant.
- She’s staying in a place that offers hospitality, but it’s short-lived.
- She seems to have no viable plan, or resources, to relocate — a fast track to homelessness.
Make no mistake — I stay in places not my own, living in my cozy little van. I’ve been an intentional nomad for the past 14 years, filming documentaries and giving presentations on families and youth experiencing homelessness (www.hearus.us). I don’t own a home, having given up stability for my unconventional lifestyle. I have modest resources, street sense, ample common sense, and, what this woman seems to be lacking — a social network where I can turn for support.
Step back and look at our U.S. society today. In general, with welcomed exceptions, it’s a cruel place to be. Landlords can be vicious. Take Al Goldstein, for example. He’s
“a Deutsche Bank investment banker who quit to found a massive, intercontinental payday lending outfit; he tapped the investors that he enriched with his payday lending business to stake him $180 million and bought up thousands of low-rent buildings in Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods (which are also Chicago’s blackest neighborhoods).”
He acquired scores of abandoned, decrepit buildings and renovated them, being recognized as a savior in Chicago for easing the affordable housing crisis. The BoingBoing article goes on to point out how his company, Pangea,
“…reinvented how tenants get evicted in Chicago, taking eviction from a rarity in the city to a commonplace occurrence, inventing a playbook for rapid evictions that other landlords are now following, creating an epidemic of evictions in a city where eviction was once unheard-of.”
Mr. Goldstein isn’t an anomaly. I read articles each day that confirm what many people believe — that this is a cruel world. Capitalists run amok seem to be the ruling power, led by the failed businessman, braggart in chief who occupies the Oval Office. Hedge fund CEOs ravage our economy and we sit by powerless. Congress — our democracy’s mechanism for keeping order for the people, by the people — sputters as helpless as a neglected newborn.
I was utterly dismazed to read about a friend’s current dilemma — she’s a senior citizen with serious health issues living with her sister, both impoverished. Even with our so-called safety net, she’s physically and mentally struggling with the hand she’s been dealt. Her account had me wincing in agony. I wanted to scream, “Where’s the safety network that is supposed to be helping her age in dignity?”
A classic example of power over people was described in a New York Times article about how cabbies, a largely immigrant population, are being uber-gouged by the system that is supposed to regulate that industry,
“…much like in the mortgage lending crisis, a group of industry leaders enriched themselves by artificially inflating medallion prices. They encouraged medallion buyers to borrow as much as possible and ensnared them in interest-only loans and other one-sided deals that often required them to pay hefty fees, forfeit their legal rights and give up most of their monthly incomes.”
Cabbie-families are tumbling into homelessness.
The Washington Post reports that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, HUD, at the behest of our immigrant-hating chief executive, admitted that the Trump “plan to purge undocumented immigrants from public housing could displace more than 55,000 children who are all legal U.S. residents or citizens.”
We’ve made it so damn hard to help people. Liability issues. Housing occupancy limits. Citizenship requirements. Income and credit standards.
How do people survive?
- Because of the kindness and selflessness of others.
- Because regulations protect the vulnerable.
- Because resources needed for survival are available for those without the means to pay for them.
- Because we’ve created a society that allows for individual differences.
- Because we believe in the dignity of each person.
- Because we share our abundance without expecting repayment.
When these survival principles are absent or in short supply, people struggle.
What if it’s me on the short end?