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[Commentary] © 2001 Philip Hyde, The Timesizing Wire™, Box 622 Cambridge MA 02143 USA (617) 623-8080

Homelessness Stories, Jan-Sept/2001


9/19/2001  1 homelessness story -

8/26-27/2001  2 weekend homelessness items -
  1. 8/26 Gaps in welfare reform, editorial, Boston Globe, D6.
    Five years after President Clinton signed the law "ending welfare as we know it," few remember that as a candidate in 1992, Clinton's initial welfare reform proposal was much more generous. We could end welfare as we know it, he said then, if America provided universal access to health care and child care. For good measure, Clinton's campaign treatise, "Putting People First," also proposed increasing the minimum wage and expanding the earned income tax credit to make up the difference between a former welfare recipient's earnings and the poverty level.
    Those were good principles then, and they are now...
    [We agree if you replace the too-little too-late minimum wage increase with an automatic adjustment of the workweek versus under-employment. Misguided liberals themselves demonstrate repeatedly the failure of the minimum-wage approach by proposing a second, higher minimum wage called the Living Wage. Neither does anything to correct the underlying labor surplus as worksaving technology pours in, and both fight market forces to raise the price of a surplus commodity (labor) instead of harnessing them by simply removing the surplus of working hours flooding the job market.]
    ...but the law Clinton signed on August 22, 1996, abandoned them in order to get a bill through the Republican House in an election year.
    [What a violent and hostile place America has become in the last fifteen years. First we have the tough minimum sentencing laws under Reagan that gave us the first or second largest prison population in the world, mostly non-violent victimless "offenders" and mostly minorities, somewhere in the middle we shut down halfway houses and mental hospitals and turned the mentally ill out into the streets to swell the homeless population, and then an unprincipled "Democrat" pulled the thread-bare rug out from under the poor. Courtesy is out of fashion and car wars have increased. Isolation is "in." Not only do people on cellphones drive into you in America today but a young woman using a cellphone almost walked into us today on the sidewalk. Unbelievable. America has lost its way. We're re-entering the Hyksos Period of ancient Egypt, the Matilda-Stephen period of medieval England at the end of the Domesday Booke - chaos, deterioration.]
    The bill included punitive measures making legal immigrants ineligible for public assistance and food stamps. It jettisoned a guaranteed public service job for those who could not find employment. It left up to individual states the responsibility of providing quality day care for mothers required to work....
    [In short, it passed an unfunded mandate requiring self-support but making it impossible by denying universal healthcare and avoiding the population issues - as if illegal immigration and uncontrolled births are going to stop without an escalation of direct measures passed by the direct democracy of regular public referendums ("Maybe they'll stop if we just make life real hard for them and their kids - never mind how these parentless kids grow up 20 years from now.")]
    Five years later the results are predictable: Welfare rolls have been cut in half, to a 30-year low, as millions of recipients reached the time limits in the new law and a growing economy welcomed them into entry-level jobs....
    [But now the economy has stopped growing.]
    Most fundamentally, poverty has not plummeted along with the welfare rolls. Full-time workers in minimum-wage jobs, even with a boost from the earned income tax credit, are well below the poverty line, which is $14,630 for a family of three.
    [And even if we indexed the minimum wage approach to the poverty line, the poverty line itself is something that is set arbitrarily and rigidly by a tiny elite subgroup and not determined, as it should be, by regular public referendum and made variable by region. Borderline poverty in New York City is a lot more expensive than in New Orleans or even upstate New York.]
    According to the Urban Institute, 40% of former welfare recipients remain in poverty. The number of the very poor has even increased slightly. The number of the very poor has even increased slightly....
    [And the number of homeless has increased dramatically.]
    Welfare reform nationally is up for reauthorization next year and there is plenty of work to do. There should be support services for those unable to work due to disability or illness, including alcohol or drug addiction, domestic violence, or mental impairment. ...Education and training [should be counted] toward the 20-hour work requirement....
    [The requirement itself should be a matter of referendum of the affected population, and not an arbitrary call of some tiny subgroup.]
    And though spending on child care has increased substantially, waiting lists in Massachusetts [for example] hit 16,500 this year.
    [We support squeezing down the workweek to provide for the details and getting government out of housing and food stamps and child care and health care and all the other byzantine micromanagement that has proliferated ever since we blocked the "one rule fits all" shorter workweek in 1933 and plunged into "if it squeaks, throw money at or control it!"]
    ...Only when families are economically secure will welfare reform have achieved its promise.
    [No families will be economically secure until we deploy an automatic system for adjusting the workweek downward as our level of technology moves upward, coupled with overtime-to-training&jobs conversion. Our preliminary system design - Timesizing.]

  2. 8/27 Inn trouble - 44 families find no home at a motel in Dartmouth, by Megan Tench, BG, B1.
    DARTMOUTH [Massachusetts] - The Capri Motel stands a stone's throw away from a strip joint. It sits on a 4-lane highway with no sidewalks, no grocery stores, no schools, and no parks. It's also the place where 44 homeless families from across the state, and their 99 children, call home.
    Now, just months after a surge in statewide numbers of homeless families swelled the population of the Capri from a mere half-dozen families, about 70 of those homeless children will become the responsibility of the Dartmouth school system....
    In fact, leaders of the state Dept. of Transitional Assistance - the renamed welfare department - say they will put poor families in any decent motel willing to take them. Overcrowding in 65 shelters across the state has caused the numbers of families forced to live in motels to jump from zero in 1996 to eight in 1999, 32 in 2000, to 228 today. So far, only 13 [m]otels, from Lynn and Peabody north of Boston to Dartmouth and Mattapoisett to the south, have agreed to take in homeless families. With 44 families, Dartmouth has hosted the highest concentration..\..
    In a town that's proud of its comfortable suburban setting, with single-family homes nestled in spacious woods near the ocean, the sudden influx of homeless families without any prior notice has been greeted with distress.
    [From "Not in our backyard" to "There goes the neighborhood!" - and the property values. Seems the system just isn't cooperating in keeping the poor invisible any more. Maybe our stupid policies are just creating too many of them. How distasteful for the chatelains of the lovely seaside homes in Dartmouth, Mass., to have their wealthy, isolated and insulated serenity inrupted in this alarming way. Damn. How did that seedy motel slip through their snob zoning laws?!]
    ..\.. Laurien Fernandes...with...her four children, who all require special attention...says the town of Dartmouth considers homeless people like her "disruptive" [photo caption]....
    "It was unfair to place the burden of servicing all those families on one town," said Thomas Kelly, the school superintendent. ...Kelly said that no one informed Dartmouth school officials that 70 children ages 5 to 19 living at the motel [and many of them difficult children at that], now considered Dartmouth residents, are expected to start school next week.
    [Maybe this will change the minds of some of our comfortable armchair liberals that we can save the world by bringing the world - with the exception of Europe, Canada and Australia - here.]
    "Last year the number of [workfare] families we serviced ranged from half a dozen to a dozen; that number has increased [to 44]," said Kelly, adding that with a student population of 4,000, the school system is overcrowded as it is....
    Homeless families are casualties of greater statewide [nay, nationwide] issues, said..\..Transitional Assistance spokesman Dick Powers...: a lack of affordable housing, soaring rent prices in Boston, and landlords refusing to rent to those with federally subsidized Section 8 vouchers.
    [Ah, our micromanaging semi-charity system is breaking down. Check out our prison page today ( 8/27/2001, #2) for the prison-to-homelessness connection - story "In Mass., freed inmates face dwindling prospects."]
    And behind all the wrangling about numbers are hundreds of people, trapped in a remote motel miles away from all things familiar....
    [Is it any wonder that our insulated and isolated new "president" is trying to rekindle the Cold War? And with luck, a non-nuclear hot one, or two. Get all these billions of superfluous manhours, embodied in millions of newly impoverished families, registered in the military (if we can't store'em in prison first) - send'em overseas in our usual fashion and get'em shot. So much easier to just trim the workweek.]

8/24/2001  1 homelessness story - 8/01/2001  1 homelessness story - 6/28/2001  No breakout of homeless data, pointer summary (to A12), NYT, A2.
The Census Bureau, in a reversal of its 1990 practice, [will] not provide states and cities with the figures on their homeless populations, which nationally total 280,527...
["sounds way low" - colleague Kate]
...up from 228,621 in 1990.
[= an officially admitted increase of 22.7% in 10 years, averaging over 2% a year. How long before we officially count our first million homeless? You do the math.]
Officials said their experience with the 1990 figures, which were widely viewed as greatly inaccurate, indicated that the data would be misused.

6/25/2001  Street smarts - Homeless, college-educated, and content: Leo Buck finds fulfillment in a hard life, by David Abel, BG, B1.
[This is probably the extreme of the frugality movement.]
Leo Buck playing his recorder in the Fenway to raise money for beer and tobacco. The University of Pennsylvania graduate grew up playing the clarinet and the piano. [The photo above this caption shows a slim and handsome old man with watchcap, ponytail, long white beard and athletic shoes, sitting on a shady park bench with a Dunkin' Donuts cup beside him blowing on a long round narrow black instrument with white mouthpiece and joints.]
The streets are home to many people like Leo Buck, reduced to roaming from soup kitchen to shelter in search of sustenance.
But don't feel bad for the old man with the long, gray beard smoking his pipe. A valedictorian of his high school class, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, and a onetime PhD candidate at Harvard's Divinity School, Buck has spent much of the past 15 years living on his own terms, as he is now, sitting on a park bench and enjoying the shade of a maple tree in the Fenway [a park belt in central Boston].
["Tough competitive" employers should not take this story as license to dismiss the homeless as exercising "their own free choice" as employers so often say about employees who are working megahours on a 40-hour salary. "What if they're being paid an 80-hour salary?" Read your Fair Labor Standards Act - any "salary" for over 40 hours a week is illegal - so better keep it unwritten.]
To be sure, there is little glamour in his story, one of the homeless community's many victims of alcoholism and depression. But the sunburned 60-year-old is like a priest without a parish, a man of the streets who has helped hundreds of college students refine their poetry, inmates of halfway houses learn to live on the outside, and anyone from yuppies to elderly immigrants deal with life's hardships.... Some of them stop and sit with Buck, whose scent betrays the length of time since his last shower and whose white cuffed trousers are brown from months of wear. They talk to him about religion, politics, literature, the news, or just their lives....
"This isn't an idyllic existence," says Ann Potter, Buck's psychiatrist at the Tri-City Mental Health & Retardation Center. "He is not carefree. He is always worrying where he is going to stay. Life on the street is dangerous. He has been mugged, beaten up, and things of his have been stolen."
[But then, like lawyers, mental health professionals have a self-interest in accentuating the negative. So do community organizers (see Saul Alinsky's "Rules for Radicals," especially "rub raw the problem") and economic designers. But in the latter case, see our daily 'glimmers of hope' and our long-term do-it-yourself solution, Timesizing. Lawyers and shrinks, like the tobacco industry, are trying to get you addicted to them. They're all looking for an annuity.]
Sitting cross-legged on his shaded bench, the scruffy shaman of the Fenway pulls out his prize possession, his recorder, and plays a tune from the Beatles, "All My Loving"..\..
"This isn't as much the life that I have chosen, but the life that has chosen me," he says between greetings to others in Russian, French, German, and Greek, all languages he claims to speak....
[Well at least he speaks the greeting parts. Phil Hyde adds Spanish, Czech, Chinese, Amharic (Ethiopian) and Swahili. Greeting people in their mother tongue, whatever it is, makes them feel more at home in this strange land.]
Lugging a satchel stuffed with books, an old Dunkin' Donuts cup in which he hides beer, and a recorder he uses to raise about $10 a day for alcohol and tobacco, Buck rises [with the sun] at 5 a.m. at either the Pine Street Inn or the Back Bay train station, and uses a cane to walk Haley House in the South End. After breakfast, he moves on to read the papers at the station, eventually making his way to the Fenway, a neighborhood he has returned to ever since he visited its onion-domed Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral years ago. "I've made many friends here," he says..."so I keep coming back."...
Born into a middle-class family in a suburb of Scranton, Pa., Buck grew up playing the clarinet and the piano. While earning a master's degree in theology at the University of Pennsylvania, he married and had a son.
[Phil Hyde played the cello in highschool, earned a master's degree in linguistics at the University of Toronto, married three times - the last two to the same woman - but had no children - as far as he knows.]
In part to avoid the Vietnam War and to continue his religious studies, Buck moved to Boston in the late 1960s to study at Harvard [Divinity School].
[Hyde did two years at Emmanuel College Theological "Cemetery" in Toronto and wrote six pages of honesty and anger to Principal Earl S. Lautenschlager raising such questions as, why in the world did they have someone generally known to students as "Mumbles McMullen" teaching public speaking?! When "the Laut" began making it difficult for Hyde to re-enter the college for third and last year (for B.D. degree), Hyde applied and was accepted with full credit for third and last year at Trinity College (Anglican) across Queen's Park Circle, the theory being that he could complete his degree at Trinity, which was really a better educational experience, with famous names like Father Beare in New Testament (we are not making this up) and then go back to the United Church to get "revved up" (ordained as a "reverend" minister). At his entry interview with Canon M. T. ("Empty"?) Newby, Hyde was asked to attend mattins every morning. "What time is mattins?" he asked. "7:30" was the reply. "Do I really have to attend every morning?" said he. "Well, with your United Church background we want to include you as much as possible in our community. And besides, it'll be good discipline for your later life in the general pastorate ['G.P.']." These stifling words echoed in Hyde's ear. "Inclusion" and "community" were good, but "discipline" at a time in the mid-1960s when he was just discovering freedom, and "for your later life" as pulpit fodder, when all the young bucks in the Church wanted to be worker priests or prison or university chaplains, sounded like an invitation to bastion the past rather than pioneering for the future of the church. So Hyde picked up the $1500 Province of Ontario scholarship that he had presciently applied for and did a one-year masters at the then-new Linguistic Center at the U. of T., not regarding linguistics as any be-all-and-end-all but rather as a pretty good stepping stone to practically anything. And after 4 years for a BA in Ancient Near Eastern Studies and 2 years in theological cemetery with the likes of Lautenschlager and Mumbles McMullen (though the old Scottish mystic saint, Robert Dobbie, was a relief when he digressed from deadly Old Testament onto Catherine of Siena and St. John of the Cross), Hyde had developed an urgent thirst for relevance. And "if God was doing anything in the world today, He was probably doing more in People's China than in organized religion."]
After two years, [Leo Buck] dropped out [of Harvard Div School]. "It was an oppressive environment," he says. "People were so uptight. No one laughed."
[That despite Prof. Harvey Cox's efforts to uncover the humor of Christ. (He wrote a book called "The Feast of Fools.") But the real discovery, the fourth person of the Trinity, God the Holy Joker, is still generally unknown at the Harvard Div School. And to have to have a "theology of humor" or indeed, a "theology" of practically anything else before you can accept and enjoy it, is indeed oppressive. Phil Hyde's mission in the early 1960s was to take the humor and laughter of the more liberal, secular, free-thinking and occasionally radical Student Christian Movement (SCM) on the U. of Toronto campus and introduce it gently into the VCF (Varsity Christian Fellowship), the fundamentalist student group. His triumph occurred in a VCF Bible study at Victoria College when, in a group of timid conservative Christians who had taken turns reading Bible verses from the part where the disciples go out fishing an experience a sudden storm, but Jesus comes somehow into the boat from across the water and suddenly they're at the shore. After each person's turn, the leader asked the earnest and straining-for-a-revelation question, "What is God saying to us through this verse?" and Hyde intoned, "Well, I guess God is saying that once Jesus gets into your boat, you've arrived." The result was general, but extremely unusual, mirth.]
For several years, [Leo Buck] worked as an administrator at a few hospitals in Boston, until he was fired from a job at McLean Hospital in Belmont. "There was a personality conflict," he says.
[For several years, Hyde worked as an administrator at the Boston University School of Nursing (BUSON). His status as token male didn't help him at layoff time. Disappointing conclusion - no, if women ruled the world (as they ruled the BUSON), it wouldn't be that much better.]
In the early 1980s, his wife left him, he went on welfare, and his landlord eventually forced him out of his home in Quincy.
[Hyde's first marriage fell victim to the atmosphere of freedom and self-realization of the late 1960s. His second marriage in the late 70s gained him a red-carpet K-1 green card and accelerated naturalization - before divorce in the mid-80s. But the curious credo developed during the second marriage - Hyde and his wife glare at each other over breakfast every morning and repeat in unison, "You are not my type!" - resulted in such a liberating imperviousness to anything bad the other did during the rest of the day, and such a liberating openness to anything good s/he did (rather than starting with high expectations and experiencing a series of disappointments, as in marriage #1), that Hyde and his wife contracted marriage #3 together in the late 80s - after all, in the intermission, Hyde had a quick taste of every man's dream, being courted by a millionairess (who after three weeks of magic and fantasy turned out to be a lot more controlling than her initial carefully cultivated laid-back impression indicated) and AIDS entered the hetero world. Other free advice for would-be lasting newlyweds - keep romance at arms' length, as a powerful but generally underground river, rather than as a burdensome, constantly invoked ally, and put up on your fridge the magnet that says, "Happiness is being married to your best friend." In fact, introduce her/him at parties as "This is my constant friend and occasional wife/husband, {firstname}." And at the first signs of a bitter argument, be quick to seek privacy for as long as it takes to cool off.]
...[Leo Buck] has been living on the streets ever since....
[And there, but for the humor of God, goeth Phil Hyde.]
Before leaving his perch in the park for another old haunt, Buck slides a decorative twig in his winter cap and offers this about how things have turned out: "There are some limitations.... But it's not a bad life."

6/17/2001  Silicon Valley woes spawn a new breed of homeless - Layoffs lead ex-tech workers to area shelters, by Karen Davis, AP via BG, D6.
[Photo caption -] John Sacrosante working in a computer lab set up in a homeless shelter....
SAN JOSE, Calif. - Mike Schlenz, who recently installed computer networks for a living, had been sleeping in his Honda Civic for three months when he went to a homeless shelter.... Schlenz...a Bay Area native with a degree in environmental chemistry, made as much as $60,000 a year as a freelance contractor, installing Unix networks, configuring routers, and working in desktop support for small companies. Then his jobs disappeared. "I'd been to all the job fairs. I'd followed up on all the resumes," he said. "Some of the larger companies approached me several times, but then kept leading me on for months. Departments were being downsized and outsourced. Recruiters just stopped returning messages. Schlenz still has some stock, but the value has dropped. "I cashed in half my stocks to eat. I couldn't even afford gas anymore," he said. He gave up his apartment after running out of cash, and "car-camped" behind a bookstore. He showered at a gym where his membership was good through May. Someone told him he could get a meal at the Montgomery Street Inn, where he now stays and volunteers as a monitor and teacher in the shelter's computer lab..\..
John Sacrosante, who earned more than $100,000 a year as a freelance database engineer, spent his 39th birthday last week with the "brothers" he's met at the church shelter where he has been living. Both are casualties of the struggling economy in Silicon Valley, where a surprising number of former high-tech workers are rubbing elbows with society's castaways - the mentally ill, drug addicts, and hard-luck cases [ah, that would include these high-tech workers, Karen] - in homeless shelters.
"We're all equal here," said Sacrosante. "When you're used to making six figures and working in a dynamic and exciting environment and all of a sudden it goes away, you do have a nice little world of depression going on."
[Ohoh, he said the D word - but he only meant psychological.]
...Nearly 30 unemployed tech workers are among the 100 men at the Montgomery Street Inn and other shelters in San Jose run by InnVision, said Robbie Reinhart, director of the nonprofit. "They're not what we used to call hobos on the street. Most have college degrees," she said.
Dot-com failures sent San Francisco's unemployment rate up to 4.2% in May from a rock-bottom 2.6% a year ago - with 18,000 people added, a new state report shows.
[Ah, Karen, 2.6% is not "rock-bottom." It was unbelievably high in Japan until 1990, and unacceptably high in America during World War II. "Rock bottom" would be zero.]
...Reinhart says most of the tech workers she sees have had their contracts canceled or been laid off from start-ups and other smaller technology companies. Some shelter residents still have jobs but don't earn enough to afford the high price of living alone in the valley, she said. ...Those who qualify for unemployment benefits soon discover the $40 to $230 weekly check won't cover the rent for an apartment here, where average monthly rents are around $1,800.
...Said Dr. Ilene Philipson, a clinical psychologist and sociologist at the Center for Working Families at UC/Berkeley, "There have always been layoffs and economic downturns, but what makes this unusual is that people in the Valley have become appendages of their jobs and their workplace. They've worked up to 110 hours per week and slept on the conference room floor," she said. "People have given up all sorts of things to give to their job and when there's a layoff there's no other support for them."...
The Montgomery Street Inn...has the same policy for all its residents - stay free for a month, then pay $45 a week, whether they have a job or not. Sacrosante had planned to stay no more than five weeks at the shelter, where he teaches residents how to use computers. It's a far cry from the Oracle database certification classes Sacrosante taught as a consultant to major firms before becoming an independent contractor. He was laid off shortly after moving from San Jose to Phoenix to work on what was supposed to be a six-month project for a company there. Sacrosante came back to San Jose three weeks ago with the promise of being hired by one of two Santa Clara-based technical training companies. The offers fell through.
Sacrosante and three other former high-tech workers who met at the shelter are launching Intellikon Technologies, a start-up that will resell wearable mobile computing systems.
[Oh there's a hot item in a downturn!]
Sacrosante said he'll use some of the funding he secured for the venture to rent a house that will double as a office and housing for the four men.
Schlenz is still waiting for his lucky break. He said he's applied for an entry-level position at Redwood Shores-based Oracle Corp. He hasn't told his mother, who is in Arkansas, about his current situation. "She'd worry," he said.
[That isn't the reason. The reason is, he's embarrassed - make that "ashamed." And all because we still have a Neanderthal rigid-workweek economic system with no automatic mechanism to adjust to downturns - shorter hours for all as unemployment rises, longer hours as unemployment subsides. Maybe by next century we'll have a modern economy - with Timesizing.]

6/09/2001  Homeless with AIDS, letter to editor by Exec. Dir. Regina Quattrochi of Bailey House of NY, NYT, A26.
The encouraging medical advances in the fight against AIDS (front page, June 4) will not bare its full impact if infected individuals fall victim to yet another killer: homelessness.
According to an October 2000 study published by Columbia University and Bailey House, the greatest need for people with HIV or AIDS, apart from medical treatment, is housing. With an estimated 500,000 people with HIV or AIDS in the United States lacking suitable housing, it is simply impossible for most of them to find access to health care and adhere to strict treatment regimes.
While we have made progress toward addressing the treatment of AIDS, we still have a long way to go toward eradicating conditions like homelessness that are significant barriers to long-term survival of people living with AIDS.
[Now massa Bill Gates, if we'uns can distract your richness for one tiny moment from taking coals to Newcastle and giving millions to the richest charities and universities in the country, all for the honor and glory of your exalted name, may we direct your attention to this cause. You could solve it with one signature on one check. Of course, what we really need is systemic change, and that would involve a 22nd-century economy where the workweek varies automatically against the under-employment rate to keep work and wages spread around as automating, robotizing technology zaps the human employment in industry after industry. The first complete outlines of such a program are - Timesizing, Not Downsizing.]

4/23/2001  The End of Homelessness, editorial, BG, A10.
...Philip Mangano wants to end homelessness. Not manage it, not accommodate it, not maintain it - end it. [He is director of] the 76 agencies in the Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance.... "We shouldn't be doing a better job of taking care of homeless people," Mangano says. "It gets institutionalized. Homelessness is a social evil, and it ought to be abolished."
In the 1980s, "progressive" thinkers [portrayed] homelessness as a complex web of social and economic conditions, not simply a matter of putting a roof over a person's head.
[Our quotes on "progressive" -TS.com]
Since then, advocates have worked...to ameliorate the conditions that often cause or attend homelessness: mental illness, domestic abuse, addiction. This has helped ease the bleeding, but...not healed the wound. In 1981, according to Mangano, there were just two state-funded emergency shelters for homeless individuals with a total of 320 beds; today there are 5,200 beds.
[What a "coincidence"! That 1,625% growth of homelessness in this state over 20 years just "happens" to coincide with the period when American CEOs, including Massachusetts CEOs, fell in love with layoffs as a corporate panacea.]
...Attention must turn again [today] to a fundamental cause of homelessness: not enough homes.
[That's not a fundamental cause. That's a superficial symptom.]
More precisely, not enough simple, cheap, beginner homes.
[And what, pray tell, are "beginner homes"?]
Since 1970, Massachusetts has lost 96% of the single-room boarding houses that were once home to day laborers, short-order cooks, and the working poor.
[Our impression of boarding houses is that they were permanent homes for most of the people who used them, and "beginner homes" for just a small minority of boarders who moved on to apartments - until the boarding houses started disappearing. And now we've introduced poor laborers, poor cooks, and the working poor in general into the discussion, why are we talking about homelessness instead of working poverty? Our whole society goes off curing symptoms, even in a would-be get-serious editorial like this. Homelessness is just a symptom of marginalized labor, surplus labor, low-wage labor, here in America. Exactly the kind of thing you'd expect on a science-fiction planet that made everybody work long hours and then started introducing more and more work-saving technology while continuing to make everyone work the same long hours. Except for the increasing numbers of people who aren't needed any more, of course, and them you just fire in droves and forget about.]
..\..The single-room boarding houses...have been replaced by beds in homeless shelters.
[It would be interesting to survey exactly what did happen to the 96% of boarding houses that quit. Did they just sell as multiple-family dwellings? Did they convert to apartments or condos? Saying that they've been replaced by homeless shelters is from some of the boarders' point-of-view. What about the viewpoint of the 96% of boarding-house owners?]
Private resources have increasingly gone to luxury housing, while the federal department of Housing and Urban Development is creating only a quarter of the affordable housing units it generated in the 1970s.
[Well, which is it that's been replaced by homeless shelters? Boarding houses, federal housing, or both? Because we'd say federal housing was a mistake in the first place. It's not the government's job to micromanage every little area that goes wrong - the long liberal grocery-list ranging from childcare, eldercare, health insurance, unemployment insurance, workplace injury insurance, minimum wage controls, pensions, etc. etc. It's the government's job just to referee the central thing - making sure everyone has enough money to take care of all these details themselves. And how does the government do that? By making sure everyone gets a fair share of the money source, namely, work, alias employment. Not artificial government makework but natural market-demanded employment. And how does the government do that? They refused to set the nation's workweek at 30 hrs/wk per adult in 1933, but they did finally set it at 44 hrs/wk in 1938, lowered it to 42 hrs/wk in 1939, and lowered it further to 40 hrs/wk in 1940. This spread the immediately available employment (never mind the pie in the sky of eventually available employment touted by those who chant "but technology creates more jobs than it destroys") onto more people. It didn't spread it onto everyone because it was a too-little too-late measure that never took the 25% unemployment down below 14%. How did unemployment get cut down to 2%? World War II - and we mean "cut down," because the war pulled hundreds of thousands of employees out of the job market and killed or maimed them. Those boys did die for us. They reduced our labor surplus, and market forces raised our wages to decent levels where we could afford nice houses.]
The assurance that increasing the supply of private homes will eventually relieve pressure on housing costs everywhere is a trickle-down fallacy.
[Almost anything that purveyors of the received wisdom tell us will "eventually" happen is fallacy. Even those who charge the shorter-workweek solution with the "lump of labor fallacy" - whereby there will "eventually" be enough jobs for everyone - should be looking in the mirror on the "fallacy" part.]
How can an individual or family ever hope to climb the housing ladder when the bottom rungs are missing?
[It's not micromanaging the bottom rungs of the housing ladder - or the childcare ladder, or the health insurance, pension, etc etc. ladder - that the government should be concerned about. It's the bottom rungs on the wage ladder, which are missing thanks to minimum wage laws. The whole minimum wage approach has backfired just as some labor advocates feared it would back in the 1930s. In a context of the national marginalization of labor (or just call it labor glut), the minimum wage has become a maximum wage for the unskilled. They can never rise above it, and the slow-grinding wheels of government in raising it every few years, too-little too-late, guarantee that it is never high enough. Hence our "working poor." You can't solve an insufficiency problem at the bottom. You have to solve it at the top by looking at surplus and excess. We have an economy where many people are working 50-60-70-80 hours a week or more while many many others have too few work hours. They are marginalized in low-paying jobs, part-time jobs, disability, shelters and prisons. If we can't "get the concept" of sharing and equalizing (if only on a range of say 10-30 hours a week) in this most basic area of employment hours, we will never ever get beyond to sharing the income or wealth in any healthy, non-dependency-generating way. The Globe editors' wrap-up? -]
Society needs to maximize the production of cheap housing and develop a plan for every individual with no place to live. Anything less is just maintenance.
[Oh what a glowing goal for society at the Dawn of the Third Millennium - "to maximize the production of cheap housing"! "Anything less..." You could hardly get "less" than this pathetic goal. How about getting beneath the bandaids to the real problem that we keep avoiding grappling with. The whole meaning of technology is to save work. If we allow the private sector to save the work in the form of downsizing and under-employment instead of in the form of more free time for everyone, they're just leaving a bigger and bigger mess for government to clean up, and we are going to have more and more of every imaginable problem - more homeless, more suicides, more prisons, more disability, more violence, more abuse, more serial killings, you name it. Because we've made ourselves cheaper and cheaper in the name of "competitiveness." The alternative is Timesizing. What society really needs to do is the minimum necessary regulation in the center to make the private sector clean up its own mess, so we can reduce regulation everywhere else and cut government without losing our living standards.]

3/31/2001  The tearful face of the homeless, 2 letters to editor, NYT, A26.
Re "For family in shelter system, living from bench to bench" (front page, March 25):

  1. By Carolyn Chester of Ithaca NY -
    I am haunted by the beautiful, tear-streaked face of 11-year-old Jamall Roper, who with his homeless family - his grandmother and three siblings - is shuttled from shelter to shelter in New York City each night while waiting for an apartment.
    In Jamall's words: "I think they don't want us to have our education. Because they don't give us enough sleep to not fall asleep in class."
    [Yet another facet of America's national self-torture - sleep deprivation.]
    It is difficult to believe that "President" Bush [our quotes - ed.] cares about Jamall's education or well-being. Mr. Bush is working to cut money for the government programs Jamall needs even as he talks about leaving no child behind.
    [We at Timesizing.com don't believe we should cut anything until we have something simpler and better and more powerful to substitute for this blizzard of bandaids. And that would be? Gradual downward workweek adjustments coupled with overtime-targeted&financed training until our streets and prisons emptied because of how easy we had made it to earn a bountiful, and honest, living. Re Babybrain Bush - check our 'glimmers of intelligence' today for Anthony Lewis's startling assessment.]

  2. [Where's the outrage? Here, for once -]
    By Exec. Dir. Maureen Friar of Supportive Housing Network of NYC -
    I don't understand why we stand for homelessness on such a scale, and cite family values and trillion-dollar tax breaks as the answer. Homelessness can be ended if we invest the capital and political will in housing and solutions that work.
    [And if we do, all those huge markets - plus the multiplier effect - will "come online" to cushion downturns like the present. Contemporary myopic CEOs think things are just fine if they grab all they can into their own relatively few pockets by using technology to downsize instead of trimming hours. But the downturns they generate testify otherwise because that just starves their own markets.]
    New York City [NYC] needs at least 100,000 new units of affordable housing. Washington [babybrain Bush again - fat chance] should offer rental subsidies so hard-working grandmothers, like Arlene Cruz, who is profiled in your article, can afford apartments in a city with sky-high rents.
    It's a matter not just of compassion [remember Bush's smokescreen about "compassionate conservativism"?], but of common sense. How productive can the next generation be without a decent night's sleep?

2/09/2001  Poor and homeless: seeking a way out, letter to editor by Pres. Arnold Cohen of Partnership for Homeless NY, NYT, A26.
Re "Homeless shelters in New York fill to highest level since 80's" (front page [pointer blowout to A27], Feb. 8 [see below]):
Our booming economy created a surge in homelessness. Skyrocketing rents have put housing out of reach for most poor people. Welfare-to-work programs have not offered the promised ladder up; their minimum-wage jobs only keep people mired in poverty.
[The fruits of FDR's half-assed New Deal blizzard of bandaids patted on again and again (Great Society, War on Poverty, SupplySide via the Pentagon) to avoid the obvious long-term solution = SHARE THE VANISHING WORK. (Or if we don't want it to vanish, quit introducing work-saving technology, but let's make up our minds!)]
In New York, most homeless families are headed by young single mothers who grew up in poverty and are the product of a failed education system. Some have lived in foster care much of their lives, and many are victims of domestic abuse.
[Forget fancy-shmancy "education" and focus, FOCUS on continuous training in the workplace, targeted and triggered and paced and funded by the incidence of overtime. This is the secret weapon of the Timesizing program that not even futuristic France has implemented (if you can call a measly five-hour reduction in the 1940 workweek "futuristic" at the dawn of the Third Millennium).]
We need to stop focusing on stopgap measures and develop long-term strategies. Training and skill-building, coupled with a real commitment to affordable housing and health care, may not be politically expedient, but can begin to offer us a way to end the cycles of homelessness and poverty.
[Don't you mean the ongoing expansion of homelessness and poverty, Arnold? There's nothing cyclical about this. It's spreading. And we've tried just about every brand of bandaid, every side-balancing act there is to avoid the obvious balancer at the center, namely, sharing the changing human workload, whether it goes up - as we've always assumed it has been over the last 61 years regardless of the data and the idea of "working smart, not hard" - or whether it goes down - as a impartial observer might logically conclude from the waves of worksaving technology that we're constantly pouring into our society. Let's stop concentrating the work and skills on an ever diminishing proportion of humans and SHARE it among us ALL. Timesizing, not downsizing.]

2/08/2001  Shelter population reaches highest level since 1980's, by Nina Bernstein, NYT, A27.
The number of homeless people lodging nightly in the New York City shelter system this winter has risen above 25,000, the most since the late 1980's, city figures show, with the largest increases coming among women and children over the last few years....

2/2/2001  Brooding over its homeless, Japan sees a broken system, by Howard French, NYT, front page.
OSAKA...- Down and out, in Japan?... Homeless, the dozens of men who gather..\..around the city welfare office [waiting for construction jobs or other day labor] each day - more out of routine than in hope - will soon begin to fan out across Osaka, Japan's second-largest city, collecting cans and other garbage to sell, or simply to head back to their tents in city parks to sleep until soup kitchens open in the evening.
"I've been able to survive as a day laborer for 13 years," said Isamu Sato, but in the last two years there just haven't been any more jobs.... Now I am living in a city shelter, and am down to two meals a day. People think there is something wrong with us, but if there were work, we would do it. With nothing to do, all that's left for us is to wander around."
Through 10 years of economic ills, Japan has clung tightly to a number of cherished national myths, from the idea that an economy that rose to greatness so quickly after World War II...
[because they instituted lifelong employment, following the advice of far-sighted American, W. Edwards Deming, who said "Banish fear from the workplace"]
couldn't possibly be fundamentally broken...
[even though they dropped Deming and started following the advice of near-sighted jerkin' 'Merkin, Chainsaw Dunlap, whose only "strategies" were takeover&downsize & grab all you can before the crash]
...to the notion that all Japanese people are essentially middle class.
[Not when you downsize and create a huge labor surplus that prevents your consumer base from getting the kind of payraises they need to keep buying so much of their own output. Once payraises fall behind, the concentration of money at the top accelerates, and the "top" doesn't have the time or the need to spend it. Result? Less spending and excess inventory and more downsizing, and more concentration and less spending and more excess inventory and more downsizing... - a downward spiral. Meanwhile the Japanese "Fed" has reduced interest rates to zero to try to spur business borrowing and expansion and jobs and earning and spending etc., but the impotence of this superficial strategy has been incontrovertibly demonstrated in Japan by the fact that even zeroing the cost of borrowing hasn't helped. In fact, a zero interest rate does not leave lenders with any incentive to take on the risk of lending - in Japan. So Japan tries the lame FDR New Deal approach of government spending on makework. But that too is superficial because it doesn't touch the problem - the centripetal force of income is overwhelmingly strong and the centrifugal force is totally inadequate. A deeper strategy that Japan MUST implement a system of deconcentrating income by spreading and sharing the diminishing levels of natural market-demanded employment. You could do it the French way by jumping down the workweek to 35 hours a week, but the most gradual and market-oriented system we've seen is Timesizing.]
In Osaka, where the number of homeless...10,000, modest by the standards of some American cities \but\ the largest in Japan - is increasing swiftly, belief in those myths is becoming strained.
The homeless are taking over public parks and straining the prefectural budget.... Even by official data, the number of makeshift tents for the homeless in the city's largest park alone rose to 458 last summer, from 159 a year earlier.... Osaka may have the largest number of homeless, but they are present and visible these days in every major Japanese city - from Tokyo, where they sleep under bridges or build cardboard hovels along riverbanks, to Yokohama, Nagoya, Kobe and Kyoto. According to city estimates, there were 5,700 homeless in Tokyo as of late last year. But people who work with the homeless say their true numbers are most likely twice or even triple that..\..
Layoffs as a result of Japan's prolonged economic downturn have hit middle-aged men particularly hard. In a society where lifetime employment was the postwar standard in many industries, the loss of a job at that stage of life leaves people with little chance of starting over..\..
[And in Japan as in America, official unemployment statistics are irrelevant -]
According to government data released this week, the monthly unemployment rate in 2000 was 4.7%, tying a record set the previous year....
[American economists would be boasting about an unemployment rate that "low" - but in Japan, compared to when the economy was booming in the 1980s and earlier because they weren't nickel&diming their domestic consumer base and everyone was employed - for life, it's high, very high.]

1/16/2001  Has welfare reform been a success? letter to editor by Betty Mandell of West Roxbury MA, BG, A10.
David Broder lauds the accomplishments of big government, and among them he includes welfare reform ("In praise of big government," op ed, Dec. 24). He says, "Only Washington has had the resources and the vision to deal with challenges of this scale."
[Resources? What about "new economy" wealthy? Bill Gates, at $65-100B, has more resources than most big governments. We're not so sure about "vision."]
But what Washington did with welfare was to wash its hands of it and turn the program back to the states.
Broder implies that welfare reform has been a success, but in fact it has increased the poverty of women and children and increased the numbers of the homeless and hungry. Those women who got a job earned an average of $7-8 an hour, not enough to meet their families' expenses. Many of them work at part-time and temporary jobs without health care or pension benefits. Many of them can't afford child care. A survey of 21 states found that the percentages of former welfare recipients who have been kicked off the rolls and are not working range between 35-50%.
I meet some of the families affected by welfare reform in the Homeless Unit of the Dept. of Transitional Assistance. Some of them work but can't pay the rent. Does Broder consider this a success? I consider it a major crisis.
[The Timesizing.com Party's approach to this is to cut the government sharpshooting (as in "Dept. of Transitional Assistance," Depts. of Housing, Welfare, Unemployment, Disability, on and on) and just correct the frozen distortion in the middle of the economy that's causing distortions everywhere else. We still have no automatic way of sharing the vanishing human work and the still-marketable human skills as the economy automates and robotizes because we essentially froze the workweek at an excessive level in 1933 when we balked at legislating a shorter national workweek. The Timesizing program works by engineering the same kind of conditions (without the War) that finally solved the Depression - a massive withdrawal of working hours from the job market that engaged market forces in centrifuging income and wealth out of the pockets of the top 5-10% of the population and into the pockets of the vast majority of ordinary Americans who actually can use the spending power for consumption (and not just more investment in production like the wealthy) and have the time to do so.]

For earlier homelessness stories, click on the desired date -

  • Dec/2000 & earlier.

    For more details, see our campaign piece Timesizing, Not Downsizing, which is available online from *Amazon.com and at the Harvard Coop (3rd floor) in Harvard Square, Cambridge, Mass. 02138

    Questions, comments, feedback? Phone 617-623-8080 (Boston) or email us.


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