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Homeless encampment in Frog Park
"Homelessness is a shame, but..." - David M
"We tend to speak about the poor as if they didn’t live in the same society, as if our gains and their losses weren’t intertwined. Conservatives explain poverty by pointing to “individual factors,” like bad decisions or the rise of single-parent families; liberals refer to “structural causes,” like the decline of manufacturing or the historical legacies of racial discrimination. Usually pitted against each other, each perspective serves a similar function: letting us off the hook by asserting that there is a deep-rooted, troubling problem — more than one in six Americans does not make enough to afford basic necessities — that most of us bear no responsibility for." - Matthew Desmond, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/09/magazine/how-homeownership-became-the-engine-of-american-inequality.html
David - agreed that people camping on the streets and in parks is not the best solution. Also agreed that it is even more problematic when the camping occurs in a kid-oriented park. What better solution do you support? What are you doing to advance that solution?
The problem I have with SeeClickFix is that it doesn't do a good job of tracing the structural relationships between problems and their sources. Even for something fairly simple like reporting a pothole, which is the textbook use case for a platform like this one, no link is drawn between the poor condition of the roads, the historic pattern of deferred infrastructure maintenance, and the dynamics of urban government finance (constrained revenues, competing priorities) that have led to that deferred maintenance. It's easy for a SCF user to complain about a problem, and there is certainly some value for Oakland to know where the potholes are, but it is a shoddy basis on which to design or execute urban policy. For a more complex issue such as homelessness, SCF is possibly worse than nothing at all.
Worth asking: are homeless people not "citizens"? Does Oakland not need to ensure safe and healthful environments for its citizens struggling with housing insecurity? And some food for thought: I was recently at a lunchtime discussion of affordable housing and the director of the Oakland Housing Authority noted that Oakland spends $64,000 per homeless person per year providing emergency services, while the Housing Authority can house and provide services to a person for $19,000 per year. Shouldn't we make the investment in public housing now so we can save $45k/person/year AND so the thousands of people living on our streets don't have to spend night and day being chased around by cops AND so our kids can play in parks where nobody lives?
There are no easy answers, I think, to this problem. If there were, it would already have been solved. But "dear OPD, please further uproot the existences of these most vulnerable citizens among us" is, in my view, a morally bankrupt and myopic non-approach to an effective, humane, and sustainable solution to homelessness. Do I like having people sleep in the park a half block from my home? Of course I do not. (I don't think it bothers me as much as it bothers other people, but it's still not my preference.) Do I think that chasing these people away will do a damn thing to solve the problem, or to improve anybody's lives except maybe the lives of those of us who are already doing pretty well? I do not.
My frustration with this dynamic will perhaps be apparent in my writing; and I am, indeed, frustrated at what I perceive as a grotesque ability of all of us (myself included) to look at the scourge of poverty, to shrug, and to say, "That is not my problem." David, I don't mean to call you out in particular, nor to hold only you accountable. I mean to call us all in to a kinder way of treating one another.
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