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Subject: "Transforming Public Housing"
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[ I really don't know how I do it. Here I am, a lunatic collecting disability who can't even get out of his house and is _definitely_ not in any information loop, much less any _administrative_ or policy loop - but I just keep hitting nails on the head, and for some inexplicable reason, about a week or so after I propose something, I see that it's suddenly worthy of reporting in the _Washington Post_. Unfortunately for me, I'm just anticipating reporting of trends. How _does_ a shut-in wacko keep hitting the nail on the head? Maybe it's just that my insanity is an essentially mainstream Republican political madness - and it's well known that all psychiatrists are die-hard members of the card-carrying Democratic Left. ]

Paraphrased from the Feb 15 1997 _Washington Post_, page F1, article "Transforming Public Housing": - All across the nation, it seems that public housing, once relegated to the status of a final resort, a dumping ground for the incompetent, lazy and ne'er-do-well, is now increasingly serving a more beneficial and pragamatarian function of providing housing for the nation's Working Poor. -

In a baffling return to the Utilitarian tradition, it seems that the old dictum of "the Lord helps those who help themselves" is now translated less as "blessings accrue to pickpockets and scoundrels" and is now interpreted as "charity is best directed at those who need it to be enabled to thereby better themselves".

I was once working poor. The recessionary period of 1992-1994 finally found me homeless on the streets of Austin, Texas. It wasn't as if I couldn't or wouldn't work, or hadn't the skills - my typing was adequate, and I certainly sought work. I had a car, and some decent suits, and while un-degreed was a computer nerd from hell. I worked temporary work, and when I got it showed up on time and earned my days's pay. But you can only do this for so long, when you're living in your car, and cannot properly rest, much less maintain scrupulous hygeine. A lack of a home kept me from earning that vital apartment security department, and thus began a spiral downwards into desparation and disability. Oddly, there was no public housing of any sort available to me, other than that afforded by the Salvation Army, which in that town had a reputation of allowing the criminal element to rob the honest overnighters of everything they owned. Public housing was, however, available to anyone who was willing to wait out the process of getting on and _staying on_ Welfare for six months, during which period one was not allowed to work _at all_. I would have starved, had I tried this, and besides, having no family, in was ineligible.

Had there been some facility where I could have slept soundly, however uncomfortably, and bathed regularly, things might very well have turned out differently. I'd succeeded at eking out a tolerable if impoverished life as a temporary worker for some four years previously, where the sole difference between being a taxpayer and being a bum was having a place to stay.

I guess I'm not the only person who has come to this conclusion. Across the nation, the working poor are being given increased priority over the merely indigent. I feel that this is a timely shift of policy, as it does co-ordinate with the policy of forcing people off of Welfare after a certain time, converting Welfare from a failed multigenerational way-of-life into a five-year "Safety Net" designed to save those who would otherwise fall through the cracks in society's facade.

One Rachel Blatt, quoted by the _Post_ as the chair of the Department of Urban and Environmental Policy at Tufts University, says, "It's not rocket science. When people can't afford a place to stay and can't get into public housing, they could end up on the streets."

Working poor can be viewed as being more reliable, trustworthy, and motivated, of higher moral caliber than those who are content to merely subsists in the crime-riddled enclaves of traditional public housing. Turning the multi-generational Welfare society out into the street is no solution to society's ills, surely, but the culture of welfare dependency can be, and is being, deconstructed. But with what should it be replaced?

I can think of no better and more deserving segment of society than the Working Poor. Usually rising before the dawn and often riding for hours on creaking joyless public transit, to work long hard hours at minimum wage doing jobs nobody else would want. This is the moral tradition, the ethic that built America into a great nation, and for too long this society has done little to reward them for their moral strength and willingness to work despite the apparent win-less situation. They've been _doing the right thing_. It's about time that the fortunate whose taxes provide for relief, should provide that relief to those who work the hardest. As Welfare is cut, the indigent will be increasingly joining the ranks of the Working Poor. As long as they're working, or doing their best to work, let's subsidize them. Otherwise, let's not. Public Housing should be increasingly made available to the Working Poor exclusively. (This of course does not address the issues of housing for the disabled, for whom we must continue to provide. But let's house the disabled with the Working Poor instead of forcing them to live in crime-riddled enclaves populated by the Welfare Culture.)

There are lots of deserving Working Poor families who deserve a home, and the price of a First Owned Home is rising far out of the reach of even the lower middle class. We should not allow the Working Poor to be driven into the streets, where homelessness leads immediately to joblessness, and then to the Welfare cycle of poverty and despair. And we must train the long-term Welfare recipients for work. And so I reiterate my proposal.

We should identify areas which appear to have future prospects of sustained industrial expansion, and so that newly-trained lower-paid workers in these industries won't have to spend all of their time and money on commuting, but instead might benefit from liesure time to build their families or educate themselves for better prospects, we should train long-term Welfare recipients in the trade of building homes. If not disabled, fetch and carry for prevailing wages should not be beneath the dignity of Welfare recipients. As they fetch and carry they must be taught _why_ they are carrying one thing to a certain place, and must also be taught how all of those things are assembled. People do learn given the opportunity. Let them learn how to build. Let them build housing for the Working Poor, and while they might not live in that exact house that they build, _by the time it's built they themselves will be the Working Poor_ and thus deserving of the _next_ house built, partially subsidized at the expense of their better-blessed higher-income fellow citizens' taxes. This will move Welfare pensioners from the Welfare rolls and from the Projects, to fill the Projects with hard-working respectable Working Poor. When the Projects are no longer blighted cancers of crime and violence, industry and commerce will be willing to locate there to serve the needs and take the moneys of the Working Poor, and once-doomed and decaying communities will quickly return to economic health, and become thriving neighborhoods, and eventually they will in fact become _desirable_ properties.

This could take ten years. Former Federal slumlords holding rotting properties in trust for The People, taking immense wasteful losses and suffering outrageous depreciation and devaluation of property, and losses of tax revenue due to the abandonments of local businesses, will instead find themselves the landlords of desirable profitable properties with positive appreciation, surrounded by economic growth. Everyone benefits.

In the meantime, far from their former sad haunts, former Welfare pensioners will now be employable, employed, living in their owned homes which they helped build, will have equity and mortgagable investments-capital (this does require more thought and discussion here) and they'll be in easy commute distance of their new employers, who should enjoy increased profitability through tax-breaks and incentives which would reward them for first filling lower-level jobs with former Welfare pensioners, and then more tax breaks for training the new Working Poor and promoting them upwards once training is completed. Eventually, we might see a common thread of generous and caring corporations engaging in non-exploitative outreach, to see new jobs become lifetime employment enabling a constant rise to the limits of individual capability. This might lead to a renaisance of the company-town motif in American, but were this tempered by enlightened self-interest, it would be no poverty-stricken owned-burg as in old Appalachia, but rather more a huge corporate family as is seen in many of the most successful Japanese industrial giants. Loyalty would be immense, quality superior, and rewards commensurate with loyalty-plus-achievement.

In summary, the Working Poor displace Welfare Pensioners, Welfare Pensioners are trained and become the Working Poor (and are thus subsidized), the Welfare Culture is deconstructed, the Working Poor are rewarded for working. The Projects become homes for the responsible instead of for the decadent or lazy, and eventually become respectable housing in respectable neighborhoods, business moves in, revenues increase, more jobs are created. Everyone benefits.

[ I really think it will work. But then again, I'm supposed to be a lunatic and so maybe you should check my logic, which according to news reports, seems to be shared by possibly the majority of elected congressmen. ]

-- =

Be kind to your       | When the going gets weird the weird turn pro.
neighbors even though |
they be transgenic    | Now. chock full of uninteresting links.
chimerae.             |-- Genesis 19:1-13 - Hebrews 13:2 -- =

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"No. No. I am NOT allright."                         "Sarah Connor?"