My mind has been aswirl with various thoughts this week as we’ve been in lockdown for a month now. At least here in Silicon Valley, we can still go for a walk outside. Many places don’t even allow that. Here, they’ve recently added that when you do go out, you must wear a face mask at all times. We no longer know who might be carrying the virus and spreading it to others. And of course, we have large masses of people in Michigan protesting staying inside altogether, which was such a shocker—really, Michigan?! WTF?!
But back to my post. Living in California, I was hearing about how we have food rotting in the fields due to not having workers out there to pick the food. That’s going to trickle-down pretty soon into empty produce aisles at your local supermarket. We also are having shortages in the trucking and shipping industries, which will create shortages of other kinds at stores. This is all so wrong, but it will highlight the main point of this post:
The way we “do food” in America is a holdover from WWII. Our factories retooled, and what we have now is making our population fat and unhealthy. If you look at the statistics, you see the trend start in the late fifties and increase through to the eighties when women began to leave the home and go to work outside the home, requiring more and more convenience foods that are easy to ship, easy to store, and easy to cook. It’s this last that has made Americans some of the unhealthiest people in the world. Couple that with the long commute times due to the housing crisis, and increased pollution due to factory waste, distribution networks, and commuting, and you get a picture of a very damaged America.
There were also corporate conglomerations that took place during this same period that made the billionaire class possible, and purchased the Congress we have now. (They own foods and pharmaceuticals, advertising, news and entertainment. Literally, every aspect of American life.) If I were better at statistical analysis and making graphs, that info would be posted right here –> and you’d see what I see, which is a clear picture of America being this well-oiled business machine, designed to consume and to be consumed by its machines of commerce. We no longer park our cars in our garages, because our garages are filled with “stuff”, and we need storage units to store more of our “stuff”, and shopping is our biggest hobby, and every town and city looks the same, due to all the strip malls with all the same stores.
It’s my hope that through the disruption in our food supply chain we will see the need for our food to be grown sustainably, and that means locally: no more washing of eggs; no more pasteurized milk; no more high-density feedlots. No more corn subsidies. Large agribusiness no longer exists in this country, so we cease the environmentally damaging practices that harm our waterways, groundwater, and air. Food supply is handled at the state and county levels, and it’s assured at those levels commensurate with the population. Which leads me to the housing crisis.
My dudes, we need to fix this. And I don’t know how. Well, perhaps I know how, but I don’t often get much agreement from my local fellows.
There is so much noise out there on this topic, but there seems to be no political will, at least not in Silicon Valley. Here, the actual homeowners keep voting down solutions, worried about their own home values going down. It’s cold, it’s heartless, and it’s cruel. The homeless people aren’t allowed to vote, because they have no address. So they have no say in a matter that affects them so deeply. There needs to be some way that they can be associated with an address, like a soup kitchen, or the County Social Services Agency or something so they can be allowed to vote and be heard.
We also need more affordable housing in general. I’m permanently disabled now, due to my cancer surgery causing an injury that can’t be reversed. It’s called Ani Levator Syndrome. It’s unpleasant. I get a fixed amount each month, and I’m on Medicare. My Medicare premium is taken out of my disability payment before it’s deposited in my bank. In addition to that, I have co-pays and a deductible, of which I wasn’t aware—all of the info I was given literally made it sound like everything was covered except dental. (I desperately need to see a dentist soon. I have at least one tooth that’s getting dangerously close to needing a root canal, and I want to avoid that. I think I have three teeth that require drilling and filling, if not four. It’s been years since I’ve been to the dentist, because it’s so hard on my neck and jaw. I get migraines easily, and lying back in that chair for any length of time is going to be excruciating.)
Plus, since I have no coverage, I’ll be paying cash, and I have no money. I can barely cover my rent now with my disability payment. If I want dental coverage, that would be an additional monthly premium, and additional deductibles and co-pays. On a fixed income. In an area where I can already barely cover my rent.
Now, I’ve always been a bit Bohemian and minimalist, not much of one for collecting “stuff”. I do purges and reorganize my things on a regular basis when I’m feeling like I’m being smothered with too many things. I like order and tidiness. I like my closets and drawers and cabinets to make sense. Not having too many things has also been great because I’ve had to move over and over again. I’ve fully moved around 50 times in my life. I’ve never lived alone, as I’ve never been able to afford an apartment on my own. I have always had roommates in a house or an apartment.
I’ve also had chronic pain most of my life, and my career path has suffered. I’ve lost a lot of jobs due to taking too many sick days. It’s bothered me that my pain wasn’t taken seriously and that I had no legal protections to help me keep these jobs. My reputation also suffered, as I was painted as simply unreliable, and possibly a substance abuser, as opposed to a person who was genuinely ill and struggling.
Okay, I’ve made this all about me again, and that wasn’t my intent—my point was to illustrate how much empathy I have for the homeless, as I’ve been very close to their position many times. I lived in my car for a couple of weeks many years ago. I had a full-time job and a bit of money in the bank. It took me a while to find a place to live that I could afford–and this was in 1986. I was making above minimum wage, working full time in Berkeley, and I to had to move to Palmisia in Hayward which still had gang violence. The commute for me each morning and evening was bumper-to-bumper traffic each way. I rented a bedroom out of a house because that’s all I could afford. In 1986.
Affordable housing in the Bay Area is not a new problem!
The ugly truth is that not enough people care about the lives of the people living on the streets to actually do something for them. They’re seen as misfits to society, drug abusers, users, liars, and thieves. If they are, it’s a reaction to society and the way they’ve been treated. There’s probably a small percentage of them that are incorrigible, but the majority of them are just trying to get by and live as pleasantly as they can. I’ve heard statements such as, “I wish they would go away”, and, “We should give them a bus ticket to someplace else”. Cruel, harsh statements, that take away both the humanity and the agency of the homeless.
We are a society. We are one people. The homeless are a part of this society, and in fact, are a direct result of the way that our society currently functions. It’s our issue to solve, like it or not. Whether it’s through an income tax, a sales tax, a property tax (I like this one), or a combination of all of them, we need to house all of the people in our society. Housing is a basic human right, and leaving these people to suffer is a crime against humanity.