Saturday, October 20, 2012

The disability-income trap, Sacramento style

A picture I TOOK was removed from
this blog post by Sisters of Mercy,
Libby or one of their lawyers. I
today 6/24/15 snagged this photo
from the web of Mercy apartment
building at 7th & H. A place of misery,
not mercy. Sacramento's poverty trap
from Hell.
An article in the New York Times, today, goes to the heart of the problem of the purblind effort of Loaves & Fishes and associated charities that is characterized as giving the homeless keys to apartments, but really imprisons many in meaninglessness and poverty.

By the dozens each month, homeless Sacramentans are applying for SSI [Supplemental Security Income] benefits, that these people are made to believe will stabilize their lives. At Loaves & Fishes’ Delany Center there are lawyers that refer people to other lawyers or whom, themselves, work on an effort to secure disability-income streams for poor people.

It can sound great. $850 a month, thereabouts, and all you need do is apply. Not to worry, a lawyer will coach you and help you. Once the application is approved, the lawyer will take his cut off the top, but after a few months, it’s Rock ‘n’ Roll, Baby! With an SSI income stream, a homeless person can apply for an apartment that will be two-thirds supplemented and a normal life can seem to be at hand. The problem is that this is all entrapping. If you can’t live a life of barely getting by and then want to work, the rug can figuratively and literally get pulled out from under you.

Quoting from the article, “The Disability Trap”:
“Instead of helping people achieve their full potential,” David Stapleton, who directs the Mathematica Center for Studying Disability Policy, testified before Congress last month, “the current disability support system has created a poverty trap.” The employment rate for people with disabilities, he said, is just 21 percent of the rate for people without disabilities, down from 32 percent in 1981. The problems stem from the Social Security Administration’s failure in 1974 to structure a program that motivates work. It is relatively easy to accept cash benefits but very hard to get into the workplace. Mr. Stapleton said that Congress had the power to push to change the structure of the program, but that it had not done so.
As I have written before, the goal of helping homeless people should be to enable us to be ‘the authors of our own lives’ AND to make bloom an existence for ourselves that we find to be meaningful and that is contributive to society. Working is a central need of physically- and mentally-able homeless people. Working is a good use of time, it is contributory to society and it brings one money that is earned. Nailing people, instead, to a Wall of Poverty is not a happy life, but it is this which the Loaves & Fishes charity seeks for homeless people. Loaves & Fishes is tied-in with the politics of the League of Revolutionaries for a New America (formerly called the Communist League), so no wonder.

A scenario that the article presents is akin to this:
You try to live on your $850/month (thereabouts) for a single person, with what other limited government support you can get. If you get a job, half of all money you make over $85 in a month is taken from you as a provision of getting SSI. Also, you are disallowed to have over $2000 in the bank. Thus, getting a car or a better apartment is out-of-reach. In no sense are you middle-class. You are stuck, left to swelter in a rattrap of poverty.
A floorplan for a tiny apartment. From the Mercy Housing website.
As a featured person in the article puts it: “I’ve been kept financially sort of in this cage. Just basic things that people rely upon, having a normal life, aren’t things that are really accessible. And won’t be.”

A new apartment building is going up on the corner of 7th and H streets in Sacramento, built by the Sisters of Mercy. It is very likely the noisiest bit of property in the whole of the county. Amtrak trains run nearby, day and night. Light rail and buses run past the building. An electricity-generator facility is next door, buzzing loudly all night. And the main jail is just across the street with the whoops and hollers of the incarcerated easily heard, especially in the wee hours. The building will provide tiny apartments that people with SSI income streams can apply for. It will provide a lift up out of homelessness, but quickly these apartment dwellers are likely to find that where they are is also the ceiling of what they will ever have or be. A big iron boot presses down upon their necks.

Real talk

There is one more scenario of what happens when homeless guys get disability income [aka, "happy checks" out on the street, in this 'other' common circumstance]: The new money ends up funding ongoing addiction.

Currently, if you go to Loaves & Fishes first thing in the morning -- before 7am -- on the first weekday of a month, the number of people waiting in the cul-de-sac to get into Friendship Park drops by half of what is typical. Why? Happy checks! The guys have gotten their money and it is boontimes for liquor stores and drug dealers. A common way to exist for many is to NOT get an apartment with ones disability income and instead continue in a homeless lifestyle, only now with income for fun, fun, fun.

A terrible thing it is. The nation's Social Security fund gets depleted for the purpose of keeping alcoholics alcoholic. Money gets used to fund self-imposed disabilities. It's craziness. Years ago it was observed that recognizing alcoholism or drug dependency as a disability and then setting someone up with government income due to these "disabilities" was nuts. But it is precisely that which we are furthering today in Sacramento! These "put the chronically homeless in apartments quickly" efforts ["100,000 Homes" is the primary organization involved.] will mostly result in more 'funded' alcoholics and drug addicts out on the streets.

Yep. We have "homeless-help" charities that spend their time plopping people into a system that very directly and very utterly ruins lives and steals from future, authentic and worthy, Social Security recipients. It is madness. Utter and absolute madness. It is also the case that these SSI-aided addicts stay in Homeless World such that the utterly destitute get squeezed out of getting vitally needed services. The charities commonly don't distinguish between 'moneyed' homeless people and the most desperate. It is all a weary world of inequities (likely to get yet more unjust) that further magnifies suffering.

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