At the end of last month we learned that even though Seattle has a homeless emergency, we don’t have a wealth emergency. “You’re doing great!” said FEMA. “So, we’re taking our funding for shelters and food banks away to give to truly needy cities.”
Hey, it could be worse. The federal program could have demanded we use our overflowing wealth to pay them back for previous years’ funding.
Just kidding. They couldn’t because the money they say we have that makes us too rich to fund isn’t really our money. It isn’t money that taxpayers have put into government coffers, ready to be spent in lieu of the FEMA fundings. It’s money that hasn’t been collected in taxes.
It’s like this: Say you live on a block in a neighborhood with a lot of different houses. You know, like Fremont. Let’s say your house is a run-down, drafty wooden shack with shingles falling down that was built in 1895, and you’ve been living in it since you were 10. And now you’re 50 and half blind, walk with a cane and live on welfare, and it’s just barely enough to scrape together the property tax on the place and still manage to eat.
Then the government finds out that around the other side of the block there’s a modest mansion — one of those pretty brick ones with a living room with windows on both sides of an elegant parlor; not one, but two fireplaces at each end, 10 bedrooms, each with its own bathroom, a separate five-car garage plus livery stable, a turn-around driveway featuring a fountain in the middle, the water streaming away from the feet of a 20-foot marble statue of Minerva carrying a shield and lance. Oh, and it’s occupied by a Microsoft executive who’s worth millions.
So the government takes your welfare away on account of there being more than enough money available in your community to keep you going. “Go around the block and beg from that guy.”
It’s like that.
Homeless and low-income people in Seattle are being told by FEMA that their need for shelter and food can be met by the community — even though the community that has the money to help isn’t helping.
FEMA is saying, “Beg more; beg harder.”
In a lighter vein, I used to refer to the Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness (CEHKC) as the Ten Year Plan to Plan Ending Homelessness. Then, about 9 and a half years in, they decided to ruin it for me by saying that it’s over. Now we’ve got something called All Home King County, and I’m just now getting around to calling that No Home King County. Meanwhile, some mayor or other declared a homelessness emergency, I don’t remember, Jenny McMurray or someone. It was a while ago.
So that happened. Now, in the wake of FEMA’s adios, we’re getting ourselves a Regional Homelessness Authority (KCRHA). So King County and Seattle and all the other municipalities that haven’t been able to deal with the emergency of homelessness through their individual efforts can pool their resources and fail all together as one glorious whole.
It’s going to be called KCRHA, <cough>. It will have all the cool things the CEHKC <cough, cough> had. They’ll have a steering committee and a governing board. Members of the steering committee will take turns sitting in the driver’s seat saying “Woo woo!” pretending to honk the horn. “Woo woo! Making it go fast!”
Let’s wait and see if this new independent Regional Homelessness Authority can raise money for housing for homeless people using its powerful independence from everybody.
Just like the CEHKC there will be input from homeless experts, which will include just as many formerly homeless people as they calculate they can keep them from having any power. In this case there will be three such formerly homeless experts overwhelmed by another eight experts — who, presumably, will have bachelor‘s degrees in homelessness.
The money to fund KCRHA is supposed to come from all the money that has been funding homeless services in all the involved jurisdictions. I find this bit of news rather concerning.
We’ve been funding I-don’t-know-how- many homeless services, and the process for lining up and getting the funds has been shaky. We just got an agreement that funding will go up with inflation for a change. Now, suddenly the money has to go through another institution? There’s going to be yet more process?
Please let that not be so.
Dr. Wes Browning is a one time math professor who has experienced homelessness several times. He supplied the art for the first cover of Real Change in November of 1994 and has been involved with the organization ever since. This is his weekly column, Adventures in Irony, a dry verbal romp of the absurd. He can be reached at drwes (at) realchangenews (dot) org
Read the full September 11 - 17 issue.
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