May 22, 2017
by Angela Conte
I’m a designer of sustainable smart villages that are beautiful walkable places surrounded by park-like landscaping with few cars and lots of small locally owned businesses and housing for every income level, but I can’t focus on building these communities of the future because we are currently living with escalating national poverty from federal tax and spending reallocations to the wealthy where it’s supposed to trickle down, but the trickle keeps getting slower and weaker every year.
This is our tax dollars taken from our local infrastructure development, financial security nets and economic protections and instead used to help those at the top. This kind of national hoarding of our collective wealth is causing our local growth in poverty that’s affecting our quality of life here in Sonoma County.
Sure, homelessness is a problem in some parts of the county but you don’t believe it’s affecting you personally enough to care about doing something about it? Just ask yourself what happens if your families’ top bread winner was struck by a catastrophic illness or died from a heart attack? Insurance today - if you’re lucky to afford it - only goes so far. One long term illness or death and your family’s plans for the future are also dead in their tracks. Forget college for your kids, but then it was getting too expensive anyways.
Hopefully, they’ll find a living wage job at Walmart or Target. Don’t expect your parents to help they have their own problems with rising insurance and medical costs. Social Security and Medicare are not going to be there for most of us, just like it’s not there for the elderly already living on the streets today. I want to enjoy the wonderful natural bounty of my childhood home here in Sonoma County, but we’re not immune from the national nightmare of economic inequality where the wealthy have more than they need while the majority of us have less, and we all have a growing population of those who have nothing at all to take care of.
If we want to live in one of the most beautiful places on earth we MUST act now to create a community that gives all of us at least the minimum standard for quality of life beginning with the ending of homelessness.
If we don’t work to end our growing poverty today, no one will have a comfortable, safe, and healthy place to live in the future.
What separates homeless people from housed people? They lack a civilized world’s human right to
2) Healthcare, and
3) Community value and purpose.
No one can survive long without Six basic necessities of human survival: clean air – water – food – shelter - health care - community value and purpose; and homeless people lack at least three of these six.
So, all we need to end homelessness is more affordable housing, universal healthcare and quality education and job training for today’s workforce. Not anything we all don’t need; so, instead of calling the police and demanding that homeless people be put in jails on the taxpayers’ dime or our local government hide them in costly shelters out of site and out of mind, we must acknowledge that homeless people are our canaries-in-a-coal-mine. They are the signs of our dwindling modern day quality of life for all, and by helping them we help ourselves.
Maybe it’s time we ask our politicians, the ones still working for us, to create a trickle-up tax system where we pay for our local needs and protections first. It’s our hard-earned money after all, so shouldn’t it go to pay for our basic human needs for survival before overseas wars, corporate bailouts and tax breaks for the rich?
And isn’t it just common sense to invest everything we can in housing, healthcare, and quality education for all because it’s cheaper than paying for all the homelessness, health problems, and crime caused by a lack of funding them in the first place?
(The number costs to our public services for people living on the street versus cost of housing them is not straightforward but Philip Mangano, the former homelessness policy czar under President George W. Bush, said in 2012 "We learned that you could either sustain people in homelessness for $35,000 to $150,000 a year, or you could literally end their homelessness for $13,000 to $25,000 a year”. www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2012/mar/12/shaun-donovan/hud-secretary-says-homeless-person-costs-taxpayers/
I don’t mind paying my share of taxes as long as they are used to protect me, my family’s and my communities’ needs too but right now federal cutbacks are leaving us to fend for ourselves and the homeless are proof that we are failing.
Sonoma County and the State of California represent two of the strongest economies in the world. We are living in the lap of health, wealth and natural luxury but we can’t escape the poverty growing around us. The homeless are our war veterans, our mentally and physically impaired, our young people without educational direction or family support, and our growing population of aging baby boomers that will soon be the rest of us if things keep going as they are.
Once we put people ahead of corporate tax cuts, bailouts, and military spending we will end homelessness and poverty and only then can we begin to live and thrive in the bounty of natural riches here in beautiful Sonoma County. It’s not impossible to end the poverty and homelessness that leads to higher community costs and lack of quality of life for our families, it just means refocusing our tax money on what matters most to the human survival of our species.
Next month I will be discussing specific ways we can redesign our communities to save money and get more done in ending homelessness and poverty in our communities.
Angela Conte is a Sustainable Community Designer and Affordable Housing Advocate born and raised in Sonoma County. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Sonoma State University and is a Volunteer with the Sonoma County Continuum of Care. Website www.angelaconte.com. And for more information on community development solutions in Sonoma County go to https://www.facebook.com/Neighbor-to-Neighbor-Sonoma-County-136741853087118/
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