Thursday, December 02, 2010

A Glimpse Inside Anchorage's Brother Francis Shelter For The Homeless; Daily Count Creeping Up, And Not All Homeless Are Drunks

Anchorage Daily News reporter Julia O'Malley has been focusing considerable coverage upon homeless issues in Anchorage; you can scroll through all her posts HERE. Being homeless in Anchorage is different than in Los Angeles; about 50 Fahrenheit degrees different at this moment. That's because as I write this, it's 5 degrees Fahrenheit outside.

Today she provides us a glimpse into the Brother Francis Shelter, operated by Catholic Social Services (gallery of photos available HERE). The economy and the weather have caused an uptick in the daily count of clients; set up to house about 150 people, the shelter recently housed 202 people, with an additional 83 sleeping next door at Bean's Cafe (capacity 124). That's a total of 285 people with nowhere else to go -- almost twice what's normal this time of year.

The problem is exacerbated by a decline in individual donations, which are down 60 percent, or about $30,000 below what is usual this time of year. The shelter has a total budget of just over $1 million. While the Brother Francis Shelter can always use financial contributions, they also need in-kind donations of blankets, sheets, towels, clothes, and especially cold-weather gear and boots. Donation information available HERE. Another major local source of aid for the homeless is the Anchorage Gospel Rescue Mission.

While the shelter serves alcoholics and others with some form of mental illness (estimated to afflict around 40 percent of the clients), it also serves the working poor. Many of the working poor many are under-employed, working part time or less with no benefits. They can't get enough hours to get a place. Furthermore, the vacancy rate at the low end of the rental market is very low, and even then, rent is expensive. The average market rent for a one bedroom with utilities is around $800. A minimum-wage worker, employed full time, brings in around $1,000 a month after taxes. Government low-income housing assistance program is maxed at the moment, with 7,000 people on the waiting list. By the way, Julia O'Malley didn't mention that people are often required to pay the first and last month's rent in advance before moving into an apartment; in addition, utility providers may also require a deposit. So it might cost as much as $2,000 up front just to move into a place.

The working poor are the victims of Obama's jobless recovery. They were further victimized by the fact that a Democratic Congress decided health care was more important than jobs. They're also the victims of an economic policy that encouraged international labor arbitrage and outsourcing of plants outside the United States. They're also the victims of an open-door policy for immigrants which encouraged both legal and illegal immigrants to come into the United States to steal jobs outright from lower-income Americans, or devalue them to such a level that Americans couldn't afford to take them without doubling and tripling up in single-family residences. These problems are also starting to erode the middle class as well. The present American economy primarily benefits the elite, the enterpreneurial acrobat, and the rich; the working class is being frozen out.

And what are the political solutions offered? The left wants to continue piling on an endless array of initiative-smothering maintenance entitlements, which in turn increase our budget deficits. And the right? Well, they say they want to create jobs, but they keep telling people to re-skill and re-invent themselves, regardless of whether or not they have the financial means to do so. Too many on the right think the corporation is the source of all economic wisdom. They worship Wall Street at the expense of Main Street. America's greatest universal prosperity came during the 1950s and 1960s, when the interests of Wall Street and Main Street were balanced. Since the 1990s, we've been subjected to outright economic dictatorship by Wall Street.

The existence of working homeless is a stark reminder of how far we need to go to return to the economic justice of the 1950s.


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