Because it appears to be more fun to complain about unhoused people than to put them in the empty housing that exists, rich Austinites added insult to injury by choosing to recriminalize being outside without being a rich consumer–um, being homeless. Anyone who researches the history of Austin understands that this is not surprising because there is one constant throughout society: people with control and resources never take true accountability for the consequences of their behavior. Too many people are obsessed with building more homes on arable land, dismissing the realities of predatory developer behaviors that created unaffordable housing and the heat island index. After all, it is also not surprising that cutting down trees to built places to exploit the disenfranchised keeps life hotter than it needs to be–in more ways than one. The predators have overplayed their hands during this pandemic, and between fraudulent PPP loans and psychotic business decisions that led to inflation “because we deserve infinite profits, and everyone wants to go back to normal,” there is no consistently affordable housing.
Instead of continuing to enable predators–since governments refuse to acknowledge the existence of incremental developers–there are better ways to address homelessness, even if no one gains obnoxious wealth. Homelessness is traumatizing, and simply putting people in temporary housing, like hotels, and telling people to “get it together and get a job” is useless in a collapsing socioecosystem. Therefore, solutions need to include first treating the person who has been traumatized by predators, and then providing the tools to acclimate to the changing paradigm. Mental health issues generally occurs when people are consistently traumatized by abusers, so it is also time for the framing of the issue to evolve. Here I will outline a proposal to potentially restore the traumatized over the course of a year, instead of inanely building more housing. Empty housing means greedy people, and they are not the ones who need support; those who survive such greed need attention and care.
First and foremost, housing insecurity is exhausting, and if the wealthy demand to eject the unhoused from sight, the unhoused should be given three months to rest without interference in their new places. While exact hours may vary, most people sleeping on the streets fail to receive anywhere close to the proper amount of sleep, and then are forced to attend work to have any hope of acquiring funds to either sustain themselves or potentially get housed. Three months of sleep might be just enough to allow people to do something as difficult as discover their normal sleeping rhythms and reach some emotional equilibrium. In an emotionally healthy society, it would go without saying that their bills should be paid and they should be fed for those three months as well, but the U.S. would rather mock people than allow for emotional equilibrium, so there it is. People with jobs could keep their jobs, but the unemployed would be left alone to sleep.
During the next three months, the survivors would receive individual therapy and be given a chance to try cheaper hobbies for self actualization, such as writing, sketching and music. Somewhere onsite, there would also be a garden onsite and pets, because some people who are introverted still enjoy being around plants and animals–and still, no one is trying to force the survivors to consume or produce, because that is not the point. The point of this second segment would be to find out who people are so that they can regain their senses of self. When trying to survive, people can lose much of themselves, and the truth is that they will never be who they were or could have been before trauma. Thus, survivors need some time to self-actualize so that when they are capable of regaining autonomy without assistance, they will have learned coping and self-soothing skills, helping to maintain their emotional equilibrium.
After these six months, people will need to be safely resocialized in a way that acknowledges a common trauma and endurance for the real world, so during this time, survivors will receive individual and group therapy. Society creates the potential for monsters, so reacclimating to communities that allow people to become homeless is likely stressful. It was stressful enough for Black people to watch everyone else get excessive attention for acknowledging racism and being “vulnerable,” and then laughing their way to the banks to deny us funding they pledged. I cannot imagine how it must feel to have so many organizations supposedly devoted to homelessness, and have no substantive progress for decades. Being around callous people can take work, so this would be part of the recuperation process as well.
“So, all these people get free therapy and crafting, and everyone else foots the bill??” This is often any response to homelessness that fails to make developers money, and people with money have bought the press to constantly adore them with accolades. It is the job of the rest of humanity to understand that trauma survivors do not function well when forced to forget their trauma; for further examples, see any violence that has occurred during this pandemic. Remember, the survivors have been inside a protective space where they have autonomy the entire time–but so have others around them. There have been mental health workers who will have noted sleeping patterns, and may already have been in touch with potential employers who have problems getting second and third shift workers. Survivors would have been encouraged to engage their creativity, so maybe they have developed projects and need assistance learning new skills–skills that may allow them both to sustain themselves and potentially feed them. Social networks may have been formed (everyone heals at different paces), and maybe new, platonic households could form based on coping strategies and job schedules. At this point in the process, survivors would be ready to rejoin the world as healthier people and would likely be easier to work with.
Only when enough trust, self-confidence, and compassion have been developed from both survivors and the world around them can homelessness stop being a long term problem. Builders want money, so they will always tell people that the answer is “more,” just like the College Board always sells college education so that investors can profit from serfdom of the younger generations. Enough housing already exists, so the “lack of housing” is the same lie of the “worker shortage”: no one can afford to pay the prices set by pathologically insatiable people who believe in infinite growth on a finite planet. However, humanity needs to be empowered to exist, and it is the government’s job to stop greedy people. Maybe when the governments grow spines, start gathering property, and give people a chance to breathe from those who refuse to stop themselves, we can fix the housing problem.