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Date: 2024-06-24 Page is: DBtxt003.php L0900-IS-Shelter-housing-01a

The management metrics for shelter and homelessness simply do not work

Abject Poverty and Homelessness

Peter Burgess COMMENTARY
I wrote the first version of this more than 20 years ago ... but in the USA the problem has become much worse since then even while the media pundits celebrate economic growth as measured by GDP. Sadly, most of the media commentators do not have a great understanding of numbers and have ignored the role that growing inequality has had in the actual reality of quality of life for people lower in the social pyramid.

I am reminded of an article I read about homelessness in the late 1970s. The article was in a newspaper in Paris describing a visit that Prince Charles had made incognito to a homeless community on the 'Embankment' by the River Thames in London. According to the article Prince Charles was upset that people were living in such awful conditions in London and wanted to do something constructive about it. The story did not run in the British newspapers because at that time, most of the press were very careful about what they wrote about the 'Royals'. I don't know the exact chronology but Prince Charles did establish very quietly the Prince's Trust which has had a constructive role for decades in giving financial and moral support to the maintenance of a vibrant 'Main Street' small business and social community. If I remember right, I think the heading for the French article translated as 'Charles .. is he Socialist?'

Fast forward to 2022 in the USA, and homelessness is a manifestation of a society and economy that simply does not work for a very large part of the general population ... and for all practical purposes, the people who have most of the money and power have done essentially nothing to address the problem ... to the extent that anything has been done, it has been more as vanity projects than anything at scale and of meaningful significance.
Peter Burgess
  • The modern world is amazingly productive but at the same time it is badly organized ... at any rate for the majrity of the population.
  • The poor are vey poor and for many their situation has been getting worse over the past 40 years
  • The rish are relatively few and they are obscenely rich and their wealth has been growing over the same period
Why is this? There are a lot of reasons.

There is not one single reason that explains the why we have some much possibility for good and a better world, and in fact we have a world where so many are in dire straights.

  • Everyone needs somewhere to live ... to be sheltered from the elements:
  • Politicians talk about 'affordable housing' but don't understand much about what this means.
  • People with wealth and high incomes are able to afford housing no matter how much it costs;
  • People with modest means and low incomes are 'priced' out of the market.
Why is it that there is so much 'homelessness' in a 'rich' country like the USA?
  • Because most of the population is earning little more today than they were 40 years ago;
  • Meanwhile the cost of building new housing has increased substantially;
  • Owners of property (housing) are in control of the market;
  • The price of both buying a house or renting has gone up because of supply and demand.
The solution to this problem is to recognise that the application of basic market principles cannot work as long as the investment drivers are simply profit maximization ignoring the other elements of the triple bottom line (TBL). A world where quality of life is ignored and the only goal is for investors to augment financial wealth is destined to fail!

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