As my husband and I looked for a new apartment, I was struck by how bad the housing crisis has become. Three years ago, when we found our current home to rent, I remember thinking, "Wow, how do people working minimum wage jobs pay their rent around here?". Rent has, of course, increased steadily since then, and as we looked at apartment after apartment that we can't afford ($2300 for a two bedroom apartment seems a little impossible right now), I became overwhelmed with grief for all of the struggling families around us.
Just last week, some semi-affordable apartments close to where I live were leveled so that developers could build condominiums starting in the $800,000 range. Single-family homes (2 bedrooms, 1-2 baths) are being snatched up at $600,000, torn down, and rebuilt into $1.5 million dollar mansions. In the downtown areas that used to be relatively cheap (aka "dangerous), "revitalization" projects are forcing people who don't drive Volvos or BMW SUVs to move further South or to live on the streets. Apparently "revitalization" does not mean "let's build nice, affordable housing for the people who have lived here and paid taxes for decades". Overcrowding in areas not touched by developers is soon to lead to spikes in crime and violence as happens when supply can not meet demand. It's a sad, sick mess.
As a carless civilian who patrols the street on foot and by bus, I have had the chance to become familiar with many of the homeless people along my route. Every week, it seems like I'm introduced to a newbie either through formal, friendly introduction or by me accidentally triggering a panic response in some of the more unstable individuals causing them to start yelling/screaming/running/etc. A few of them have become my "watchers", warning me when "Crazy Mike" is around (they call him Crazy Mike because he allegedly steals from them and hits people, but I've only seen him yell). One woman keeps the bus stop so clean you could eat off of the ground, and that's saying a lot for a bus stop. It always amazes me to hear random people stop and give lectures on finding a job, Christ, or some other quick fix to homelessness--people like this. Give me a break.
For those of you who have followed me from the beginning, you will know that homelessness is something that hits close to home for me, as my brother lived on the streets when he first became ill. He was mistreated by police, spit on and cursed by upstanding citizens and church leaders, and labeled as a good-for-nothing druggie by people who needed justification for ignoring him and his malnourished frame. He was sick and lost and just needed somebody to care until his family could find him and get him the help he needed.
So, when I stopped by this blog (the homeless guy), I felt compelled to share a post on gift bags for the homeless. Ideas like this beat spending a Sunday morning at church giving your money to people who spend it on air conditioners and new carpeting for the chapel. Maybe your church isn't like that, but mine sure was.
I just wanted to share.