The city of Madison has done the right thing to shut down a homeless tent encampment and to provide a humane alternative. But it can’t just be a giveaway.
For too long, city leaders tolerated an unsightly and unsanitary mess of a tent encampment at Reindahl Park. Finally, they acted to shut down the encampment and to replace it with a semi-permanent cluster of 30 heated tiny-house type structures in a business/industrial park on the southeast side. That compound is set to open in the next week or so, just in time for winter.
That’s good. What’s not so good is the silence about any kind of expectations of the occupants. There’s no mention that they will be required to look for a job in this full employment economy. No mention that they will be required to accept mental health or other services on offer. And certainly no mention that they might be expected to pay something for the shelter that the city is providing, a project that will cost about $900,000 to build and $75,000 a month to run. (Even a nominal $5 a night would send the right message.)
This isn’t good for the homeless people themselves. (And, yes, “homeless people” is a perfectly accurate and fine way to describe them. They could also be described by the politically correct “people experiencing homelessness”, but that’s an awkward phrase and I’m not going to use it.)
By not creating expectations for homeless people we’re treating them as wards of the state. We’re not paying them the dignity of being treated as adults and full citizens in our society, with both rights and responsibilities.
People develop pride, self-esteem, a sense of self-worth when they earn things. Just the opposite happens when too much is given to them no strings attached.
So, credit the Mayor, the City Council and city staff for responding to the problem with a humane answer. But it won’t be completely humane until the homeless are given the opportunity — and the nudge, if necessary — to make their own way in the world.
And on another matter… Yesterday I wrote about how inflation has taken off as THE political issue of the moment and that the implication for Democrats is that they needed to scale back their big social/climate spending package. The liberal Democratic line developing now is that; 1) Inflation really isn’t such a big deal and; 2) Republicans voted for more stimulus spending in two bills during the Trump administration than the $1.9 trillion in the Democrats’ package passed early this year.
One. Paul Krugman can opine from his Ivy League perch all he wants, but all voters see is the price of groceries and gas sky-rocketing. You can’t macro-economics the problem away.
Two. The problem with the “Republicans did it too” argument is that the bipartisan $3.1 trillion that passed Congress in 2020 was during the heart of the crisis. It was a good thing and it kept us out of a depression. By the time the Democrats were passing their $1.9 trillion package, a vaccine had been developed, the economy was coming back fast and there were plenty of warnings that this was unnecessary and that it would spark inflation.
Welcome to the 269th day of consecutive posts here at YSDA. Thanks for reading!