Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Housing Equality Equals Social Equality

Housing Equality Equals Social Equality
46.5 million, # of Americans who currently live in poverty. 
                16.1 million, # of children in America currently living in poverty.
                1964, the year Lyndon B. Johnson proclaimed a “war on poverty.”
                52, # of years since then .
                22 trillion, the amount of dollars we have spent on our attempts to eliminate poverty since  1964.
In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson proclaimed a "war on poverty."  LBJ called on the people of America to build a "Great Society" that eliminated the troubles of the poor.
 Half a century has passed and trillions spent, yet we have accomplished very little in terms of defeating poverty.
How did we get here?
The unaffordable housing crisis in America is a huge contributor to the seemingly endless chain that many Americans know so well as the poverty cycle.  And what’s more, it is a social issue that impacts society as a whole. No one is spared from the effects of poverty.  If you think that you yourself, or a certain class within our society is removed from the effects of the housing crisis, LISTEN UP! Experts say unaffordable housing will soon affect more than just low income households. It is expected that households with average median incomes will also know the struggle that so many are faced with in relation to affordable housing.
The environment and community that human beings live in and grow up within directly determines or, at the very least influences their opportunities, behavior, life choices, and path they take in life.  Studies prove that the communities associated with low-income housing and or “public housing” have limited, if any, access to social services or supportive educational services. 
 It is no surprise that these are the neighborhoods with chronic unemployment, the highest crime & incarceration rates, the most drug & gang related activity, and the highest reports of child and domestic abuse. The individuals residing in these neighborhoods are usually not given the opportunities needed to pursue higher education which leads to better jobs, which could and undoubtedly would break the cycle of poverty. In his article Want Equality? Start with Providing Housing That People Can Afford, Larry Checco says it best.  He states that the isolation of “entire segments of our population in dilapidated, rundown tenements” creates “Petri dishes for antisocial behavior.” Now we can begin to see how this creates a need for more costly social & entitlement programs and other public services, which are burdens felt by society as a whole. 
 The NHP Foundation, which is a national affordable housing nonprofit located in New York City, offers several solutions to help end the crisis.  In their article Unaffordable Housing: A Root Cause of Social Inequality, the foundation said one of the most important steps we can take is to change our perceptions on the housing crisis, “see it for what it is…. a root cause of social inequality.” Another suggestion they offer is to establish and strengthen the support “among public and private sector leaders to increase funding and re-engage the philanthropic community.” This way, nonprofits within the field will be able to provide “services that improve quality of tenants’ lives.”

Where can we go from here?
I think we need to ask ourselves a couple of questions. What do we envision for our future? Do we imagine a reality with equality and justice for all people? If so, then our attention and focus should be on providing everyone with housing that is safe, clean and affordable.  Arthur Brooks, the president of American Enterprise Institute said, “We need to stop treating poor people as liabilities to be managed, and begin to see them as assets to be developed.”  We can certainly start by ensuring everyone has quality housing that grants individuals the opportunities they need to flourish and thrive.
By: Lindsey Jenkins

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