The Atlantic Cities:
“The Grim Math of the Working-Class Housing Crisis
SARAH GOODYEAR. OCT 22, 2013
Earlier this month, the former front man for Talking Heads, David Byrne, wrote an essay about how New York was losing its artistic heart and creative edge because of the rising cost of living. “Middle-class people can barely afford to live here anymore, so forget about emerging artists, musicians, actors, dancers, writers, journalists and small business people,” wrote Byrne. “Bit by bit, the resources that keep the city vibrant are being eliminated.”
The plight of artsy types in cities gets a lot of attention these days, perhaps because it is personally relevant to lots of people in the media. And yes, working artists are vital to any city, especially a place such as New York that bills itself as a cultural capital. But forget, for the moment, about the artists. The deeper and more systematic erosion of urban life is happening among a less glamorous set of people – the ones who fill the tens of thousands of jobs that undergird every single U.S. city.
These are the home health aides, the fast-food workers, the janitors, the teachers’ aides, the delivery people, the manicurists, and countless others who are making more than minimum wage but less than enough to meet the soaring cost of living – not just in New York, but in cities around the country. These people, increasingly, are falling off the shaky ladder of economic viability, and many are being pushed into homelessness.”
The Atlantic Cities:
“The Astonishing Decline of Homelessness in America
STEPHEN LURIE. AUG 26, 2013
Despite a housing crisis, a great recession, rising income inequality, and elevated poverty, there is some good news among the most vulnerable segment of American society. America’s homeless population – an estimated 633,000 people – has declined in the last decade.
This seems incredible – perhaps literally, so. The National Alliance to End Homelessness, a leader in homelessness service and research, estimates a 17 percent decrease in total homelessness from 2005 to 2012. As a refresher: this covers a period when unemploymentdoubled (2007-2010) and foreclosure proceedings quadrupled (2005-2009).
It’s equally shocking that politicians haven’t trumpeted this achievement. Nor have many journalists. Yes, there’s a veritable media carnival attending every Bureau of Labor Statistics “Jobs Report” on the first Friday of the month. We track the unemployment rate obsessively. But the decline in homelessness hasn’t attracted much cheerleading.
And what about the presidents responsible for this feat? General anti-poverty measures – for example, expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit — have helped to raise post-tax income for the poorest families. But our last two presidents have made targeted efforts, as well. President George W. Bush’s “housing first” program helped reduce chronic homelessness by around 30 percent from 2005 to 2007. The “housing first” approach put emphasis on permanent housing for individuals before treatment for disability and addiction.”
The New York Times
“The Death and Life of Chicago
By BEN AUSTEN. May 29, 2013
On a 100-degree day last summer, on Chicago’s southernmost edge, Willie Fleming, who goes by J. R. (“It stands for Just Righteousness”), crept up to an abandoned ranch house shrouded in overgrown weeds. The overwhelmingly poor and black neighborhood sits beside a 150-acre, 1,500-unit public-housing complex and is about as far — literally and figuratively — from the Loop as you can get and still be in Chicago. Nearly a quarter of the homes in the area had been empty for at least two years. Usually when J. R. scouts for properties to break into and take over, he looks for ones with unmown grass, a sign of vacancy and disregard. But this was excessive. “I don’t come back here without my air gun,” he said, backing away. A young couple next door had set up lawn chairs on the sidewalk. An infant in only a diaper tottered around them. “That’s the dead-dog cemetery,” the man announced, motioning to the ranch house.
J. R. told the couple about the Anti-Eviction Campaign, the group he founded in 2009 with Toussaint Losier, a doctoral candidate in history at the University of Chicago and a fellow housing activist. At 40, J. R. possesses the softening bulk of a former running back — he was all-state as a high-school sophomore. A skunklike streak of white runs up the center of his ringleted black dreadlocks. In the past year, he said, the Anti-Eviction Campaign freed up 20 abandoned properties, fixing up the buildings and moving “home-less people into the people-less homes.”
Photo: Andrew Moore for The New York Times
The Global Urbanist:
In defence of America’s informal settlements: the campers of San Francisco
We tend to believe that wealthy countries like the United States don’t have informal settlements. Not only is this false, but it allows western governments to further marginalise an already misunderstood community. In the first of three articles on America’s informal residents, Martha Bridegam meets two residents of one such harassed community in San Francisco.
In August this year, city and state authorities in San Francisco raided a camp of makeshift homes under a freeway ramp and beside a commuter rail yard near the downtown area, destroying some residents’ property and evicting them from the site.
The San Francisco Chronicle's Kevin Fagan described the camp this way: ‘a sprawling mini-city of tents, suitcases and makeshift Conestoga wagon-style trailers, and a 50-strong homeless population that had been there for years. It was the biggest street camp in San Francisco.’One resident has denied it was so large, but it was certainly substantial for a town that discourages group camps.”
Photo: Here, in a scene typical of the city, a small community of informal residents cluster their RVs—recreational vehicles or caravans—discreetly together under a freeway viaduct. Martha Bridegam
“Housing for the Homeless: 14 Smart and Sensitive Solutions
By Steph in Architecture & Design, Urbanism
City officials spend a lot of time and energy worrying about how to keep homeless people off public furniture and out of certain common areas, when they should be considering how to better manage the issue of homelessness in general. One area of focus is homeless housing, whether simply meeting the immediate needs of people who live on the streets or providing a more long-term, forward-thinking transitional living spaces. These 14 designs for homeless housing provoke thought as to how we can meet the needs of disadvantaged people living in our own communities, and ensure that the situation is only temporary.”
The Bridge reverses the paradigm of homelessshelters in America.
Fascinating article from Next American City on a homeless shelter in Dallas that integrates high-quality architecture and robust social service programs, resulting in increased employment opportunities and quality of health for its residents. In addition, the article mentions how over 93% of its residents transition to permanent housing within the Dallas area. Quite an alternative to simply “warehousing” the homeless and other marginalized groups!
Photo: Overlands Partners Architects