In a recent column about your friend dying, you cited a number of hot-button current issues that you felt frustrated by your inability as a private citizen to address. A couple of times you mentioned The Homeless, followed immediately about housing costs in the state. Lightbulb Moment! Maybe the two issues are related. Maybe it’s the same exact issue at different stages in its lifespan. If that was true, there ought to be one solution that redresses both grievances, as intertwined as they are. These days, regular, tax-paying folks go from restaurant manager who already can’t afford housing on his salary alone, to unemployed, to homeless lickety-split, just like that.
As a society, we can’t just keep shrugging homelessness off and turning our backs. We tried that for decades, until there were so many people living on the streets they’ve finally gone and spilled over into everybody’s neighborhood, even yours and mine. Now we literally can’t ignore the homeless because they’re absolutely everywhere.
We’re taking the same lose-at-all-costs approach to homelessness that we took to Climate Change 30 years ago, after the science became undeniable. Well the disheveled strangers wandering your neighborhood’s streets… they’ve become pretty undeniable, too.
But I have a humane solution that addresses both affordable housing, as well as the people who need it. Skyscrapers! All these lovely downtowns across the land, silhouetted by skyscrapers currently occupied by office drones whose employers have all just figured out at the same time that their employees can work equally well from home, and they’ll save themselves millions and millions of dollars by just letting their office leases run out, then turning their whole business model to a virtual workplace instead.
In 5 years, emptied, blighted downtown areas. Abandoned behemoths casting hollow shadows across the husks of their fellow former titans, drawing crime and poverty and… we are definitely heading for a situation not too far down the road of competing ongoing national tragedies. Two of which we could throw at each other if we demonstrate any sense at all.
Let’s assume the worst on all fronts; we can start by making millions of good-paying American jobs immediately, retrofitting the vacated former offices into DECENT, not ramshackle, affordable housing units as soon as business tenants vacate them. Then populate the re-purposed units with the kind of poor shmucks who missed one mortgage payment, or got laid off for two weeks due to supply-chain issues beyond their control and wasn’t on-time with the rent one time too many. You know, The Homeless.
We’re gonna have empty downtowns which will attract the homeless anyhow. Why not get out ahead of the inevitable and turn a problem into an opportunity? We’re Americans, damn it. We should absolutely be able to dream up some creative ways to line our own pockets by helping those less fortunate than ourselves if we set our minds to it.
Can you imagine, getting rich off doing the right thing? Getting into all the Best Places… and heaven?
Lothar DeWine, Los Angeles