Friday, March 30, 2018

When Sheltering Possesions Trumps Sheltering People

With roughly 2.311 billion square feet of rent-able space for things, junk, stuff, possessions, etc., in the United States--a $38 billion industry!--America is a demonstrably materialistic society and becoming more materialistic every single day. It's  to the point where things, junk, stuff, possessions matter more than human beings....far more than people, it seems, considering the increasing number of homeless people across America,  the wealthiest nation on earth! 

...the United States boasts more than 50,000 facilities and roughly 2.311 billion square feet of rentable space. In other words, the volume of self-storage units in the country could fill the Hoover Dam with old clothing, skis, and keepsakes more than 26 times.”
This "need" for storage doesn't stem from frugal "depression babies" who feel the need to save everything just in case, because  the square footage of American homes has essentially doubled since the children of the Depression era started buying houses. No, the need for storage has increased right along with the  cache in our homes, which implies that, for the most part, things, junk, stuff, possessions have taken on an importance that just isn't there.  Not to say that  there are not legitimate reasons to rent storage for belongings: moving; changing circumstances; incarceration; future business endeavors, and ironically, homelessness ...but, certainly not  $38 billion worth! 

Take Orange County, California, one of the wealthiest counties in the United States.  It is home to four of the industry’s top 20 storage firms, in addition to the California Self Storage Association, the industry trade group, which is based in Irvine. Ironically, with its immense capacity to house junk, its capacity to house people is not so great. The 2017 federally mandated snapshot, taken every two years in Orange County, recorded 4,792 homeless people, more than half living without shelter. That's an 8% increase since 2015 because as one homeless man, Patrick Hogan, in Orange County said after losing his job after the 2008 financial crash ten years ago, "$10 an hour jobs doesn't cut it" in one of the most expensive corners of the nation.
My experience has taught me one thing, the most discriminated group of people, at least in America, are the poor." -- Patrick Hogan
Today, Orange County is making headlines as it  faces bitter backlash over homeless relocation plans  as it is now under federal pressure to address what homeless advocates in court filings have called a humanitarian crisis.  According to the Los Angeles Times, affluent Orange County "faces special challenges because it has a relatively sparse infrastructure of services and support for homeless people." Of course, Ocean County is not unique. There is a relatively sparse infrastructure of services and support for homeless people all over America.
A lot of people in America don't realize they might be two checks, three checks, four checks away from being homeless," -- Thomas Butler Jr., who stays in a carefully organized tent near a freeway ramp in downtown Los Angeles.
And you can't trust the official homeless rate in America.  To be sure, the reported rate is far lower than the actuality. The point-in-time (PIT) homeless counts often occur on a single night in January and are thus subject to significant sampling variability.  The accuracy of the count itself depends on   the number of volunteers, the weather, the count methodologies, and countless other variables that contribute to its inaccuracy.    In other words, the homeless population is hugely under-represented.

 For instance, Compass Family Services in San Francisco gathered their own data and discovered more than 35 times the number cited in the city’s report. 
After a count of people on the streets and in shelters, conducted one night in January, and a follow-up survey, the city report found just nine families, or a total of 26 individuals in families who are homeless. Moreover, 87 percent of them live in some sort of shelter.

But between January and May, Compass recorded 319 homeless families — more than 35 times the number cited in the city’s report. And even that, Keller suggested, might be low.
According to a new study. the number of people living on the streets in San Diego County may be 50 percent higher than thought.

The bottom line is don't count on the PIT for accurate statistics on the homeless population, as it always under-counts, under-represents, and/or underestimates by a significant percentage.  The reason is, of course, obvious: the less homeless they count, the less money and resources they have to fork out.   

Links:

Self-storage: How warehouses for personal junk became a $38 billion industry

Self-storage business owners on alert for people living in units

Living in a Storage Unit: Alexander Ruggie’s Story

Self-storage industry keeps on keeping

Orange County At A Loss Over What To Do With People It Evicted From Homeless Encampment

Protests Push O.C. to Kill Its First Real Plan to Help the Homeless


America's Homeless Population Rises for First Time in Years


Dynamics of Homelessness in Urban America

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