I recently watched a documentary about renters being displaced in Los Angeles, by developers who buy up swaths of residential areas, then renovate or totally demolish the structures, and rent back out for a tremendous jump in rental rates. Apparently much of Los Angeles county residential renting is on a month to month basis, not a regular twelve month lease, or whatever. At this very moment there are many families being forced literally into the streets, with no where to go in most cases. The city has identified parking lots where the “new homeless” can park their cars at night and camp out; they cannot sleep in their cars, but must set up outside their cars. Shake my head.
I now live in a nice newer apartment in the Dallas area, with my lady friend. We know what the rent is now, and our expectation of a slight annual increase in rent has a high probability of being correct, barring any anomalies in the market place to change that. I find it hard to imagine living in a month-to-month rent situation, although that is often part of a lease if one does not re-up. Watching this documentary, just brought to my mind how close so very many Americans, the “richest” country in the world, are to being “on the street.” Often those at risk are families of several people, and now days often a single mother with one or more children. The documentary featured a woman who had one daughter eighteen years old, who was evicted due to this “gentrification” attack (I choose to call this an attack, possibly even a form of terrorism….there is nothing that could be more fearful to a family then finding they suddenly are living in their car -if they have one -or worse, sleeping on the hard ground burning up in the summer or freezing in the winter).
Until moving to our current suburban domicile, we had lived for several years in the inner city of Dallas, and then Houston. In Dallas we lived in a loft downtown, and I had the luxury of walking to my office ten minutes away. Invariably I would be approached at least once if not a few times on that walk by street people, and I would give mainly to the females, as being a man it kills me to see a woman in such dire straits. In Houston “gentrification” was happening all around us, and I had to wonder where the poor “went” when the old house they lived in was sold and torn down for a new condo. We lived a half mile from a freeway overpass, and beneath it was a homeless encampment. Occasionally my lady friend, who has a big heart, would fix meals and carry these to the people under the bridge, mostly black men. Churches and other groups also would serve meals to these unfortunates. After hurricane Harvey, right next to the usual “hard core” homeless, a new encampment sprung up, consisting of rather nice and tidy camping tents and accessories, rather than the cardboard and scrap tarps of the older “neighborhood.” With every sudden shift in the economy, or public policy, or due to a major weather catastrophe, more and more homeless are added to the “disappeared” in our cities. And people really do disappear: if you have no home, you have no address, which can and does cause a host of other serious problems and challenges. After a while people, whole families even, can just “disappear” from normal society, and just become the target of complaints of those who just do not see the truth of this reality.
It has been said just recently that the average person or family does not have even $500 cash on hand for emergencies. I am one of those. I live Social Security check to check, like probably millions. My lady friend, one of the best in her hair care profession, also lives hand to mouth for the most part. Even having been a very well paid engineer in my career, there were on several occasions where I was laid off from a good job, and having not saved up a little for that day (always because I used my own money to help others when I had a good income), I found myself about to be totally broke, or actually being broke – but never homeless. It is not a pleasant feeling, especially when you know just a few weeks or months before you were rolling in cash every month. It can happen to anyone. Even if one has savings, or investments, the savings can be eaten up in a very short time, or the investments lost as in the last recession, and suddenly we have absolutely nothing.
So I don’t know where America is going. We need better policies to mitigate wholesale displacement of families for sure. Capitalism must be mixed with true compassion. We need to help one another. “There but for the grace of God, go I.”