Federal Failures: Homeless Employment And Terrorism

On December 6th, 2015 I spoke at St. Luke's Episcopal Church in DC about the possible closure of the CCNV Shelter c. 2018 and the need to connect able-bodied homeless people to living-wage jobs. I told them about a federal effort to connect homeless people to employment in 1988. That effort ended with about half of the homeless people who took advantage of the program obtaining employment and half of THAT group remaining employed for at least 13 weeks. All in all, a quarter of the homeless people who sought employment through this program remained employed for at least a quarter of a year. 25% is a failing grade anywhere in the world (except the baseball stadium). No robust effort to get homeless people working has been made by the feds in the last 27 years – when Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik were in diapers and I was just months into my eventual six-year tenure as a tractor driver (similar to an airport luggage train but used to haul hospital freight) at Shands Hospital in Gainesville, Florida. After discussing this failed effort by the U.S. Department of Labor, I emphasized this principle:

If something is the right thing to do, then no matter how hard it is or how long it takes, you should stick to it until you get it done.

Some might argue that I should be telling the homeless people to apply the aforementioned principle when it comes to finding a job. I would argue that my time is better spent influencing government which has more resources than the homeless to use the force of law so as to create an environment that is conducive to all able-bodied people being able to find living-wage employment and affordable housing. I won't send those who lack resources on a wild goose chase while government employees and contractors make six figures for ostensibly trying to end homelessness – and have failed for 11 years and counting.

I told the congregants that DC Mayor Muriel Bowser has begun to make efforts to connect homeless people to employment, though she is focused primarily on the heads of homeless families right now – leaving homeless people who don't have dependent children with them to linger for an unspecified amount of time (hopefully not until Doomsday).

I find it odd that, though hundreds of able-bodied and single homeless people have advocated to government about their employment and housing needs since as far back as 2006, it's been only the disabled who have gotten needed services until this year with able-bodied singles having to wait for nine years and counting.

I laud Mayor Bowser for her nascent effort, though the patience of those for whom I speak is running thin. It stands to reason that, had the feds continued the effort they began in 1988, they might have figured out by now how to overcome the employment challenges faced by homeless people. That, in turn, would have made the work of local governments around homeless employment easier. Unfortunately, that didn't happen.

I'm keenly aware of yet another failure by the feds. I turned 12 just 26 days after Ronald Reagan's first inauguration in 1981 which I watched on T.V. At Bernardsville Middle School in New Jersey (Mr. Louis Ferrante's classroom). I recall my father discussing different news events with my mother and older siblings at the dinner table – those events including terrorist hijackings of airplanes. By the time Bush 41 took office, I'd come of age and was living in Gainesville, FL. Others may recall him saying that he “doesn't bend to empty threats or negotiate with terrorists”. He oversaw a 28-day war in Iraq in which 130 Americans died (two-thirds from “friendly” fire) and he had all the public support he needed – yet he refused to depose Saddam Hussein (possibly due to having foreseen the quagmire we are now caught in).

Fast forward to September 2001 and we have Bush 43 beginning the “War on Terror” – albeit in Afghanistan. He would prove not to be even half the man his father was. He was worse at ending terrorism than DOL was at connecting homeless people to employment. To his credit, unlike DOL, he didn't give up. He threw good money after bad and oversaw an astronomical loss of life, leaving a colossal mess for his successor. Job security, by all means.

The failures of Bush 43 have caused the U.S. Government to lose whatever moral and intellectual standing it had in the world when he took office. They are seemingly innumerable, though I'll list a few here:

1 – The first invasion of the War on Terror was in Afghanistan. Obama found Osama in Pakistan 10 years later. We've yet to get out of Afghanistan – like a husband who grabbed the super glue by accident instead of the Vaseline.

2 – Then it was onto Iraq in March 2003 where the U.S. military failed to pay Saddam Hussein's border patrol. Border patrol officers left their posts for paying jobs so they could feed themselves and their families. The borders were left open for potential terrorists to enter Iraq.

3 – Our military caught Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi in 2004, determined he was just a small-time street thug – not military business – and let him go. He now leads ISIS.

4 – We killed Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al-Qaida in Iraq, in June 2006. We allowed a remnant of Al-Qaida in Iraq to remain. That remnant was gathered by Al-Baghdadi and reformed into ISIS.

5 – We killed Saddam Hussein in December 2006. This caused Sunnis who didn't want to seem like they were fighting for Hussein's release to step-up their sectarian violence insomuch as it would not be perceived as support for a fellow Sunni whom they'd parted ways with long ago now that he was dead.

6 – We had numerous failed attempts to properly vet police academy applicants and ended up with many of them becoming the attackers during or after training. Police cadets kept having graduation parties during which they were bombed and killed. (“Play that funky music til you die.”)

7 – We disbanded Saddam's military. Many of his former officers now fight for ISIS while the new Iraqi military that we're trying to build can't fight their way out of a wet paper bag and are running from the former-military-turned-ISIS.

8 – We allowed U.S. weapons to get into the hands of ISIS – whether they were stolen from U.S. military installations or from a poorly-trained Iraqi military. (The Iraqis aren't the only ones our military can't train.)

9 – In a strange twist of fate, ISIS has now attacked our oldest and closest ally: France. (With friends like that, who needs enemies???)

10 – Now we have had what was very likely an ISIS-inspired attack in San Bernadino, California. The concern it created has been multiplied a hundred-fold by the realization that the male perpetrator was an easy-going, prosperous and likable person who may have been influenced by his wife to carry out an attack that left 14 dead and 21 wounded before these two people were gunned down by cops hours later. Now we know that we can't trust even the nicest guy or a seemingly innocent woman. (It wasn't poverty that bred crime in this case.)

Whew!!!!! What a list!!!!!

The federal government's failures on Homeless Employment And Terrorism lend themselves to the notion that Republican administrations – and, to a lesser degree, Democratic admins – are colossal failures at both foreign and domestic policies. The end of Bush 41's administration on 1/20/93 was, by my prediction, the beginning of a 40-year dry spell of sensible Republican presidents, with his son having been the last GOP president until at least 1/20/2033. (I wouldn't be surprised if the GOP held a majority of both chambers of Congress and of the governorships until then. I predict that will be the case.)

All of this begs the question, “How do we define work???”. If federal and local governments can fail to end homelessness for decades, give up on a moral effort to connect poor people to living-wage jobs and then actually increase the threat of terrorism that they ostensibly sought to eliminate, how do their efforts qualify as work??? How do we hold government's feet to the fire and ensure that they will create an environment that is conducive to every able-bodied person being able to find employment??? While I don't have all of the answers, I've decided that I'll do all that I can to impress upon government that failure is not an option – no matter how hard it is or how long it takes to succeed. When it comes t getting government to focus on homeless employment, I'll succeed or I'll die trying; because, I know it's the right thing to do.

After all, if Muriel Bowser succeeds in this respect, I'll support her for president from 2025 to 2033, preceded by Hillary of course. Just sayin'.....


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