Mayor Muriel Bowser, Fight NIMBY-ites with a Jobs Plan

I said late last year and earlier this year that, with 2016 being a seventh year, it would be a "Year of JOB-ilee" for the homeless; and, this is just what it is turning out to be. DC Government is hard at work implementing the piece of federal legislation known as the "Workforce Innovations and Opportunities Act" or "WIOA" which basically mandates that municipalities connect hard-to-employ people to jobs. That group, of course, includes the homeless. The website that bears my name and another website that my colleagues and I worked on with American University both speak to issues surrounding homeless employment. With the CCNV Shelter's future in limbo, much is being said about the need to connect its residents to employment -- a need that can be met even now and does not need to be connected to a shelter closure. But, while much is being said and done about homeless employment issues, there is at least one very important thing that is NOT being done:
As DC Mayor Muriel Bowser promotes her plan to replace the decrepit DC General Family Shelter with seven smaller shelters in all but one of the city's wards, she is promoting it as a better shelter system while failing to highlight the parts of her plan that would assist homeless parents in their efforts to find living-wage jobs.
While it's true that there are many forces opposing her plan, it stands to reason that presenting the plan as one that will "grow people beyond homelessness" (as former DHS director Clance Carter would say) is much more attreactive to the general public. I've even taken to using this metaphor:
If Satan and the administration of Hell were to decide that Hell (like Don King's hairdo) is too large and unmanageable, they might divide it into eight smaller sections. Even so, folk would still be in Hell.
A wise man once said, "If you're going through Hell, don't stop! Keep moving!" That thinking applies here. Homelessness is Hell. Homeless people don't need smaller, more manageable Hells. They need a way out. I'm guessing that some of the NIMBY-ites (the vocal minority) would become more accepting of the mayor's plan if its employment component was the leading edge -- if it were presented as a plan to connect people to jobs rather than a plan to improve shelter conditions. Some NIMBY-ites would simply be less inclined to oppose a plan that highlights employment efforts because it would expose them for the NIMBY-ites that they are. Let's face it: the bourgeoisie has had much practice at glossing over their hatred of the poor; but, presenting an idea that addresses their concerns and/or aligns with their stated principles forces them to either be satisfied or to be more direct about their true intentions. promoting a robust employment plan for homeless parents gets us there.

I should remind people that I have critiqued the city's efforts toward homeless employment insomuch as most of its efforts are focused on parents ages 18 to 24. The Bowser administration is also focused on connecting young criminals ages 18 to 24 to employment. What I know of the plan looks good to me. It's just that neither I nor any of the people I know who are at least 25 years old can ever fit into that group again. That said, when the Bowser administration talks to the public about the plan to replace DC General Family Shelter, they should put the employment piece front and center and even develop a title that includes something about employment (like Bill Clinton did with his "Welfare to Work" program -- despite any of its flaws).

Having belabored that point sufficiently, let me move on. I said that there are many forces opposing Mayor Bowser's plan. in addition to the NIMBY-ites/Bourgeoisie of Ward 3, there are the Ward 5 residents who impressed me as they presented better alternatives to the proposed shelter site for their ward. I really have to speak of them separately from the NIMBY-ites. Their reasons for opposing the mayor's plan are legitimate.

Then there is the cost. Even Dan Tangherlini -- who served as DC city administrator in which capacity he had to lead ICH meetings but now heads GSA -- has weighed in. A recent article that features him indicates that DC Government can cut the cost of replacing the family shelter in half by purchasing the proposed sites rather than leasing the five sites as the current plan calls for. (Two sites are already city-owned.) This will prove to be a major sticking point with the DC Council. I actually like Councilman David Grosso's idea of using Eminent Domain to just TAKE these properties from the developers (except in Ward 5), throw an envelope full of cash amounting to the fair market value for these properties at the developers and then create shelter at a much lower cost than the current plan calls for. Maybe David Grosso is that benevolent dictator that we need.

At this point, I've listed a few of the forces coming against DC Mayor Muriel Bowser as she aims to replace the family shelter. In short they are:

1 -- NIMBY-ites/Bourgeoisie (mainly in Ward 3)
2 -- DC Residents with legitimate reasons to oppose the plan (like in Ward 5)
3 --Cost (when compared to suitable alternatives)
4 -- The commendable frugality of the DC Council

However, I'm thinking that I should add at least one more item:

5 -- Public stupidity.

In my many speeches and in an occasional boisterous conversation on public transit, I like to talk about how stupid the general public can be. (That's probably the one point on which Ben Carson and I agree. He's a brain surgeon. He should know.) Without belaboring this topic, as it could fill a book, I'll say this much:

On the one hand, people say "NIMBY: Not in my back yard" when the government elects to place a shelter in their neighborhood.

On the other hand, people say "NITNA(U): Not in the next apartment (unit)" when the government is housing the homeless.

STUPID PEOPLE don't want homeless people living in a shelter near them. Neither do they want homeless people living in the next apartment. However, these housed people are too stupid to realize that the latter problem will never exist insomuch as, once the homeless are housed, they're not homeless anymore. These same housed people (the ones who were never homeless) are also too stupid to realize that being opposed to the homeless person obtaining shelter OR housing in that neighborhood exposes them as bourgeois haters of the poor -- as someone who just hates anyone who doesn't make six figures.

STUPID PEOPLE fail to realize that saying "NIMBY" is the same as saying "YISEBY: Yes in somebody else's back yard". They seem to want to do with the homeless what the U.S. Military-Congress does with POW's from the War Of.....err On Terror. The big difference is that we KNOW whose back yard the POW's are going to: Cuba's. NIMBY-ites make no attempt to figure out whose back yard the homeless will end up in.

I'll venture to guess that, after the city concentrates enough homeless shelters in one small area, it will be some of the same NIMBY-ites who complain that city officials have created SKID ROW -- which is pretty much what the area around DC General has become.

Let's not forget about the STUPID COPS in various municipalities who tell the homeless "You can't sleep here.....You can't sleep there in that park either.....You can't sleep on that sidewalk either....." Let's not forget that it was considered torture when U.S. soldiers deprived Iraqi POW's of sleep.

Long story short, any member of the public who chooses to weigh in on the matter of homelessness should be prepared to answer both of these questions:

1 -- How would you ensure that homeless people are able to have all of their immediate needs met (including shelter, food, clothing etc)???

2 -- How would you end homelessness???



Deb C. said…
Excellent post, my friend -- just excellent!
Eric Sheptock said…
Thanks. I'm calling out city officials for not wanting to assist much-needed workers in low-wage industries. I see the gov cringing. Mayor Bowser cursing publicly on Tues is fuel for the fire. The plot thickens.
Eric Sheptock said…
Thanks. I'm calling out city officials for not wanting to assist much-needed workers in low-wage industries. I see the gov cringing. Mayor Bowser cursing publicly on Tues is fuel for the fire. The plot thickens.

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