Recently, Ben Carson, head of Housing and Urban Development, proposed reducing rent subsidies almost threefold for the poorest of the poor. If his proposal were to pass Congress, it would mean the indigent would have to spend almost 2/3 of their income for housing, leaving 1/3 for other necessities, including food and medicine. (Click) Carson defends his proposal, pointing out so many people have applied for housing assistance that to increase coverage everyone must pay more. I call it a Pyrrhic solution that helps no one.
If Carson’s proposal seems heartless, it’s child’s play compared to the way cities and counties marginalized the poor with endless nuisance ordinances or “crime free” zones. For example, an estimated 2000 local municipalities across 44 states “ allow police to order landlords to evict people identified as chronic nuisances.” (“More Than a Nuisance,” by Peter Edelman, The New Republic, April 2018, pg. 8.)
Sadly, a person becomes a chronic nuisance for calling 911 too often. The designation largely falls upon women who suffer from sexual assault, battering and domestic violence. (Ibid, pg. 8) Maplewood, Missouri, goes further. That jurisdiction banishes individuals labeled a nuisances for up to six months. (Ibid pg. 9.) Nuisance ordnances have become so numerous and so onerous upon those least able to help themselves, the ACLU has charged that, in effect, they criminalize poverty and the brunt falls heavily upon minorities.
Ben Carson’s attempt to solve his money problems on the backs of the underprivileged isn’t new. Both federal and local governments are busy spinning laws that isolate the poor in their communities. The intent seems to be either to “lock ‘em up or drive ‘em out.” I admit, few people welcome a neighbor who collects tires on the front porch and rusty caravans in the driveway, but decency should overrule our pride in our neighborhood when it comes to a woman’s cry for help. Most certainly, that cry shouldn’t be met with an eviction notice.