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On Homelessness And "Advocacy"
by Jordan Opalanie Wednesday, Sep. 22, 2010 at 4:07 PM
opalanie112@gmail.com (email address validated)

This piece talks about homelessness in Pittsburgh and an event coming up which seems to not advocate for solutions.

On the night of October 8 until the morning of October 9, Community Human Services is planning on doing a "Sleep In For The Homeless" at the City/County Building (414 Grant St.).

Let me just state for the record that those who are homeless should be able to be full participating members of this event, and that there should be advocacy for solutions for the homeless population in Allegheny County. Anything less than that should be considered classist, ableist, racist, and other -isms that I can't even think of right now.

As a homeless transgender person living in Pittsburgh, I have faced many difficulties with finding a place. The wait list for public housing is atrociously long (six months), and the East Liberty Dept. of Public Welfare office informed me that emergency shelter is 1) only for one month and 2) not available for those on SSI; they seem to think that those on SSI or even those on SSD with limited work histories can afford to get housing on the public market. Pull yourself up by the bootstraps, they say? Well, I ain't got no boots, and no home usually means no job.

What angers me is that Pittsburgh could do so much better. There are so many abandoned properties which could easily be converted into affordable/subsidized housing!!! (which we could afford to maintain, if Pittsburgh/Allegheny County got rid of its budget waste). Of course, it also does not make sense that they can't, say, put us up in some form of immediate emergency shelter until we get public housing/self-sufficient. The county where I grew up in has double-digit unemployment and is run by a corrupt cabal of conservative Republicans, yet they manage to have welfare motels for anyone who needs them. Pittsburgh, a city that surprisingly has weathered the recession well, has no excuse not to provide some form of shelter for those who need it.

But you say that homeless shelters have to do??? That is utter transphobic and ableist nonsense!!! First, transgender people like myself have nowhere to go, due to the gendered nature of homeless shelters, and I have aged out of several gender supportive services. Second, homeless shelters are not good places for people with certain mobility disorders, as well as sundry other disorders such as autism and rape trauma would not be able to survive in homeless shelters.

But the main issue with homeless on the national level is our two-tiered, classist disability benefits system, which creates a situation where just because I didn't get the privilege of gainful employment before I became disabled, I should get a raw deal. Maybe if they created a more equitable system, such as a non-means tested disability benefit which is the same regardless of work history which is equality to 2 times the current SSI monthly benefit, maybe more people would be able to find a place to live and eat without having to beg for food stamps and housing, and would be in a better position to contribute to the economy. But of course, the teabaggers, as well as the weak-kneed "liberals" don't care about us, and it will take sweeping national change for this to be a reality.

We are homeless and we need aid, and increasing dependence on homeless shelters are NOT the solution!!!!! Only through REAL rapid rehousing and a new progressive economy which works for all can we see not only people getting a roof over their head, but also, in many cases, being able to get and keep gainful employment!!!

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