‘Can you spare $6 billion ?in change?’

Feb 17, 2016 at 3:03 pm
‘Can you spare $6 billion ?in change?’

So everyone is sick and tired of nothing getting done in Washington. Republicans, Democrats, Independents, and everyone remaining, can’t stand that nothing gets done. 

This isn’t a scathing commentary on Mitch McConnell being to blame, or the blatant negligence with which Senate Republicans are treating the Supreme Court and Constitution.

I’d like to say, Scalia’s seat doesn’t belong to you, Republicans. It’s not a reservation you get to fill when you get to the restaurant. 

I’d like to talk about McConnell’s shameless hypocrisy and the blatant abdication of the oath he took — to “support and defend the Constitution” — is treasonous. 

I’d also like to add that Mitch is going to hell. I didn’t make up the rules, but the oath he solemnly swore states “ … that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.” I’ll leave that up to Mitch and the big guy, but even my lapsed Catholic mother probably wouldn’t test God like that. 

This column isn’t about any of that … beyond this point. It’s about something that can get done. Solving America’s homeless problem is an achievable challenge. If the winners of last month’s $1.5 billion Powerball put all of the money toward ending homelessness, we’d be a quarter of the way there. (Not saying they should have, or that I would have, just saying it’s not as expensive, as say, building a country in the Middle East.)

It would cost $6 billion to end homelessness in America today. OK, so it’s not $6 billion one and done, but here’s the math.

At any given moment, there are approximately 600,000 homeless people across the United States. 

The Orlando Sentinel reported a couple of years ago that it cost every taxpayer in the Central Florida community $31,000 per year to pay for services for the chronically homeless. These service primarily include, “law-enforcement officers to arrest and transport homeless individuals — largely for nonviolent offenses such as trespassing, public intoxication or sleeping in parks — as well as the cost of jail stays, emergency-room visits and hospitalization for medical and psychiatric issues.”

They found that, instead, for $10,000 a year they could provide permanent housing with case managers for the entire chronically homeless population. 

So, 600,000 homeless in America, $10,000 per year, equals six with nine zeroes behind it; $6 billion per year. $6 billion per year sounds like an enormous number, right? 

$6 billion of $1.1 trillion discretionary spending budget is under .55 percent. That’s .55 percent about nothing! 

Not to mention, by helping homeless with housing, medical care, job training and mental-health support, you reduce the future costs tremendously. In other words, it won’t be $6 billion per year once you help pull people out of the shadows. They can contribute to society, maybe one day pay taxes on their income, and won’t continue to be a drain on resources that currently only keep them in jail or out of sight. Additionally, don’t forget to subtract the money we already spend on (mis)treating homelessness. 

Last week, while the national media focused on the race to elect the next President, the current President was proposing an $11 billion package over the next 10 years to combat homelessness. This is a great start, but it is only $1.1 billion of the six needed.  

It should be noted that the Republicans in Washington told the President not to waste his time presenting it to them; they aren’t interested. What, you all don’t have the time? Speaker Paul “Jughead” Ryan only scheduled 17 full workdays in the last  25 weeks of the year! You can’t work an 18th day and talk to the President about his budget?

It is also worth mentioning the politics don’t work in favor of the homeless either. Two states (California and New York), represented by only four Senators, all of whom are Democrats, account for one-third of the homeless in America. Add Florida and Texas, and nearly half of all homeless (47 percent) “reside” among only four states. So the homeless in America are not a high-priority issue for 92 percent of the Senate. 

Even the most conservative Americans believe the government should be limited to core services, like building roads, bridges, keeping the public and borders safe. The same spending considerations on infrastructure, which attracts and encourages businesses and growth, should be given to homelessness. It is bad for business, bad for safety and bad for the homeless. 

This should be a bipartisan issue. If for no other reason, it would be great to see America “solve” a problem. But it goes beyond the human cost, the cost to vital social resources, and the good feeling of “helping out” the homeless. Ask any small business retail shop, bar or restaurant owner, or a local chamber of commerce, and they will tell you that homelessness is bad for business. Homelessness is just bad. When does not fixing it become worse?