Tag Archives: Western Regional Advoacy Project

The quality of whose life?

The first in a four-part series on the country’s modern anti-poor movement

by Paul Boden, Contributing Writer

One more stark reminder of the disconnect between our ideals and public policy is to look at the declining stocks of our country’s public and project-based housing. In the years between 1994 and 2008, we have been building more and more jail cells but fewer and fewer affordable housing units, and as a result, we now have millions of people without housing, some living on the street, some in cars, some in jails.

Other consequences of this disconnect are stark too. In city after city, nationwide, we see new so-called quality-of-life ordinances and anti-panhandling statutes. In Las Vegas, for example, both panhandlers and the people who give them money can be fined, and providing people free meals for homeless people in parks is banned. In San Francisco, a hotly debated new measure would make it illegal for people to sit down on city sidewalks. As a result, one McDonald’s on a street that has a relatively high concentration of homeless people, Haight Street, has become the only franchise in the city that has stopped offering its popular “Dollar Menu.” These are only the latest developments in a city where the mayor sailed into office on a platform, known as “Care Not Cash,” that severely limits cash assistance to the homeless.

All these laws and ordinances (and many more like them) are presented to the public as serving the greater good, making cities more livable, improving public safety; in a nutshell, increasing quality of life across the board. Residents’ quality of life is enhanced because they live in safer, cleaner cities. Businesses are able to attract more customers. Cities themselves are able to attract more tourists. All in all, quality-of-life ordinances seem to work for everyone. Quality of life is, of course, a well-chosen phrase. It has a nice ring to it, it sounds upbeat and profound at the same time. Who could possibly oppose such a thing? One group might be those who care about social justice and our collective responsibility toward the economically marginalized — the exact people who are, more often than not, on the receiving end of quality of life initiatives. Continue reading