A homeless encampment in Seattle is raided and razed with nothing offered to the people who lived there. The Village, an Oakland, CA, tent community for women and children, organized by its residents, is also broken up and people scattered. Women and children are now the fastest growing section of the homeless population. Now as a vicious winter sets in, unsheltered people are found frozen to death in the streets. This is an epic social fail.
As the economic and political crisis in this country deepens, millions of Americans find themselves threatened with homelessness, if not already there. Whole families, formerly secure, are now living in a car or RV, under threat of having that towed away. Many more have been homeless for years and decades, subjected to abuse wherever they go.
There are by one estimate six houses standing empty for every homeless person in the US. Homeless-led organizations all over the country are using their tent communities as bases of a growing movement. They are petitioning their government to provide housing and other basic needs, whether people have money or not. The government only seems willing to go on the attack, or promise a few sheds or prison-like shelters. One proposed shelter is actually a closed-down prison!
According to the Congressional Research Service, half the American population is near, at or below the poverty level, with two out of three living paycheck to paycheck. This in the wealthiest, most powerful nation the world has ever seen, groaning with the overproduction of everything anyone could need, while millions go hungry and without a home. And not a single national politician has mentioned the crisis of homelessness or proposed a remedy.
In the 1970s the introduction of the computer and microchip into production began to replace human workers. At the same time people were beginning to show up homeless in the streets of America. Forty years down the road, as innovations in robotic production take enormous leaps, the social destruction caused by the elimination of jobs is seen and felt everywhere, with homelessness its most obvious sign—a harbinger of what’s in store for many more.
What is the reason—and excuse—for such utter poverty and insecurity, in a nation where a growing number of destitute people fill the streets, walled off from what they need, while the class that owns the corporations that produce what we need grow ever more obscenely wealthy? This billionaire corporate class has now almost entirely “bought” the politicians, who instead of serving the people guarantee that the owning class gets richer and the poor get poorer, to freeze in the streets or rot in jail. This is far from the “life liberty and the pursuit of happiness” we were taught was the American dream, but the economic terrorism at the heart of corporate rule.
People have to have shelter and food whether they have money or not—or they will die. A house can be built overnight now, or made with a process similar to 3D printing. We have the material abundance to shelter everyone, as well as distribute all the necessities of life “according to need.” This is the only way compatible with the evolution of technology. The demand for homes, and everything else we need to lead full productive lives, is a clarion call for a cooperative system, one that shares today’s abundance with everyone.