Getting to Higher Moral Ground

By Robert Warren, Vendor

Every day I remember these true words:

"The poor and the homeless will always be among us."

It's sad when you think about it to see people living on the streets and in shelters for long parts of their lives. Yet we live in a world where profit is placed over people. Here in the West we will never see housing as a human right, something that builds family and community.

Even people of faith fail to do what's right when it comes to those who need housing, even though the holy books we all read instruct us to help other people the way the Lord of the World helps us.

There is so much love in the world from people who call themselves Christians, Muslims, Jews, yet they can't come together to help people with the housing they need to raise their families and contribute to their city in a positive way.

When all is said and done, people must know that the Lord's blessing is real and so is his hellfire. Just because you call yourself a person of faith doesn't mean that without good deeds you won't be fuel for the Lord's pyre.

Now that I have spoken my piece and words of wisdom, smile.

I will say a word or two about our local government and a city where I have lived all my life.
When it comes to being homeless in DC, you can live on the streets and in shelters for years, and get a lot of help from well-meaning people who get a paycheck to help you do just that.

But when it actually comes to finding an affordable place getting help is like finding a needle in a haystack. There is little low-cost housing in the city and much of it is falling apart due to either years of neglect or mismanagement by realtors and builders while local officials have looked the other way.

Some older people who are trying to live their lives with some dignity are easily misled by smooth-talking politicians. Other people seem to have their heads stuck in the sand when it comes to casting an informed vote. Every month, we get stories about decaying buildings that serve the poor and homeless, and there seems to be a plan in mind to create what they call "new communities," with new people.

But we cannot truly rebuild our families, health and wellbeing until people in this city wake up and see housing as a human right and a human need. Until then, we will continue to lose more ground and will continue to lose lives to homelessness and inadequate housing.

In our city, when you ask a politician about affordable housing, the first thing he will say, "You know the mayor has put $180 million into affordable housing."

But what he won't tell you is that funding for the city's Housing Production Trust Fund was cut by millions during the recession years. That money would have been there to build houses two years ago, along with money from the federal government. In any case, in the city's current housing crisis the new money is just a drop in the bucket. It would be a good start if we could get the city to commit to $180 million a year over 10 years for affordable housing.

At the same time we must not forget the immediate need to fund programs such as the Local Rent Supplement Program. We have people who can't wait five, six or seven more years for a few affordable houses to be built, for which they may not even qualify.

Once again, my fellow residents, wake up and vote these people out. This is the only way we can begin to rebuild our families and communities and have faith in each other.