Poverty in Phoenix

Homelessness is a huge problem in this country, yet most people pass at least a few homeless people on the street everyday without hardly even noticing them. The film “Poverty in Chicago” included multiple interviews with the homeless in an attempt to humanize the people actively dealing with homelessness and the problems it causes. More specifically, The problem of homeless veterans A relatively recent article in the New York Times by Fernanda Santos reports on the growing problem of poverty and homelessness in other parts of the country, including Arizona.


Estimates of All Homeless Veterans

Arizona has recently implemented a program to help out homeless veterans. Many veterans succumb to problems of drug addiction or alcoholism after their service and end up homeless. A statistic from 2011 shows that in Phoenix “there were 222 chronically homeless veterans here, a vulnerable, hard-to-reach population of mostly middle-age men, virtually all battling some type of physical or mental ailment along with substance abuse.”

Arizona has developed a housing program to assist veterans who deal with addiction and poverty to get sober and get them into a home to help remedy the widespread problem among veterans. For lots of people, the first step to sobering up is having a place to call home.

It may not seem like a lot based on the numbers, but Phoenix has become the first city to have a long term solution for chronically homeless veterans.

The people who create and advocate for solutions to end homelessness are typically very interested in creating housing for the homeless to bring them out of their situation.

While providing housing for the homeless seems like a logical step to giving them a great start to get back on their feet, Shklar would argue that without the earning power, they don’t have citizenship in the eyes of society. I can understand where Shklar is coming from with her ideas that earning power is a major part of citizenship since lack of income does limit independence.

The homeless can apply for benefits and get a place to live with these types programs, but there is not typically a work program. Something like Shkar’s idea of a “workfare” program would give people back the earning power that she deems so important. Earning power is certainly a key apsect of citizenship, but I am not convinced that it is most important. Especially with disabled veterans who are unable to work, there has to be something within having a place to live that constitutes citizenship, and not just in the act of earning.

What do you think: is it the earning power or the home that makes a citizen?

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8 Responses to Poverty in Phoenix

  1. Wunderkynd says:

    I think that it is the earning wages that makes a citizen. In other words, I agree with Shklar. I do remember her talking about citizen-soldiers, however. I think she concluded that, in order to have standing, a citizen does not necessarily commit acts of patriotic participation. She did note, however, that those who do are looked to in a positive light and are considered good citizens. However, if they didn’t participate, they would be citizens none the less. However, the issue here is one of not being able to work due to a physical disability, probably obtained from his or her service. I think you are right, initially. Shklar would say that these non-working men and women are not citizens. However, I think she might argue that, because of their time in the military, they earned things like state-paid rehabilitative services. And so, while they wouldn’t currently have a working wage, they still earned their way. I think she might even wish to expand the services for these men and women. That way they could return to society more quickly and cement their standing.

  2. zoneofsubduction says:

    The problem with homelessness is much more complex than what the NYT alludes to. The numbers of veterans existing within these conditions is not as easy to ascertain as simple interviews would indicate as well. Minimum wage and unemployment are not the only indices of likelihood towards homelessness and a case can be made that minimum wage status has little to nothing to do with direct causation/result to homelessness.

    A large majority of the homeless are displaced mentally ill persons that were forced out of institutionalization when the American society deemed that ‘warehousing’ the emotionally disturbed populace was ‘inhuman’ and had led to abuses in certain circumstances. The original concept in the 1960s and the 1970s was to treat these people using the latest psychotropic pharmacology in ‘residential treatment centers’ and then prepare them for re-entry into society. This would lead to less stigmatization towards the mentally ill and would assist in their re-integration.

    The problem with this concept was that certain patients with delusional paranoia refused to voluntarily self medicate, believing that the medical staff were poisoning them, attempting to kill them, etc. With the lack of medical forced medication, the patients with paranoid psychoses would become violently disruptive towards staffers and other residents. They would be denied further services and told to seek treatment at other facilities. These people would gravitate to living on the street where their behaviors would go unseen and/or tolerated among others in the homeless populace.

    Sadly, the treatment option of last resort has become American jails. Many of the psychotic homeless wander the streets until they act out in an anti-social fashion or become an official problem for law enforcement when they commit a crime. The police are ill suited to deal with the mentally ill by their very job tasking. American society demands that their police deal with an issue with urgency, bring it under nominal control as rapidly as possible, and then turn the person[s] responsible over to the jails for warehousing until their fate is determined by the legal system. While psychiatric classification is mandated in American jails, it is most often done by a detention official asking the arrestee of they are ‘contemplating hurting and or killing themselves’. If they indicate that they are, a psychiatric nurse may be on staff or a physician may see them within 24 hours of admission – assuming there are no disruptions in the service chain.

    Some who claim to be Veterans among the homeless, are in fact not qualified as ‘status veterans’ or who have never served whatsoever. Many people elect to join the military, but not all are found to be capable or qualified within days or weeks of initial reporting. Some recruits are mentally/physically incapable of performing physical training, some recruits are unwilling to discipline themselves to the regimen of military life, some are anti-social and aggressive towards others, some wish to leave service and will act out in abhorrent manners [refusing to wear clothing when appropriate, acting out in sexual behaviors, self harm, etc.], some have completed training in a satisfactory manner – but the government may not need their job skill set and release them from their contracts prior to 180 days of continuous service. This date effectively marks the time at which many veteran benefits comes into effect. The homeless veteran research methodology is flawed and legitimate proof of service needs to be established for those claiming such status.

    Those who are legitimate veterans have a myriad of problems. Society focuses on alcohol and drug abuse, but these two issues are often merely the apparent problems for the true underlying conditions. These conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress DIsorder, neurological damage or injury, psychological or psychiatric conditions, over-medication by the Veterans’ Affairs medical staff, etc.

    As an example, I cite a fellow veteran was in combat operations in Fallujah, Iraq. He was targeted by a sniper and shot through the neck with a single 7.62 x 54R mm rifle round. Although the wound did not kill him, he was incapacitated and had to undergo heroic emergency medical treatment beyond the normal knowledge, skills, and abilities of the Navy Corpsmen who treated him. He was evacuated under fire and transported to Landstuhl military hospital in Germany and then to the U,S, for months of treatment and rehabilitation. After his release from the hospital, he was immediately mustered out of service and he found himself as a civilian with no job, no treating physician, no follow on medical treatment immediately available, or a support system other than his parents.

    He applied to the VA for medical treatment and benefits, but it was months and many submitted forms/records before he was given treatment here in the Phoenix VA office. Their sole treatment was to give him seven prescription medications which rendered him ‘stoned’ all the time. He could not work, he could not carry on an intelligent conversation, he could do little more than to eat. When he refused to take his medications, the VA threatened to cut off his ‘treatment’ because he was being uncooperative with his regimen. He turned to alcohol to deal with the continuous pain and lost his house to foreclosure because he could not function well at work and could not get a job beyond minimum wage. He nearly became homeless thanks to a ‘one scrip fits all ills’ methodology of VA treatment.

    It is well past time to bring back compassionate long term mental health hospitals for those who are seriously mentally ill because some people never will get better, based on our current medical technology’ limitations; it is time to stop using jails as facilities where the psychologically dysfunctional are corralled for a time’; and it is time to reform the VA and stop handing out psychotropic medications like so much candy to people who have given themselves to this nation, only to have their contributions thrown away.

  3. lgallar1 says:

    I think earning power is what makes you a citizen because you will be working for not only yourself but for your state and your country. You will be productive and be independent. It is like, what makes you an adult? Someone who stays at home and depends on people or someone who is out there in school and working hard. Granted, there are people with disabilities but they as well can work by doing volunteer service. Also, this will help the people build confidence, and skills needed for example communications skills. I personally think this way because I was raised in a home where all my family started to work very young and continues to work hard for not only themselves but for their families as well.

  4. beyers2013 says:

    It is fantastic to learn that Arizona is at least attempting to do something to alleviate the homeless issue for veterans. The program you described above appears to make an honest effort to provide shelter and assistance for a population that in my honest opinion, has no business being homeless. While it may not be perfect (i.e. the jobs component), at best it meets one of the criteria for servicing a basic human need.
    Veterans in our country have given so much to defend and protect our freedom. My personal belief is that we owe them a tremendous debt. Additionally, I believe that it is our responsibility as beneficiaries of their services and sacrifices to aid our veterans upon their return and when many are unable to give their all due to disabilities, etc.. If it means finding them jobs, providing medical care at no expense to them, so be it. As stated, they sacrificed for us, it is now up to us to take care of them.
    In answering the question of whether it is “earning power or a home” that makes a citizen, I would have to say earning power. As discussed in class, there is nothing like possessing the ability to be self-supporting. The sheer joy of being independent is a feeling that no one can take away from you once you have a job. However, if a person becomes disabled although they worked for years prior (i.e. a soldier) and now have to claim disability insurance, is he or she any less of a citizen? I would have to say ‘no’. This is the area in which I disagree with Shklar. Her definition of what makes a citizen and their ability to earn money by possessing a job is too restrictive to me. What about the disabled veteran? Is he or she any less a citizen because they can no longer hold a job or is now addicted to drugs and is homeless? Not to me. So, my bottom line answer to the question would have to be that there are many things that makes a citizen and not just whether they have a job or a home. It just depends…

  5. There’s an interesting argument I hear forwarded by critics of government assistance programs. Before the welfare state, they argue, America had many recessions, panics, as they were called in the 1800s. Times were tough, yes, but it wasn’t as if everyone who was poor starved to death, there were all sorts of charities run by churches, various clubs and lodges, etc. Neighbors helped each other out more back then.

    The welfare state today, they say, drives Americans apart. “Why should I help the poor,” they say, “that’s what I pay taxes for.” I’d be very interested to see any data on how public welfare shapes public attitudes about the poor, but I any case I’ve seen this attitude firsthand.

    I’ve talked to veterans about homeless vets, and by-and-large they seem to react rather callously. “I have no sympathy for them. There’s all sorts of programs for them to take advantage of if they need help.”

    It often seems like conservatives view the word “taxpayer” as synonymous with “citizen.” In other words, you should be a citizens unless you pay taxes. The argument being that everyone should have a tangible stake in society. Indeed, some are arguing that voting, a fundamental right tied with citizenship, should also be tied to what you pay in taxes: http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2014/02/14/3292511/billionaire-rich-people-votes/

  6. kdmflag says:

    There are so many more facets to a residence, aside from a place to lay ones head. I hasten to agree with the author that while earning may hold esteem for authors like Shklar, the attachment and validation that comes along with secure housing cannot be overlooked. One look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs highlights the importance shelter holds with the psyche. Yet an argument waits at hand, ‘how can one secure shelter without a secure source of earning?’. Perhaps this is another case of the chicken and the egg, where both needs must be met simultaneously to fully re-introduce a citizen into the fold of society.

  7. It is very sad to say that your wealth or income makes your ” label ” in society or even phoenix. I believe some are unfortunate when it comes to this label in society due to they background, for example their parents weren’t very wealthy so the proper schooling was not given due to tight money. Thankfully there are more loans and help in schooling now but as for adults now that work over 40 hours a week to make it through each week with children have no time to get the schooling to get that promotion at work. I hate the thought of this all but it is what it is will the United States.

  8. seancity971 says:

    It is great news to read that Arizona is even included in this conversation of helping the homeless and thank you for enlightening me on that. As far as your question however I would have to say that the power to earn would be what makes you a citizen in this country. i say this because our country is ran like a clock and anyone who cannot keeo the time pieces going is not helping and therefore pushed out of the clockwork. You have to earn in this country to be anything and even i I dont agree with it thats how i have seen it. This also aligns with Shklar’s theory who i support for the most part.

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