Homelessness is now well-known as a national problem, one that had been worse in California. As I follow the progress of this issue I rarely read something that to me at least addresses a potential real solution. Mainly because I’ve been wondering who understands the source of the problem, until I read a NYT piece on Dr. Margot Kushel, a longtime advocate for the homeless, now director of the Benioff Homelessness Initiative at UCSF which has a $30 million endowment from the billionaire Salesforce founder. She reminds us that we know what works: Housing First, programs where finding housing is the first and fundamental step to being able to help many who are homeless. But she also acknowledges that “We’ve always known that homelessness is a result, pure and simple, of poverty: the lack of a living wage, the lack of affordable housing and the insidious impact of racism. If we don’t fix the fundamentals, we are just patching a leaking ship. And that is what has happened.”
In my neighborhood as in many others new apartment buildings are going up on almost every block, apartments which are by law exempt from rent control and called luxury units partly to justify their high rents with a slew of amenities. These units are touted by many in politics and elsewhere as the answer to homelessness—implying that a shortage of units is what makes rents unaffordable. And yet when one remembers as was the topic of a post not long ago, that 44% of the labor force work at low paying jobs, economic inequality does seem to emerge as an underlying cause of homelessness. As the California legislature is struggling to come up with a new version of recently defeated AB 50 which wanted to supersede local zoning laws to be able to build more apartments such as those in my neighborhood, the views of Dr. Kushel gain added importance. Let her voice be heard.
Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do
Justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to
complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.
“It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light” said Aristotle. So regardless of what news items I read about the US or elsewhere, I remember what makes my granddaughter happy, the joy of all her playmates, the goodness of so many, or all the helpful things friends and others have done for me. And then I realize that as long as there are such lights, the future will be brighter than it seems!
There’s a new warning about PFAs, the group of more than 4700 chemicals used for industrial and food production and known to be harmful to health including cancer. In nearly half the meat and fish tested levels could be as high as twice the recommended levels, and therefore dangerous. They were also found in extremely high levels in items such as chocolate cake. PFAs are used in things like non-stick cookware, packaging, Styrofoam and their wide use means that they are now in the blood of just about all Americans and responsible for contaminating the drinking water of at least 16 million people.
In another study, this one global, studying the rivers of the world, high levels of antibiotics were found. In every continent, the rivers tested exceed the levels safe for humans. Rivers affect soil, their waters leak affecting things like sewage treatment plants which directly or indirectly affect humans. This at a time when there is already a crisis about antibiotics resistance, something that can have wide repercussions in the treatment of many illnesses. And further such high antibiotic levels in rivers such as the Thames and the Danube, affect all the organisms and creatures living within them.
It’s a distressing,
troubling picture in an era when the current US administration is not addressing these issues
and developing countries do not have the technological and financial means to
undertake measures such as the removal the antibiotics from their rivers. But
because knowledge is still power, an issue of this magnitude must come to the
foreground and we must each do what we can.