So I have limitations, and they're not convenient, and they keep me from doing things I want to do, like go for walks and haul food donations and fix up my yard. Oh poor me. What if any of us had limitation that really impacted our ability to live a normal life? Like being born without arms, or needing daily medical treatments, or being confined to a wheelchair? What if those disabilities made it impossible to work, but social security disability is about half what we need to rent a studio apartment?
We'd be living on the streets, that's what. I keep harping on the same theme, because it's important that we all understand and really embrace this. Homeless people are not the losers, the failures, the addicts, the criminals. Homeless people are the vulnerable, the marginalized, the victims of abuse and prejudice and financial insanity. They're families. Teenagers. Young adults whose parents don't recognize that we live in a different world than they did growing up, and you can't just go get a job and your own apartment.
Rents in Portland have doubled in the last two years. That means a two bedroom apartment that two young couples used to share for $400 a month each now costs $1600, and even if all four of them work full-time, entry-level, $10-an-hour jobs, after taxes rent is nearly half their income. Economists agree that housing expenses should not exceed a third of your income. And employers are getting frugal and hiring people for 30 hours a week instead of 40 so they don't have to pay benefits. So now these four kids have no health insurance and even less possibility of paying rent, utilities, transportation, and all the other expenses that go along with living as an independent adult. Want to buy a house? The average home price in Portland is now around $450,000. Good luck.
Now take a look at those young people. They're smart and did well in high school. The school was so overcrowded, though, so inefficient, and they were so bored waiting around for "no child left behind" backtracking that they gave up and got their GEDs. Not because they're dumb or lazy, but because the education system is ineffective for gifted young people. Now add some mental illness, because soon we'll all have it. We live under such constant stress and pressure, bombarded every moment with news, ads, useless information, important events, decisions, choices, warnings, notifications, beeps, and thumps that we can't possibly sort through it all. I know the serenity of the wilderness because I was forced to backpack when I was a kid. Millennials aren't getting the exposure to peace and quiet that we did. They're not bonding with neighborhood kids for life. They're not getting enough sleep. The demands of functioning in the digital age with the endless input are pushing people over the edge. Just look at the news and compare it to the effects on animal groups in over-populated conditions. Nature does weird stuff to us.
These are our homeless people. Our children. Our grandparents. The people who would be our loved ones if anybody had any capacity to love after being used up by the demands of survival ourselves.
As life becomes faster, more advanced, more difficult, more competitive, more unhealthy, we become worse instead of better, weaker instead of stronger, more scared than brave, more selfish than generous. We have to work so hard to keep up that our ability to give and care and empathize dries up.
Our homeless neighbors are fighting real, tangible disabilities. Are we going to let modern society disable us, too, to the point that we can't take care of one another?