Charlie Baker has once again demonstrated his lack of understanding of people who make less than $1 million a year. In an op-ed published on Masslive.com, Baker addresses homelessness. Although he correctly identifies the problem – we have too much of it – his very first response is both telling and ludicrous.
“We can use our resources more efficiently and effectively to provide support and intervention, increasing assistance to allow family members to take in their relatives until they can get back on their feet.“
Baker did also list some other ideas, such as:
We can also explore short term assistance models to invest in leases, rather than hotel rooms, with the ultimate goal of transferring the lease to the family once they are back on their feet. This is more cost effective, and reduces the hardship and disruption for children. We plan to work more closely with our local officials and communities, using approaches that can be jointly funded and tailored that build on local solutions to address homelessness through regional networks. When a mom or dad can stop worrying about where they will lay their head each night they can start climbing back on their feet and out of poverty.
However his first and foremost response was a very typical conservative response. It is a ludicrous top solution because it presumes that it simply didn’t occur to the homeless to ask their family for help, and/or that the families of the homeless have a couple of extra rooms to give out or rent to relatives. It is akin to Mitt Romney suggesting that people just borrow some money from their parents to go to college.
The current model of housing the homeless in motels (especially in Western Mass) is clearly the wrong track, and I agree with Baker that this situation needs to be resolved. He is also correct to bring up things like raising the minimum wage, bringing in good jobs, and increasing the earned income tax credit. But seriously – getting the homeless to move in with their relatives? Why lead with that? Why even believe that is a good idea? How about things like housing tailored to the marginal (and not concentrating it all in one community) – things like single-room apartments that can be rented for very cheap money, like 30% of a minimum wage salary (which would come to about $350/month? How about addressing one of the root causes of the issue – intense housing segregation and a local taxation system which, due to its reliance on property values, pushes communities away from providing cheaper housing?
Baker has touted his success in combating homelessness in prior administrations – does anyone have any more details about this?