While scrolling through Instagram over the weekend I happened upon a post by @greatestgifters. According to their bio, they are a gratitude journal you write for one person as a gift. Their tagline says: “Take your daily gratitude practice to the next level.” This weekend’s post showed four Black people wearing yellow safety vests doing what looked like street sanitation work on what looked like a quiet tree-lined street. The caption read: “In Albuquerque, a city worker drives around asking the homeless if they want to work for the day. If they say yes, they work five hours a day for $9 hour and after are taken to a health center where they are offered food, shelter and other services.” The caption read: “Sounds like a win-win solution.”
About twenty or so others commented in the affirmative how this is such a good idea, with thumbs up and clapping hands emojis, how they wish other communities would do this kind of “good deed,” and questions asking why we can’t do this kind of thing all over the US. Another posted how this is also done in Lexington, Kentucky.
Okay, so is it just me or are you feeling some kind of way about this, and not the feel-good, win-win kind of way? There was one dissenting voice on the thread that posed the question: “Does it really sound like a win-win solution?” And then posed further questions, like: “What if you have a job and are still homeless? What if cities have gentrified your neighborhood so drastically that there is no longer a place you and your family can afford? What if military service has left you mentally and/or physically incapable of a nine dollar per hour job, but you’re still in need of social services, meals and shelter? Who’s actually winning in this win-win deal? Could the winner be Albuquerque, NM, which is getting five hours of underpriced labor?”
This dissenting voice was met with a snide comment stating the dissenter had too many “what ifs” and should just enjoy the story, followed by a sheesh.
How about this for a sheesh: According to MIT’s living wage calculator, one adult needs to make about $22,500 per year to support themselves. But at nine dollars per hour, five hours per day, you can only get a $11,700 salary. So miss me with all that win-win solution bovine excrement. This type of job doesn’t sound like the solution, but instead the one perfect recipe for homelessness. And what about the people who declined the offer? What do they get? Don’t they need access to a health center, food, shelter, and the mystery “other services” as well?
I don’t know about you but something feels very off-putting to me about this so-called win-win homelessness solution. And it kind of reminds me of something else. What do you think?
The Weekly Read is a radio column, now featured monthly in print, written by a Black middle-aged female amalgamation of South Side Chicago living, western Pennsylvania parenting, Catholic school education, and one too many racial, social and economic disparities.