Wednesday, May 23, 2007

I Am So Being Constructive

I sent out links to the two rants below (Our Ten Year Plan To Plan Planfulness & A Heaping Helping Of Abuse, two and three posts below) to our Real Change board members, among others, and one of them in a private email offered, in part, the response, "Suggestion: Come up with constructive criticism!"

This is just the sort of feedback I like to get. Evidently there is a perception that my criticisms have not already been constructive! How can this be? I don't know, but let me attempt to correct that perception by way of a restatement. This, then, is part of my answer to the private email in question.

In a Real Change piece last July, John Fox and Carolee Colter wrote:

"The Ten-Year Plan’s leaders recently touted the funding of 1,300 new subsidized units of housing countywide. But a handful of private developers and speculators remove two to three times that number of low-cost units each year for condominium conversion or demolition — and that doesn’t count still more lost to abandonment and plain old rent increases. The current plan to end homeless is nothing but a cruel hoax so long as it ignores housing losses due to the forces of redevelopment."

The loss of existing housing makes the Ten Year Plan's figure of the number of units needed over ten years a variable, not a constant. It already can't be pegged at 9500 anymore. The failure to adjust the figure to acknowledge net housing losses is a failure of nerve, as much as it is a failure of reason.

It isn't destructive criticism to point out that the plan contains the seeds of its own destruction, in that it doesn't take into account critical features of the problem. The planners are not watching what is being lost, whether that is existing low-income housing, or it is the social relationships that homeless people are desperately clinging to.

It is constructive criticism, in my opinion, to offer that better housing outcomes could be obtained if we put the drug war on the back-burner. Or that client-consumer relationships are an artificial culture that should not be considered healthy. Or that, fundamentally, much of the intensive support services that have been talked about in the planning amounts to deprogramming, and that even when it is welcomed by the clients it sets up lop-sided power relationships that are in the long run bad for everybody involved.

I want better outcomes.

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