Posted on

By Jordan Jardine

There is an overlooked epidemic in this country, and it has nothing to do with physical or mental diseases. It has to do with people being denied shelter, a basic human right. What is this epidemic? Abandoned homes and properties somehow exist simultaneously with a growing homeless population.

The first problem to address is vacant homes (abandoned, rented, vacation homes, etc.). As of 2016, according to census data, there are at least 5.8 million homes which are either occupied seasonally, not currently on the housing market, or put on hold for use in the future. Vacant lots are also a growing problem in various cities according to Curbed, a real estate blog. Though squatting laws vary from state to state, homeless people should be allowed to occupy houses and land put on hold for rent as long as no one ends up claiming said property. Everyone in every state, from New York to Ohio and Indiana to Alaska, deserves to have shelter, preferably free of charge and free of government oversight. That’s a big difference from public housing projects in urban areas. These projects are riddled with government oversight, something that should be discouraged not only in housing but in almost every aspect of life.

While no exact metric exists to accurately represent the scale of the problem of abandoned homes, the number of abandoned homes is estimated to outnumber the American homeless population 6 to 1, according to Mint Press News, as of 2015. The same Mint Press News article states that (again, as of 2015), there are more than 77,000 empty government buildings that could be redesigned and repurposed into housing facilities that could house the homeless free of charge. Extracting rent payments from those who are already vulnerable is nonsensical and morally repugnant. The libertarian socialist/anarchist position on rent is that it is a form of theft. There is a surplus of people in this country that already have to worry about paying for utilities, food, health care, and education for their children, which is why libertarian socialists believe that rent is an immoral form of exploitation from the capitalist class against the poor and working classes.

According to data from the National Alliance to End Homelessness, over 553,000 Americans were classified as homeless. Some people within this figure are living in transitional housing and homeless shelters, but 34% of homeless people were classified as living in places not intended for inhabiting (streets, parks or abandoned buildings, which may or may not be in bad condition). An even more troubling statistic is that, as of 2017, there are at least 40,000 homeless veterans in this country. Both the Republicans and the Democrats claim to hold the lives of veterans in high regard. “Support the troops” is a staple slogan particularly among Republicans, but some Democrats spew this empty rhetoric as well. American politicians claim to support our troops, but why aren’t they providing shelter to those 40,000 veterans they claim to value? These veterans survived combat in deserts and jungles and watched their friends and enemies alike die on a daily basis in order to carry out the interests of the United States government. The least the government could do is make sure that each veteran, regardless of their ability to pay, is properly sheltered, clothed and fed. This brings up an important point: there is no profit in helping homeless people, so the government won’t do much to help them because the money-driven corporations to which the government is subservient don’t want the problem to be solved. If there is no profit to be made, corporations won’t do it, and neither will their paid off shills in the government.

To be perfectly clear, the anarchist position on housing is NOT to infringe upon another’s right to shelter. In other words, it is not acceptable for a homeless person to occupy housing already occupied and in use by the owner. The homeless person also cannot take possession of the house, thus stealing property from another individual. This is not the anarchist position. The anarchist position is simply advocating for the complete legality of occupying housing and land not in use by homeowners or the government. While homeless people should also be allowed to occupy vacation homes, they should only do so if some form of compensation is given to the owner, particularly if the homeless person inflicts any damage on the home or the land on which it sits. This analysis of the homeless problem is focused on granting and fulfilling rights, not taking away the rights of someone else. Shelter is a universal human right that should be enjoyed by all, not just some.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *