North Texas Daily

Housing is a human right

Housing is a human right

Housing is a human right
March 26
14:00 2021

In Texas, a state which constantly touts its greatness and healthy economy, luxury apartments and enormous homes sit empty. Just a couple miles away people who have been deemed ‘less important’ by the government and society based on their income, race or social class sleep on the street. Unable to afford the commodification of basic necessities like housing, food, transportation and utilities, these people are left to rely solely on each other. 

Neglected by society and taken advantage of by neoliberal opportunists, the homeless communities in Denton and Dallas-Fort Worth have banned together. Housing is a human right and these communities should not have to depend on each other when the government has the resources to completely abolish poverty. The Texas government has chosen to abandon the citizens who need them most because helping people out of poverty costs too much money, even though Texas can afford it. 

The Texas Economic Stabilization Fund has a balance of $10.2 billion that is just sitting in the bank. Commonly called the “rainy day fund,” this money has been accumulated over many years and it’s time for the state to start investing in their unhoused citizens. In Texas, we have at least 27,229 homeless people, according to the Texas Homeless Network

Right now, Texas is not treating homeless citizens right and they are not doing enough to help them. Recently, the City of Dallas shut down a homeless community called Camp Rhonda, which was given permission by the owner to occupy the land, which provides them with an address to receive mail and a stable place to pitch their tents. On February 24, Camp Rhonda was forced to leave by the landowner, Johnny Aguinaga, who used the community as a prop for his campaign for city council. 

Aguinaga claims he was forced to shut down Camp Rhonda because the city was pressuring him. The worst part of this situation is how the community was treated: their belongings were destroyed and thrown away. For unhoused people, the few belongings they carry with them are extremely valuable. Important documents like IDs and birth certificates were among the items destroyed. Without a stable address or an income, it is hard for unhoused citizens to replace important documents. 

Camp Rhonda was an organized community of unhoused citizens who were not causing problems or partaking in illegal activities. They were simply existing on a piece of land with the permission of the landowner. The City of Dallas used “zoning laws” as an excuse to pressure the owner into forcing them out. Camp Rhonda members say Aguinaga treated them poorly and did not help them find an alternate place to set up camp, according to a report from D Magazine.

Camp Rhonda was formed by Dallas Stops Evictions and the Dallas Houseless Committee. These organizations were born after the City of Dallas started a ruthless crusade against homeless citizens. Between January 2012 and November 2015, Dallas issued over 11,000 citations for sleeping in public. Instead of criminalizing homelessness and plunging citizens deeper into poverty, Texas needs to step up and eliminate homelessness by helping these people. 

Commodification and privatization of basic human needs are immoral and unproductive. Instead of throwing people in jail for being too poor to have a house, we need to house them in empty apartments and homes. Once they are housed we can create better, individualized programs to help them obtain a stable income. Some of these people are willing and able to work regular jobs, but some of them struggle with severe mental and physical health problems. Jobs can be found and disability insurance can be given to people unable to work. There are options for everyone. 

Texas should use a small portion of the Texas Economic Stabilization Fund to purchase apartment buildings and hotels that have gone out of business. Once the people get back on their feet, the state can work with them individually and begin charging them rent based on their specific income. There are organizations with volunteers all over the state willing to help these people, even as some volunteers are living in poverty as well. I’ve personally helped hand out meals and care packages to the homeless. The poor should not be helping the poor, though.

It’s time for the ESF to provide economic stabilization for citizens living in poverty. The government is obligated to provide citizens with basic necessities and that includes a home. Housing is not a commodity, it is a human right. 

Featured Illustration by Miranda Thomas

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Shelby Stevens

Shelby Stevens

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