Dignity Negotiable with Deposit

So I have to move. It turns out I live in a so-called “illegal dwelling unit” in the county.

junkyardAt first, I was irate that the county could dictate what my landlords do with their own basement, especially because I’m not a problem tenant. I don’t own an excess of cars landscaping the neighborhood vistas. I considerately close the windows whenever I’m rehearsing the electric guitar past midnight. And I have not even attempted cooking meth.

I realize this all sounds like I’m complaining, just because I have yet to find an affordable legal dwelling unit where I would be willing to shower barefoot. But I am not a complainer. If I wanted to complain, I could bemoan all the changes for the worse.

Why does this place change so much when it was so perfect when I moved here? Since then, why have so many tourists and adventurers decided to relocate here instead of merely injecting their dollars into the economy for weeks at a time? Why must my favorite establishments get so popular that they have lines and waits, or else why do they shut down altogether?

Yet instead of complaining, I took a look at this forced relocation from the perspective of The Establishment. The county doesn’t want overpopulation. With all that extra traffic, the county would have to maintain the county roads to high standards, or at least to standards. And with all the tax dollars spent in town anyway, the wisest strategy is to let the city deal with overcrowding.

no petsBut the city doesn’t want more people either. So the free-market economy within city limits created its own organic solution: Charge rent at levels that make New Yorkers stammer, for places where college students balk at the conditions, and then allow no pets because the place has floors. If you have never rented in town, then you truly have no idea what it’s like to pave your way as a young professional covering your landlord’s bad mortgage.

Look, the seemingly unreasonable rental rates for poorly maintained properties may appear to burden our working classes, our educated professionals, and our regular citizens already juggling other expenses like children or hobbies or appetites. But in reality, the rental market is motivated to slow the horrendous erosion of the status quo. High rental rates preserve our vision of this community exactly the way it was when each of us decided to live here—which was idyllic, because on that first stunning day in this magical place, most of us did not notice the poor people.

Oh, the poor people. The vagrants. The panhandlers. The homeless. It would be so… so… perfect! if we could return to a time when municipal governments did not have to deal with the tough humanitarian issue of how to make these people go somewhere else. But that would mean traveling back hundreds of years, when you couldn’t get decent home internet service. So the city must deal with these people the best it can, by pricing itself out of their capacity for survival.

stockyardsBecause I myself am mere days away from being homeless, I’d love to be friggin’ Joni Mitchell and see it all from both sides now. After all, I could soon be just like the homeless people, unless I opt to lower my standards to “stockyard” or start making Trump money in the next week.

But, really, I can’t see the world from their side. I sympathize with The Establishment that homelessness is not caused by such external factors as cultural apathy or Syria. Rather, it is always caused by poor life choices on the part of the homeless. These poor choices include gambling, drinking, getting laid off, mental disorders, family tragedies, growing up in poverty, wanting to be homeless, fulfilling natural desires to feel loved and have children, environmental disasters, and living in a society with a safety net woven of gossamer.

In this town, we envision all our neighbors as making strong life choices, such as earning loads of money by owning rental properties, or being artists but not the starving kind. That’s why I personally make strong life choices.

For example, I’ve chosen to have a family that will support me in times of need. I’ve also chosen both mental health and a Caucasian heritage. So I will also choose to pay big-city rent for inner-city options, because I don’t want anyone mistaking me for someone who doesn’t belong. And if all my choices fall apart and I can’t find a place to live by the move-out date, I’ll just hang out at the transit center. The city’s cool with that, right?


This Fool’s Gold originally appeared in The Durango Telegraph and The KC Post.

(Featured image of stockyards copyright Brandi Korte/CC. Junkyard copyright ifranz/CC. No bunnies copyright judy_and_ed/CC.)


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