Sunday, October 1, 2023

Click-Bait Titles: Baby Boomers Becoming Homeless?

Are baby-boomers becoming homeless at "alarming rates?"  Maybe not.

The "greatest generation ever" (and most modest) is rapidly shuffling off the mortal coil.  In my lifetime, it is possible I will see the "last WWII veteran" die off.  A 17-year-old (with parental permission or lying about his age), joining the Army in 1945 at the end of the war, would be 95 today.  By some accounts, there are only about 100,000 WW II veterans left alive today in America, with about 130 dying off every day.  So that just leaves us with boomers.  Some fun!

A recent article claims that baby boomers (which by some accounts include people born from 1940 or 1945 to 1960 or 1965, depending on the source) are becoming homeless at alarming rate.  Is this really true?  Or maybe statistics are being used to create click-bait?

To begin with, let's talk about definitions.  We were rage-baited years ago with articles about children being homeless - with the definition of "homelessness" including children living in homes.  Going to live with Grandma because your Mom is in jail isn't "homeless" even if it is heartbreaking.  As in any debate, question the premise - or in this case, the definitions.

This "study" of homeless elderly isn't clear on their definitions of homelessness.  And bear in mind, while homelessness is indeed sad, the homeless make up a fraction of a percent of the population in America.  But you'd never know that from the way the media presents it. According to the media, you are one missed paycheck away from homelessness.  The harsh reality is, the vast majority of the "homeless" are mentally ill or drug addicted and not merely "economically disadvantaged."  If you spend all your money on drugs, yes, you might become homeless.

And yes, that still is tragic, but it is not a mere matter of economics, but of behavior and mental illness.  Bring back the mental hospital and sanitarium.  It would be cheaper than homeless shelters!

But I digress.  The question is, are these "legions of boomers" turning homeless the result of economic hardship or are they mentally ill or drug addicts?  Or is it just a matter of demographics?  The baby boomers are still the largest demographic segment in America, so it makes sense they would be well-represented in homeless statistics.  In terms of tragedy, I think it is worse to see some 20-something give up on life and turn to panhandling at an early age.  They at least have some promise of doing better.  Feral humans exist - and they are often unpleasant to be around.  Sadly, some glamorize this as a "lifestyle" which is just wrong.

But is it true that boomers are "running out of money" and trying to get by on Social Security alone?  To some extent, yes, and we've met such people in our journeys.  The switch to a 401(k) type retirement plan was based on the (false) assumption that people would know how to manage their money better than the government.  This turned out not to be the case.  Human beings, offered the choice of a jet ski today and another $50,000 in their retirement plan 20 years from now, choose the jet ski, in most cases.

A lot of these folks are facing retirement with debts, including mortgages, credit card debt, car loans (or worse, leases) and like deer-in-the-headlights, have no idea how their lives will play out.  Many have vague ideas that "somehow" things will pan out and they will find a way to survive.  Many never figure this out and end up, if not homeless, living a very circumscribed retirement, often living hand-to-mouth and struggling with finances.

So yea, this is a "thing" but maybe not as big a thing as the authors make it out to be.  If we read the actual study this Yahoo! (consider the source) click-bait article is based on, you can see there is a lot of Social Justice language involved in the "study."  The authors posit that it is racism to blame for elderly homelessness and that their "study" which followed an undisclosed number people, all from Oakland California, proves this.

The sample size, in addition to being laughably small, is concentrated in one anomalous city in an anomalous State. Oakland is not a wealthy city, compared to the rest of the bay area.  The demographics have historically been lower income and minority-based.  So you "sample" a few people (how were they chosen?  Volunteers?) from a poor, mostly black city, in an area where housing prices are increasing at a rate two to five times as much as the rest of the country and - surprise, surprise - you find people priced out of housing.

The authors posit that homelessness is an economic issue related to poverty and that drug use and mental illness play no part - despite the staggering statistics to the contrary.  This isn't so much as "study" as it is a manifesto.  The problem of homelessness is staggering, and it is all based on poverty and racism.  All you white homeless people?  Stop faking it and go back to your mini-mansions.

So yes, this whole "article" is bullshit, based on a bullshit "study" that has no scientific merit of any sort, but instead, like most junk science, starts out with a premise and then sets out to prove it - selectively choosing data that fits the premise.  Sociology is not science nor are "surveys."  If fat waitresses are making you fat, then the folks waddling out of Hooters should be as svelte as supermodels, right?

In other words, it's all bullshit!

Of course, the author's conclusion in the "study" is that the solution to homeless in general is to have the "political will" to throw money at a solution.  Build more affordable housing (as opposed to the unaffordable kind that sits empty because no one buys it!) and give money to people - then they will no longer be poor!

But as we know, if nothing else from the Bible, you give someone money. you might feed them for a day, but unless you can change their behavior, they will eventually starve.  That is, unless you want to continually give them money for the rest of their lives.

Sadly, this seems to be the thinking of the "guaranteed annual income" crowd, which is sure to lose more elections for the Democrats!