【媒库文选】流落街头

2019-08-14 10:53   参考消息网  

Living on the Streets 流落街头

West Coast cities have booming economies but neighborhoods that are filled with homeless people. Why? Here's everything you need to know:

A tragic paradox is on display in Los Angeles and San Francisco: Their economies are vibrant, and legions of wealthy young professionals spend small fortunes on food, cars, and other consumer goods. Yet in some neighborhoods, people live as if in Third World slums. In L.A., tent cities line freeway underpasses, armies of rats stoke fears of disease, and thousands of homeless people share a dozen toilets. In San Francisco, drug needles and garbage line the streets, and the city employs four full-time workers to sweep up feces. Throughout the nation, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the homeless population has been relatively stable in recent years, with about 550,000 Americans living without homes. California accounts for 12 percent of the U.S. population but a quarter of its homeless, and it's getting worse: Los Angeles County's homeless population jumped 12 percent this year, to nearly 59,000, while San Francisco's homeless count grew 17 percent over the past two years, to about 8,000 — nearly 1 percent of the city's population.

Homelessness is a complex phenomenon with many causes, including mental illness and drug addiction. But the primary factor in California is the skyrocketing cost of housing. Over the past six years in L.A., the median household income grew 23 percent, while the median rent increased 67 percent. In those circumstances, an unexpected cost or job loss can quickly result in people failing to pay the rent and landing on the street. For every 2 percent increase in L.A. rent, 4,227 people are likely to become homeless, according to the real estate database Zillow.

Drug abuse can be either a cause or a consequence of homelessness. Some people lose jobs and homes because of addiction, while others land on the street first and become drug abusers to blot out the shame and misery of their lives. That's why dealers brazenly target homeless encampments. In Seattle, city officials say that the majority of homeless people are hooked on opioids. Among the unsheltered, 80 percent are believed to have a substance-abuse disorder. In Los Angeles, some homeless people smoke crystal meth to stay awake at night so they can fend off thieves and assailants. San Francisco employs a crew to pick up used syringes 12 hours a day, collecting more than 140,000 in the past year.

Municipalities already are spending a lot of money on the problem. Private and public organizations in the Seattle metro area spend $1 billion each year fighting homelessness — nearly $88,000 for every homeless person. Last year Los Angeles spent $619 million to bring 20,000 people off the streets, largely thanks to a sales tax passed in 2017. A year earlier, L.A. voters overwhelmingly approved raising property taxes to generate$1.2 billion for 10,000 new housing units. Willingness to spend, however, is half the battle. Building low-income housing always generates powerful “not in my backyard” opposition among existing homeowners, who fear it will hurt their property values. But without many more affordable apartments, homelessness can't be reduced.

Business owners in Los Angeles are adopting aggressive tactics to keep the homeless away from camping out near their front doors. Some are putting large arrays of cactus plants, thorny rosebushes, and even metal spikes on the sidewalks. In cities plagued by street dwellers, “hostile architecture” is increasingly used to drive the homeless away: benches with extra armrests to prevent lying down, boulders placed under bridges, grates raised off the ground. Chris Homandberg, an activist for the homeless in L.A., says getting people “out of sight” does nothing to fix the problem.

西海岸城市经济繁荣,但一些街区尽是无家可归者。为什么呢?下面是你需要知道的一切:

一种可悲的矛盾情形正在洛杉矶和旧金山呈现:它们的经济生机勃勃,大批富有的年轻职业人士在食品、汽车和其他消费品上出手阔绰。但在一些街区,人们却仿佛生活在第三世界的贫民窟。在洛杉矶,高速公路地下通道两旁搭起了“帐篷城”,一群群老鼠引发人们对疾病传播的担忧,成千上万无家可归者共用十几个厕所。在旧金山,毒品注射针头和垃圾遍布街边,该市雇用了四名全职工人来清理大小便。住房和城市发展部称,在全国范围内,近年来无家可归人口相对稳定,约有55万美国人居无定所。加利福尼亚人口占美国的12%,但无家可归人口占全国的四分之一,而且情况正变得更糟:洛杉矶县的无家可归者今年猛增12%达到近5.9万人,而旧金山的无家可归人数近两年增加了17%达到约8000人——接近该市人口的1%。

无家可归是一个复杂现象,原因众多,包括精神疾病和药物成瘾。但在加利福尼亚州,主要因素是住房费用不断飙升。近六年来,洛杉矶的家庭收入中位数增长了23%,而房租中位数增长了67%。在这种情况下,意外开支或失业会很快导致人们付不起房租,从而流落街头。据齐洛房地产数据库公司统计,洛杉矶房租每上涨2%,就很可能有4227人变得无家可归。

药物滥用与无家可归可能会互为因果。一些人因嗑药成瘾失去了工作和住所,另一些人则是先流落街头,然后为了忘记自己生活中的耻辱和痛苦而开始滥用药物。这就是为什么药贩子会无耻地盯上无家可归者的营地。在西雅图,市政官员说,大多数无家可归者都对阿片类药物上瘾。在露宿街头者中,有80%的人据信患有药物滥用障碍。在洛杉矶,一些无家可归者在夜间吸食结晶甲基安非他命来保持清醒,这样他们就能抵挡窃贼和袭击者。旧金山雇用了一班工作人员,每天花12个小时捡用过的注射器,过去一年的收集数量超过14万支。

市政当局已在这个问题上投入重金。西雅图都会区的私营和公共机构每年为解决无家可归问题花费10亿美元——平均为每个无家可归者花费近8.8万美元。2018年,为让两万人不再流浪街头,洛杉矶花费了6.19亿美元,这主要靠的是2017年通过的一项销售税。一年前,洛杉矶选民以压倒性多数同意提高房产税,以筹集12亿美元,用于建造1万套新住房。然而,愿意投入资金只成功了一半。建造保障性住房总会在现有房主中引发强烈的“别在我家后院”的反对情绪,他们担心这会损害他们的房产价值。但如果不大量增加平价公寓,无家可归者就不可能减少。

洛杉矶企业主们正采取激进策略,不让无家可归者在其前门附近露宿。一些企业主在人行道上摆放了大量仙人掌科植物、多刺的玫瑰丛、甚至是金属尖钉。在受露宿街头者困扰的城市,“不友好建筑设计”正越来越多地用于赶走无家可归者:为防人们躺下而多加了扶手的长凳,桥下的大石头,离地的格栅。洛杉矶无家可归者维权活动家克里斯·霍曼德伯格说,让人们“离开视线”无助于解决问题。(李莎译自美国《一周》周刊网站8月4日文章)

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