Wednesday, April 6, 2011

No household is an island

Not much news behind this item: HUD is releasing its annual grants for counselors to help tenants in public housing get jobs and job training. It's just, the grants are from an old familiar program whose name struck me funny this morning: they're the "Housing Choice Voucher Family Self Sufficiency Grants." And here's an accompanying quote, in a local business paper in Washington State:
“Most families prefer independence to dependence,” said HUD Northwest Regional Administrator Mary McBride, “and HUD wants to help them get there. This program is an important, effective tool in helping attain self-sufficiency.”
This "self-sufficiency" and "dependence/independence" talk -- I don't know if the people who run housing programs believe it or if they think they have to use it to win over conservatives. But it perpetuates this crazy American myth that people low in a structure are less "self-sufficient" than people higher up in the same structure. That tenants "depend" on landlords but landlords don't depend on tenants. That unemployed people are more dependent on their neighbors than people who take the bus to a job every morning or people who collect dividends by direct deposit. It's nonsense. Even arguably the reverse of the truth. Of course we depend on each other, and life would be lousy for everyone if we didn't. "Self-sufficiency" isn't an exalted goal, it's the status of Robinson Crusoe before even he found himself a slave. It's a scrabbling, lonely existence.

I'm not saying a single new thing here, just pointing out that people should step back and consider the literal meaning of their words once in a while.

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