Life in general can become complicated as a culture. There are various instances that will drive a situation into a defining moment. In our lifetime we have witnessed an increase in terrorist attacks on foreign and domestic soil coupled with wars on foreign soil, global warming, a growing political divide in our country, and several instabilities in world economies, just to name a few. But there is nothing more concerning to me than the growing existence of poverty right at home in Milwaukee.
There are those who will argue that poverty has been created when individuals didn't take advantage of opportunities that were previously presented to them. And the there are others who will realize that poverty is not to be sociologically evaluated like a statistician evaluating a sporting event, but to be considered a crisis. Because wherever you fall in the spectrum of this issue, poverty can eat away at the core of the social fabric of any society. But it's is so apparent here as previous stable neighborhoods are transforming into enclaves of violence, where commercial corridors are barely recognizable, where barriers are being set up that will segregate its downtown epicenter, and where reckless driving is claiming the lives of the innocent.
So why is the increase of poverty so evident in Milwaukee? Well to be transparent, because it's all about the money from my point of view. It's not like we haven't had study after study done on social, racial, gender, and health indicators of why it exists. It's not like we can't drive through the streets of this city and see its visual impact on neighborhoods and families. It's not like we have failed to speak out publicly about the long-term impact that it will have for the future generation of Milwaukeeans. But we have always had the conversation on how much it will cost to fix, who gets the funding if allocated, in some cases paying huge salaries to manage programs, all with no intention of coming up with a comprehensive solution because everybody loves a "feel good issue".
So, let me share some reasons why I have come to this conclusion which some may call unfounded, derogatory, or even bias. But I'll get over it.
The City of Milwaukee's Health Department, the Department of Administration, and the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee has submitted various reports on this issue of poverty with statistical data on how its impact on the City would be detrimental if not addressed. The reports have been reviewed by the Mayor, the City Council, and the public as the reports became public record. Most often the report would contain an action plan in addition with the timeline of evaluating defined outcomes and benchmarks. But when the report has been through its process, historically it finds it way on a comfortable shelf or a hard drive collecting dust in someone's bureaucratic office who always seems to be a political appointee who is brilliant at making excuses why it hasn't been implemented. I call this the "I don't give a shit syndrome".
To expand on this, I'd like to point to a specific report that has been referred to recently because of the crisis that poverty has created in this city. The report: Milwaukee's 10-Year Plan To End Homelessness was launched as the game plan to address this growing problem. As usual, the many band of poverty thieves assembled to devise a plan which was supported by the City of Milwaukee ironically 10 years ago, and now we sit with the same problem but with empty public pockets which seems to be the pattern of politically rewarding your friends and demanding no accountability.
The issue was just before the Democratic National Convention (DNC) that will be held in the City of Milwaukee during the month of July 2020, a storm was brewing. In the area of the Milwaukee Inter-modal Station in Downtown Milwaukee, a homeless encampment was created by squatters to the degree I've never witnessed before. The city in its infinite wisdom, provided portable potties to the encampment, and churches delivered items to its residence. But what they underestimated was the freeway off ramp visual image the encampment's location would have on those who were coming into the downtown area and the accelerated growth over a few months. Worse of all, the stench was incomprehensible. After public acknowledging to the State of Wisconsin that the issue was out of control, the City of Milwaukee requested assistance from several law enforcement agencies to start the eviction of the occupants of the homeless encampment.
But with all this data and hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on these reports, we still have people sleeping under bridges, a shortage of shelter beds, and a teenage population that over the years have been neglected through various reasons. We still have those who have behavior health crisis using the criminal justice facilities as their place of shelter as a last resort. And we still have neighborhoods that are crime plagued with a young adult population who were being put on the highly addictive drug Ritalin while in school only to find out that the drug was not available when they were no longer in the school system.
But one of the most egregious injustices is the lack of urgency addressing the long-term economic investment in marginalized and historical excluded communities when industries left the City of Milwaukee which decimated Black and Brown communities. I'm certainly not talking about a slaughterhouse as a replacement for industries, not when there is so many options in new emerging economic sectors that have been created. Now I call this the "Slim Shady Move".
Now with all that being said, there will be various individuals and organizations whose primary job is to protect the status quo. You will know them because they will either disguise themselves as "community activists", and/or better yet as "subject matter experts". But one thing is for sure, they cannot refute their incompetence in carrying out the contents within Milwaukee's 10-Year Plan To End Homelessness report or the lack of achievement on this issue.
In Their Own Words
"Poverty is the biggest polluter." Indira Gandhi
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