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Some people never have to worry about being evicted

Millions of Americans use food banks to survive, struggle with unemployment and potential job loss, and face a looming eviction tsunami. Homeless sites in cities like Los Angeles are being “overwhelmed” by COVID deaths and illness.

At the same time, there’s a booming luxury real estate market in the L.A. area. Here are a few recent expensive home sales: Businessman and producer David Geffen: $68 million, Beverly Hills. Comedian and TV host Ellen DeGeneres and her wife Portia de Rossi: $49 million in Montecito, CA. Twenty-three-year-old TV/social media personality Kylie Jenner (net worth $700 million): $36 million in L.A. The most obscenely-priced home in the L.A. area and the U.S., is “The One” — with 21 bedrooms, 42 bathrooms, a 30-car garage, and 5 swimming pools — currently listed at $340 million dollars. Amidst such death, homelessness and evictions, this is a disgrace.

L.A., with New York, is the U.S. billionaire and homeless capital, and a leading U.S. COVID hot spot. The hospitals are jammed and front-line health workers are overwhelmed. But such distress and death have not stopped the rich from flaunting their millions. Their home sales are not secret. They are widely publicized, as the wealthy are clearly not worried that people will rise up in anger against this outrage.

A housing activist group estimates that at least $100 billion is needed to keep low-income renters housed during and after the pandemic — based on population, that is $70 million for Jackson County alone. And yet, neighbors around here are not getting the needed funds while Congress bestows riches on the Egyptian and Israeli militaries (total of $5 billion), and a $6.3 billion tax write-off for corporate business meals.

According to The Nation (Jan. 13), last August a leading housing rights organization in the country issued a warning that in “the absence of robust and swift intervention,” perhaps 40 million people in America could be at risk of eviction in coming months. That would affect some 560,000 people in Oregon and 28,000 in Jackson County. The authors stated that the U.S. may face the most severe housing crisis in our history, worse than the Great Depression of the 1930s or the Great Recession of 2008, when some 10 million people lost their homes.

Some 12 million households owe on average about $6,000 in back rent and utilities. If they don’t get massive federal assistance, they will swell the numbers of homeless. This, also, profoundly affects small mom-and-pop landlords who own almost half of all units in the country, putting them at risk of foreclosure if they can’t meet their own mortgage payments and taxes. Without massive federal aid, we will see a repeat of the 2008 Great Recession, when Wall Street vultures bought up millions of single-family homes. They will do the same with rental units.

Massive financial violence being committed by the rich and powerful 1% against the rest of us 99% leads to thousands of unnecessary deaths very year — and has become progressively worse over the past decades under both Democratic and Republican presidents and congresses. Amidst the riches and plenty in this nation, it is criminal that so many face homelessness, food insecurity, unemployment, evictions (with more to come), lack health insurance, are forced to live in areas affected by toxic waste and pollution, or suffer from lead water pipes in Flint or Pittsburgh.

The first step toward changing the conditions that have produced the coming tsunami of evictions and homelessness is to embrace Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1967 insight: “The prescription for the cure rests with the accurate diagnosis of the disease.” Unless we identify and dig out the root causes of the present crisis and truly understand why some are dying and homeless while others are buying mansions, captured by the lyrics from the great American song, “God Bless the Child,” no amount of voting, meetings or marching will bring about that change.

A fundamental truth was spoken some 230 years ago by John Jay, first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court: “The people who own the country ought to run it.” Across centuries and many generations, the government has followed this principle. It has never been “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, [and] promote the general Welfare.” The government response to the combined COVID pandemic/economic catastrophe should have made that absolutely clear to anyone who’s been paying attention.

John Marciano lives in Talent.