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014_ Conversation: the edge of the next great depression

08 December, 2020 - 10 min read

014_ Conversation: the edge of the next great depression

Hey there, thanks for tapping into this episode of _bandwidth: coast to coast.

What we’re going to hear if you should listen to this episode, isn’t something happy.

But if you stick with it, I think it will bring you a lot of faith in our shared humanity and ability to persevere, just as much as a shock to what is silently happening to 48% of American’s who are renting right now.

For me, it gave me a deeper appreciation in the selflessness of others, to put their time and emotional fortitude in any way possible to help the helpless.

I have a unique upbringing for the time in which I became an adult, unique in many aspects from family dynamics through personal oddities.

I would be remiss to not mention what’s likely the largest hand in that upbringing, for the short time I’ve been alive. I segment my life into three main epochs.

The first, is birth until April of 2002, the second from that April through sometime around 2015, and then the one I’m presently in.

In late April or early May, I can’t be quite sure of the timing, is when a seismic shift happened in my family’s lives.

My last class of the day, Spanish, had just started when an announcement came over the intercom that my sister and I were getting pulled out of school and needed to go to the lobby asap.

After the brief excitement that I was going to no longer need to sit through the torture of school, my mind immediately went to my grandfather, who’s health at the time was in constant flux.

It took less than three seconds into seeing the angered expression on my mother’s face, to know that wasn’t the case.

“The sheriff is at the house, we’re getting kicked out. Move some stuff in the van for you and your sister to sit. When we get home, pack a bag from your rooms and wait for Nonnie to get there.”

From a series of economic woos that came from the dot com bubble bursting, through many other cascading and interconnecting events, we lost our house.

As you could probably assume, my life before then wasn’t one of affluence for the few years preceding, but the time spent from that day in April until sometime in 2015 was one of scratching and clawing.

I didn’t have the worst experience, but I learned a lot about what it’s like to live at the margins.

What it’s like to have no money, no options and having to call up a family member to wire me a few dollars ,knowing they didn’t have much themselves, so I can eat a few meals at burger king before finishing up a semester at school- an event that fueled me at the time, and haunts me today in those dark moments when I decompress from meeting someone currently at the margins.

The stress, the shame, the uncertainty.

I don’t take pride in my experience, but I am incredibly grateful for several seemingly insignificant moments that others lent to me, that without, you wouldn’t be hearing my voice right now.

The bureaucrat at my universities financial aid office, that took my plea to not leave the office until I got a way to stay in school seriously, and stayed with me past 5pm to find me the $1,100 dollars I needed to not get kicked out of school.

Or the four words my grandmother told me a few months before she passed, “Please stay in school.”

I can go on and on, I have notebooks filled with this type of moments, because if it wasn’t for simple small banal acts of kindness that happened in passing, I truly don’t know where I would be.

I’m going to steal and summarize something from author JD Vance, that he says in his incredible book Hillbilly Elegy. Vance grew up from a poor, broken family in a poor broken community, went to college and graduated. Eventually going to Yale law and having a very successful career.

Vance says that experience, the American dream if you will, to go from nothing into something, was always applauded everywhere he went and explained his story. But to him, this rarity shouldn’t have been a rarity. It should be, and is, what most of us strive for. Why so many still come to the US for a better living for themselves and their families.

But it is, increasingly, rarer and harder to accomplish.

I have a unique upbringing for the time I came up. I experienced a foreclosure before the ’08 collapse, came through the other side of it while going to university during the financial crisis, and am now in Southern California living a modest, but incredibly stable life.

My biggest fear, is that the current cohort of children in school today won’t be as unique.

That many of them are currently, with many more on the way, have to hide where they live. Hide what they’re experiencing, or the effect it’s having on them.

As of a few months ago, 48% of renters in America are having trouble making rent. With lockdowns going back in place and no significant aide package or relief in sight, that number is likely much higher and more endemic.

I threaded the needle to get to where I am now, I fear that eye-hole has gotten smaller, more difficult to see, with more pitfalls in the way for people today.

So as you’re likely to hear in my voice throughout this episode, I’m livid with our quote “leadership” in DC.

We’re not on the verge, we are literally teetering on the edge of the next great depression.

On December 26th, which couldn’t be more like a twisted version of a Christmas carol, federally extended unemployment benefits run out. Benefits that were already too small to make an impact on rent, but would help keep people fed, will stop.

On December 31st, the CDC eviction moratorium ends. A moratorium, that my guest will explain in much more detail, isn’t automatic and people are still getting removed from their homes even with it in place. Imagine the deluge when it’s removed.

Everyone has bills to pay, everyone has their own set of conundrums. If your the tenant or landlord.

But it is the role of government to recognize those conundrums, and offer solutions to make it easier. So that less people fall into the chasms of poverty, because we know once someone lands there, it takes generations to get out — if they can.

I encourage you to listen to this episode and at your next convenient moment, send a tweet, email, facebook post or anything that suits your medium that can get the most attention; to your representatives in congress and the speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, as well as the senate majority leader Mitch McConnel, demanding that they do something for the massive amount of Americans about to enter homelessness.

If you also want to scream into the void that is the national media, you’ll likely see me standing on that same rooftop. Because while the election and the virus are major stories, I think the fact that we’re about to see an unprecedented rise in the homeless population is far more important than what Matthew McConaughey said on a podcast.

My guest today is a lawyer with Lone Star Legal in Houston, Jonna Treble. Right now Jonna is spending her time defending tenants in eviction proceedings, trying to keep them in their homes.

She shares some very human stories that her clients have experienced, including some that are incredibly heartwarming. What it’s like for kids trying to go to school from a laptop when their power has been shut off, or their parents struggling to even ask for help; a feeling I’m all too familiar with from my own experience.

I understand what’s about to happen to millions, let me say this again to sink in, millions of fellow American Citizens. The stress, emotional drain and familial fracturing that emerges out of this.

This doesn’t have to happen, but it is, and likely will happen.

I don’t plan on every episode to be on a heavy topic, but this needs our attention.

I’m going to steal a concept from the episode directly preceding this one, that Professor James Gelvin provided for me. Context, consciousness and contingency. What’s the context of today?

Well, we’re currently in a global pandemic. Our economy is collapsing, and we have to worry about the threat and spread of the virus.

Which not only means that more people are facing homelessness, but that if they do loose their homes, they are going to have all the more difficult of a time to stay safe from the virus.

Jonna sent me this a few days ago, and while this study is still being peer reviewed, it shows some drastic information. It complied data from evictions and found that Evictions may accelerate COVID-19 transmission by increasing household crowding and decreasing individuals’ ability to comply with social distancing directives.

And that furthermore, These results translate to an estimated 433,700 excess cases and 10,700 excess deaths nationally. That’s the context. What’s the consciousness of these individuals?

Well, likely very stressed, scared and out of options- oh ya and then again there’s that whole pandemic going on as well, where all of us even with homes have less places to go.

What will that do to your consciousness if you have even less options? Lastly, contingency. What are these individuals stuck in these situations going to do?

All the data and personal narratives are likely going to result in more suffering, more acts of desperation, more conundrums.

I trust the listener understand more my frustration with those elected to help us — because that’s what elected officials are supposed to do.

Two quick notes on the episode, I say that 48% of Americans are on the verge of being evicted, I actually misspoke and it’s 48% of renters. The numbers on foreclosures are a bit harder to guess, but I think are fairly close and as Jonna points out, foreclosures take longer and are now starting to trickle in.

The second is I misspoke about the date of my own experience. I said it happened in 2001, when it was actually the spring of 2002. I was going off of the school year when speaking, and well, this topic gets me very heated because of the abject suffering being ignored, so keep that in mind.

Thank you for listening, I’m sending lots of love to you and everyone else on the marble during this increasingly turbulent time.

Without further commentary from me, my conversation with Jonna Treble.

-J.R.

This was an excerpt from the intro essay to _bandwidth: coast to coast

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