Green Room

Should Austin spend $175K on statue honoring homeless … or on the homeless?

posted at 1:51 pm on August 29, 2013 by

This is a tougher question that it seems on the surface.  KEYE TV reports that the Austin city council is considering whether to replace a barely-visible tribute to the homeless who have died on the street with a more prominent statue for the same purpose, at a cost of $175,000.  One advocate for the homeless and the statue calls the cash “chump change” while defending the project:

This week the Austin City Council considers placing a full-size statue to the homeless along Lady Bird Lake.  But could the money be better spent on homeless programs? For people jogging along Lady Bird Lake, the current tiny memorial to the homeless is almost invisible.  That’s why long-time homeless advocate Richard Troxell is proposing a much larger tribute to the people who have died living on the streets.  Troxell says, “This gives people that sense of being visible.  That somebody knows that they’re out here.  That they’re stuck out here and they’re crying out for help.”  Troxell, who founded House the Homeless, estimates 150 people died in Austin last year homeless. Opponents bristle at the $175,000 price tag, but Troxell bristles back.  “This is chump change.  This is nothing.  We’re talking about a multi-billion dollar situation here.”

Katrina Trinko at The Corner asks the obvious question (and hat-tips Rod Dreher at The American Conservative):

Sure, $175,000 won’t solve homelessness in Austin, but surely helping with food, housing, perhaps medication if mental illness is involved, would make more sense than spending it on art?

That’s certainly a defensible response, but I’d at least like to give the devil’s-advocate argument in response.  The $175,000 certainly could help relieve the effects of homelessness for a few people for a very short time.  Art, however, has a lasting impact and message, one that might well provoke enough attention and concern to prompt more public but hopefully private efforts to reduce homelessness and poverty for a much longer time.  That is why art and culture matters, why it is (as Andrew Breitbart often reminded us) upstream of politics, and why engagement with it is crucial for public policy and development.

If Austin has the cash to do this without soaking taxpayers or shorting services (which is a big if), it’s not an irrational option.  It might be better, though, to seek private funding for the statue so that Austin can service both the immediate and long-term needs of the homeless.

Recently in the Green Room:

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

Comment pages: 1 2

Same idiots who will fight any type of symbol honoring vets, or a nativity scene, want a statue honoring homeless people. Go figure.

waterytart on August 30, 2013 at 8:37 AM

tribute to the people who have died living on the streets

I’m sure this proves I’m a racist or something, but … why would you put up a tribute to the homeless? Normally, you would put up a tribute to someone who contributed to society, to someone whose death was not in accord with their accomplishments or (realistically) potential accomplishments, or someone who you would normally call a hero. Why would you pay tribute to people who can’t/won’t put a roof over their own head?

GWB on August 30, 2013 at 11:04 AM

Liberals love their symbols so it will be the statue.

rickv404 on August 30, 2013 at 12:41 PM

Yes build the statue then have Martin sheen come in his limo and give a passionate dedication on the plight of the home then fly home to Hollywood in his private jet to his mansion on the pacific. Perfect liberalism- it’s not the results, it’s that you care

jaywemm on August 30, 2013 at 1:01 PM

They should add a urinal. It can be hard to find a public restroom when you’re down and out.

BoxHead1 on August 30, 2013 at 6:22 PM

“Art, however, has a lasting impact and message, one that might well provoke enough attention and concern to prompt more public but hopefully private efforts to reduce homelessness and poverty for a much longer time.”

Your expectations for publicly-funded “art” are both much higher than mine and extraordinarily naive.

Over50 on August 30, 2013 at 7:10 PM

2,300 homeless in Austin = $76 per. That buys a double cheeseburger meal at McDonald’s for each of them every day for almost a month. I bet McDonald’s would match it for charity. This statue is one of the dumbest wastes of money I’ve heard of in a while.

stout77 on August 30, 2013 at 12:43 AM

..actually, what you suggest might cointribute to solving the homeless problem what with hyper-caloric intake on a steady, daily basis.

About 75% of ‘em would vaporlock and keel over; the remaining 25% could then be sent out of state.Or, as Ebenezer Scrooge famously said:

First Collector: At this festive time of year, Mr. Scrooge, it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the poor and destitute.

Ebenezer: Are there no prisons?

First Collector: Plenty of prisons.

Ebenezer: And the union workhouses – are they still in operation?

First Collector: They are. I wish I could say they were not.

Ebenezer: Oh, from what you said at first I was afraid that something had happened to stop them in their useful course. I’m very glad to hear it.

First Collector: I don’t think you quite understand us, sir. A few of us are endeavoring to buy the poor some meat and drink, and means of warmth.

Ebenezer: Why?

First Collector: Because it is at Christmastime that want is most keenly felt, and abundance rejoices. Now what can I put you down for?

Ebenezer: Huh! Nothing!

Second Collector: You wish to be anonymous?

Ebenezer: [firmly, but calmly] I wish to be left alone. Since you ask me what I wish sir, that is my answer. I help to support the establishments I have named; those who are badly off must go there.

First Collector: Many can’t go there.

Second Collector: And some would rather die.

The War Planner on August 30, 2013 at 7:23 PM

Do they have a budget to clean off the pidgen droppings and occasional graffiti?

Freddy on August 30, 2013 at 7:23 PM

If they molded it from deviled ham and Ritz crackers, I’m sure the homeless would really appreciate it.

Pork-Chop on August 30, 2013 at 10:34 PM

I’m sure this proves I’m a racist or something, but … why would you put up a tribute to the homeless? Normally, you would put up a tribute to someone who contributed to society, to someone whose death was not in accord with their accomplishments or (realistically) potential accomplishments, or someone who you would normally call a hero. Why would you pay tribute to people who can’t/won’t put a roof over their own head?

GWB on August 30, 2013 at 11:04 AM

THIS!!!

Why should society glorify FAILURE???

landlines on September 3, 2013 at 1:34 PM

Comment pages: 1 2