We thought it might be useful to look at popular culture for evidence of suburban poverty. Much of what you come across in popular culture is aspirational, delusional even, when it comes to portraying class and social conditions. Among the things we found is this resentful dirge from fringe Republican Hank Williams Junior. The song refers to ‘this town’ but we see symbols and elements of suburban life. Williams croons from inside, or next to, a late 1950s Cadillac, there is a motor vehicle in every scene practically. Single family dwellings and working people populate the video. Things don’t look too hot – the repo man is after the pickup and there’s no work and apparently Williams paid taxes. Awful to watch and awful to listen to. A song and video like this is produced because nobody is living what it represents? …more to come from popular culture!
Tactical Team 4 from suburban-poverty.com fired up the boilers in the Taurus and hit a semi-abandoned orchard north of the Greater Toronto Area this morning with excellent results. A large quantity of apples was picked and delivered to a busy drop in centre serving many low income (and otherwise vulnerable) people in Mississauga. We’ve noticed the lack of fresh food and low level of food literacy among the service population at the drop in and the appearance of a ton of crisp fresh apples created a happy buzz. One that will probably last for a couple of days. Those dependant on social agencies, food banks and charities for basic necessities often encounter too much in the way of salty canned and prepared food, Kraft Dinner and other carbohydrates. There’s a risk of encountering outdated food from such sources as well. We’ve already learned a little about the complications of providing social services in suburban areas so the value of using some creativity to find alternative sources of good, fresh food is enormous. An apple is such a simple healthy thing if you think about it. No packaging or preparation required.
While we found it a pleasure to make a contact, secure and then deliver some fruit we realize we are amateurs at this. See posting (30) and here are two Canadian examples:
Not far from the tree Toronto, ON foragers
Fruit for thought Regina, SK
Check out this video as well, it features veggie gardening in suburban Columbus, OH:
According to a recent report by Rowan University and Fair Share Housing Center suburban rental affordability in New Jersey was better in 1970 than today. That’s so long ago it might as well be 1870!
Report blames zoning laws for lack of affordable housing in New Jersey
Here’s an interesting piece from the New York Times. It’s about a woman who forages for food growing on foreclosed residential properties. She boldy goes where no one can afford to live any more and finds peppers, melons, all kinds of things. There’s something really cool about this sure sign of suburban contraction. Lately, suburban-poverty.com has been scouting abandoned orchards and fruit trees, too. We’re looking for a free crop to share with others, imperfect and organic-by-abandonment is fine with us. We’ll do the work, too.
At vacant homes, foraging for fruit see slideshow as well
Next bus in forty-four minutes, or fifty-five minutes, except on Sundays or before seven a.m. or after rush hour, …or maybe never! Typical scheduling for hard pressed working people dependant on Suburbland’s diesel bus dominated public transit. It’s a wonder anyone can hold down a job in Sprawlville. Long, multiple-transfer bus rides across Edge Cities in order to hold down some crap job suck the life out of you. We’ve wondered about the justice of this for some time here at suburban-poverty.com. Once again the Brookings Institution rides up with the evidence. God bless Brookings!
Job sprawl and the suburbanization of poverty
Newspaper columnist Heather Mallick recently wrote with some passion about a proposed fare hike for Toronto Transit Commission users. The TTC was once the envy of many a city but now is badly stressed, barely able to reconcile the urban and suburban needs of riders. God bless you too, Heather!
Mallick: TTC fare hike like poison for the poor
editor’s note: it once took us two hours and five minutes to get home from a gig cleaning cars in North York to our place in Parkdale. We had early signs of hypothermia when we got in the door. We have not harboured resentment ever since, fuckers.
Editorial staffers at the suburban-poverty.com office park have been looking for solutions to suburban dysfunction, not just descriptions of it. One of the most imaginative and interesting collections of good ideas yet seen came together in 2009 for Dwell magazine’s Reburbia competition. We were immediately enamoured of such things as Zeppelin-based public transit and monster homes repurposed as dispersed water biofiltration plants. Far out at times, yes. But things are unsustainable as they are now.
Reburbia winners announced
From time-to-time in the Greater Toronto Area a group called OCAP, the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, can garner attention for its activism. The general public alternates between apathy toward, and disapproval of, anything to do with OCAP. Among recent efforts is the open letter to Premier McGuinty at the link below. It makes a specific criticism of a municipal program designed to relieve homelessness in Toronto. The group objects to the way the program involves relocating those experiencing homelessness out of downtown areas to the edges.
Open Letter to Mayor David Miller, Councilor Joe Mihevc and Streets To Homes Manager Iain De Jong
For most of us, urban street people are generally what comes to mind when we hear the word homeless. People without secure and reasonable access to permanent places to live populate the suburbs in growing numbers. They are just less readily visible. They can include ‘couch-surfing’ young people, tent campers living alongside rivers or in woodlots and people in shelters or living in a motor vehicle. They are hard to count and hard to bring services to.
“Suburban homelessness has its own set of challenges. Suburbs often lack public transportation, shelters, and government assistance agencies. By far the largest hurdle the suburban homeless have to overcome is that they are not supposed to exist.”
Last refuge for the homeless: living in the car
Swedish researchers have linked marriage stress and failure with long commutes. In sociological enquiry of any kind the underlying idea seems to be to constantly generate new questions. This study does that in droves. Big mortgages for suburban homes require major time investments in commuting. Many now live in one suburb and commute to another suburb. Not easy.
Long commutes bad for marriage
“A long commute to work might further job prospects and put more money in the bank but it could also increase the risk for divorce by 40 percent, a new study from Umeå University in northern Sweden shows”
Towards the tail end of the boom the media in North America coined the term “supercommuter” for people cruising as much as ninety minutes each way between home and workplace. Presumably that was by choice. Now, the Great Recession seems to be incentivizing some long drives.
Recession breeds wave of supercommuters
Looks like both cities and suburbs have lost a lot of their cultural weight and the result is a kind of post modern confusion about how we ought to live. Cities and suburbs seem to repel us and attract us.
Suburbs vs. cities — whose utopias? rabble.ca