Homelessness is a solvable problem

If Joseph Kromelis had a permanent place to live, he would not be fighting for his life. Increasing the Real Estate Transfer Tax would help fund more housing and homeless services.

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Joseph Kromelis, known as the “Walking Man,” in the Loop in 2011.

Joseph Kromelis, known as the “Walking Man,” in the Loop in 2011.

Rich Hein/Sun-Times file

We, representatives of the Interfaith Roundtable on Homelessness, were horrified at the news of the brutal attack on Joseph Kromelis, one of our thousands of neighbors experiencing homelessness. Joseph was just trying to rest, but was assaulted and lit on fire. He is now in critical condition. 

To experience homelessness is to experience constant threats to your personal safety. This incident was preventable. If Joseph were housed, he would not be fighting for his life. 

This is a stark example of the violence homeless Chicagoans face. But everyone without a secure place to live — whether on the street, in a shelter, or staying temporarily with others — lacks the security of a permanent home. Programs that work with Chicagoans most at risk of violence consistently cite housing instability as a risk factor. You simply cannot be safe without stable housing. 

Homelessness is a solvable problem. The Bring Chicago Home coalition has a solution that would bring in more than $150 million a year to fund housing and services for people experiencing homelessness by increasing the Real Estate Transfer Tax (RETT) on properties over $1 million. Mayor Lori Lightfoot need only support the proposal to make it a reality, but time is running out to get this question on the November 2022 ballot, a required step in the process of adjusting the RETT. 

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On Monday, faith leaders delivered a letter to Mayor Lightfoot signed by over 80 Chicago faith leaders calling on her to support this crucial proposal. As our letter states, as a people of faith, we are determined to keep hope alive for those who are in despair. Our traditions teach us that change happens when we come together to advocate for and with our fellows.

May we come together as a city and take action not only on our ever-increasing lack of affordable housing, but on our violence crisis, by supporting Bring Chicago Home.

Until we are successful, we will keep the faith. 

Rev. Dr. Jacqueline Triche Atkins, Christ Universal Temple
Rabbi Suzanne Griffel, Jewish Council on Urban Affairs
Imam Amiin Musaddiq, Islamic Urban Community Center
Sister Dorothy Pagosa, Sisters of St. Joseph of the Third Order of St. Francis

Back to the office

To reduce income inequality, our business and civic leaders should aggressively encourage remote workers to return to the workplace. That is for two reasons.

First, a 2014 study by Stanford University economist Nichola Bloom found that, although remote workers increased their performance by 13%, they were 50% less likely to be promoted than were in-person workers. Thus, incomes of in-person workers rise faster than incomes of remote workers. We would do well to encourage in-person work to increase incomes and thus reduce economic inequality.

Second, workers with less education find themselves earning lower incomes in jobs that serve office workers. Restaurant and food truck employees are an example. So when educated workers decline to return to the office, the demand — and thus earnings — of lower-wage workers is reduced. Returning to the office benefits those lower-income workers by creating demand and jobs, and generally putting upward pressure on wages for them.

Bottom line? Those who want to reduce economic inequality should encourage a return to the office.

Julius L. “Jerry” Loeser, Chicago

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