How Popular Events Increase the Homeless Population in the United States

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Homeless Population

Events are the unofficial holidays of the year. Large crowds at highly anticipated events such as the Super Bowl, World Cup, Olympics, Emmy’s, Oscars, and everything in between have the power to stir up excitement, hope, and unity from a communal to a global scale. 

With so much recognition to gain, it’s natural to question what cities are competing for.

Are they competing to become hosts of award shows and sporting events for clout, or does doing so give their city physical benefits that help support residents? At what expense do we hold these events, and do the people who live in these areas benefit too?

After realizing that each city has spent at least $5 billion in preparation to host the Olympics, and seeing that cities that host events like the Emmy Awards immediately see a profit over $40 million, I began to wonder about these questions.

It seems only right that the residents of a city also gain something for being hosts to large events. Still, in reality, the majority of increases these communities see are in foreclosures, homeless car insurance, and increased property taxes.

What Cities Have to Gain

Having time to shine on a national or global stage isn’t something that just happens at random. Cities enter bids to host the Grammys, Emmys, and the Olympics as much as 11 years before the event.

Let’s begin with the positive. Despite some of the negative rep that can come with some governmental job titles, even government and political officials wouldn’t seek hosting events that negatively impact their city. 

Employment Rate Increase

When cities host the Olympics, World Cup, or other popular events, employment rates shoot up in meeting the demand for new and repairing city infrastructure, retail, transportation, and other miscellaneous services by the set dates and duration of the event.

Booming Business

The entrepreneurial spirit can grow in high tourist event opportunities because of the influx of traffic. Through workers and tourism, a well-adjusted business model will thrive. In addition, the organizers of events and builders of newly built stadiums often look to give back to the communities they are building in by including local vendors’ products and advertisements at the event. 

Making a Lasting Impression

When a city hosts a popular event, it gets national and even global recognition. A negative view of a city can keep entire states from seeing positive gains in tourism and, as previously mentioned, employment.

Think about it: Cities like Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and New York are not continuously increasing their popularity by advertising beach cleanups or promoting the benefits of train transportation. They host some of the nation’s largest, most-watched televised events and are home to massive theme parks, famous stadiums, and tourist destinations like Broadway and the Strip.

Locations get mentally linked to fun, and fun is emotionally associated with happiness. People tend to move and spend more time and money in places that help boost their overall satisfaction. This correlation is thought to increase the likelihood of international and domestic trade as well as foreign investments.

Money Rules Everything

A pretty simple equation is “city profit = space for events + tourism,” but the real social and economic breakdown is much more complicated. Building a stadium and hosting world-renowned events is a long-term investment for the city. 

For example, Los Angeles is the most successful city in hosting. With profits generating $82 million from the Grammys, $50 million after the 2014 Video Music Awards, and $250 million in the 1984 Olympics, L.A. is one of the few cities successful with hosting events.

It is true that money is the primary motivator for cities across the globe to host these coveted events, but what most citizens don’t realize is the disenfranchisement that comes with these profits. 

Before you invest in the real estate near a new town hot spot, you need to know the socio-economic history to gauge immediate crime rate changes and projected home values.

How the Homeless are Affected by Our Entertainment

Are you picturing what the neighborhoods around your favorite stadiums look like yet? Do you remember them? Chances are that image doesn’t include gated communities and long driveways leading to mansions. 

When investors build a stadium, one of the most important things in property valuation is gross income multipliers, or the measure of the value of an investment property. We all love our home teams, but investors invest to make profits, and in the phrase of “it’s only business,” you’re more likely to make money in areas that others haven’t.

What Leads to Disenfranchisement

The time it takes to build a stadium varies from 18 months to three years in most cases, making the communal preparation an extended process. In stadium costs alone for an event like the Olympics, taxpayers often pay for the costs out of pocket.

What you’ll hear often is that stadiums boost local economies so much that they become self-funding and increase property values, but those increases also cause those who can’t afford the new rates to move out, or else.

Based on data from the Olympic hosts and cities with stadiums, a list of adverse effects that we have seen since the 1930s on event hosting cities are:

  • A rise in divorce rates
  • Raises in rent
  • Gentrification
  • An increase in arrests
  • Decreases in school funding
  • Poorer air quality
  • Less green space
  • A rise in human trafficking and overall crime rates 
  • A decrease in communal diversity

Gentrification’s Shadow

The shiny lingo used to overshadow gentrification is the allure of increased tourism, money, jobs, and repaired infrastructure, but that long-term investment immediately affects current residents of the community that may not even be around to experience it.

Using Atlanta, Georgia as an example, the effects of gentrification in the area housing the new Mercedes Benz Stadium is in plain black and white. In the year leading to the 1996 Olympics, arrests of homeless people increased by over four times the rate compared to years prior to 1995.

Even with the lack of data, over 9,000 arrests during that year were of homeless people due to over-policing areas where new stadiums and the Olympic fields were to be. Unfortunately, this trend is not isolated to the Olympics nor the city of Atlanta.

Leaving Negative Impacts on Communities

Not only does harassment of those already homeless increase, but the displacement of communities also drives once stable households into either relocation or homelessness. Typically these events are held in areas with higher rates of African-American and other minority populations.

When governments increase police presence, property taxes that in turn increase home insurance rates, and rental costs, those who can’t afford the increase suffer from displacement. This issue contributes to the influx in homelessness by shifting the foundation for once stable households causing them to fall below poverty lines.

With those who occupied the old community losing their homes or feeling pressure to relocate, wealthier individuals begin filling the space. Though landlords and banks favor wealthier applicants, the occupancy of newcomers directly affects property values and taxes since areas with non-black degree holders are evaluated at higher rates. 

Be Mindful of Those Struggling

Currently, Georgia has the 12th highest homeless population rate in the country, averaging near 9,500 people — both youths (under the age of 24) and adults. The cost of hosting large events disproportionately affects marginalized communities while directly widening the fragile wage gap we currently see in America.

Be wary of where highly anticipated events take place. More often than not, we are seeing communities where infrastructure and social services are most needed becoming hosts of these mega-events.

The future of these events and their power to further marginalize the already vulnerable rests in the hands of the citizens. The goal is not to put an end to these events, but to find ways that we can uplift taxpayers and communities that become hosts of mega events. 

The unity and boosts in business we see because of mega-events are not positives that should be overlooked. However, when they cast a shadow on disenfranchised communities and criminalize the homeless, it is time to reanalyze the organization styles of mega-events.

With communal focused planning and a better strategy, the winning team won’t just be those on payroll.

Danielle Beck-Hunter

Danielle Beck-Hunter writes and researches for the car insurance site, Danielle is a second-generation activist who fights for community and project awareness. 

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