Humane: Do Some Good
No matter the season, the day, nor the hour, everyone needs a home. All creatures seek shelter: nests, tunnels, dens, caves, or buildings - that will provide protection from the outside elements and a spot to rest.
Wild animals don’t have much trouble carving out a home from their environment, however, people don’t have it so easy. We can’t just weave a nest together out of twigs. Most of us prefer living in a house - built sturdily and designed to accommodate our day-to-day needs.
Not everyone has it so. The problem of homelessness is an uncomfortable topic for some. After all, who wants to hear about this age-old global issue that never gets resolved? Did you know that female veterans are the fastest-growing segment of America’s homeless? Can we look the other way? Some dismiss any discussion about the homeless by saying, “It’s their own damn fault! Don’t bother me with it.”
Thankfully, there are those who feel otherwise and are coming up with viable solutions. Take Gregory Kloen who has been using his artistic talent and building skills to create tiny portable houses for the homeless in Oakland, California; or take Alan Graham who started “Community First” which creates housing for the homeless in Austin, Texas; or take Brenda Konkel, a board member for Occupy Madison, an organization that has designed a template for a 98 sq.ft. house which they plan to roll out by the hundreds to alleviate the problem of homelessness in Madison, Wisconsin; or take Jon Huntsman, the former Governor of Utah, who started a program ten years ago that provides housing first, and case workers second, for all the homeless in Utah - and - as a result, homelessness has decreased by 78%.
How many Americans are homeless? Over 600,000 according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness. Of that total, 55,000 are female veterans as mentioned earlier. You can read the report, “The State of Homelessness in America 2014” to get all the statistics. After browsing through, I had questions about the methods used to create all the bar graphs and pie charts. I wondered if there are actually more than 600,000 homeless people in America. How do you count a populace of whom suffers indignity and feels the shame of admitting that they are homeless? The report explains how they do the actual count. Every year, during the last 10 days of January, communities across the United States conduct an enumeration of homeless persons living in emergency shelter, transitional housing, or on the street, in what is commonly known as a “point-in-time” count.
What about all those who live in their car, camp in remote parks, exist in rural locations, or are simply sleeping on a friend’s couch?
Rather than feeling awashed in frustration, why not extend help to those who are actually doing something about it? As mentioned earlier, there are several who are taking a practical approach. Those cited above have come up with a variety of solutions, each one well-positioned for a propitious outcome.
Gregory Kloehn’s idea, “Homes for the Homeless”, is one of those ‘roll-up-your-sleeves-work-with-what-you-have’ solutions. He takes salvaged trash found around Oakland, California and builds tiny homes on wheels. Discarded dumpsters are his specialty. Take a look at his collection here. Each little house costs less than $100 to build and provides safety and shelter for a homeless person.
At the other end of the cost curve is the solution generated by Jon Huntsman, former Governor of Utah. He had the clout and was able to garner the political will to create a program in Utah that provides apartment housing for the homeless. Here is a little on that story from the Guardian, January 20, 2014:
Utah is going against the tide. In eight years, Utah has reduced homelessness by 78 percent and is on an arc to eliminating homelessness within the state by 2015. Utah has accomplished this by doing the obvious, giving homeless people homes.
In 2005, Utah did the math and determined that the yearly costs of emergency room visits and jail for homeless people was $16,670 per person. The cost of providing each homeless person with an apartment and social work came to $11,000. So, with no strings attached, the state started giving away apartments.
The program, Housing First, also provides a caseworker to each homeless person to aid them in becoming self sufficient. The program has become so successful that other states are looking for similar results by starting programs modeled after Utah’s.
And for a taste of what other countries are doing about homelessness, take a look at Slovakia’s “The Gregory Project”, which is transforming billboards into two-room houses for the homeless. The design is impressive! What a great idea to take the unused space behind a billboard and magically transform it into an adorable abode.
You can help any or all of the above projects, either financially or hands-on. Here is the list of links for all those mentioned:
Billboards in Slovakia
Community First in Austin - a village of 100 tiny houses for the homeless
Occupy Madison tiny houses for the homeless