Homeless: Time to Remove ‘Less’

In the depths of squalor homeless humans find the ability to exist but not the ability to live. The needs of the homeless and housed need not be in conflict.


In the depths of squalor homeless humans find the ability to exist but not the ability to live. That particular idea has been lost on many cultures, both extinct and modern. It the most advanced countries on the planet earth growing numbers of citizens are defecating into buckets feet away from where they prepare and eat their meals with no ability to maintain reasonable levels of hygiene. This all happens steps away from homes that may have more bathrooms than occupants. Naturally, the owners of these homes want to protect the value of their investments so they do not become homeless while the actual homeless want clean, safe, reasonable places to quarter without being harassed, endangered, or being at risk of exploitation. This post is intended to explore some possibilities to reduce the problem of homelessness in a way that does not put the assets of homeowners at risk while creating supporting, safe, nurturing environments which can be leveraged to move humans out of tents and gutters and into the tax paying community and workforce. This post is not intended to be a comprehensive roadmap to end all homelessness. Some of the ideas in this post will be controversial to some readers, this is a starting place for discussion not the end-state. The progression of this post will start with ensuring habitable living spaces, then progresses into supportive reintegration into non-homeless society, then rolls into professional rehabilitative capabilities, and closes with alternatives for the discerning individuals who want to hike a different trail.

Providing Housing for the Homeless

Eminent Domain

If city planners keep planning cities the way they have always planned cities all cities will continue to dispose of their vulnerable in perpetuity. The economy has moved into the digital age and decimated many local businesses and a growing number of buildings are becoming abandoned, neglected, and are deteriorating at record speed. When it comes to increasing the number of lanes on highways or distributing electrical and/or internet capabilities the government has no reservations about flexing its eminent domain powers. It may be time to flex those powers in association with funds allocated toward homelessness alleviation to start to solve the housing shortage.

Types of Housing

If a homeless individual were given the choice between living in the steerage class on the Titantic or being homeless it would not be surprising to me if many would choose homelessness. The solution must be more desirable than the current reality. With that in mind, people are adverse to change so not only is the solution required to be more desirable than being homeless, it must be desirable enough to overcome the fears of and aversions to change. The types of buildings that should be considered for eminent domain purposes must be large, structurally sound commercial buildings that are in safe neighborhoods and can have architectural customized interiors. THis is akin to the meat-packing district in New York and how it was converted into housing but on a much larger scale. An ideal building may be an abandoned shopping mall. Each store could be customized to a split-level apartment for instance.

Overcoming Resistance

The housing that is devoted to homeless alleviation of homelessness must be desirable to those that are not homeless. If it does not meet this bar the quality is not reasonable enough to reach the majority portion of the homeless population. This must be balance in proportion with the costs to achieve those levels of desirability. This is where it becomes advantageous to explore the use of renewable resources. For instance solar electricity can be harnessed. The interiors must be pleasurable to the eye as well to include a lot of natural light, open spaces, and proper (energy efficient) heat, ventilation, and cooling. Lastly, these facilities must not in any way be isolated from other residential areas or contained wholly or partly in industrial areas.

A Supportive Transition

Steps From Homeless

Supportive services should be à la carte with certain portions being available twenty-four hours a day. The services also must be located at the same location as the housing. This will permit individuals (in some cases) the opportunity to exercise appointment and time management while receiving services without being burdened with public transportation constraints or other travel related concerns. Private security should be leveraged that respects the local population while ensuring their safety and freedom from exploitation or harassment. Proper oversight and management of all services needs to be diligently tracked to ensure proper, respectful, and effective implementation. Individuals seeking help should not be referred to an external agency or program, all services should be present at the local housing level with office spaces that are private and professional in lighting and appearance.

Service Specific Considerations

Not every homeless individual is addicted to drugs, an alcoholic, or has a mental illness, but some do suffer from those conditions. These specific services need to be made available on-demand and on a structured schedule. The structured schedule naturally being used for prolonged support with the on-demand offerings available for imminent issues. The personnel whom provide these services need to be professionally trained with structured and thorough on the job shadowing and training a minimum prerequisite. Professional training is not limited to education through higher education. In the use of eminent domain to acquire an abandoned shopping mall scenario, these services could be officed within the mall in a services wing. Participation in these services should be encouraged but not forced.

Feeding the Homeless

For those individuals who reside in one of the proposed homes eating will be a concern. In this vein, every homing project should be required to contain a shopping market. This will provide three essential services to the community. It will provide free food (based on voucher and length of residency) to new community members, it will be leveraged to provide employment and training to residents, and it can be an open market for community members in the local commuting area.

Homeless Vocational Opportunity

Basic Requirements

For any person whom chooses to integrate into this proposed homeless-to-homed program they should be required to participate in managing their own career. This should include developing a career plan that can be changed based on personal interests and/or community needs, applying and training for jobs, and taking fiscal responsibility to meet their needs. This should be a progressive requirement with all services (including food, rent, supportive services) being completely free upon initial integration into the new home through being fully employed and fiscally independent. The first six months an individual is housed should be free from any burdens of responsibility for training and employment. This will provide time to acclimate to the new environment its operations while maximizing the ability to receive the specific supportive resources that will assist in personal growth and success.

Vocational Training Initiation

Slow and steady is a great way to start when it comes to most things. That is the proposal here. After the minimum six-month acclamation period the vocational process can begin. This should be a stepped approach to building a career that aligns with personal interests and goals. The recommendation is to start with the individual working four hours a day one day a week for a two week period then adding one four hour day a week every three weeks until the individual is working four hours a day five days a week. At this point the individual can be afforded the opportunity to take a second job or increase the hours at the primary job. In either scenario the individual is moved to eight hours one day during the week for the first two week and every subsequent three weeks another day is increased to eight hours until the individual is working forty hours a week.

Which Vocations

The initial employment possibilities will be in the care and maintenance of the community spaces but these employment opportunities should be leveraged as transitional opportunities and not careers. They can be leveraged to build employment reputation and resumes. Positions such as janitorial staff, supermarket employee, supportive service assistant (counseling assistant, receptionist, medical assistant, etc.), property management, trades (plumbing, HVAC, drywall, carpentry, etc.), and other opportunities. With only a few exceptions, these opportunities should be transitional and a step towards employment outside of the residential area. In some cases, particularly for the supportive services opportunities, formal academic education.

For Those Whom Abstain

With every choice there is an equal and opposite choice, as well as an innumerable others. This means there is nearly zero probability all eligible persons will participate in a program that is enjoyed by many. Despite this idea of providing a solution to the growing number of abandoned properties, offering a wide variety of employment training and supportive services, and reducing the homelessness and potentially the homeless reoccurrence there will be people who want a different path. To these individuals there can, and should, be alternate plans that lead to housing, economic, and career independence. The alternate paths need to be independently developed by resources at local levels that can tailor programs to the needs of the local community. These alternate programs should not be avenues to circumvent the ideas in this post. Alternate programs should also be highly visible and monitored to identify any possible avenues of abuse by the organizations that implement programs, abuse or exploitation of the participants, or a way to maintain the participants’ social standing at or below the poverty level.

Conclusions About Removing the ‘less’ from Homeless

Housing is a difficult issue even though it should never have become one. Those who own housing have invested in their futures and the futures of their progeny and it would be terrible to rip that away from them. Homeless people have no investments and nothing to give to their progeny with nearly no prospects of changing that situation. The needs of the homeless and the needs of the housed do not need to be in conflict. Abandoned buildings are economically bad for an area and are increasingly bad for commercial areas. However, just creating four walls and a roof does not create social change that leads to economic security for the whole. Solving homelessness is difficult and complex and requires a complex solution that is a “whole of person” solution. Every person that is trying to escape the pit of eternal destitution requires a nice, safe, and pleasurable place to stay, emotional and medical supportive services, and vocational services that reach into full independence. This post is not a comprehensive solution, this post is a list of ideas and talking points to get the ball running. It is time to stop wasting money on failed, disparate programs with social workers who only provide a list of phone numbers to programs that have no funding. It is time to flex the power of liberty, protect and uplift the vulnerable, and promote economic security for all citizens.