Fighting homelessness by giving homeless people houses



My second* “if I won the Powerball” fantasy would be to build “Motel 6” type places, with a kitchen counter retrofitted in each room, in a few cities with lots of homeless veterans. Allocate a half-dozen rooms on the first floor to services: Rent free offices where doctors, dentists, counselors and the like can do pro bono work. Pay the insurance and taxes for five years and turn it over to a veterans aid group.

If it didn’t work out, the place could be turned into an actual motel.

*First is science teacher education scholarships.


While this solution does seem to be “humane and economically sound” in the short term, I wonder what happens to the near-homeless community when free housing becomes available to the most desperate. Is there a rush to the bottom? I know it sounds jaded, but if I were desperately struggling to pay the rent and I imagined, even inaccurately, that homeless people were receiving free housing and care, it might weaken my resolve.

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Malcolm Gladwell wrote an excellent New Yorker piece about this concept.

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Fighting homelessness by giving homeless people houses

Well, duh.


The article doesn’t say what Utah did to obtain the housing. Some parts of the country have many vacant apartments and houses because of how developers went bonkers in the housing boom. Other parts of the country would actually have to build more units to do something like this.


While I think this is great, I would point out that the “Tampa” link goes to a page about Philadelphia. Also, while TFA explains why you’re talking about both Utah and Wyoming, it might be good to do both in the post.

They should move to Costa Rica.

It’s the “house” part about this that’s surprising. Typically this would be resolved by providing apartments, which are cheaper, but as the history of “projects” shows, not necessarily the best way to create a functioning community.

Actually, the problem with “projects” has always been cost. People simply didn’t want to provide these projects with sufficient funding over the long term, and in many cases, broke down family units by forcing parents to live apart for welfare eligibility. These projects also began to increasingly rely on rent to fund 100% of the cost. Bear in mind that these are built in places where the tax-base is usually declining due to unemployment in the first place.

The problem has always been money. If this fails, lack of money will be the problem. A large number of the chronically homeless have psychological issues. Some may be require long-term care that may make it impossible for them to ever find work. Either we as a society commit to the idea that shelter and medical care may well be a right, or we wait for the money to run out and they will be on the streets again.


That’s because you are not in that position and you’ve never lived in public housing.

Why do people insist on playing “what if” scenarios with things that demand more than the attention of your phantom fears and an excruciatingly limited knowledge of the subjects requiring mastery in order to assess such questions.

And heaven forbid someone gets some free rent! OMG! Earth ending, right winger heads exploding!

Of course wingnuts sleep soundly knowing the bankers have tanked the entire economy for half a decade and counting. But heaven forbid a homeless person, or a “near homeless” person, should catch a break once in a while.

You sound like the classic prig who insists we chop off hands for stealing candy but ripping off an entire nation is just fine.

Are you a paid troll, or is this really a concern of yours?


Actually, I have this fantasy that with the exception of a small number of people who will always be happy with very little, most people want more from life, and will work to get it. I remember listening to a This American Life episode about immigrants acclimating to life in America. One Iraqi either called the police or the people who were helping him immigrate to report a homeless person. To him, this was an emergency. How can someone not have a place to stay?

That’s because, in Iraq, if you can’t pay rent it would be unthinkable that you would be cast out into the street. Your landlord is expected to work with you as much as possible. Part of homelessness is cultural, the idea that it’s okay. I don’t think it’s okay. Another big part is a lack of commitment to solving the problem. Commitment means money, money means taxes, taxes mean controversy. Some people don’t feel there’s a binding collective duty here, and leave the matter to charity. I feel that in an industrialized society where most land is private and laws prevent the acquisition of basic necessities from the natural world, we cannot pretend that the homeless exists in a vacuum.

Some part of the way we govern our affairs as a society makes it impossible for people to find homes. We owe it to them. There was a period in history where if you didn’t have a thatched hut, you walked a few yards and built one. We can’t do that anymore, that’s not the world we live in.


All that’s missing is, “Grrr! Lucky Ducky!”


Many cities have adopted the Housing First concept which was originated by Sam Tsemberis of Pathways to Housing. I work for a Housing First program in Canada and it is very effective. In previous models, the most disadvantaged people have to jump through the most hoops proving they are ‘housing ready’; they have to get treatment for addictions or mental wellness issues before they can even be considered for housing. Have you ever tried to arrange for basic services and get your sh!t together when you don’t even have a safe place to pee? Somewhere safe to sleep? Access to water? A safe place to store your things? That would be hard to do at the best of times and it is even harder when you are also dealing with major wellness issues, PTSD, etc. In Housing First, a home (in regular market housing) and start-up necessities are offered and the participant’s preferences are considered throughout the process. Housing First offers dignity to the individual. Once a person doesn’t have to focus all their energy on basic survival, other issues can actually be addressed. The cost of providing safe housing and community supports are just a fraction of the cost of hospital beds and jail cells.


You mean the state would be forced to build things and create jobs?

God damn socialists.

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If there was a rush to it, it wouldn’t be a bottom. Or else people like me would be like “screw this work stuff I’m going to smoke crack, have a kid I lose to the state, live as a prostitute for a while, go to rehab and then and try to get section 8 housing!!!”

It was done in Canadian cities too, specifically for homeless people with some mental illness if I remember correctly - nice documentary of the NFB: - really touching

I know some others are jumping on you but I think that you are obliquely referring the problem where some kinds of benefits immediately cut off once you hit some income threshold. It is a real problem – you don’t want, for example, $100 of food stamps to go away completely because you made $1 more than you were supposed to one month.

However, being homeless seems pretty unpleasant and you can get housing assistance in many places. I doubt that anyone would rationally opt to become homeless to qualify.

Isn’t homelessness one of the many problems of wealth inequality addressed by a guaranteed minimum income ? The small number of real problem cases would provide meaningful work and additional income for their case managers …

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I remember listening to a This American Life episode about immigrants acclimating to life in America. One Iraqi either called the police or the people who were helping him immigrate to report a homeless person. To him, this was an emergency. How can someone not have a place to stay?

That’s a very touching story I hadn’t heard before. I dug it up and will read it, thank you!

American culture needs an overhaul. Many Americans certainly do good for one another, but not enough. This “dog eat dog” culture is pathetic.

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