Friday, June 17, 2016

Response to a Berkeley professor's article on homeless issues

Hi...  I have had some problems trying to respond to an article I came across at FB yesterday, so I decided to share my comments on other FB places and here... I will post the web link to Twitter later.

My copy/paste effort didn't work as well here, so I hope I got the paragraphs divided right.  The info is the more important issue.  I also hope you will read it, share it, see if your community can use some of the details with their own housing programs.

Housing and food are the two most critical needs in everyone's life... they allow you to find solutions to every other problem you have... and create a permanent network for the future.  Homelessness is a repeated tragedy... the same cycles over and over and over again because of economics, addictions, and other serious issues that don't disappear in 30 days.

Sincerely,
Deborah Martin
work2gather.us


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Friday, 17 JUNE 2016

I think I found your link on a FB post yesterday... from one of the homeless organizations I have on my follow list.  I wanted to find out what your solution to homelessness might be.  I am interested in these issues because I have been a Welfare recipient (started in 1975), have struggled with all the economic issues associated with (extreme) poverty, and have found myself homeless too many times. 

I became a single parent to three.  I have been homeless with children and without them.  I have been forced to live on the streets, been homeless in a car, and have been involved with various homeless shelters for both families and individuals.  I have been homeless in more than one state and in more than one city in a single state.  It became my focus in life and the foundation of the business-ministry hybrid I have tried to create (work2gather.us).

As the years passed, I kept trying different things to rise out of the poverty that was imprisoning me.  These failed efforts led to their own problems and often made my situation worse.  I somehow managed to get three years at a university completed.  I have discovered online options, but haven't been able to translate them into income yet.  Now I am dealing with the increasing health issues of aging.  I wish I could say that my options have improved but, despite all my efforts, homelessness is still a breath away, family life is non-existent, and my only regular income is early retirement Social Security ($381) and food stamps ($126).  If I can't raise online sales income real quick, subsidized housing may be where I spend the rest of my life IF it is even accessible.

I noticed that you have designed facilities with supervision of the homeless in mind.  I am assuming that is a reflection of your interest in populations with mental health issues.  You like smaller groupings in larger facilities, like shelters in urban areas.  I can see that subsidized housing is your solution-of-choice because of the supervision aspects it allows, and probably because of the funding possibilities.  I didn't hear much enthusiasm for home ownership because of the large numbers of homeless people and the great difficulty in getting any location approved.  I was kind of happy to see your promotion of organized "encampments" (which I call KOA-type campgrounds in my own suggestions), referring to the local Dignity Village experiment in Portland OR.

When I discovered the $20,000 House program at Auburn University (Rural Studio  -  http://cadc.auburn.edu/architecture/special-programs/rural-studio  ), I became an advocate of home ownership for all low-income people, including the homeless. 

As the Tiny Home movement took shape, I felt it was another possibility, but not as valid for urban areas without permanent affordable parking options.  Stability is my goal. 

When I was a student in family housing at the University of Oregon in Eugene, we lived in old military barracks (probably from the 1940's) that were very small.  We managed.  I have also seen old lumberjack housing in the area and through other media that was very small.  I discovered KOA camping cabins that cost about $25K each, but they were missing something important for continued living. (I can't recall what it was.)

Trying to combine small, affordable housing options into home ownership programs is my view.  I have been advocating a number of solutions from the top level of parking garages to KOA-type campgrounds with the ability to grow food and develop income, along with the building or renovating of housing that can be purchased instead of subsidized.  An ownership program becomes an income program instead of a liability (expense) program.  It stabilizes a poverty household, begins the process of asset building, takes them into the arena of ownership at a lower cost level, and allows them to begin creating permanent networking and support relationships. 

My version of an ownership program has a different kind of loan, based on the Bible and GOD's 20% "interest" for borrowing the tithe.  Maxing a loan at $50,000, housing would be a maximum of $40K, with $8K for the 20% interest as a flat fee, and then $2K for loan processing expenses.  Starting payments at the same 30% of income a subsidy would require, and a maximum 15-year loan period, payments can be affordable.  They can also be flexible to meet the expected problems of the future.  Separating the land ownership from the "improvements" (housing and other personal improvements to a property) makes it a long-term investment for the government and when the time comes to sell a property, it can be limited to another homeless family. 

Of course, I also want to get rid of income and property taxes and move to a single tax (a permanently limited sales tax of 10%), which would also benefit most of the citizens and businesses of this country !!  Until that can be achieved, taxes and basic insurance need to be figured into the payment somehow.

As a family improves their economic situation over the years through work, education, and other efforts, the payments will rise to a normal maximum and they can plan on using their profits to buy another property (if they want to).

For agricultural and other business activities, I thought staff housing options might work.  I understand zoning is the main issue with staff housing in rural areas, or on farmland here.

By moving as many as possible to an ownership program, government funds can be applied to those individuals and households that need it most, including addiction and mental health issues, inmate reentry, and disabilities.

There is also the option of crowd-funding for some families.  I am not enthusiastic about the current way funding is handled, but if there were an agency that verified the needs and made sure the funds were used for the intended (stated) purpose, that could make it an ongoing program for many non-profits trying to find PERMANENT solutions for their clients.

I hope to see these ideas established in every place there are poor people, especially for those living in garbage dumps in other countries.  Until I win the big prize in the lottery, however, I will only be able to write about them.

Deborah Martin
work2gather.us

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Written in response to this article ::
http://blogs.berkeley.edu/2016/16/14/solving-homelessness-obvious-but-not-easy/
by Sam Davis, professor emeritus, architecture

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Welcome to my blog for shelter issues. I hope you will leave your comments and suggestions about the things you read here. Please keep your comments free from profanities and disrespect. Talk to the issue, not about the people. Your comments will be reviewed before being considered for posting. Thank you. I hope we can solve the homeless problems of our world.