Tuesday, October 13, 2020

SHELTER :: Thinking about homelessness and how to change this problem.

Homelessness is a hard thing to endure.  

Depending on your chosen non-profit, the focus can be on missions, tent cities, Section 8, low-income housing options, non-Christian shelters, legal issues, public safety issues, crime, addictions, and other topics.

I don't think home ownership is ever considered.

I think it is a better solution because it allows the people involved to stabilize.  Once there is a permanent home, other problems can be dealt with.  The cycle of homelessness is caused by a variety of problems that take time to overcome.  Income ( or the lack of it) and addiction are two of the main ones.

The government systems are really subsidies for developers, for non-profits, for communities, and others involved in the "solution" process.  When someone lives in low-income housing, it is usually priced at 30% of the income of the resident, and the government pays the rest as a subsidy (according to market value, I think).  That is my understanding of the process, in its simplest terms. 

Housing developers get special loans and tax breaks, I think.  I understand they have to agree to remain as low-income housing for a certain number of years.  I have been thinking about this "opportunity" for builders off-and-on since living in housing units many years ago.  I assume the receive the subsidy rent payments.  I wonder if the land prices rise.  I wonder how much they make on a government contract.  I wonder about tax breaks.

I also know that governments take properties and houses and businesses for a variety of reasons.  Maybe back taxes, drug-related seizures, abandoned and zombie properties -- I'm not sure what else they can legally do to obtain properties.

With so much need for housing, and so many people forced out into the streets by their economic issues and other problems, it seemed to me homeless problems could become better through ownership options for as many as possible.

Using the 30% formula for low-income programs already in place, ownership programs would be able to achieve that stability need and long-term changes in those who participate.

Unused properties owned by governments can be used to make the homes (or sites for homes) within the program.

The community outreach would remain part of the government's homeless solutions as one resident owner becomes a property seller to a future second homeless resident owner, continuing into the future for as long as the property exists.  In time, the growth of ownership properties would continue to be solutions for those who will be homeless in the future.

I remember checking into the Portland (Oregon) homeless problem.  To share the concept, this is an estimate example... I don't recall the exact numbers from when I was exploring the problem.  I do remember they would need about 5000 beds every night to meet the needs at that time, but all the shelters totaled about one-fifth of what was needed... maybe a quarter of the need.  All the other homeless individuals and families were left to fend for themselves in hostile urban spaces.

Some lived in cars and needed safe and permanent places to park.

Some 'couch-surfed" anywhere they could.

Most tried to find a safe (and secret) space to store their limited belongings and sleep without a lot of fear.

Teens had less options than adults; singles had more options than couples or families.

In my eyes, there were more solutions available, but no way to make them available.  Parking garages, top floors, could become places for the homeless in cars to park...with adaptations for the safety of all.  

Now we have Tiny Homes, Container homes, Van conversions, Bus conversions, Habitat for Humanity options, Urban and Rural options, Coop options, Trail options, and more.

Some communities have tried small parking lot placements for homeless people in cars and other vehicles... calling on churches to be the overseers of the living situations.

Some individuals have tried to offer people they know a place in their driveways.  There seems to be laws against helping friends and family in urban areas.  It becomes a crime to care.

Rental properties are the same way.  You cannot even help your children when they are in need of shelter.  You risk being evicted yourself.

Everyone has their own ideas of what is acceptable for intervening on behalf of the homeless.

I just wanted to find one place to call my own. A permanent place. One that I could start to build a future on/with. 

Ownership is really the only option for permanence.

A permanent solution will probably require the government because few people care enough about their needs. Public issues associated with homelessness are the main motivation for the government, not concern for the people involved.  How to make a program that can continue to grow to meet the needs of a community is the bigger focus.  For Portland (Oregon) we would have that goal of 5000 options for every night.

All the money spent on subsidies can be used to start a different kind of solution, which can be built up as each budget cycle occurs.  The government would help create the new homes on empty lots, rehab abandoned homes - using Habitat for Humanity programs to help with the process, which teaches the new owners how to do basic construction and remodeling, KOA-type facilities can be made for people in cars and vans and small RV's - which offer small stores and laundries and utilities and space for gardens and access to other resources, parking garages can be reworked into safe options for homeless parking spots -- with added surveillance equipment and security guards and possibly separate entry and exit options, and a new permanent department for overseeing these changes.

My idea of a permanent home ownership program operated by the government, or anyone interested in providing this option for their community, would be to think in terms of years, not months. The same fifteen-year mortgage can apply to this type of ownership program.  The only difference is that the payments are attached to income, not the loan amount.  It becomes a way to build for a future traditional mortgage.

On the way, those non-profit homeowner classes can become the path to bigger goals for those who have a property to work with.  Taxes and insurance will need to be included in the mortgage until the resident grows their income and their goals.  This is when government oversite works best.  Taxes can be forgiven until the resident is able to pay them.  Insurance can be dealt with the same way... except it can be part of the payment, or carried with the balance.


I have shared most of this before.  I wanted to get it all into one space and share it again.  Maybe SOMEONE will find it an see the difference it can make.

Naturally, I would have done these things myself, but I haven't been able to raise the funds yet. There are lots of new Tiny House developments being created, but ownership is still not a factor.  Eviction is always a possibility.  I hoped to make what I call "demonstration projects" for all my ideas, to work out the problems so others can build them for their communities.

Maybe you can do that.

In Christ,

Deborah Martin


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