Tuesday, June 13, 2006


There have always been homeless among us. Since the 1980s, two things have happened. One is that institutions for the mentally disabled experienced cutbacks, letting a number of marginally disabled people out on the street. The other was the disappearance of rooming houses and other forms of SRO (single room occupancy) housing, that were once the mainstay of people starting out in the world, or the marginal income worker, as many were either razed or converted to condominiums.

In the last few years, their ranks have been joined by whole families. Soup kitchens and shelters in New York City and elsewhere report a rising demand for high chairs and baby cribs in their facilities.

Since there is only so much in the way of material resources here on the planet, those who hoard the lion's share of it might reasonably be held responsible for the deprivation of someone else. A case in point is the USA itself. For the rest of the world to live as well as we do, it would require the natural resources of six planet Earths. Now where are we gonna get those, eh? And until we figure that out, is it any wonder that people would do anything to move here?

From 1950 to 2000, the average home in the USA has doubled in size, and holds half as many people. Does everybody need a family room and a living room? Does every single person or couple need a kitchen and a formal dining room, or can they live comfortably with an eat-in kitchen (which I do, by the way)?

Habitat for Humanity International is to be admired for building homes for lower-income families to live. But they're having a problem lately. People aren't donating land for projects like they used to. And it's occurred to them (finally!) to turn their efforts away from detached homes in favor of townhouses and apartment-sytle buildings.

Much has been written about the homeless, and much of the above has been mentioned here before. People listen to experts talk about the plight of the homeless, when in fact, if they were experts, their body of knowledge would include a solution. Usually it requires the Federal government, and more money. But we've been there, and it hasn't worked. Local elected officials might well afford to be less dazzled by the plans of developers, whose intentioned invariably involve displacing some of the people who put them (that is, the local elected officials) into office in the first place.

From time to time, MWBH will post some ideas for affordable approaches to housing, in the hope that someone with the means (including Mr Tom Monaghan, if he ever runs out of ideas) will make something of them. Until then, this piece will end with a reference to the only decent article (other than this one) ever written about the homeless, by Joe Bob Briggs:

"Unless you have personally taken a homeless person into your house, you're not an expert on the homeless... They don't need money. They need us."

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