"Show Me the Way to Go Home..." The Homelessness Problem

July 19, 2023

Anyone who has been looking to buy a house or rent an apartment these last years knows how out of control the prices are. In New York City, the average monthly cost for a dinky studio apartment is nearly $3,500; the average rent for an under-800-square foot place in L.A. is almost $3K.

On top of that is a troubling trend of large investors buying up homes, outbidding regular buyers and locking them out of home ownership. In New Jersey, for example, one report shows that there are six times the number of LLCs owning homes in the state than just 10 years ago.

There are simply not enough places for people of modest (or below modest) means to live.

Add to the lack of affordable housing the fact that wages are largely stagnant (the federal minimum wage is still stuck at $7.25 hour, exactly where it was in 2009). Some states pay a bit more, but even at $15, that hardly keeps pace with the cost of housing today.

Almost 600,000 Americans are currently unhoused, with the main driver being poverty. When one can’t cover basic costs of food and rent, you find yourself out of doors. Nearly every state has seen their homeless population rise since 2019; considering that a high percentage of Americans are just one or two paychecks away from being in serious financial trouble, the issue of homelessness touches all of us.

While issues like living wages and access to affordable housing are being debated, there are some pretty creative things being done to give the homeless a roof over their head.

TINY HOME VILLAGES: More and more, these are becoming a popular option. Tiny home “villages” have appeared in cities from Detroit to Nashville. These little communities often have rules like no drugs or drinking, and some communal work requirements. Some function as temporary housing, others as rent-to-own. Some are “on wheels” and can be moved depending on various local ordinances. Bottom line: it gives a person a safe, dry place to sleep and store their stuff.

3-D PRINTED HOMES: Constructed from concrete, this innovative design costs about $4K and can be built in a day. They’re becoming a popular option for sturdy low-cost housing.

BAMBOO MICRO-HOMES: In Hong Kong, abandoned or empty factory or commercial buildings are being fitted out with “micro-homes” made of bamboo. It offers a person a private space within the structure.

CONCRETE PIPES: At 8 feet wide and 16 feet long, a large, ready-made concrete pipe can be cleverly converted into a shelter. A prototype was unveiled in 2019, winning a design award.

Experts note that solving issues around homelessness (such as addiction and joblessness) begins with having some form of stability. By having a safe shelter that’s all their own (versus overcrowded group situations), the unhoused have a base to start climbing their way out of the dark situation they’ve found themselves in. Something as simple as having a physical address can make all the difference in landing a job.

So how can you help?  Habitat for Humanity has long been devoted to creating affordable housing in communities. The National Coalition for the Homeless is a great resource, as is The Right to Shower. Both offer practical tips for helping an unhoused person in the short term, as well as ways to make an impact over the long haul.

Is there a homelessness issue in your community? How is it being addressed? Tell us about it in our Community Soapbox!

Cindy Grogan is a writer, lover of history and "Star Trek" (TOS), and hardcore politics junkie. There was that one time she campaigned for Gerald Ford (yikes), but ever since, she's been devoted to Democratic and progressive policies.

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Antigrav1117 on Jun 16, 2023 11:43 AM
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