1406 (suite #201) West Lake Street Mpls., MN 55408
Because this is such a critical issue, we actually separated it from the platform of housing, although we all understand there is a certain level of interconnectivity. Homelessness is an issue which has been with us for far too long, and we can all see with our own eyes that the problem is only getting worse and worse. As residents of MInnesota, we should all make sure we realize that this is NOT just a Minnesota problem, but one that is afflicting our entire nation. There is NOT a single large city that doesn't have crisis level moelessness, and a lot of smaller cities that we might not expect to associate with this kind of problem, are facing it as well. So, it's something we must find legitimate, long-term, viable solutions for. The good news is, we can. The bad news is, it's going to take political will and cooperation. So like many critical issues immigration, healthcare, foreign policy, etc. It's a problem we can't solve with a broken political system. In order to solve this problem, we have to actually fundamentally solve the problem with our political system.
We might as well start at the beginning. What is homelessness? We said we understand what we mean when we use a phrase like affordable housing. But what do we mean when we use the term "homeless". Are we talking about drug-addicted street people? Are we talking about the working poor, who occasionally get evicted when they fall behind in their rent? Are we talking about children, whose single parent gets arrested on a regular, or even, semi-regular basis? Are we talking about people battling with alcoholism? Are we talking about people with serious mental health issues? Military veterans with PTSD and the like? Are we talking transients, seasonal workers, recently released criminals? Or is it just anyone and everyone who doesn't currently have secure long-term housing? Much like the police violence issue, we don't even have good statistics about who is homeless. How many people are homeless. What percentage of these people break down into the categories we detailed above. If we're ever going to get serious about solving this problem, we're going to first have to identify it with precision and accuracy. We're going to have to define homelessness, and then know precisely how many people fit that description. We're going to have to know exactly where they are, who they are and what their individual needs are. Frankly, if we don't do these first step procedures, we can't even begin to functionally discuss solutions.
Ideas are already out there. Later we're going to talk about the "homeless hotel ", a remarkable vision for actually solving the crisis on a global scale. But regardless of what solution we accept or attempt, the larger point is, we can and must do something. Not taking care of our own citizens is not just an example of complete abject failure, it opens the pathway to a cycle of failure that we can already know a percentage of future Americans will follow. Why a country as rich and able as America would leave an option open for people to completely fail is beyond just counter-productive. It smacks of a heartlessness that shouldn't define our reality. So let's agree at the outset that homelessness shouldn't exist. While obviously, for a variety of reasons, we're always going to have people who exist at the very edges of society, there should always be room and access for them to change their lives for the better, and make the kind of positive advancements that benefit us all.
For those people who are best described as the working poor. Simply increasing availability of affordable housing and homeownership opportunities will solve this problem. We discuss this issue in the affordable housing platform piece.
By substantially increasing the number of people who own homes, we will in turn, significantly increase the number of available affordable rental units. If we can move 3-5 million people from chronic renters into long-term homeownership, we will IMMEDIATELY open up 3-5 million more already existing rental units for affordable housing. This is the fastest way to solve the problem for that specific demographic. It's something we could accomplish in just 10-20 months.
Now, for a moment let's talk about something we bring up a few times on this website. The perfect world model. We often hear the phrase, "in a perfect world". Almost always and only whenever we're describing something that is far from perfect. What we should be doing as a nation, as a people is using this "perfect world" scenarios to most closely guide us in developing our solutions. We should always be using the aim and goal of being perfect to help us design our problem solving efforts. Since typically, our "best efforts'' often result in little or no change, or worse, backwards movement, if we think about perfection, we'll just naturally always be closer to a better result than we have been so far. So, imagine if you will, a 20 story building...
Obviously the Homeless Hotel is a terrible name which would never be used outside of a detailed explanation like this platform piece. A name like the Salvation Hotel, the Redemption Center or the Betterment Building sounds better and will make people more optimistic about the idea, but since no one knows what those words mean yet, we're simply trying to be specific and detailed. (please feel free to submit your name anytime...)
The bottom 2-3 floors are like a shopping mall. with retail establishments, a combination cafeteria and food court, and outlet shops open to the public. These legitimate businesses will be the showcase for the people who need employment and career training. From stores like Goodwills, to operations like food shelves and day care centers. The bottom floors will be fully accessible and operational service and retail sales businesses. Outside of some management and supervisory positions, all employees will be people enrolled in the H.H. program. (that means, people who need help finding and maintaining affordable housing, homeless services and life skills training,..) Additional floors will include govt. service centers, healthcare facilities, legal assistance offices. Another floor will be a fully encapsulated drug and alcohol rehab center. Another floor will be educational facilities, including ESL, GED programs, enrollment assistance counseling. Another floor will be job training facilities. Whether that's general manufacturing, construction, die casting, electrician apprenticeships, food service prep, factory work training, automotive repair and services, and whatever else makes sense.
The top 10-12 floors are all housing. Enough space to house 500-750 people. College dormitory style, separated genders, communals bathrooms and shower facilities. Floors for men, floors for women, floors for families. All safe and secured with strict policies regarding entry, alcohol, smoking, cooking, lgbtq+ issues, noise, and of course, adherence to your personal individualized program participation. Communal entertainment facilities. Work study areas with internet access.
The goal being for people to transition from this program, to their own housing option. So as people move on, space will become available. People who have legal or criminal issues will be able to utilize the legal resources available to effectively process through the system. People who have addiction issues will be able to utilize the rehab program to be able to process through the system. People who have mental health issues will be able to utilize the healthcare facilities to be able to process through the system. Everyone will have an assigned caseworker who can help facilitate each client's need right there on-site. The building would operate through a unique combination of viable income generation, (legitimate business income, sales, taxes and rent...) as well as non-profit and NGO based support, as well as local, state and federal govt. funding and financing. (govt. funding and financing, I would add, we are already making, but to little or no avail...)
While not every client would be able to qualify for admittance, and some may not be equipped to make it through a program like this, it will allow us to effectively screen out everyone who wants to end their own personal cycle of homelessness. A program like this will qualify people for meaningful and gainful employment. Allow them to build their character and confidence while essentially self-isolated in a secure, positive, supporting and understanding community. Unlike failure programs that came before, these operations are 100% optional, and the results will be self-determined. People will get out of it, exactly what they want to get, nothing more, nothing less. The building keeps homeless people off the streets, out of the bus shelters, out of the parks, away from single family homes, away from outside influences, The hotel serves as a single useful and efficient step between a real community-wide problem, and a complete and lasting solution. In a perfect world, we'd already have these centers opened up all over the country, taking in our cities most difficult cases. People who currently cost a lot of money, take up time from every public agency we have, and rarely if ever have any positive result to show for that significant investment. In turn, these centers will be replacing costly transients with productive, redeemed and useful members of society.
I hope you were able to really imagine a solution. Remember, it doesn't matter if we apply this exact particular plan or if we use some other super intelligent idea. The point is that we truly believe that we can solve these problems, if we want to. If we can muster the politcal cooperation and will to honestly work on them. This is why we need Michael Moore to represent us in Congress. We all know that the Democrats and Republicans will NEVER get along well enough to tackle important issues like this. Not in any meaningful way. They only ever work in a way that will benefit their own ability to possess power into the future. Because that's what they care about. More than our problems. More than the critical issue of homelessness. More than solving anything, they care most about hanging on to the power and the money that power brings them. Nothing will ever be solved if that is the top priority of our politicians. So we have to try something new and different. With someone new and different.