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A housing liberation movement is brewing in Chicago
June 1, 2013 8:56 PM   Subscribe


 
Ridiculous. Solve homelessness by giving homes to the homeless? What next?

I'm sure this project does actually bear some fairly careful thinking through (and no doubt those involved have done just that!), but I wish these people well. Like the debt jubilee campaigns, it works through and on the difficult task of reminding us all that these arrangements of ownership and property are neither natural nor unchangeable.
posted by col_pogo at 9:12 PM on June 1, 2013 [9 favorites]


Bwahahaha

Because the homeless have no money! Why would a bank give away a property, no matter of how little worth, for free? Even if it cost society, in the aggregate, less money to house the homeless than having the live on the street and cause trouble the banks will keep them on the street if the money to house them comes out of their pocket.

The only way to cause banks to house the homeless is through exogenous force. Since the banks own the government and write the law by proxy the only recourse is through extralegal means.

Same as it ever was.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 9:16 PM on June 1, 2013 [7 favorites]


I think they will do well. (Disclaimer: IANAL) Under the law, the banks and owners of these homes can retain their title to the property by simply giving the squatter families official permission to live there. That nukes adverse possession, and puts the squatters on notice that some day they will have to negotiate with the owners. (In the mean time, they're not paying rent, so they're in a better position to save up money and negotiate come that day, or move out and up).
posted by ocschwar at 9:17 PM on June 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think this is a great idea. They get a roof over their heads and the neighbourhood decline is halted and hopefully reversed.
posted by arcticseal at 9:35 PM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


You sillies, ideas like that are from the Communist part of the Bible!
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 9:43 PM on June 1, 2013 [12 favorites]


So why not use them to house the homeless?

One possible answer to this is that homeless + house + 18 months = homeless + destroyed_house. I'm not asserting this is true, but it's quite possible.
posted by rr at 9:53 PM on June 1, 2013 [7 favorites]


One possible answer to this is that homeless + house + 18 months = homeless + destroyed_house. I'm not asserting this is true, but it's quite possible.

There's no basis for this "possible answer" that I can think of. People who are homeless quite often want to be housed and quite often want to live in clean, peaceful, calm, well-cared for environments they can invest their energy in. You know, just like all of us.
posted by liketitanic at 9:54 PM on June 1, 2013 [9 favorites]


Right fucking on. Empty and abandoned homes with absentee multinational bank ownership being occupied by an ever-increasing homeless population, including those who were forced out of their homes by predatory lenders, and neighborhoods that get people occupying those properties instead of a criminal element getting to use them as they will (because the banker-owners don't give a shit about their neighborhoods) is as close to a win-win-win as I've maybe ever seen.

The city is cutting funding for shelters in order to spend millions tearing down vacant buildings

...and if I didn't know enough, I do now.
posted by rollbiz at 9:55 PM on June 1, 2013 [9 favorites]


If the banks gave away those houses for free, then they would finally be forced to admit that the houses have no value. Unfortunately, keeping the houses on the books and claiming that they are "worth" hundreds of thousands of dollars each is the only thing keeping the banks solvent right now.

Now, if the government wants to buy the houses off the banks for millions of dollars each and then give them to the homeless for free, the banks would have no problems with that. Although they would still like a tax cut as part of the deal, since taxes would have to go up to fund the purchases.
posted by ceribus peribus at 9:56 PM on June 1, 2013 [12 favorites]


One possible answer to this is that homeless + house + 18 months = homeless + destroyed_house. I'm not asserting this is true, but it's quite possible.

This might even be a tiny bit true, but if it is, it's only because you're forcing the people occupying these homes to improvise their utilities, set fires to keep warm, and so on. It's certainly not because homeless people are inherently destructive.
posted by rollbiz at 9:57 PM on June 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


No, the Homeless must be worse people than the rest of us!

Of course, the most likely reason for a respectable, homeowning person to believe that anyone living rent free would destroy the home in a matter of months is because that is what they themselves would do in the same situation.
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:59 PM on June 1, 2013 [11 favorites]


How do utilities work in all this? Can the water/gas/electric/phone company provide services to a house when the bank owning it says no?
posted by bardic at 10:00 PM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's a great idea. At the moment: broken community, broken lives, broken housing market. Put the homeless in the homes, and one of two things will happen.

1. Nothing much. So you're no worse off, except you have a bunch of families with homes.

2. The community revives, lives normalise, and the market perks up because it's a better place to live. You might think that the banks would now have assets with undesirable encumbrances, but people living normal lives in a viable community will be economically active. They can become regular tenants, or even buy the properties (although managed housing is no bad thing).

Really. We have to find new ways of doing this stuff, and this idea does not seem stupid.
posted by Devonian at 10:02 PM on June 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


I don't think the homeless are worse than the rest of us, but I do think people in general are more likely to trash possessions in which they have no financial stake.

Doesn't mean this is a bad idea, just something to take into account.
posted by BurntHombre at 10:03 PM on June 1, 2013 [8 favorites]


"I don't think the homeless are worse than the rest of us, but I do think people in general are more likely to trash possessions in which they have no financial stake."

I don't own, I rent. I have no "financial stake" in the condition of my apartment, because it's not actually mine and I have no ownership over it or this building, and the worst my landlord could do is eventually throw me out of it. Yet, in seven years, I have not trashed it. I take care of it and my immediate neighborhood, not because I'm a saint but because I like where I live and I like my neighborhood not being a shithole.

Can you explain to me why occupying a home is inherently different than this, other than the improvisational stuff I mentioned above? Because if you can't, you really do seem to be indicating that the homeless are more likely to proverbially shit where they sleep because their instincts are somehow different than other people.
posted by rollbiz at 10:09 PM on June 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


One possible answer to this is that homeless + house + 18 months = homeless + destroyed_house.

Bank-owned, unoccupied house= destroyed_house, (stripped of all wiring, plumbing, and all the landscaping dead).
posted by small_ruminant at 10:13 PM on June 1, 2013 [26 favorites]


The homeless aren't all drunken, no-good bums. There are many families who are homeless due to job loss and insufficient savings to suck up two years of joblessness.

And the banks need to keep their properties in good shape, if they ever wish to recoup any money. Maintenaince, and security service in areas where vacant houses get gutted by vandals, cost the banks real money right now. Plus, banks can't put all their foreclosed properties on the market, or housing prices would plummit.

So really, getting homeless people to agree to some background check like they'd have for a job or to rent a place could secure the banks' properties for less money than the alternative. Anyway, it's the people who were first booted from their homes who would have (and in some cases, did) trash bank properties.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:13 PM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't own, I rent. I have no "financial stake" in the condition of my apartment, because it's not actually mine and I have no ownership over it or this building, and the worst my landlord could do is eventually throw me out of it.

That's not true. Your landlord could (would) sue you for damages, back rent, etc. If you're renting in a low income area they do credit and other financial fitness checks. They will ask for 2 months rent pre-paid in order to cover possible lateness.

Having an eviction on your record can severely impact where you can rent from in the future, get other loans, etc. You, a person with assets and a good credit history, have every incentive to pay your rent on time and be a good tenant.
posted by sbutler at 10:17 PM on June 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


The core concept of using vacant housing that is frozen in the foreclosure process is appealing. This isn't really a workable way to pursue it, but it's a pretty good way to publicize the idea.

I wonder if there might be a way to impose some kind of vacancy tax on lenders/servicers who elect to foreclose and evict owners but fail to reach certain procedural milestones in offering the property for sale within a certain amount of time (unless due to gov't/court delays for judicial foreclosures), or a waiver of that vacancy tax in exchange for participation in a gov't run "frozen housing" discount/subsidized rental program that mirrors this activist initiative.

The banks might actually benefit from the property being occupied by someone who doesn't want it to go to hell while they await a better sale market--its when the properties are abandoned and derelict that they tend to suffer waste and loss of value. Leading to loss of value across whole neighborhoods with high concentrations of foreclosed properties, which impacts localities. The program could guarantee the discounted rent, however minimal, for so long as an unlawful detainer action might take to resolve, should the interim subsidized tenant turn out to be a deadbeat. I suppose the question would be whether or not the taxes on frozen properties not participating in the rental progrm would be enough to pay for the subsidies and administration of the participating properties, making the scheme self-funding.
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:21 PM on June 1, 2013


Back rent? Rollbiz didn't say he wouldn't pay rent, just that he wouldn't trash the place. You can trash a place and still pay rent! You do risk losing your security deposit, of course, but that's not so much compared to what trashing an apartment can cost.

Having an eviction on your record can severely impact where you can rent from in the future, get other loans, etc.

Hey, my lease is up, on my last day I trashed the place. Eviction? What eviction?
posted by kenko at 10:22 PM on June 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


"That's not true. Your landlord could (would) sue you for damages, back rent, etc. If you're renting in a low income area they do credit and other financial fitness checks. They will ask for 2 months rent pre-paid in order to cover possible lateness.

Having an eviction on your record can severely impact where you can rent from in the future, get other loans, etc. You, a person with assets and a good credit history, have every incentive to pay your rent on time and be a good tenant."


Don't know what echelon you rent in, but this just isn't true where I am if you're not into really nice properties. I feel pretty confident about that given that I live here.
posted by rollbiz at 10:24 PM on June 1, 2013


Of course you meant that I have an interest in not trashing a place I'm still in for fear of eviction. But you know what? My landlord doesn't check up my apartment. I've been here almost a full year—the term of my lease—and neither he nor an agent of his has been in here after the first month (to repair something). So for all he knows it's already trashed.

It might be true that in a low-income neighborhood my apartment would occasionally be checked on (I don't know if that would be legal). But that's not the point. I don't own this apartment; I don't have a financial stake in it—indeed, given that I don't fall under the various provisos you note and I theorized about pertaining to low-income neighborhoods, I have less of a stake in it than the people you're talking about. And yet I don't trash it. Because I live in it, you know?
posted by kenko at 10:24 PM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


@kenko: you'll lose your security deposit. Your landlord will still sue you for damages, almost certainly win, and then you'll have a judgement on your record. Many landlords (at least in my area) check that sort of thing. There's your financial incentive.

@rollbiz: I live/rent in a college town where students frequently trash apartments. Many of my coworkers rent properties on the side and talk about this all the time.
posted by sbutler at 10:25 PM on June 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Even though, Dodd, who still owns the house, has been advised by his real estate agent to call the police on the Smiths...

*sigh*
And the comments are about as disheartening.

Although the "controversy" link does raise a good point. If the original owner is still out one dwelling, why not let them live there?

One of the things that has helped around the county has been the response of the Sheriff's office (which executes the evictions) to crack down on foreclosure proceedings.

There have been a number of property management companies lying and in some cases outright threatening people living in properties that are being foreclosed on. (The Sheriff (Tom Dart) ordered a moratorium in 2008 on foreclosure evictions - because people were still paying rent in apartment buildings that were under foreclosure. Cute.)

And that turn around is how those operations make money. And it's really, really bad for communities all over. You get a ton of vacant properties and crime goes up in all those areas (who's there to call the cops?), people nearby get the fallout, social services get overwhelmed, hospital emergency room visits go up, kids do worse in school which means yet more crime and less productivity for the next generation, etc. etc.

The Lawyers' Committee for Better Housing is the outfit informing people of their rights so they're not put out on the street by misinformation, robosigning, etc. in the first place.

Taking homeless people off the street seems to be controversial only to businesses vested in making a profit from the scarcity.

I don't know that it's the banks per se (although BOA, etc. have been doing some robosignings) but all the downsides of this program, whatever potential property damage or other factors, dwindle compared to what happens when large swaths of property lay vacant.
I like this program. Additionally, I think more legal aid should go to make sure people aren't displaced in the first - er - place. NY Times OpEd worth a read.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:27 PM on June 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


There's your financial incentive.

Actually, you're still wrong! For something to be an incentive of any kind, it has to be something I know about. I knew about security deposits, of course. Did I know about being sued for damages and having a judgment on my record? Nope! So I actually didn't have the incentive you claimed I had. (If I believe you about all this, I'll have one now.)

I live/rent in a college town where students frequently trash apartments

Despite their financial incentives???
posted by kenko at 10:27 PM on June 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


I don't even have a security deposit, so I could seriously bust the place up tomorrow and the worst that would happen would be I wouldn't be welcome to stay another month if my landlord somehow found out eventually. Short of burning it down, the cops aren't going to get involved, and very few landlords here are doing credit checks.
posted by rollbiz at 10:27 PM on June 1, 2013


And that would be AFTER the months and months it would take to evict me, if I decided to stick around for that action rather than just move on and not have a housing court record.

Point being, it's not a "financial stake" that's keeping many, many renters from being destructive shitheads to either their specific dwelling or their neighborhood, and I fail to see why being a formerly-homeless occupier of a similar unit would fundamentally change those dynamics. Unless people think homeless people just like to destroy shit.
posted by rollbiz at 10:31 PM on June 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


If were going to be super pedantic, it's possible for an incentive to exist, but for someone eligible to use it to nevertheless be unaware of the opportunity. Thus despite the incentive being real, that individual is not incentivized.

Like a scholarship you could have applied for but didn't know about is still a scholarship.
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:32 PM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


A significant number of homeless are mentally ill. That doesn't mean they can't have a free home from a bank, or be screened accordingly, although the proposal ignores some of the problems associated with homelessness and treats the issue quite literally.
posted by Brian B. at 10:32 PM on June 1, 2013 [17 favorites]


I do think that this is a thorny enough issue that there are valid concerns about at least some of the homes being trashed.

There are undoubtedly many families that are tragically homeless due to pure unfortunate financial circumstances. But at the same time, I don't think it's unfair to presume that there's a lot of correlation with mental illness and/or substance abuse that leads to homelessness. And in those cases, there really is a reason to be concerned about the homes being trashed.

What I'm getting at is that this seems like it could be a great way to at least stanch some awful decline, it's important to be pragmatic about the risks.

In real life, Hamsterdam would actually have failed due to poor planning. That doesn't mean it couldn't work, but there's a reason that these initiatives are experiments for the time being.
posted by graphnerd at 10:34 PM on June 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ha. Or what Brian B. said more succinctly.
posted by graphnerd at 10:35 PM on June 1, 2013


There are "valid concerns" vis a vis fundamental property law which doesn't cease to exist simply because the bank has taken possession. This is never going to be legal is it is currently being done. There's no point debating risk management of homeless tenants moved in extralegally as is currently being done, going by the article's description. That would be a concern if you actually stood up some kind of program (public, private or hybrid) to do this legitimately.
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:38 PM on June 1, 2013


Regarding "trashing" houses -- a lot of these houses (in these parts of Chicago) are older housing stock, hard to maintain, and already in disrepair and in need of rehab even before foreclosure and thieves get to them. They often have unreliable mechanicals that require some expertise to maintain -- or the ability to hire HVAC people and plumbers and pay them for non-standard jobs. Houses may be lacking water or sewer hookups. (Or gas, or electricity, but natural gas fires are pretty uncommon around here while water or sewer issues can get unhealthy fast.) Lead paint is a really serious problem in Chicago; most of these homes are unremediated.

A majority of "housing insecure" people in Illinois are single female heads-of-household with minor children (that is, single mothers).

Bouncing around shelters, cars, friends' couches, and the street is NOT good for children and it would be great if we could match unoccupied housing with homeless families. But putting single women with young children in poorly-maintained housing riddled with lead paint that may or may not have functioning utilities, in high-crime neighborhoods, and asking those women who have never been responsible for home maintenance tasks before to take over a run-down 1920s bungalow in need of a total overhaul -- that is also not super-great for those families. It's hard for me to imagine the appropriate level of community support in terms of education, labor, materials, and money is going to be there to keep the houses functioning, let alone improve them to an adequate standard to be safe for children.

On a lot of these blocks all -- all -- the occupied houses are owned by slumlords and are barely habitable as it is. In my downstate community, everyone who's even remotely involved in children's welfare hates this kind of housing and the slumlords who run it. (I've spoken against slumlords of this sort in public meetings three times in the past year that I can recall.) While I want this to work, badly, because the foreclosure situation is this country is fucked up and the housing situation for poor families borders on is desperate, it is hard for me to look at these houses and say, "I absolutely and categorically object to this housing because it is totally inadequate and unsafe and children should not live there -- WELL OKAY AS LONG AS THEY'RE HOMELESS CHILDREN THAT'S FINE."

Not that I have a better solution, mind you. Just that I don't think this is quite as good a solution as it wants to be, or as I want it to be. Homelessness is not better, and the perfect shouldn't be the enemy of the good (that is, we shouldn't keep people out of perfectly viable housing simply because it isn't 100% where we'd like it to be); but I have real concerns about whether this is where resources for homeless families should be focused. Resources for "sticking it to big banks" -- this is a fine focus. But I'm a little worried the needs of homeless families are being sublimated to the convenience of this solution in solving multiple problems.

I don't know. Maybe solving multiple problems at once is better and I'm too focused on my corner of the problem. I feel like I'm raining on a really great parade, especially since I don't come armed with better solutions, but I have concerns.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:16 PM on June 1, 2013 [21 favorites]


While this idea may sound good in theory it's totally untenable in practice. Livable communities aren't just made up of houses that people live in. There's this thing called 'infrastructure' that is necessary to make the whole system tick. Consider the utilities, the grocery stores, the street and sidewalk maintenance, etc. required to make a neighborhood function over the long term. This is a bad idea.
posted by quadog at 11:38 PM on June 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


A roof over the heads of homeless people is not a bad idea. A group of about 300 people - including a dozen or so Catholic nuns - tried to prevent the destruction of unused housing at the Presidio (I think). The idea was to shelter the homeless instead of destroying housing. The 300 were arrested, them released because there was no jail room for them. Ironic: Another housing shortage.
posted by Cranberry at 1:38 AM on June 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


I like my lenders like I like my drones: predatory.
posted by telstar at 2:05 AM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think the thrust of the article, that empty homes should either be equitably let or the owners taxed into complying as a way to create value sustainability in neighborhoods, is useful. I am not so keen on the idea of giving houses to the homeless unless they are already part of a program that will see them reach some kind of earning potential perhaps only to cover the basic annual rent. I could think that most of these not-for-profit organisations would do a better job at negotiating utility payments for their clients as a whole than these individuals could do themselves. Bread for the City attempted to do the same sort of thing last year in Washington DC as a way to build a trust for low-income housing in the capital. The challenge is acquiescence by government actors who have little incentive to raise taxes on the rich.
posted by parmanparman at 3:11 AM on June 2, 2013


Unfortunately, keeping the houses on the books and claiming that they are "worth" hundreds of thousands of dollars each is the only thing keeping the banks solvent right now.

Nah; they would've written any of these loans down to zero. They typically get little to nothing out of foreclosure (they get the proceeds, but there's a "negative carry" in the interim that wipes out those proceeds: they have to pay for maintenance, property tax, etc. Sometimes they don't, as has been well documented, but that doesn't mean the accountants won't insist they record the transactions as if they will).

I take care of it and my immediate neighborhood, not because I'm a saint but because I like where I live and I like my neighborhood not being a shithole.

A little of column A, a little of column B. Like you I rented virtually all of my life (just bought a place about 6 months ago), and I can't say for sure people like us are a minority, but it wouldn't surprise me, either, based on chats I've had w/ landlords over the years. And, of course, look at the selection bias: the traits of people breaking into houses to set up shop probably aren't very correlated with polite people that take care of their corner of the world. See, eg, the Occupy Wall Street squat in Flatbush or wherever in Brooklyn it was. They totally trashed the place.

Finally, even if squatters don't cause damage in the aggregate, the benefit to the owner is pretty speculative. So: obvious downside risk without much upside risk.
posted by jpe at 4:40 AM on June 2, 2013


Yeah, maybe they're more likely to be trashed than your average house on the market (I think this has to do more with funds for upkeep and number of people per square foot than any cultural disinclination to care about rental property, though). And yes, this is not an ideal entry into homeownership - foreclosures have a lot of problems, often because the previous owners do not have the money or incentive to keep their home in a livable condition when they leave it. And yeah, the infrastructure in these areas is still crap, and there's a reason who the term 'food desert' originated in Chicago.

But the current way of doing things is worse. If we lived in a society where funds for things like tearing down or fixing up these homes for use for currently homeless families, that would be better. Maybe throw in some basic repair and maintenance classes with daycare. That's not the other option, though. The other option is that these houses are empty and these people are homeless. Abandoned homes not only degrade faster than if someone - anyone - is living in them, they're also a lot more dangerous. They're places to stash unwanted things and they're difficult to police.

It's not a perfect solution, or even a great solution, but it's a start.
posted by dinty_moore at 5:44 AM on June 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Nah; they would've written any of these loans down to zero.

you're confusing the loans with the housing stock itself - true, they have to be honest about the loans and the maintenance - but as long as they keep the houses off the market, they can claim they're worth tens of thousands of dollars more than they could actually get

multiply that by a few million houses and that's how the banking industry claims to be solvent on paper when it really isn't
posted by pyramid termite at 6:11 AM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


rr: "So why not use them to house the homeless?

One possible answer to this is that homeless + house + 18 months = homeless + destroyed_house. I'm not asserting this is true, but it's quite possible.
"

Sorry to back this up, but I do live in public housing, and, while the housing authority does an amazingly good job keeping the place up, I have seen too many incidents involving tenants abusing the facilities, despite a significant amount of security cameras, to feel all together good about this.

That may be a near record for me for run-on sentence length!
posted by Samizdata at 6:26 AM on June 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


but as long as they keep the houses off the market, they can claim they're worth tens of thousands of dollars more than they could actually get

Don't think so. They'll sell the property for a fraction of the initial loan, and, as I said above, any proceeds from sale will be offset by the costs of owning the property. So the notion that banks are hoarding foreclosed property as part of a diabolical scheme to shore up their balance sheets just isn't right.
posted by jpe at 6:47 AM on June 2, 2013


The one thing that really shocked me about the first linked article is this:
55 percent of the city’s adult African American men have been branded as felons for life, barring them from access to public housing and often private housing as well.
I know that in the UK, as in the US, private landlords can basically rent to whomever they want, and can reject people for having criminal records, but the idea of being barred from ever being able to rent a council flat just because you spent, say, six months inside for affray is mind boggling. And it's yet another multiplier in the racism stakes. A quick look at the demographics of Chicago (excluding the rest of its metro area) says that the population is roughly 2.8 million and it's about 33% black. That means literally hundreds of thousands of black men who are barred from local authority housing.

On preview:

jpe: Don't think so. They'll sell the property for a fraction of the initial loan, and, as I said above, any proceeds from sale will be offset by the costs of owning the property. So the notion that banks are hoarding foreclosed property as part of a diabolical scheme to shore up their balance sheets just isn't right.

Everything that banks do is in service of shoring up their balance sheet, because that's what companies owned by shareholders are legally obligated to do. The reason for banks keeping foreclosed properties off the market isn't to write them off as liabilities which can reduce their tax bill – though that can, admittedly, be an ancillary benefit – but to prop up the price of everything else that they own, because a glut of available properties in the housing market will, by virtue of the laws of supply and demand, depress value and cost them a fortune when it comes to assessment of assets.
posted by Len at 7:03 AM on June 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


That may be a near record for me for run-on sentence length!

It's not a run-on sentence.
posted by kenko at 7:59 AM on June 2, 2013


One does not have to be homeless or impoverished to trash a rental. My parents, prior to the housing bubble, rented out a multi-million dollar home at a relatively high monthly rate. The family that rented the house were wealthy, had no problem paying the rent, but treated the property with no respect, leaving dog feces and urine lying around all over the place, among other acts of "it's not mine, so why should I care?" acts.

Folks should be given the chance to make a new home in one offered, and if after a periodic check it appears they can't handle it, then perhaps a better solution found to better fit the predicaments of that individual.
posted by Atreides at 8:01 AM on June 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


So homelessness comes with a collection of comorbidities - mental illness, alcoholism, addiction, PTSD. Getting people into reasonable shelter where they have a reasonable amount of privacy and somewhere to keep their stuff - in short, getting people homed - turns out to be a reliable way to treat those comorbidities.

Can I just point out the frame used in this conversation? We've got a bunch of houses that are deteriorating, we've got a bunch of people who are deteriorating, and we're afraid to use the houses to help the people stop deteriorating because those people might cause the houses to deteriorate faster.

Like, what?! Even if the things you're saying about people without shelter are universally true, so what?! Why do I have a reason to care about increased deterioration of houses over increased deterioration of people?

This isn't a rhetorical question. I am open to answers here.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 9:19 AM on June 2, 2013 [12 favorites]


> It's certainly not because homeless people are inherently destructive.

I'm remembering all those previous threads and comments about how such a very large proportion of homeless persons shouldn't be blamed for being homeless because they are mentally ill and can't properly care for themselves, but have been "deinstitutionalized." I can't help but agree that those folks sheltering legally in foreclosed/abandoned properties is better than sleeping on the street, but I wouldn't look for a lot of rehab and rebuilding of the properties or economic improvement of the neighborhood.
posted by jfuller at 9:35 AM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


@ Len - they're actually trying to get those homes off their balance sheets as fast as possible. consider BB&T: they have about 300MM of foreclosed properties, and are paying about $250MM every year to maintain them.
posted by jpe at 11:05 AM on June 2, 2013


But putting single women with young children in poorly-maintained housing ... is also not super-great for those families.

As opposed to ... having them live on the street?

I agree with decent housing for everyone. But sometimes, if the choice is living out of a car and living in a substandard house, maybe the house wins.

The whole situation frustrates me. If the houses are substandard, then give them to the homeless. Let it be their choice whether to destroy them or chose to fix them up. Provide assistance to those who want to put sweat equity into them. Those that choose to trash the houses--well, they were going to be torn down anyway, right?

It's all moot anyway. There's no way that this society will give anything of real value to the poor. After all, if they would have worked harder, they would be among the deserving, right?
posted by BlueHorse at 12:19 PM on June 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Nth a1000x what Blue Horse said! You cannot live outdoors year-round in most of North America. This is due to very cold weather.
Most of Europe is the same. A tent, even a very good tent isn't adequate.
Most of the homeless really are in no physical condition to be homeless.
Whatever needs to be done to house people needs to be done.
Same goes for getting people employed steadily at reasonable pay. It seems like a no-brainer to me..
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 1:07 PM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


BlueHorse: "As opposed to ... having them live on the street? "

I feel like you did not actually read my comment, as it began with a statement that housing insecurity for children is BAD.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:40 PM on June 2, 2013


I'm remembering all those previous threads and comments about how such a very large proportion of homeless persons shouldn't be blamed for being homeless because they are mentally ill and can't properly care for themselves, but have been "deinstitutionalized." I can't help but agree that those folks sheltering legally in foreclosed/abandoned properties is better than sleeping on the street, but I wouldn't look for a lot of rehab and rebuilding of the properties or economic improvement of the neighborhood.

Here's the thing, though. It's probably not too difficult to figure out who is potentially capable of keeping up a house. (At least if you tell them how to do it. I sure as hell don't know how to maintain a house.) No, that's not every person who's currently homeless and that's perfectly okay. Ideally, you want to give the rest access to supported or transitional housing. Putting people into houses potentially helps you do that by reducing the number of services those people need. I don't know if giving houses in bad shape to people in tenuous situations is the best idea ever, but 'lots of homeless people are mentally ill' isn't the reason why not.
posted by hoyland at 1:41 PM on June 2, 2013


kenko: "That may be a near record for me for run-on sentence length!

It's not a run-on sentence.
"

I could have broken it up into multiple sentences, but I am hooked on the endorphin rush hitting , gives me.
posted by Samizdata at 3:25 PM on June 2, 2013


You Can't Tip a Buick: "So homelessness comes with a collection of comorbidities - mental illness, alcoholism, addiction, PTSD. Getting people into reasonable shelter where they have a reasonable amount of privacy and somewhere to keep their stuff - in short, getting people homed - turns out to be a reliable way to treat those comorbidities.

Can I just point out the frame used in this conversation? We've got a bunch of houses that are deteriorating, we've got a bunch of people who are deteriorating, and we're afraid to use the houses to help the people stop deteriorating because those people might cause the houses to deteriorate faster.

Like, what?! Even if the things you're saying about people without shelter are universally true, so what?! Why do I have a reason to care about increased deterioration of houses over increased deterioration of people?

This isn't a rhetorical question. I am open to answers here.
"

Okay, You CAN tip a Buick, but I recommend a power jack...

But, seriously, the problem with deteriorating houses combined with deteriorating people is that it can end up in injury or death. What then? It's not purely the people's fault since this would be a government program. So said people could tie up the justice system suing the government or the agency that was to inspect the houses or such. (And we are not even going to look at funding the inspection agency.) What if said people turn said house into a drug lab? Who's responsible then? Black mold? Bad wiring leading to a fire?

It may be melodramatic, but I am sure any applicable governing agency has done similar risk analysis. All I am saying is the answer isn't quite that simple.
posted by Samizdata at 3:31 PM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Like, what?! Even if the things you're saying about people without shelter are universally true, so what?! Why do I have a reason to care about increased deterioration of houses over increased deterioration of people?

Because it creates a high liability situation where the reasonable probability of a positive outcome is incredibly low. Basically, it's one of those poorly thought out feel good ideas that typifies the activist left.
posted by rr at 3:57 PM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


And by "deteriorating people" I do not mean just the mentally ill.

On preview - rr thanks for saying it more simply than I could.
posted by Samizdata at 4:08 PM on June 2, 2013


Speaking of which, I must say ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
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,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,.

Whew, need a cigarette now.
posted by Samizdata at 4:17 PM on June 2, 2013


I suspect this is another one of the situations where I end up advocating giving people money over all the other more clever ways of matching people with goods...
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 9:41 PM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]




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