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December 10, 2008 1:18 PM   Subscribe

"This is one of the greatest damn gifts you could ever give to anybody." The EDAR (Everyone Deserves a Roof) is a mobile sleeping shelter for the cold homeless in refrigerator boxes.
posted by four panels (58 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Christopher Raynor's father kicked him out when he was 13, after his stepmother interrupted an orgy in his bedroom

At least he got to live it up when he was young. When I was 13, if I'd been given the chance to partake in an orgy but knew I'd have to be homeless for the next 27 years, I would've had to do some serious thinking about it.
posted by item at 1:30 PM on December 10, 2008 [5 favorites]


After watching the video and reading about its main characters, I've concluded that while everyone may deserve a roof, some1 deserve one more than others2.

1After Dehanka Straughter was laid off from her job as a cook at a Compton preschool, she and her two sons, ages 2 and 6, were evicted from their $975-a-month apartment.
They sold their furniture, stored some possessions in Straughter's unregistered car and stayed with family and friends for a few weeks. When Straughter saw people sleeping on the streets, she thought "that's where we'd be next." Then a friend told her that women and children could find temporary quarters at the Union Rescue Mission in downtown Los Angeles.
Now the petite Straughter, 27, sleeps in an EDAR with her boys on the fourth floor of the mission. They like it better than she does. "The kids adjust to anything," she said. "They think they're camping."
Still, she says, "I'm happy to have a place to bathe and eat and sleep."


2Christopher Raynor's father kicked him out when he was 13, after his stepmother interrupted an orgy in his bedroom and the teen jammed a broom handle against her throat.
Raynor's mother died of stomach cancer, his father was shot to death, and he himself has served time in jail. He spends much of each day intoxicated and grimy. He despises most people.
But he likes his EDAR.

posted by jckll at 1:31 PM on December 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Didn't we have a discussion not too long ago about police officers destroying tents that homeless people were staying in? It's sad, but I don't imagine these would last long in general use.

That aside, it's an interesting question whether these will turn out to be a practical way of helping people. I hope they get a fair shot at wider adoption, because I'm curious to see what will come of it.

On reading further, this also makes me sad:
Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the UC Irvine School of Law, said police fear the units could constitute dwellings where inhabitants would have a reasonable expectation of privacy. In that scenario, police would need warrants to search EDARs, which could become havens for drug use or prostitution.
They're real concerns, I guess. So long as we've got drug prohibition — and all the violence that goes along with it — making a cheap and portable crackhouse is probably a bad idea. But on the other hand, man, I'd hate to see a plan to give people cheap shelter fail just because it would also give them more rights. Jeezis, that's cold.
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:35 PM on December 10, 2008 [18 favorites]


This is pretty damn cool. Thanks for sharing this! I love how much thought and effort went into the design of these contraptions, and how they have sections to store possesions. I suspect they'd be a pretty big target for theft from some of the more vulnerable members of the homeless population, and I'm not sure how that could be addressed.
posted by diamondsky at 1:36 PM on December 10, 2008


Wow, this is retarded. Why not put this effort into improving homeless shelters and building new ones? Helping people remain homeless is kind of perverse.
posted by mullingitover at 1:45 PM on December 10, 2008


I don't know, mullingitover. It looks comfier than the dorm room I spent my freshman year in, and I'm only being a little bit flip.
posted by Caduceus at 1:48 PM on December 10, 2008


I would love to trot out my usual schtick about permanent housing bundled with mental health resources right now but we've done homelessness a couple times recently and today was my court day in the judicial system where I'm a social worker now so I'm about a dozen troubled corner boys too tired at the moment.
posted by The Straightener at 1:51 PM on December 10, 2008 [7 favorites]


You're being a lot flip.
posted by proj at 1:51 PM on December 10, 2008


He spends much of each day intoxicated and grimy. He despises most people.

Get him an OLPC and a MetaFilter account, stat.
posted by porn in the woods at 1:53 PM on December 10, 2008 [28 favorites]


Homelessness is a damn complicated issue -- which is probably why there are still so many homeless people despite the best efforts of countless good-intentioned people and organizations.

The "greatest damn gift you could ever give" to a homeless person is job, so they can provide food and shelter to themselves and become a contributing member of society. But, as Mr. Raynor proves, not all homeless people are employable or would be able to keep a job. At that point, having something like the EDAR really would be a pretty good gift.

Oddly, when I finished this article I was thinking more about the LA Times than about the homeless. The LA Times is owned by the Tribune Company, which is not doing so well. This is a really nice story; I hope they get to write a lot more like it.
posted by thebergfather at 1:53 PM on December 10, 2008


The problem is that the homeless population consists mostly of people who are mentally ill, either innately or through substance abuse. These people are incapable of caring for themselves, and their homelessness is merely a symptom of that. Giving them a portable hovel is a very small band-aid to apply to their bullet wound.

What really needs to happen is the war on civil liberties, popularly known as the 'war on drugs,' needs to end and the freed-up funds need to be used for treatment and prevention of mental illness and substance abuse. Homelessness would simply go away as the ill are taken in and treated. I see no point in helping the homeless remain in their situation, it's like telling a person with malaria that you respect their lifestyle choice.
posted by mullingitover at 1:56 PM on December 10, 2008 [4 favorites]


Care and upkeep is an important factor in a solution like this. Too many homeless would (for lack of better/more words) destroy, catch on fire, or otherwise turn this into a mobile junkcart or another pile of shredded rubbish.

An imperfect solution; but a lot of urban recreationalists and weekend campers would welcome its availability on the free market. Free market sales would fund more of these for the homeless.
posted by buzzman at 2:04 PM on December 10, 2008


"Thinking outside the box"

Ok, I see what they did there.
posted by quin at 2:09 PM on December 10, 2008


This is why we have the word: Mankind.
posted by doctorschlock at 2:10 PM on December 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


I feel that while the inventors had strong intentions, I think that buzzman is right. This would probably do more on the free market (camping and portability are a plus) and the company could use this to fund more free units for the homeless (i.e. TOMS Shoes)
posted by businessninja at 2:11 PM on December 10, 2008


I don't see the retardedness of this Mullingitover. Yeah, I totally agree: why don't we put this effort, or more effort into improving homeless shelters? I don't know, but we don't. We haven't and I don't think we will anytime soon. Speaking as an ex-homeless teen, having any space that was reasonably portable and even lightly secure would be a tremendous help. And that help would start right now, tonight. When I was homeless, the biggest thing keeping me from straightening out my shit was having to stay up all night to keep watch on my stuff and not get busted by the police. Which meant I was always sleep deprived, and could only get some sleep in during the day when it was a little less dangerous. This cart won't solve the homeless problem, but it might help make their day-to-day a little better, and that is not wasted effort in my opinon.
posted by gofargogo at 2:15 PM on December 10, 2008 [5 favorites]


What really needs to happen is the war on civil liberties, popularly known as the 'war on drugs,' needs to end and the freed-up funds need to be used for treatment and prevention of mental illness and substance abuse. Homelessness would simply go away as the ill are taken in and treated. I see no point in helping the homeless remain in their situation, it's like telling a person with malaria that you respect their lifestyle choice.


I'm doubtful about the connection between the war on drugs and homelessness. Got any research to back this up? Even if this is true, the war on drugs could continue for several decades. Meanwhile, the EDAR project simply tries to do something useful right here and now for the homeless.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 2:18 PM on December 10, 2008


Once they are all securely in their EDARS, their brainpower and waste heat will provide alternative energy, freeing us from dependence on foreign oil! Bwahahaha!

No, seriously, it's a neat little contraption, and despite the expressed reservations, it will probably help a lot of people out. Interesting article.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 2:19 PM on December 10, 2008


...why don't we put this effort, or more effort into improving homeless shelters?

Because this is America and we're trying to maintain people's inalienable right to be homeless.
posted by RussHy at 2:21 PM on December 10, 2008


Why not put this effort into improving homeless shelters and building new ones? Helping people remain homeless is kind of perverse.

They do address this in the article. Its a question of cost. How many people can they help with the dollars available.

"His first instinct was to build shelters, but then he did the math. Building a bed in a facility runs $50,000 to $100,000. The cost to house all of the county's street denizens would run into the billions. Besides, many of them resist services. So he thought: What is there that's better than a damp box on a rainy night even if it's not as good as a bed?"

Shelters are damned expensive -- not only the actual cost of the land and the building, but also costs of maintenance and upkeep, staffing, permitting, insurance, ongoing cost of utilities -- not to mention the whole NIMBY fight you're going to have in a LOT of locations that see shelters as something that will attract crime, drug use, etc.

Also, in the article he acknowledges that is not a perfect solution:

"Because it is not nearly as good as a shelter bed. There's no pretense it's as good as permanent or temporary brick-and-mortar housing." But it is, he says, "infinitely better than a damp cardboard box."

But it is something that does quickly and easily solve an immediate need while other, longer term solutions (permanent housing, jobs, etc) can be sought.
posted by anastasiav at 2:22 PM on December 10, 2008 [4 favorites]


The problem is that the homeless population consists mostly of people who are mentally ill, either innately or through substance abuse.

Care to back that up?
posted by Alex404 at 2:24 PM on December 10, 2008


Alex404 writes "Care to back that up?"

Sure.

posted by mullingitover at 2:28 PM on December 10, 2008 [22 favorites]


For some reason this reminds me of Dorothy Parker after a suicide attempt, asking if she could have a flag for her oxygen tent.
posted by hermitosis at 2:35 PM on December 10, 2008


Dude, I've never seen that letmegooglethatforyou site. Thank you. As well, thank you four panels for putting my own worries back into perspective.
posted by gman at 2:38 PM on December 10, 2008


I hadn't seen that "let me google that for you" link before. Nicely played.

(Though it's so "blogosphere" with its smug a-holery. But I guess no self-respecting Internet interactor would ever use a site called "Hey I apologize for not explaining myself in better detail earlier, here is what a google search turns up, wow we both learned something! =) ".)
posted by resurrexit at 2:41 PM on December 10, 2008


A homeless shelter is not a home, it is by design transitional and temporary, and can be taken away by budget cut or arbitrary whim. It is not the occupant's to do with as he wishes, it's a place to be told what to do. This is in part why so many of the homeless disdain shelters.

But a tent on wheels, flimsy as it might be, is a home, a modern yurt, less upholstered but as much the owner's byright and by law as the Pleasure Dome was Kubla Khan's.
... they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid.
--Micah, chapter 4, verse 4
A home, even the most modest one, provides peace and dignity and freedom from fear. "Be it ever so humble" is a cliche because it tells a truth. Something with locks to secure his possessions, however meager; a bed that is his by right, not by someone else's reversible whim.

The common law presumption that a man's home is his castle, whether he be king or pauper attests to the correspondence of the ideas of "home" and "freedom"; it's why we scrimp and save to pay mortgages, and it's why we disdain the homeless and see them as somehow less than human for having no castle, no place to call home. It's why people in Tornado Alley nevertheless insist on remaining in their trailers instead of moving to more sensible apartments, and why the slopes of Vesuvius were covered with houses. It's why police correctly fear that the EDAR will mean having to accord the homeless the same rights as are guaranteed by our Constitution for all men.

Home, not so much treaties or ideology or governments, is what men die for: La Belle Patrie, der Vaterland, Rodina, Eretz Ha'Avot, Home. "Our holy and our beautiful house, where our fathers praised thee," according to Isiash, "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori," to Horace. It is the earth in which our fathers' bones lie, and the ground from which we draw sustenance both material and spiritual.

Being cut off from Home is the source of the lamentations by the waters of Babylon, the pain of the Diaspora and Exile, the weeping in the slave cabins at night, the bloody footprints on the Trail of Tears, the emptied faces at Manzanar, the bodies pressed against razor wire in post-WWII Displaced Persons camps and the refugee camps of stateless Palestinians and Vietnamese boat-people.

This is about a warm place to sleep, but it's about much more than that: it's about dignity, it's about treating the homeless not as unfortunate things to be swept up, but as fellow human beings, as fellow children of the same god as the rest of us, as brothers. It's about a vine and fig tree, and none shall be afraid.
posted by orthogonality at 2:43 PM on December 10, 2008 [33 favorites]


Homelessness would simply go away as the ill are taken in and treated.

Well, most chronic homelessness. There are a lot of forms of homelessness not caused by mental illness or chemical abuse, such as teenage runaways, but these are usually shorter termed and have very different needs -- getting them a job and an apartment is often all they need.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:43 PM on December 10, 2008


This is one of the greatest damn gifts you could ever give to anybody. If they weren't out of stock.
posted by gman at 2:44 PM on December 10, 2008


This quote is why talking to homeless criminals is worth it:

"As traffic rushed by one recent starry Friday night, Raynor reminisced about his brushes with the law. Beer can in hand, he spoke of jumping a freight train to Texas to search for a friend's missing 13-year-old daughter. Wielding a sawed-off shotgun, he banged down a door and tied up two men who he thought knew her whereabouts. "How was I to know they were cops working on a sting operation?" he said."

You can just imagine his red, googly-eyed credulity in his own story. God bless everyone who works with and for these people. And good on the EDAR fellow for trying something in this situation, which is more than I can say for myself.
posted by resurrexit at 2:44 PM on December 10, 2008


Insensitive:
Do I get a discount on one with my REI membership?

With that out of my system, onto the serious...
People are homeless for different reasons, and while this version of homeless looks slightly more upscale and palatable for those buying them it still fails to address many of the problems they face. While functional, two seasons in one of those things and it will look less like a mini pop-up camper and more like a canvas coffin.

Outdoor fabrics rip and tears from both harsh weather conditions and accidents; tent poles break; zippers stick, and on a cold enough night, the whole thing will burn when someone builds a fire underneath it. Don't get me wrong, there are some nice conceptual pieces to it, but outdoor equipment requires care and maintenance from someone able to put in the time and with the cognitive ability to treat it properly. Yes, there are many smart people in the world, and I'm sure that there is a portion of them which is homeless, but as stated by multiple people, there are way more mentally ill and mentally deficient people who are homeless. Moreso, the demoralization of surviving while homeless does nothing for one's cognitive ability.

Really what this looks like is the brainchild of a kid that spent the night out in the cold while in college so that they could get the experience of what it was like to be homeless. Its too complex, its too sanitized, and ultimately too urban chic to be practical.

So yeah, I'm hash and negative about this sort of thing... it just looks like a new way a company can rip off non-profit organizations and cities in the name of good will. Feel free to shoot holes in my arguements, make em look more like one of these things will after 1 year of service...
posted by Nanukthedog at 2:45 PM on December 10, 2008


$400?! Okay let us look at the historicity of homelessness. What did Raynoricus of Medea use in 32 AD? Sleeping in an alley with some old cloths? Market value: Nothing. Raynor of Avalon in 1485 AD? Sleeping in alley with some old cloths? Market value: Nothing. Present day LA? Sleeping in an alley with a cardboard box, no market value.

So this device might be really useful for the woman with kids, but you're always going to have people like Raynor and unless they get the costs of producing these down to $10 so he can just go pick one up when he loses, destroys or trades this one for money, I doubt you're going to see some sort of revolution. In fact I would go so far to say that instead of inventing a $400 fancy tent, someone should invent some cool origami cardboard box that offers better protection from the elements and costs nothing to produce.

Oh and why do media reports lump people like Raynor in with the mom and kids? Are we still thinking that homelessness is homelessness? Because I bet even if we lived in some sort of utopia where we had good mental health services, available shelters and all those nice things, Raynor is still going to be living near the PCH. Oh sure the access to health care and help when he needs it is great and we should be doing that, but $400 tents? Not going to last.
posted by geoff. at 2:45 PM on December 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wow, this is retarded. Why not put this effort into improving homeless shelters and building new ones? Helping people remain homeless is kind of perverse.

I'm not sure I'd use "retarded" to describe a seemingly valiant and tangible effort to help some people out. Additionally (and I'm sure you've heard it before) it is entirely possible to improve homeless shelters and build new ones and provide a stop-gap like the EDAR at the same time. If I had to venture a guess, I'd say the EDAR, at least on the surface, is the quicker solution.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 3:15 PM on December 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Design Boom did a design contest on this subject, great ideas.
posted by cedar key at 3:17 PM on December 10, 2008


And then there's also a deluxe version: The Mini-Motel -- $50 and equipped with an air mattress, pillow, reading light, alarm clock, toothbrush and paste, ear plugs and eye shades.
posted by ericb at 3:20 PM on December 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


"His first instinct was to build shelters, but then he did the math. Building a bed in a facility runs $50,000 to $100,000. The cost to house all of the county's street denizens would run into the billions. Besides, many of them resist services. So he thought: What is there that's better than a damp box on a rainy night even if it's not as good as a bed?"

Shelters are damned expensive -- not only the actual cost of the land and the building, but also costs of maintenance and upkeep, staffing, permitting, insurance, ongoing cost of utilities -- not to mention the whole NIMBY fight you're going to have in a LOT of locations that see shelters as something that will attract crime, drug use, etc.


the NOW page linked in the "homeless" link
has video of a program that just pays for homeless people to have apartments a la Section 8.

Shelter program, per person*yr, $100k
subsidized housing, per person*yr $20k rent and services

but i wonder how much they are cutting down on costs by not being responsible for the ambulance anymore
posted by eustatic at 3:21 PM on December 10, 2008


gofagogo, thank you for keeping it real.
posted by liza at 3:23 PM on December 10, 2008


The homeless shelter in my area is going through an outbreak of TB, one of many reasons folks might avoid those places.
posted by Iron Rat at 3:25 PM on December 10, 2008


Didn't we have a discussion not too long ago about police officers destroying tents that homeless people were staying in? It's sad, but I don't imagine these would last long in general use.

Here, that's what I'm thinking about as well.

Leavie aside mental illness and other psychological problems -- a huge thing to leave aside -- there's some remainder of the homeless who have a problem because as a society we have largely elected to eliminate marginal housing. We've done it with a combination of good intentions and callous indifference to secondhand consequences, with a combination of building codes and zoning laws and acceptance of economic interest of land developers and not wanting sketchy-looking stuff in our neighborhoods and so on. But it means that for whatever reason you can't even afford the minimum inside the range of the standard shelter, you quite likely have simply no options outside of charity and special programs.

I very clearly remember talking with a friend a few years ago about how hard it was to find even a cheap small condo. 800 sq feet was the minimum at local code. Can you live comfortably and more affordably in 400? 200? Tough -- those were out decades ago. And trends being what they were, 800 was even hard to find.

So I wonder sometimes if the answer to one part of the homeless problem is to reintroduce the concept of marginal shelter -- or, potentially, widen the range of standard shelter to include some of this.

But again, you can't do this without running up against neighborhood opposition and typical municipal practices. In particular if you try to have any *concentration* of marginal housing. They see tent cities or shantytowns or even to some extent government housing projects as aesthetically undesirable, or as magnets/breeding grounds for crime and other social problems. And while some of this viewpoint has its roots in narrow mindedness or the apathy of comfort, some of it's probably correct.

What's the alternative, then? You have to scatter the marginal housing over a wider area. But even this is going to meet significant neighborhood opposition -- unless the neighborhoods themselves are taking some ownership of situation. And I think ultimately, that's going to have to be a part of a successful community strategy that could someday offer an open lot here or there where someone can park a car or a tent or an EDAR and sleep with local approval. And maybe even katrina homes scattered in with your 3-5 bedrooms, or approved mother-in-law apartments, managed in cooperation with locals so that they have some stake in success and so they can be bothered to become familiar with individual stories that they can see beyond any surface sketchiness and their own prejudices. I think this kind of stuff already happens here and there where there are pockets of people who are more concerned with helping out than they and their neighbors are in gingerbread appearances and property values, I just wonder if there couldn't be a bigger push for it across different communities.

I also wonder if anybody could make or has made tent cities or other concentration of marginal housing work well in modern america by having some semi-formal leadership inside of them that works in cooperation with local government, but I think that's a harder battle to fight. It smacks of capitulation to a lower standard of living than a lot of us are willing to accept in our current society, by hope or by pride, and it's not entirely a bad thing. But I do think it has to be considered inside the context of an understanding of the problems that an absence of marginal can present.
posted by weston at 3:36 PM on December 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


hadn't seen that "let me google that for you" link before. Nicely played.

(Though it's so "blogosphere" with its smug a-holery. But I guess no self-respecting Internet interactor would ever use a site called "Hey I apologize for not explaining myself in better detail earlier, here is what a google search turns up, wow we both learned something! =) ".)


See, the thing that makes it really rife with jackassitude is that, when you quote statistics, you should fucking cite your source, not expect your audience to google it.

It's not my job to back up your claims, Smuggy McCondescendypants, it's yours.
posted by dersins at 3:41 PM on December 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


a great gift to give the homeless around this time of year is a brand new pair of warm socks.
posted by any major dude at 4:28 PM on December 10, 2008


dersins writes "It's not my job to back up your claims, Smuggy McCondescendypants, it's yours."


Ok, Lazy McUnresourcefulpants.
:P
People who are homeless frequently have health problems:

* Thirty-eight percent report alcohol use problems.
* Twenty-six percent report other drug use problems.
* Thirty-nine percent report some form of mental health problem, and 20 to 25 percent meet criteria for serious mental illnesses.
* Sixty-six percent report substance use and/or mental health problems.
posted by mullingitover at 4:32 PM on December 10, 2008


Since some people brought it up, they do sell something similar on the market.
posted by champthom at 4:37 PM on December 10, 2008


You can have all the cheap and easy to put housing that you want, but if there is no where to put it than it does not matter at all. There are many good examples of tent cities that have been taken down. Tent, fancy temporary housing, whatever. Where does it go? The parking lots of churches? No, that's not legal. Public land? No, not ok either.

Unless we have a place to put up temporary housing, well, there is no point. It's all just means nothing.
posted by Belle O'Cosity at 4:48 PM on December 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


I very clearly remember talking with a friend a few years ago about how hard it was to find even a cheap small condo. 800 sq feet was the minimum at local code. Can you live comfortably and more affordably in 400? 200? Tough -- those were out decades ago. And trends being what they were, 800 was even hard to find.

That's insane - my current apartment is 550 sqft and just fine (actually, I wish it had more rooms, but I would happily just cut one in half rather than making the place bigger), and I lived not too unhappily in an apartment which was probably abt 200-300 sqft (two of us, too, though again I would have moved walls - to make the bathroom smaller and the kitchen bigger).

But your point is excellent - housing needs to be of all kinds, and more affordable. There is a hardcore group of homeless who may always be homeless or at best need to live in supported living (suffering from addiction, mental health issues, etc), but there is also a large penumbra of homeless who are economically homeless and just need affordable housing. This is the group that grows so rapidly in economic bad times - - many are families with children, who are given priority for shelter (in Toronto, we hide them away in motels along the Lakeshore) - which makes them more invisible than the man sleeping in the doorway. But they are still just as homeless.

Shelters like these are excellent for those whom they are best for, but also need to be part of an overall housing strategy that thinks about the needs of different homeless people. Some just need housing help - subsized housing. Some need housing support - maybe a room in a supported living facility. And others don't want to be in housing, but would like a nice tough tent. And I think they should be given space to put that tent up.
posted by jb at 5:27 PM on December 10, 2008


Belle O'Cosity writes "Unless we have a place to put up temporary housing, well, there is no point."
jb writes "And I think they should be given space to put that tent up."

Uh, I don't think people are going to be any less NIMBY about favelas than they are about homless shelters.
posted by mullingitover at 5:33 PM on December 10, 2008


Only the solution that I propose is worth anything and all other efforts are worse than Hitler.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:45 PM on December 10, 2008 [6 favorites]


wow, those edars seem like a great idea. lots of hate here though.
posted by krautland at 6:02 PM on December 10, 2008


Sorry if this has already been pointed out upthread, but some homeless people don't want a job, or to live at a shelter, or to give up their addiction of choice. Strange as it sounds to us, some of them prefer homelessness to the alternatives. And a lot of them are just mentally ill—in need of treatment, sure, but you can't force someone to see a doctor.

So I think the EDAR is a great idea—maybe you can't help those people with the kinds of lasting changes that will ultimately make them self-sufficient (employment, counseling, etc.), but at least you can give them a tool that will make their life somewhat more comfortable and stable. Maybe, for a few of them, that will give them the extra breathing room they need to get their heads together and accept more lasting kinds of help.

Related: this documentary about homeless people in New York is excellent, and can be viewed online (if you have a Netflix subscription).
posted by greenie2600 at 6:17 PM on December 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Nanukthedog

People are homeless for different reasons, and while this version of homeless looks slightly more upscale and palatable for those buying them it still fails to address many of the problems they face.

Perhaps you've never slept rough my friend. The main problem is waking up in the morning still alive despite the cold and damp. All the many problems which this "still fails to address" instantly disappear if you can't solve the one problem which this does address.
The guy set out to deal with the damp cardboard box being baseline accommodation and I think he may be on to something.
posted by speug at 6:17 PM on December 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


but you can't force someone to see a doctor.

Not in so many words, but you can make something they want--like food--contingent on spending a few minutes getting checked out, or taking their meds. It wouldn't be that complicated to do, and if your average mentally ill homeless person was in for care enough times, and stayed on meds for a reasonable length of time, and had some kind of program open to them, then they might indeed come to want something besides homelessness.

And for people who are not self-treatable, i.e., completely deranged and capable of self-harm, then I think you should absolutely be able to put them into a treatment hospital and get them care. And at the same time, assign them a representative who will look out for their interests and makes sure they aren't just warehoused like in the bad old days.

The most terrible thing about homelessness (and so much poverty) is the dire isolation. It's one thing just to be poor, it's another entirely for your poverty to suddenly make you a social leper. We still treat it like a contagious disease or a punishment for sin, not as an accident of circumstance that could happen to any one of us. Giving the homeless a way to stay safe, clean, clothed and fed makes it easier for them to re-enter society simply because their poverty is no longer be so visible.

I don't have any problem with these tents; I don't understand why anyone thinks they're going to somehow pre-empt other strategies for fighting homelessness.
posted by emjaybee at 7:09 PM on December 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's just a tent folks. This is why people don't do good things anymore, people on metafilter find something slightly wrong with it and bitch at them.
posted by BrnP84 at 8:24 PM on December 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


I wish we had that kind of power!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:31 PM on December 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


There's a whole bunch of but this won't solve the whole problem hand-wringing. Well, duh. None of us can solve the whole problem. But we can solve it for one person.

So I wonder sometimes if the answer to one part of the homeless problem is to reintroduce the concept of marginal shelter -- or, potentially, widen the range of standard shelter to include some of this.

I do wonder. Certainly there are vast swathes of suburbia where there is an inadequate supply of affordable housing. But traditionally the American solution -- at least since WWII -- has been to substitute distance for supply. An hour bus-ride away, say, you can rent a whole house for what an 800 sq. ft. apartment would cost in your desired neighborhood. This offloads the social costs of low-income neighborhoods onto some other municipality, usually. It also creates a transportation-dependent culture where everybody needs a car to get to work. But the very difficulty of maintaining a vehicle at the lowest income echelons is an implicit barrier to work in all but the most modest burbs.

Still, there's a point here. A century ago any widow or single mother would have rented out rooms. That builds in economic support for a demographic, while creating a supply of affordable housing for single men, or husbands separated from their families who might be living with relatives. There are other social costs there, though, starting with density/zoning issues and running right down to personal safety of the average landlady or her children. I bet that solution, to 21st century eyes, generated a lot of unreported sexual abuse. I also know that when I lived in an SRO in New York for a time, there was a margin of petty crime and you didn't want to keep anything more expensive than a drugstore boombox in your room. Heck, once I was in a well-run YMCA for a few weeks and there were theft and rape concerns there.

Still, most working poor manage to find housing. It's the homeless we're talking about, most of whom barely qualify as working. There certainly are people who are temporarily homeless at times but it's only a minority who get trapped and can't get out (of the outside, ironically). So I don't know that more housing options is really solving this problem, although it may solve others.
posted by dhartung at 10:33 PM on December 10, 2008


dhartung writes "A century ago any widow or single mother would have rented out rooms."

Now everyone and their mother does it. http://*.craigslist.org/roo/
posted by mullingitover at 11:08 PM on December 10, 2008


I realize any sort of criticism from the internet could shut this project down post-haste and I concede it's an interesting idea and all, but... well shit, right now it's -24°C here and feels like -35°C. It's so cold that the freaking Sally Ann is actually admitting the drunk and the stoned. There's no magic one size fits all solution, but I think actual, permanent housing would be the first step towards real progress.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:42 PM on December 10, 2008


Perhaps you've never slept rough my friend. The main problem is waking up in the morning still alive despite the cold and damp. All the many problems which this "still fails to address" instantly disappear if you can't solve the one problem which this does address.
The guy set out to deal with the damp cardboard box being baseline accommodation and I think he may be on to something.


Actually I have slept moderately rough at one point in my life. And many of my old friends have slept very rough many more times than that. My posts are pretty autobiographical (and few, so its possible to get most of the story pretty quick).

After I quit being an engineer I spent about a year living off my savings, half of that going to culinary school an hour a way (it was a shorter program, which would put me back in the workforce quicker). At that point I got a 30 hourish job, and paid for my living expenses that way. After I completed school though, I was without work, as I was waiting for my new job to start (seasonal work). I loaded all my stuff into a $75/mo storage facilty, prepaid for a while, and drove up to my new job early with intent on finding some level of work in the interim. It didn't happen. Yeah, I had a nice REI tent, a sleeping bag, a good bike, and a car, but I had no income, and no money. For about 2 months I lived in the woods on ramen noodles, and only ran my car to charge my cell phone. Once work started it took me two paychecks to be able to pay for an appartment. I was fortunate: it was the summer, I am an outdoorsy guy, and I had the right equipment to survive relatively comfortably. Two years prior I would have thought it awesome to have a two month long backpacking trip. Its a slightly different story when you are on one by necessity. I won't lie to you, I was extremely fortunate it was the summer - otherwise I'd have probably headed south and done the same thing. As far as family? They thought I was working and had an appartment - that's just a question of a conveinent lie to prevent them from worrying.

To address some issues: the scarriest thing to do is to leave any portion of your stuff when everything you have is vital to survival (including books for sanity). I also had two problems with park rangers during my two months without a home, nothing major - they just assumed I was a hippie, which was fine... The first time I just had to answer a bunch of questions, pay a fine for a fire, and find some other place to move on to; the second time I actually explained to them the situation and amazingly they let me slide (though they did direct me to move on the next morning). I definitely was lucky...

When I moved back to Boston at the end of the summer, I was able to afford a room in a cheapo part of Somerville (anyone who is familiar with Winter Hill would still recognize my $565 rent for 1 room in a 3 bedroom to be a steal though), bike to work and pretty close to decommission my car for the better part of three years.

Cooking in Boston is sorta interesting: my friends were cooks, which meant I spent several nights a week in crack houses after the bars closed - seriously. Trust me when I say I saw homeless, I saw squatters, and I saw the worst possible quasi-legal housing conditions people lived in. More importantly, a few of them were my friends and coworkers. (For the record, I have never done crack.) Believe me when that becomes normal and acceptable, eventually reality sort of hits you. If I hadn't been struck by a car, I probably would have stayed a cook, but I'll tell you what, having the opportunity to reflect in a hospital (and streeted 3 hours later) with a broken back and crappy insurance made me consider what I really wanted in life (home, family, kids, etc.). Despite a very promising career as a cook, I gave up a solid dream for myself for the possibility of a dream for a whole hell of a lot more... it definitely wasn't a life I'd want to bring a kid into.

So while I may be an ass and a killjoy, I also know which end I'm talking out of.
posted by Nanukthedog at 8:06 AM on December 11, 2008 [4 favorites]


The experience prompted Samuelson to start the Starlight Foundation... he brought together director Steven Spielberg and Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, among others, to create the Starbright Foundation.... Another Samuelson charity, First Star, advocates for abused and neglected children.

I see where this is going.
posted by euphorb at 2:33 PM on December 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Nanukthedog: have you read the article? Have you seen what else Mr. Samuelson has done with his money and contacts? He's not in this to rip-off people.

The current economy is scary and going to get scarier. So, in a very selfish way, I'm happy to see things such as the EDARs, Kamprights and tiny homes. It gives me a sense of security knowing that things like this exist. It shows that there are options should my family income be reduced to little or nothing.
posted by deborah at 8:54 PM on December 11, 2008


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