December 11th, 2008

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Everyone Deserves A Roof

Because I've been schlepping back and forth to the VA (four trips in seven days, various semi-diginities, and all is as well as can be expected, and better than feared, if not so well as one might hope. I don't have to go back for a month), I've been reading the papers.

The WSJ is what it is, the LA Times is not what it was. All of them are not truly what I'd like to see (and one wonders, if I'd stuck with it, taken a job in someplace like Spearfish, SD, and clawed my way back to LA, or even out to DC, would it be any better, or should I have been sucked into the mindset... the one which has me tearing at my hair when the blather of sources with an obvious ax to grind is treated as if it were "objective" just because the person is 1: close to power or, 2: disagrees with something; and so counts at, "balance? But I digress).

The front page of yesterday's LA Times had a wonderful story about, a guy who came face to face with the problem of shelter for the homeless. This isn't your run of the mill guy. He's an immigrant. He's founded charities (he was one of the guys who started The Starlight Children's Foundation). So, one night he's heading home on his bike, and he notices that there are more homeless people about. So he starts to talk to them. He spends a few weeks talking to them.

He asked one of them where she slept, so she showed him the refrigerator box she slept in. "That was my epiphany moment. I've got the refrigerator. She's got the box. What's wrong with that picture?"

So Peter Samuelson sponsored a contest, got a design, had it prototyped paid (or found the money for) building enough to tes them (at about $500 a pop) and wants (because they seem to work a treat) to get more of them made.

Why? Because they are cheaper than shelters. They are useful to those who are leery of shelters. They work. One of the guys who was given one of the test models (whose been on the street since his parents kicked him out; at 13; apart from some time in jail, that's where he's been every since. He's forty now) said, "this is the best damn gifts you could give anybody."

He's right.

The design is clever. It's sort of like a pop-up trailer. It can sleep someone almost seven feet tall. In the daytime it folds up to make a sort of cart. It keeps one off the ground (so there is less heat loss from the cold earth). It's proof against the rain. The Union Misson want's to have 100 (17 were donated), for use in the winter shelter.

They give a homeless person some privacy.

Cops are worried they will create a presumption of place (meaning they would have to get warrants to enter them; which doesn't strike me as a bad thing).

I suspect they will give people who have them a sense of pride/self-worth, which is a big step in getting one's mind out of the depressive spiral that living with no place to call one's own causes.

Are the a panacea? No. People will be attacked by people who want to steal them. Towns and cities will ban them (or try to legislate them into ghettos. As the times points out cities might use the leverage of a protected place to pitch one to extort a right to search without a warrant). But they are a huge step in treating some of the least as if they were still real people.

That, if nothing else, justifies them.

So, if you have the money to spare (or when you do), nip on over to Everyone Deserves a Roof and pitch in. Me, next month when I go back to the VA, I'm going to stop in (they are headquarted in Westwood) and see if there's anything I can do. Even a couple of hours helping out can't hurt.