Helping the last become first…


The last statistic I read showed that there were about 650,000 homeless people in America.

You could build them all tiny homes. Now costs vary, but for our purposes, we could use $15,000 as a good marker. Get you a loft bed, a tiny kitchen, maybe a pullout bed, and a bathroom. Doing the math, construction would cost 9.75 billion dollars. Factor in some land costs, let’s say 25-35 billion dollars as an initial one time investment.

Now we’ve got enough homes to house folks. But we have to keep them there.

For poor families, it’s not a problem. We’ll let them rent to own and not charge them interest. Let them pay 20% of their income a month back to the government to buy their homes in full.

For folks with drug problems and mental health problems, we’re going to need to invest in community centers and clinics to help them manage or overcome their addictions and get them any psychiatric help they need. So we’ll need to spend initial construction costs on those buildings, plus an annual investment in social workers and doctors.

Let’s say 1.5 million to build a community center in our tiny house neighborhood.  Another 1.5 to build our clinics. Now our homeless population is going to be spread out. So we’ll need to account for that. Let’s say we’ll need 500 of each. That would be another 1.5 billion dollars. Throw in land costs and we can probably bump that up to 20 billion, just to be conservative.

So far, we’ve had one major investment in America for the total of 45-55 billion dollars. That’s less than ten percent of the annual Defense budget and it’s only for one year and we will slowly recoup some of that money as poor families pay their rent to own fees monthly.

Now we’ll need to staff them. So we’re probably looking at another 10-20 billion in annual costs to start. There are also maintenance fees, but we can save costs there by hiring able bodies community members to do basic maintenance and earn money and credit towards purchasing your own house too.

We can plan public transportation routes near these tiny home communities to allow folks to travel into other neighborhoods where they can spend some of the money they’ve earned, we can build small parks, provide Wi-Fi to the community, plan spaces for community gardens, and have a farmer’s market. None of this would cost that much.

We can hire local artists to paint murals or decorate houses. Have the community centers hold job training, ESL, and basic financial classes.

Like I said, as a one-time outlay we could probably do all of this and more with 10% of the Pentagon budget for one year and maintain it for 40-60% of that cost annually. I don’t know for sure, I would have to have some professional accountants run the exact numbers. Right now, we’re just guestimating.

But that wouldn’t be that much to pay to end homelessness and bring a better life to those 650,000 people, would it? I don’t think so. We’d still be outspending the rest of the world on “defense” by an obscene amount.

But we won’t do that. Because of people who view poverty as a moral failing. Judgmental people who have never had to skip a meal or delay paying a bill or dig through couches to find loose change to go buy ramen because their job doesn’t pay them enough. Or maybe they have. And instead of letting that experience soften their hearts they get angry and they think, “I had to pull myself up. Why should I give them a hand? Why should I pay to give them a break? No one did that for me.”

Maybe you’re right.  Maybe no one did that for you. Maybe your family couldn’t. Maybe your friends didn’t.

But don’t you wish they had? Wouldn’t you have wanted someone… anyone… to come by in the lowest moment of your life and offer you their hand?

Instead of being the Christian who would scream, “It’s not fair!” maybe we could be the kind of people who rejoice that we’re helping the last become the first and giving people a chance to live better. Maybe not all of them would. But some would. And aren’t they worth it?

We’d be doing the work of the Kingdom of Heaven.

But I don’t think we will. Instead, I think a lot of people… a lot of Christians would be pouting on the sidelines complaining about their tax dollars going to Those people.

We could do nice things. We just don’t want to.

2 thoughts on “Helping the last become first…

  1. jonolan

    OK,

    One – you’re numbers are wildly inflated – by about 100%. Use the term chronically homeless to find better numbers since your “plan” is meant for them from the sound of it.

    Two – pilots for this sort of thing have been tried multiple times in the past and they’ve always failed, sometimes rather horribly. Worse, they’ve failed for a variety of reasons, making it all the harder to figure out how to possibly make it work in the future.

    The chronically homeless are such for reasons. Giving them homes doesn’t address those reasons and just puts them together in a place where they can – and apparently will – harm each other and the surrounding communities… if they even stay there in the 1st place.

    Perhaps a better, if more cruel sounding at first blush, option would be workhouses. Supervised dorm living combined with forced labor, required therapy, and required vocational training. All this followed by reintegration help.

    Oh, and as a note – I’ve been homeless for a while. It was a “choice” based upon my mental state at that time, which was utterly unfit for society and I knew that.

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    1. comradedread Post author

      I’m aware of the mental health issues, hence why I said we needed to build clinics to serve them and social workers to help them, check up on them to make sure they’re getting treatment and taking medication, and are doing okay.

      Also, not all of the modern homeless are mentally ill. Many are families that have been priced out of housing. Which is why I said they could rent to own.

      Lastly, housing the homeless has proven cheaper in the long run and has shown success in cities and countries. Salt Lake City is a good example. They had some success there, but are now facing increasing homelessness to the price of housing rising in that city. You have to focus on both the chronically homeless and the new homeless.

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