Jun 3rd, 2013 by terry
Hello committed social service professional,
I’m writing to propose an entirely new approach to remedy our malaise of economic devastation, housing insecurity and social isolation. The cooperative model is time-tested (Rochdale Pioneers began in 1844) and proven. The Mondragon Cooperative lifted the Basque region of Spain out of poverty starting in 1956. Today the region has 0.00% unemployment. In other words zero unemployment at a time when Spain’s overall unemployment rate is 27.2%.
The model also works closer to home. Cleveland, an impoverished area with a median household income below $18,500 has been revived by the Evergreen Cooperative, a co-op developed with support from the Cleveland Foundation, the Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, Case Western Reserve University, and the municipal government to create living wage jobs. It’s working!
The beauty of cooperatives is that, cleaving to the 7 cooperative principles, co-ops can be custom designed to meet communities’ needs. This model is ripe for housing and healing our people.
A Workable Template to Address the Housing Crisis
Dysfunctional families are one of our thorniest and most fundamental societal problems. If we stabilize the family culture, we have a shot at stabilizing society. Securing affordable housing is a major stress because today’s economics make new construction or rehabbing existing construction unaffordable for low and moderate-income people. Since affordable housing is not in the cards, some sort of shared housing is the next best thing.
After parsing this problem for years, I have distilled an idea into a template that could work in any community and, as a cooperative, could be scaled up quickly anywhere in the country. I envision two worker owned co-operatives working side-by-side to offer services and support to people seeking safe, secure housing.
New Community Vision, a worker-owned co-op of trained facilitators would facilitate Housing Mixers, monthly gatherings, community-by-community where people come to learn about a range of home sharing options and meet others grappling with the same issue. As people gather monthly, they will meet others that they would like to see more of and some they would like to see less of. Over time, affinity groups may wish to form households.
A worker-owned co-op of licensed social service professionals (SSPs) would support this process by helping people evaluate their options, make wise choices and settle in a new place.
The process would include screening and vetting applicants who, when approved, would be entered into a database that functions as a clearing house of information. The database would include potential residents and housing that is currently available, housing groups that are forming and may have openings, and Professional Homemakers managing professional homes.
Mudding through this particularly wrenching period, our citizenry is wounded on many levels but trying valiantly to cope. Our goal must be to get as many people on a fast track to healing as possible. Offer workshops and retreats as frequently, widely and affordably as possible to create a culture of healing. A consumer owned co-op of alternative and traditional medicine and dentistry, outside the medical industrial complex, is a compelling idea.
When we get past this time of astonishing social, political and economic change and the dust settles, our attitudes about everything, including money, will have shifted radically. With so many people out of work and underemployed, work will have a different purpose and meaning, as will money itself.
This effort must be sustainable and without a crushing amount of work. In this scheme, the worker owners (facilitators and SSPs) earn enough for an adequate lifestyle but no one gets rich.
As this is put into place, the demand for housing will be overwhelming. Applicants could apply online or by phone, for those who choose not to be online. If applying by phone, intake representatives (even working from home) could screen applicants establishing a human-to-human bond on the first phone call. With thousands of competent unemployed people, a virtual army could be trained quickly.
Several assumptions underlie this proposal.
As a highly trained social service professional, you or many people you know may have been laid off due to severe budget cuts and many skilled people are unemployed.
Many SSPs have a better sense of how housing services should be provided.
Sometimes the state bureaucracy may have deterred your effectiveness.
A cooperative of licensed social service professionals can design small-nodes that are nimble, flexible and effective.
If this model has legs (I believe it does) grant money will be available.
Clearly, no solution is coming quickly from Washington. Therefore, these challenges must be addressed at the community level. The next logical step is to convene a meeting to put this into motion. I hope that you are interested in joining this effort. I truly believe that the cooperative structure means that this can be implemented without a crushing amount of work and that it can be scaled up widely and quickly.
Who I am: By day, I manage the office of Gleason Woodwork, Inc. but my passion and purpose in life is cracking the code to make housing affordable. I started blogging about community building and home sharing (New Community Vision) in the fall of 2008. An important next step is building alliances with the social service community to generate the broad base of support to raise revenue to deliver these services.