Wanted: Housing Models that Reflect Reality

Photo: Stock Exchange/Salted House

I’ve looked and looked. Maybe it’s out there and I just haven’t seen it. Where is the short term housing that we desperately need? The  safe, affordable, possibly short term, housing that gives people a breather. The number of people standing at the precipice of homelessness, and falling into it, numbs my mind!

A lot of innocent people are going to get hurt.

If this unprecedented collapse takes with it the shame and humiliation that is inherent in our views about money and success, then we can grow from the experience and reach a new plateau of wisdom.

A business man in an industry that has been turned on its head repaid his investors their guaranteed 20% return, though he is looking at financial ruin and considers himself a failure. So far, he does not feel successful because he measures success on the bottom line. As the smoke clears and the paradigm shift settles in, hind sight will surely show that integrity trumps money as a measure of worth. He’s got the integrity thing in spades. Nevertheless, people have to eat, wear shoes and live indoors.

Instead of yet another policy paper describing our housing crisis, let’s put together local coalitions of real estate mavens, city council representatives, housing cooperators and building trades people to locate buildings that can be quickly modified to function as short term housing to get people off the street, sleeping indoors, eating decent food and having a place to put at least some of their belongings. Then let’s help people process this devastating experience so that it doesn’t become an albatross leaching every shred of self esteem from their identity.

Tornadoes follow a twisting path, devastate most of a community, flatten houses to match sticks, while leaving a few buildings intact, sometimes right next door. This is sort of like that. The rug is being pulled from under people who played by the rules. The bankers that we tax payers bailed out lavished bonuses like it was 2007! Fairness – the illusion talks about unfairness that is inherent in life.

Although the sense of failure is humiliating, the pay dirt is in learning the lesson, healing, and growing from the experience. Shame not only doesn’t get us anywhere, given that the game is rigged, it is misplaced.  A lot of innocent people are going to get hurt.

A new approach

The severity of the problem and the paucity of ideas gives my imagination free rein. I envision “housing fairs” with innovative housing solutions on offer. This could include as many different varieties of housing as we can dream up: households with room mates, households functioning as families, dormitory-type housing, cooperative apartments and any other concept that works. A dormitory arrangement might appeal to people who want a comfortable place to stay and would welcome, and pay for, meal service and maintenance.

Orphanages, which met the needs of an earlier era, are obsolete due to the wide acceptance of birth control. At this moment in history, our only housing models are designed for nuclear families, which comprise only 25% of our population. The other alternative is mostly single-person housing. This doesn’t come close to meeting the needs of huge numbers of our population. The very fundamentals of our culture have shifted radically and we need housing models that reflect our changed landscape. We cannot solve this problem without new models and we need them immediately. See 11 Reasons Why House Sharing Works.

5 thoughts on “Wanted: Housing Models that Reflect Reality

  1. Lack of orphanages has nothing to do with birth control. I don’t see the connection. Birth Control has nothing to do with children that have lost their parents through death or other means. There are still plenty of children without adult family members to care for them in the foster care system, despite birth control.

  2. TE, I wondered about the orphanage remark, too. I can think of perhaps two reasons that we don’t see them them these days.

    First, and thankfully, there are people willing to take such children into their homes and families. Obviously, there are millions of pitfalls, but it’s good such people are there. And the role of the foster parent has been recognized and institutionalized, minimizing the financial impact of taking a child in.

    Second, I know that there are shelters for women with children. Women in intolerable situations can rescue themselves and their children, and are not forced to break up their families to save them. Such shelters deserve all of the support that they can get.

    There’s much more to be said on these topics, but I am glad that there are people willing to help those who need.

  3. Thanks to both of you for your comments. I’m surprised that I didn’t make the connection that the foster care system played a big role in replacing orphanages. It seemed to me that that orphanages became obsolete around the time that birth control became widely available. Obviously, I have not studied this topic in depth. My goal is to make headway against our housing crisis.

    Yes, thank God that there are foster homes, we need more of them. Some homes are good places for children and other homes are not. Some children are so emotionally scarred that they are difficult to place.

    Affordable housing is a train wreck with millions of clueless parents raising children in very difficult circumstances. Finding workable solutions seems logical to me.

  4. Thanks, Roger. I hope that you get a ton of responses. Yes, affordable financing seems to be the bottleneck that needs to be dislodged to make headway on this critical issue!

  5. Hi Richard, You are right about shelters for women with children but there aren’t nearly enough of them. I don’t know what the statistics are but I am assuming that many women and children needing shelter don’t have access to one. I posted my earlier reply in response to both of your comments.

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