Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Unwelcome Mat Comments, Part I

This first comment is one of the most rationale out of the whole group. This person is clearly thinking about the problem of homelessness and how it might be solved:

Time to spread them out across the Dallas Fort Worth Metropolitan area, so the people can get their hands on them. Small nodes next to churches would make the most sense. Homes and apartments supervised by neighborhood churches who can also find them work, work on their vices and afflictions, and generally remove them from the group-think that causes recidivism. Warehousing them downtown and within a far more dense population harms more than helps, and it is not fair to load up such a small geographical area as downtown Dallas.

The only reason why it has unfolded this way is because of NIMBY, and the fact that downtown Dallas does not have a voter base to protect it.

The problem is this solution, which I have heard proposed many times, doesn’t really work. Churches don’t have any special competency in dealing with the problems of homelessness. You really can’t depend on volunteers. The building needs to be staffed 24 hours, seven days per week. Very few churches could sustain such an effort over the long-term.

Small projects are very difficult to run. All economies of scale are lost. Remember, a project designed to house the homeless has to pay not only the capital costs of the building, but ongoing costs of services, operations and maintenance. I’ve talked with the developers of permanent supportive housing all over the country, and almost nobody will build a development that houses less than 80 to 100 residents. The numbers just don’t work.

In short, nice as it would be to think that you could build many small homes scattered all over the city to solve the homeless problem, experience shows that it is just not possible.

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