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Old 06-06-2019, 04:30 PM
nelliebly is online now
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A Solution to the Homelessness Crisis?


Community First is intriguing but could it become a solution to the homelessness problem? Would conservatives, who often contend social issues should be resolved via the private sector, support this kind of community, or is all this communal living too socialist for their taste? If these programs became common, would they vary in quality, since (I assume) they'd have various sponsors? Should local or state governments help fund them?

Here's the dope:

•It goes one step further than Housing First and is set up (no backyards, just front porches) to encourage connections with neighbors and foster a sense of belonging. "Housing will never solve homelessness. Community will." is one motto.

• It's a 51-acre planned community 10 miles outside Austin. The founder, a real estate developer, had to give up building IN Austin because NIMB's went nuclear.

•It includes 100 RV's and 125-130 tiny homes--probably more since it expanded from 27 acres last fall.

•There's a community organic farm, an outdoor theater (free to the public), an art studio (classes available to public), an auto shop, a wood shop, community kitchen and bathrooms, a hair salon, and more.

•To qualify, one must meet Austin's definition of homeless. Once in, residents can stay for life.

•Residents must sign contracts pledging to pay rent on time (see next) and obey civic and community rules.

•Most residents (called "neighbors") work in the community, farming, cooking, cleaning, repairing cars, serving shop customers, styling hair, etc. and are paid a living wage that allows them to pay rent ($225-$430/mo.) and meet personal needs.

•The community is funded by contributions (the outdoor theater was one). There's also an AirBnb (tiny homes, tents, and RV's), shop, and other revenue venues. Though it's operated by the Christian organization Mobile Loaves and Fishes it's not affiliated with a church, and it doesn't proselytize to residents or encourage them to find Jesus or anything. The on-site "chapel" is simply an empty tiny house with one wall removed--no religious symbols, no minister, no services. It's a nonprofit.

• Deputies are called in several times a month to defuse/mediate disputes, but crime is scarce.

FWIW, Austin has 2,250 homeless people as of 2019, up 5% from last year.
  #2  
Old 06-06-2019, 06:05 PM
Wesley Clark is offline
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How do nations like Finland solve the homelessness crisis?

My assumption is it is a mixture of

heavily subsidized or free housing.

Better mental health care for the seriously mentally ill

Shoot up clinics offering free drugs to addicts.

Things like that. Homelessness has already been solved in some parts of the world.

https://www.theguardian.com/commenti...eepers-britain
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Last edited by Wesley Clark; 06-06-2019 at 06:05 PM.
  #3  
Old 06-06-2019, 06:05 PM
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Well, it certainly sounds good. This problem is so bad here in California though I don't have any numbers, it seems to be getting worse every day.

I actually had a homeless person knock on my door the other day and ask me for a blanket. That was a first for me. I expect to see them asking for help at street corners and in grocery store parking lots, but not at my house.

I wish we would help them. It would be less expensive to do that, than it is to deal with all the problems that are associated with homelessness. It's a shame.
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Old 06-06-2019, 06:49 PM
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I deal with the homeless every day at work.

There are very few who are homeless because they lost their jobs suddenly.

There are some young people who ran away from home due to abuse or because their parents became homeless due to drug abuse or mental illness. Or because they were kicked out because their folks weren’t going to put up with their shit anymore.

But way more than 95 % of the homeless I encounter are addicts, mentally ill, or both. There are also a few who are none of the above but are just plain weird people.

Many of them get kicked out of shelters and food pantries because of how they act while they are there.

Just Giving homes/jobs to the homeless in most cases is absolutely NOT the answer. Most are not “regular” people and not in their right mind. They need treatment of some sort before they can become a regular, functioning member of society.

But many of them refuse or go off treatment, which is why their families won’t have anything to do with them. It is exhausting to deal with an addict or mentally ill person on a continual basis.
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Old 06-06-2019, 08:56 PM
nelliebly is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pkbites View Post
I deal with the homeless every day at work.

There are very few who are homeless because they lost their jobs suddenly.

There are some young people who ran away from home due to abuse or because their parents became homeless due to drug abuse or mental illness. Or because they were kicked out because their folks weren’t going to put up with their shit anymore.

But way more than 95 % of the homeless I encounter are addicts, mentally ill, or both. There are also a few who are none of the above but are just plain weird people.

Many of them get kicked out of shelters and food pantries because of how they act while they are there.

Just Giving homes/jobs to the homeless in most cases is absolutely NOT the answer. Most are not “regular” people and not in their right mind. They need treatment of some sort before they can become a regular, functioning member of society.

But many of them refuse or go off treatment, which is why their families won’t have anything to do with them. It is exhausting to deal with an addict or mentally ill person on a continual basis.
My perception of the Community First development is that many of the people there ARE mentally ill or addicts. But CF doesn't aim to make them all into "regular, functioning members of society." Residents can stay there for life, an acknowledgement that assuming all homeless people can function in society at large is quixotic.

The whole idea beyond Housing First is that waiting until people have received treatment before offering housing has failed. Do that and you'll never solve the problem. CF goes a step further than HF and provides a sense of community. That doesn't mean everyone is magically cured of their mental illness or addiction. It does mean that it's possible for many homeless people to live in the community, follow basic rules, and contribute.

Their retention rate is 87% (since 2016).
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Old 06-06-2019, 09:26 PM
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Sounds like a good idea that’s at least worth trying.
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Old 06-06-2019, 10:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wesley Clark View Post
...

Better mental health care for the seriously mentally ill

Shoot up clinics offering free drugs to addicts. ...
Yeah, We can't forget these, and the homeless crisis in CA is due to Reagan closing all the sanitariums and tossing all the mentally ill out on the street.

A homeless community as the Op described is great for one class of homeless, (Those who are homeless as they are broke)


but doesnt solve the other two, small groups:

1. Those who are so mentally ill or drug addled they will just shit in the corners of those nice little houses. Many commit petty crimes routinely.

2. Those who prefer the lifestyle. Some are petty criminals, some are day workers, some runaways.

#1 is the big problem and the "solution" that the Op describes will do little or actually hurt.
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Old 06-06-2019, 10:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pkbites View Post
I deal with the homeless every day at work.

There are very few who are homeless because they lost their jobs suddenly.

There are some young people who ran away from home due to abuse or because their parents became homeless due to drug abuse or mental illness. Or because they were kicked out because their folks weren’t going to put up with their shit anymore.

But way more than 95 % of the homeless I encounter are addicts, mentally ill, or both. There are also a few who are none of the above but are just plain weird people.

Many of them get kicked out of shelters and food pantries because of how they act while they are there.

Just Giving homes/jobs to the homeless in most cases is absolutely NOT the answer. Most are not “regular” people and not in their right mind. They need treatment of some sort before they can become a regular, functioning member of society.

But many of them refuse or go off treatment, which is why their families won’t have anything to do with them. It is exhausting to deal with an addict or mentally ill person on a continual basis.
Although this is true, your numbers are way off. When I was working with the Commission we found about half were homeless due to being broke. Often a single parent when the earner left them, or died, or something. But they are the "invisible homeless" often couch surfing, living in a car, a campground, a shelter etc. They rarely live in the encampments and they usually arent out there begging.

The people who are homeless as there were one paycheck away from losing their home- and lost that check- are the ones who need our help the most. Often, with just a little help, they can become productive members of society again.
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Old 06-06-2019, 11:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DrDeth View Post
Although this is true, your numbers are way off.
No they’re not. We keep script on the homeless we deal with and what they’re story is. I work in an area that is by a church that caters to these people so I deal with a lot of them. I run into very few of the “one paycheck away” crowd. YMMV but don’t judge my experience based on yours, please.
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Old 06-06-2019, 11:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pkbites View Post
No they’re not. We keep script on the homeless we deal with and what they’re story is. I work in an area that is by a church that caters to these people so I deal with a lot of them. I run into very few of the “one paycheck away” crowd. YMMV but don’t judge my experience based on yours, please.
Perhaps the homeless you deal with are not representative.
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Old 06-06-2019, 11:50 PM
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Originally Posted by nelliebly View Post
My perception of the Community First development is that many of the people there ARE mentally ill or addicts. But CF doesn't aim to make them all into "regular, functioning members of society." Residents can stay there for life, an acknowledgement that assuming all homeless people can function in society at large is quixotic.

The whole idea beyond Housing First is that waiting until people have received treatment before offering housing has failed. Do that and you'll never solve the problem. CF goes a step further than HF and provides a sense of community. That doesn't mean everyone is magically cured of their mental illness or addiction. It does mean that it's possible for many homeless people to live in the community, follow basic rules, and contribute.
It's great someone is putting this into practice. I've read lots of stuff that shows getting people a place of their own first gives better results than making sure they're "cured" first. Having a safe nest is a massive psychological advantage. You're not completely at the whim of outside forces.

If I was trying to convince a cynic, I guess I'd go with "give them something to lose" is time tested tactic.
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Old 06-07-2019, 12:26 AM
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So I found this on Community First's website:

Quote:
There is a broad range of services available on-site to the residents of Community First! Village, including:

• Full-time behavioral health case managers through Integral Care.
• Extensive primary healthcare services provided by the Community Care Collaborative.
• Intensive Outpatient Program through Austin Recovery to treat substance use disorders.
• Home hospice and respite care.
Does that sound like the kind of program that only helps the mentally healthy, non-addicted segment of the homeless population?

The more I read about this place, the more I realize how much realistic thought, planning, and implementation has gone into it. So far every skeptical question I've had has been answered.

Since this is GD, would those who dismiss community-first programs please cite some reliable data?
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Old 06-07-2019, 09:12 AM
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Their website says people can live there if they have a disabling condition -
Quote:
A disabling condition is defined as: diagnosable substance use disorder, serious mental illness, developmental disability, chronic physical illness, or disability including the co-occurrence of two or more of these conditions. A disabling condition limits an individual’s ability to work or perform one or more activities of daily living.
And you must be able to pay rent -
Quote:
Have an ability to pay rent
This could include SSI, SSDI, working off-site, or on-site employment through Community Works.
So it applies to a subset of the chronically homeless.

The article mentions that the houses don't have running water, and residents share communal showers and toilets. This is mentioned as a way to build community, in the same way that the houses only have front porches, so people are pushed to get out and meet with each other. I expect attempts to replicate this in other metropolitan areas would run afoul of the housing codes pretty quick.

Still, an interesting idea - basically set up a community where some of the homeless can live for the rest of their lives. Sort of voluntary institutionalization.

Quote:
Would conservatives, who often contend social issues should be resolved via the private sector, support this kind of community, or is all this communal living too socialist for their taste? If these programs became common, would they vary in quality, since (I assume) they'd have various sponsors? Should local or state governments help fund them?
Taking the questions in order -
  • This is a church initiative. I don't have any figures, but I expect churches in Austin have more than their share of political conservatives, and this seems to be their idea. So no, it appears that they are doing what they recommend - working in the private sector to address the problem.
  • Yes, if this kind of a program becomes widespread, it is going to vary in quality. I mentioned above the difference in housing codes. I strongly suspect that setting up such a program in New York is going to be much different.

    I read about a case (no cite) where some nuns in NYC wanted to set up a house for AIDS patients. Someone was going to donate a house in NYC, which had three stories. The city would not let the nuns set up the house because the codes required an elevator, and the nuns couldn't afford to, and their suggestion that they could carry the patients up the stairs if necessary didn't satisfy the city. Same thing - no doubt, eventually some bureaucrat will label it as abusive because the houses don't have running water or toilets.
  • If it were me (it's not) I would strongly recommend NOT accepting government funding. That would, almost inevitably, push it into becoming another government program, run by the government, subject to all the myriad regulations and policies and paperwork of the government.
"Let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools of thought contend." - Mao Ze-Dong.
Maybe this approach has some value. Just because it is not a cure-all doesn't mean it's not a good idea.

Regards,
Shodan
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Old 06-07-2019, 09:22 AM
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It is funded by contributions, so future financial stability might be a problem. It is located ten miles outside the city-out of sight, out of mind, and because of that it won't be a high priority if things go wrong.
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Old 06-07-2019, 09:27 AM
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I'm optimistic about any attempt that is doing something new, so I do like the idea if only in the sense that it's something new.

But, I'm skeptical of the news reporting. When it comes to the subset of news that are firmly in the realm of "liberal darlings", no offense, but the media has a habit of grossly misrepresenting the reality.

I do hope that it's working, but I think we will need to see how well it continues to function over the next 10 years, and we'll need to get some independent, non-partisan reports on the project.

It does sound like it could work for some percentage of the homeless. But, it should be pointed out, medications that make a person's body immune to the effects of alcohol or other drugs, are an answer that's even more effective. Between making someone more comfortable or actually healing them, healing them is better. Even if we find a way to make the homeless comfortable, we shouldn't view that as "problem solved".
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Old 06-07-2019, 03:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Shodan View Post
Their website says people can live there if they have a disabling condition - And you must be able to pay rent - So it applies to a subset of the chronically homeless.

The article mentions that the houses don't have running water, and residents share communal showers and toilets. This is mentioned as a way to build community, in the same way that the houses only have front porches, so people are pushed to get out and meet with each other. I expect attempts to replicate this in other metropolitan areas would run afoul of the housing codes pretty quick.

Still, an interesting idea - basically set up a community where some of the homeless can live for the rest of their lives. Sort of voluntary institutionalization.

Taking the questions in order -
  • This is a church initiative. I don't have any figures, but I expect churches in Austin have more than their share of political conservatives, and this seems to be their idea. So no, it appears that they are doing what they recommend - working in the private sector to address the problem.
  • Yes, if this kind of a program becomes widespread, it is going to vary in quality. I mentioned above the difference in housing codes. I strongly suspect that setting up such a program in New York is going to be much different.

    I read about a case (no cite) where some nuns in NYC wanted to set up a house for AIDS patients. Someone was going to donate a house in NYC, which had three stories. The city would not let the nuns set up the house because the codes required an elevator, and the nuns couldn't afford to, and their suggestion that they could carry the patients up the stairs if necessary didn't satisfy the city. Same thing - no doubt, eventually some bureaucrat will label it as abusive because the houses don't have running water or toilets.
  • If it were me (it's not) I would strongly recommend NOT accepting government funding. That would, almost inevitably, push it into becoming another government program, run by the government, subject to all the myriad regulations and policies and paperwork of the government.
"Let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools of thought contend." - Mao Ze-Dong.
Maybe this approach has some value. Just because it is not a cure-all doesn't mean it's not a good idea.

Regards,
Shodan
Good point about housing codes.

•The rent situation is that people there work--usually for the program (farming, cooking, etc.). The community pays them wages, which they use toward rent. So no, it's not just for the employed subset of the homeless population. It's the dignity of work and of paying your own way for people who are unable to do so under other conditions.

•"Disabling condition" does not mean the person meets government criteria for disability. It's based on Austin's Action Plan for Homelessness and simply means there's some reason the person has been unable to get and maintain a job for a given length of time. It's very broad and inclusive. I think it's meant to discourage people who aren't homeless from trying to qualify.

•Their financial support comes not only from Austin but from all over the country and from corporations, nonreligious foundations, charitable organizations, nonreligious service organizations, various churches, and dozens of others. It's one thing I like about this program: it's founded on Christian ideals without shoving them down anyone's throat. "By your works they will know you."

I agree it'd be a mistake to become a government program, but that doesn't mean these CF programs couldn't receive government grant monies. That's very common in nonprofits, and it doesn't mean the government--national, state, or local--controls the program. I used to work for nonprofits and applied for and received government grants.
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Old 06-08-2019, 09:53 AM
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I spent some time in a homeless shelter last year. A few observations:

You had to follow the rules. A lot of people couldn't understand that concept. You had to come in by 8:00 at night. You had to be sober. You had to leave by 10:00 and be out until 4:45 in the afternoon.

They pushed Social Services as an easy way to find an apartment. Having worked with SS, I knew that was bullshit. They set me twice with an SS counselor, despite the fact that I had a full time job and could pay to get into a place.

A small but significant segment of the "guests" were so hooked on technology that they could not be off their devices for five minutes. Easy to see how they could not keep a job.

Most of the people, though, were just people who had hit a rough spot and were willing to work at finding a place.
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Old 06-14-2019, 01:13 PM
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I work with adults with learning disabilities and mental health problems.

Many wold not use a home/shelter. Problems are many:

- fear of others (sharing with others who may be violent
- anxiety related to their mental health and/or disabilities. (ASD, ADHD are just the beginning)
- lack of social skills
- inability to cope
- their own drug use; their own violent tendencies.
  #19  
Old 06-17-2019, 04:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pkbites View Post
No they’re not. We keep script on the homeless we deal with and what they’re story is. I work in an area that is by a church that caters to these people so I deal with a lot of them. I run into very few of the “one paycheck away” crowd. YMMV but don’t judge my experience based on yours, please.
There are plenty of organizations that do homeless counts, and do so systematically and rigorously - much more so than simply observing a small sample of homeless in one very specific location and extrapolating that out to the entire population. If you have an issue with DrDeth correcting you, don't use terms like "most" when your scope is so limited. Here's a link to a national homeless advocacy group that analyzes the numbers, makes policy recommendations, and attempts to provide information easy to access. The first thing that jumps off the page for me is that 33% of the homeless population are people in families with children. Does that jibe with your experience? If not, maybe you could reassess your observations and realize that it's unlikely to be reflective of the larger state of homelessness in this country.
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