Friday, June 17, 2011

The Cost of Being Homeless: Part 4 - Solutions?

If, like me, you're tired of the whole homeless rants I've been posting lately, and saying 'Why don't you do something about it rather than sit there complaining?', then I've got the blog for you. What follows are some of the things I've seen that present a solution to the problem, and my own suggestions on how to permanently fix the problem.
Occasionally in the shelter, we get guest speakers. We had such a team come in Wednesday and present themselves as trying to help, especially those with criminal backgrounds who might have a hard time finding a job because of it. They offered help in the form of classes to get you over that hump of having to answer the questions regarding your criminal history.
While the group held no particular help for me, since I don't have a criminal history to speak of, they did offer a certain hope and motivation for others in the shelter. More power to them.
There are other such entities floating around Raleigh. All of them seem to be after a particular niche of homelessness: Either you're doped up or an alcoholic, or just out of prison. There doesn't seem to be an organization aimed at my particular needs. I am what's classified as an 'able bodied male' and I am expected to get out there and find a job doing anything I can. No matter that I am not really able to stand for long periods of time, am not fast enough for fast food preparation, am not really fit enough for physical work. I did try, once, to be an installer for Dish Network. That lasted 3 months. I don't have the physical stamina to do a job that requires physical labor. They don't call me 'big guy' for nothing, though there are far 'bigger guys' in the shelter.
So I need an indoor, office job. I've spent time trying to assess my own skills, and they are substantial. For instance, in addition to my writing skills, I have some web development skills. I know the ins and outs of HTML and Javascript. The problem? I have no real experience. My experience comes from designing my own web sites, and those have all gone by the wayside. I could get certified in all the computer skills I have, but each certification costs money. I don't have any to spare.
Now my situation may be slightly better than the average homeless person, except for that they can do the physical labor while I can't. I do have marketable skills. The problem them becomes where are the jobs in this immediate area? I don't have a car, I need something that is on the bus line and that works while the buses run. I got as far as an interview with Time Warner Cable in the Morrisville center, was going to get a job offer (this was about 2 years ago) and then I was asked how would I get to and from work, and would I work the late shift? That stopped me cold. TTA doesn't run that late to Morrisville and taking a taxi would be prohibitive. So I did not get that job.
Okay then. What is the solution? First, we need to take religion out of the shelters. I'm not anti-religion, but I think spiritual help needs to be separate. Second, we need to get government out of the shelter business, because they are only interested in getting people out of the shelter as soon as possible. So what we need is a non-profit organization, that may get a little help from the government to get started, but would be better off getting a starting donation from someone with more money than they need. Someone who is less interested in profit and more interested in helping people. Let's build a shelter around two things: The health and safety of homeless people, men and women, and the training of those men and women for the jobs that are available now and in the future.
So build a new shelter, with today's technology, using homeless people as the builders, training them as you go forward. The shelter would have solar panels, the latest technology, the fastest internet and wifi, and more importantly, one room for each occupant. It will be a small room, with a small bathroom. Privacy issues solved, more or less. The cooking and cleaning staff will be made up of the homeless people, trained to cook and clean to five star hotel standards. The food will be nutritious and in sufficient quantity and diversity to satisfy every person's taste and medical needs.
There will be a medical facility there, for the health, dental and optical needs of the homeless. There will be a training facility there, to make sure everyone has at least a high school education, and specific job training for the jobs that are available in that area. Have computer jobs in your area? Train and certify for the specific skills that employers want. Have a need for builders? Let's get people trained and certified on the latest technology and equipment so they can move right into those jobs. Need office skills? Let's get people trained on that too!
And now, the most important question of all, who's going to pay for it all? Initially a grant from that wealthy and generous individual would help matters considerably. Let's get some of the local businesses together, since it's their jobs we want to fill. Maybe they can even provide trainers and equipment.
But I'd like this project to be self-funding over time. So let's do this: There are a lot of talented people in shelters. I kid about the singing talents of some of the residents, but some of them have fine voices. Let's add a recording studio to the list of services we offer and let residents record themselves. Then we can sell the results over the internet, on pages designed by the residents too! We can offer our own web design services, our own landscaping services, our own cleaning services, and after wages are paid to the homeless workers who do the job, the rest of the fee goes toward running the shelter.
My my, what a paradise. Who would want to leave? Exactly why most shelters are not comfortable and friendly, because no one would want to leave them. Yet leave they must. Set a timetable for earning money, finding a job outside the shelter and then finding a place to live. That sort of thing exists now.
It's a dream. I hope it's not a pipe dream. If, someday, I get some money together, I'd like to try doing it myself. Use Raleigh as a testing ground. Let's see if this will work. Anyone out there want to try to do something about homeless people rather than complain about it or ignore it? Let's see hands?