A Project I would love to do someday…
No city or town has a shortage of Homeless people – I live in Surbiton, UK in the Greater London Area, and well – I know the faces of those who sit on the street hoping someone will read their plea for money and food, and drop something their way.
One of the guys, who seems well dressed enough – clean-ish clothes: jeans, sneakers and a t-shirt – I have seen sleeping in the back lot behind my flat. He took a cardboard box, flattened it and laid it out so he could lie on it in the back corner. Usually it was mid-day, I don’t know where he sleeps at night.
Sometimes I would look out at him from my kitchen or lounge window and think, maybe I should invite him in for something to eat or drink, or even a shower. But, I don’t, because I don’t know him and I could be endangering myself even if he SEEMS harmless – that doesn’t mean that he is.
A friend of mine mentioned to me once that he wished we lived in a world where people could help other people all while feeling safe. His example was of hitchhiking. He had given random people rides before because they were walking in the rain, or something that showed they could use a lift – and everything was fine. He saw two girls walking in the rain once and thought that maybe he could do the same for them, then he imagined what he would look like slowly pulling over to them and talking through a rolled down window, some strange guy in the waning daylight. He isn’t a creepy looking guy, and his car is well kept, but when you are semi-alone and you don’t know this person, things can seem awful anyway.
My dream, since I was a teen walking through NYC with my parents and seeing the homeless under scaffolding, on the steps of a church and scattered throughout the sidewalks, was to create something that could help all these people.
In the past year, my former flatmate, and still very wonderful friend, Corey and I were near Tower Hill in London, UK when a normal looking guy came up to us and asked if we could give him a little money just to get a coffee. Corey went to an ATM to get him enough for Coffee, a small meal, and a space for him to sleep at the shelter. I chatted with him for a minute and he talked about going to Disneyworld in Florida with his parents when he was a kid, and things like that. He didn’t seem like he had a bad childhood or was lazy or was into drugs and on the street for that. He was just a guy, a face in the millions of others in this world, who just was down on his luck and couldn’t afford Coffee, Dinner, or a bed.
I know a lot of people that would say that they do not deserve a hand-out and that they should get off their lazy asses and work. But, when you have lost everything and do not have a permanent residence, or somewhere to shower and get cleaned up – Would you hire you? No permanent residence mean UNRELIABLE to some employers, and without a clean set of clothes and a good shower, the prospective employee would be turned away just because they are not up to their standards of what a worker should look like.
Yes, I do admit that there are those who beg like or as the homeless will through food back in your face, or use your money on booze and there are some who are playing us and when they get shooed away off the sidewalk of a store, they might get into a shiny and new looking car. Those are the ones that give us all a complex about helping the homeless. Though, I can understand wanting the booze – some beers come really cheap and well, if I was homeless I’m sure that I would be thinking – could use a drink to take the edge off. I don’t condone it, but I empathize.
Let me now just get down to the dream/plan I have:
When I was in and around NYC, I noticed that there are buildings (as in many cities) that were/are abandoned. If I had the means, I would purchase one of these buildings – preferably already set up for Apartments or Hotel Rooms so not much refurbishing will be needed.
Basically instead of a Homeless Shelter – it would be a Homeless Hotel or Rehabilitation Centre.
A place where they could have a bed or beds in the case of a family, with a bit of privacy and a place to get cleaned up. There would be mailboxes there like an apartment building or Hotel – so they could use it for their permanent address.
I would hope to have counselors there, first on a volunteer basis unless I already had the funds but inevitably I would love to be able to have them on payroll. There would be different types of counselors: ones to help find work and get people hired, ones to help with the emotional and mental difficulties that come with homelessness – either ones that made them homeless or ones that were caused by their homelessness. Basically I want a set of Guidance Counselors and Psychiatrists/Therapists. I would also love to have a set of medical professionals on site to help those freshly in with cuts, sores and other injuries.
Obviously I would need cooks, servers and housekeepers – possibly again on a volunteer basis at first, but I would like to be able to compensate these people for their good and hard work. Possibly, I would be able to get some of those who come in to help out as part of their rehabilitation – if I can pay them I will, but if nothing else – it would be something they could put on their CV/Resume.
So clean rooms, permanent address, a place to sleep and clean themselves, and a place where they can get food in their bellies. Like most shelters it would be a common dining room/mess hall, and we would invite those who do not live with us to eat with us as well. Either out of necessity, or if they want to donate to us and get a meal just to help out the cause – also good.
There would of course be stipulations!
1. “Time Limit”
As part of their counseling/rehabilitation we would set a guideline of how long they would stay with us, it might differ from person to person but the idea is to get them back on their feet, not have them squatting. If, and this is just another thought that popped into my head, I could get an estate agent of sorts to help us out, they might be able to find the people ready to be on their own affordable housing – it would also be nice to get them “discounted” housing to help them out until the income gets a little stronger.
2. Drug Tests
EVERYONE will have to take a drug test every once in a while as part of our rules and regs. Some who come in might have a habit when they first meet us – that is fine, we will not turn them away. However, once they are on our program our counselors are there to help them break that habit. They will get help from us, but after a certain amount of time – 3 strikes and we have to turn them out. It is a sad thought, but to get better they have to WANT to get better. Can’t force it on them.
3. Acceptable Behavior
Although the drug test will not include liquor – there will be rules for acceptable behavior. If alcoholism becomes an issue there will be counseling added to their therapy and possibly AA meetings, either within the facility(if we have the room and/or volunteers to run), or at a nearby one. Also, violence will not be tolerated. As part of the agreement, if you harm our property out of acts of violence we can have you arrested. Human harm will be taken with extreme caution but with severe consequences. If there are cases of domestic violence – the victim (and rest of family, if there is one) can stay, but the harasser cannot.
I would like to make the place pet friendly as well – I don’t want the dogs, cats, turtles, etc go homeless even if the family isn’t anymore. I am an animal rights activist – so animals will be allowed – sadly only accompanied by humans, but at least they are welcome.
If the place became successful – either had income revenue or large charitable donations or people willing to expand our reach, I would love to move beyond the city I start in (was hoping to start it in NYC, but right now I live in the UK, so maybe LONDON – either way) I would love to be able to make this a nation-wide or even world-wide thing.
For now, it is just a dream. But, with enough great minds and hearts out there – if you spread the word of my idea, maybe we can get it up and running! I mean, look at Kickstarter! People had ideas, put it up on kickstarter and now they are up and running – or look at all the silly frivolous ideas on there – couldn’t we use it to make something a bit more worth while?
What do you think?