ANCA is working on a public art project to help tell the story of the housing crisis in the
North Country. To support this project, ACW is gathering writing by our audience on the
theme of housing.
Take an abandoned hotel. Most hotels, built in the past half century, will have a bathroom with each sleeping room. Each sleeping room can become a one room effeciency housing unit. If there is an elevator or stairway, a room next to that can be opened to the hallway for social space, retaining the bathroom for those in the social space, but those bathtub/showers would not be needed.
It could be a kind of co-operative housing, with residents having some responsibility, as they are able, for some of the upkeep, at a minimum – keeping trash picked up and the common walls clean.
Each building would need some staff: physical maintanence and repairs, administrative, and social welfare, possibly even a nurse. The cost of these would be far less than building or enlarging prisons with mental health wings. If people can be kept warm and healthy, they would be less of a drain on other social services and hospitals. A cafeteria would also be very helpful. Laundry facilities will be essential. Maybe even a clothing bank.
Residents could come and go as they pleased, and have guests, as long as they did not disturb or endanger others. And, residents should be able to lock their doors for privacy and their own dignity. One responsibility of the social w/orkers would be to contact each resident each day to make sure they have human contact.
There should be only the minimum of “rules” so no one feels confined, yet if each resident has some responsibility, they can feel as sense of ownership and belonging.
The key to the success of such places would be social workers, with at least one on duty on the premiese at all times as a resource and advisor for the residents. A personable, human connection is essential for success. Classes can be offered by the general community on subjects as varied as the residents may want; some life survival skills, some mental stimulation and general knowledge, some for useful pastimes. Some residents may be able to make items that can be sold to generate income. That, also, could help generate a sense of community and belonging.
Garden space around the building would be helpful for the mental and physical health of the residents. Whether they grow vegetables or flowers, all would be a benefit.
Monthly or weekly meetings of the residents would be helpful where they, and building staff, can consult together about concerns, plans and hopes for their co-operative housing project. People who have a voice, and a vote, in an interprise will help that interprise succeed. Respect for each person is essential to success.
There are people who need a tax write-off. This would be an excellent project for them to assist. The entire general community can be involved in some way.
At least, such a project will be better than prisons or people being forced to sleep under bridges or out in the open with no shelter at all. Until such a project is tried, it should not be dismissed as impossible or impractical. At one time the world was flat and people could not fly. We know better now! We don’t know what will work until we try.