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The Time For Discussion Has Ended. Homeless People Need Real Solutions.

Let's start restoring the pride, the belief and providing an opportunity to succeed for the homeless. We can do this in an eco-friendly, innovative and sustainable cycle of transformation.

I just spent 20 minutes taking a survey on the issue of homelessness in the metro. It was filled with questions about many things that seemed out of place. My ability to measure how effectively the metro is combating homelessness is paramount to my ability as a man to accurately describe the pain of child birth. It seems to me that the people to ask how effective the city and adjacent county and city governments are addressing homelessness is, well, homeless people. 

Even more frustrating than reading and answering a lengthy survey only available on line about homelessness is the lack of substainative solutions. The survey was mostly about how to create and assess and expand on solutions that do not directly address homelessness. In essense, the survey wanted to measure the effectiveness of measuring the potential to address homelessness. To visualize this process, imagine a circle and you are driving around this circle and you can only stop once you have reached the edge of the circles' end. There is no way to reach the edge of a circle's end. There can be no good or productive outcome to measuring the potential of addressing homelessness. There is no greater waste of time than talking about solutions to problems without acting to solve them. 

There are simple and effective ways to solve homelessness in Atlanta and they can be done starting Monday morning. Here is how we solve a majority of the homeless issue and create jobs at the same time:

1. Using the old Lakewood General Motors plant near the Federal Penitentiary, the city, county and state will assist in securing funds to develop the area into a live/work/learn industrial area. 

2. In this area, we will take cargo shipping containers and refurbish them into living space. We will take the old, used containers from the Savannah port, ship them to the site by train, strip them down to the metal and turn them into housing units. We will do this on an assemble line. 

3. The housing units will be used on the property to house the workers who were previously homeless. They will live there, work there and learn the skills necessary to transform the cargo containers into housing units, how to assemble the units into small communities and how to maintain the units. 

To ensure sustainability, we will work with FEMA and other states to provide the units as temporary shelters in the event of an emergency or to assist other states in solving their homeless problems. We will use carpet from Dalton, Georgia, home grown bamboo for counter tops and cabinetry in a joint-project with Georgia-Pacific and pioneer plastic shelving and storage uses while working with Newell-Rubbermaid. 

As we continue to refine and reinvent our little project, creating, assessing and expanding to provide real solutions while taking people off the streets, providing them with a stable residence with a real address they can call their own, job training with transferable skills, a central place for medical and mental health solutions and restoring a sense of pride to them, we will have turned a negative into a positive. 

It can be just that simple. If anyone is ready to start working on Monday, give me a call. I'm ready to get started. Because people without homes need more than a place to live. They need a reason to be proud, a reason to believe and an opportunity to succeed. We can make it happen. 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Chris Murphy August 07, 2012 at 11:22 AM
This article is so naive, it's worse than a pipe dream. Have you ever dealt with numbers of the "homeless?" I put that term in quotes because, like the equally ubiquitous "greenspace," it does not describe the people nor the problem (Is a field of kudzu greenspace?). At least 1/3 of those on the streets have severe mental health issues. But, they cannot be treated without their permission- and they rarely give it. Most of the rest have addiction issues. Please understand that drug or alcohol treatment does not work like water treatment- the process does not automatically 'clean' the individual. Again, it is reliant on the individual's willingness to change. Do some work with them and then get back to us.
Earl Williamson, RN August 07, 2012 at 12:07 PM
The article makes the naive assumption that the ill defined "homeless" want what will be offered. Unfortunately the reverse is generally true given the extremely high rates of untreated mental health illness, alcoholism, and drug addiction (all too often coexistant in self treating patients) in these populations. Until the discussion moves away from inappropriate housing proposals and is re-directed to the PRIMARY issues of a near total absence of public mental health resources and the failure of what little is available there will be no solution. It is no coincidence that the dramatic reduction in public mental health resources across the last 40-50 years has corresponded to an equally dramatic rise in street or shelter dwelling untreated mentally ill and/or addicted individuals. The article's model is an excellent one for a concentration camp for the mentally ill. That alone makes it unacceptable.
Fourth ward August 07, 2012 at 01:45 PM
It wasnt taking away resources, you had the laws change,that the mentally ill couldnt be locked in in hospitals for the rest of their lives. There really wasnt treatment it was storing mentally ill people in subpar hospitals.
Earl Williamson, RN August 07, 2012 at 03:53 PM
You missed the rest of that history lesson. Parallell to the court mandated elimination of "warehousing" the mentally ill in the 1960's and early 1970's was the start of dramatic reductions in BOTH inpatient and outpatient public mental health resources. These reductions started during the Vietnam War and continued with significant outpatient reductions during the Reagan and (both) Bush years. The Democrats are equally guilty, having failed to make any significant effort to preserve outpatient public mental health resources. You now have a quite large pool of untreated mentally ill (often self treating with drugs and alcohol) along with low bottom alcoholics and addicts living on the streets or transiently in shelters who have no adequate outpatient mental health resources. Yes, the Feds and State of Georgia saved quite a bit of money there. The problem is not shelter but a failure to address the reasons most are "homeless" to begin with - mental illness, alcoholism, and drug addiction and the provision of adequate public mental health resources for them, especially ongoing outpatient support.
Jair Sweatman August 07, 2012 at 07:22 PM
Mr. Murphy makes an excellent point. There are numerous people who lack shelter due to an inability to maintain a job or stable residence while battling mental health issues. There are those who battle against alcohol and drug dependencies who find themselves on the street after losing a job or being ostracized by their families. There are a variety of reasons why people find themselves in the precarious position of living on the street. But there are hundreds of others whom you do not see who do not have homes, be it an apartment of other type of permanent shelter with an address they can call their own. Single men and women, some with children, some couples and other families that share a bond live in hotels, often 4 or 5 to a single room. The prevalence of families with children living in these types of establishments requires that school districts must now create bus stops for the children at these hotels and extended stay lodges. I agree with Mr. Murphy that there are a host of issues which deserve attention when dealing with people who do not have a stable residence, mental health is but one of these issues. However, in as much as creating a starting point to address homelessness, the lack of a stable residence which one can call their own, may seem like a pipe dream Mr. Murphy, the article was never intended to address every nuance of the over-arching causes of homelessness.
Jair Sweatman August 07, 2012 at 07:40 PM
Mr. Williamson, you obviously have much more experience with mental health illness, alcoholism and drug dependency than I could ever hope to have. It is my sincerest wish that with your knowledge and skills and experience with these aliments, you could provide a better solution to offering treatment for those affected by such afflictions. A person with your experience coming from being in the system must have a recipe for a tremendous program which can adequately address the mental health needs of the homeless population. I have expressed an opinion of how to provide homes for those without homes, even offered a means to train people with transferable skills while establishing a plan for sustainable growth and a role for private enterprise. Did I mention it is an eco-friendly approach? I look forward to reading your dissertation on combating mental health issues in an holistic effort to address homelessness. Your solution to these primary issues will be greatly appreciated since no one has offered a viable means to humanly retrieve our fellow members of society from the brink of mental collapse and subsequent demoralizing position of living on the streets. I look forward to altering my model to better mesh with your ideas. After all, it takes many hands to build up mankind.
Fourth ward August 07, 2012 at 09:39 PM
I had a grandfather and an uncle who were mentally ill so this isnt an academic discussion for me. Im 50 yrs old. There wasn't much before, they didnt know much and just warehoused them.
Chris Murphy August 08, 2012 at 02:27 AM
What you've outlined are tasks for others to do- what will you do? And using shipping containers - whose, by the way?- would be a great way to cook someone in the GA sun. Just because you have an idea, doesn't make it a good idea. I will commend you for recognizing that there is a problem that needs solutions, but that just puts you on the same plane as the rest of us.
Jair Sweatman August 08, 2012 at 03:22 PM
Mr. Murphy, people and companies have been converting shipping containers into homes for a long time now. (Here are a few examples: http://www.lot-ek.com/MDU-Mobile-Dwelling-Unit and http://www.port-a-bach.com/). At a cost between $1,500 and $3,000 per unit, the all steel units can be converted into viable, and artful, living spaces. There are examples in the City of Atlanta of homes built using shipping containers as the primary building blocks; homes which are valued at or above $150k each. My idea is not new, just recycled for a new purpose, much like the containers would be. My contribution is to suggest a starting point on a path that is viable, sustainable, environmentally friendly, cost-effective, includes private enterprise and governmental cooperation toward a goal that is beneficial to both and begins to solve a problem we all recognize as an issue of importance. Rather than focusing on why something cannot be done, my suggestion provides avenues of approach to creating a lasting, long-term solution that is profitable to the companies involved, accomplishes a goal thousands of cities face everyday and appeals to people of any political party. Mr. Murphy, it is voices of dissent and concern like yours that act as the sandpaper to the model, creating a better model with fewer rough edges. In your own way, you are helping refine the idea and build a brighter future. Where others only laugh, you speak up. You are to be commended for your contribution.
swagger August 16, 2012 at 04:14 PM
There are plenty of housing options for the homeless in Atlanta. Everyone reading this has a couch, I assume? Well, then invite a homeless person to sleep on your couch and use your shower/bathroom. Heck you could even fix meals for them from the comfort of your own kitchen!

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