How the Homeless Get By When Disaster Strikes

Catastrophic natural disasters like the ones we’ve seen over the past few weeks frequently leave millions of Americans without their homes. This level of destruction and displacement often serves as a great shock to the country at large and millions of charity and governmental dollars go toward helping rebuild what was lost for so many families.

While this is, of course, a noble pursuit and an appropriately empathetic response, it’s easy to forget that many of the citizens of these stricken regions had already tenuous living arrangements or no place to call home at all. For those disadvantaged residents, the dangers of extreme weather events are not lessened in any way by the fact that they might not have as much to lose as their property-owning neighbors. In fact, the ever-present danger is only increased for this growing cohort of city dwellers.

The needs of the homeless as disastrous hurricanes or other weather disasters approach are multiplied when considering their already disadvantaged existences. Many of the dispossessed experience a compounding of the issues that contributed to their homelessness in the first place, including mental health issues and past traumatic experiences. These needs are often unaddressed in the emergency response and can result in worsened conditions after the storm passes and new traumas have been endured.

It’s sadly not a surprise at this point, but the odds piled up against the homeless are only increased by dire weather emergencies. Though the opportunity to put them into new housing should be most relevant when these kinds of disasters strike, unfortunately, Federal housing assistance offered to storm victims is doled out with higher priority given to those who already have homes. While it’s good that our government can help those who have suffered losses, it leaves behind those whose need for reliable housing is greatest.

In Houston and Miami, the two largest metropolitan areas to be hit this hurricane season, local authorities employed their existing homeless outreach teams to convince people living in the streets to come into specially designated storm shelters as the winds worsened. The usual job of homeless outreach took on a greater urgency as drastic weather bore down on these cities and their perpetually displaced residents. Many homeless Houstonians chose to weather the storm, having been so inured to their tenuous existence that the prospect of a catastrophic hurricane sounded more like “just rain.”

When simple coaxing didn’t work in Miami, the city utilized an unprecedented reinterpretation of the laws regarding detainment to forcibly take homeless people who hadn’t willingly left the streets into storm shelters as Hurricane Irma approached in September of this year. This strategy of taking citizens into custody “for their own good” illustrates the lack of agency that our homeless neighbors suffer from in their everyday lives. Whether the ends justify the means in this extraordinary case can be debated, but the entire episode shows how little power the homeless can have when it comes to their own safety and protection.

The issue of homelessness may be easy to forget when viewing footage of people forced to leave flooded or destroyed homes. It’s a bitter irony of these situations that we forget about the people who had no homes to lose in the first place. In an emergency, the homeless issue can often take a back seat at the very time when our focus on helping these citizens is more pertinent than ever. Absent drastic changes in our cities’ policies, this will be an issue that pops up with every new weather emergency.

To answer the question of how the homeless get by when disaster strikes: they don’t. “Getting by” for the homeless in storm areas and in all locations across the country sadly amounts, on a daily basis, to avoiding catastrophic injury, sickness, or death. As hurricane recovery efforts are underway, it’s unknown at the moment how many homeless people lost their lives but suffice it to say that they had much greater hurdles to escaping the storm than the average city resident. The news might feature heart-rending stories of those who lost everything in the disaster, but for many people in the hurricane’s path, much was lost long before any storm arrived.

This article was originally published on DanNeiditch.org

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Stop Glorifying ‘Winging It’ and Make a Plan

Staying focused on whatever is the next thing gets you nowhere without a plan. Preparation and analysis are key for any business leader.

This past spring, the Fyre Festival was touted as the most luxurious music gathering ever put together, featuring five-star chefs preparing lavish meals and high-end lodgings. What attendees got instead were cheese sandwiches and disaster tents. The culprit of this high profile fiasco, as discussed by one employee who abandoned ship early, was a top-down failure to adequately plan the proceedings. The dangers of faulty planning were put on embarrassing display to the entire world.

Any pursuit carries some risk.

Any worthwhile pursuit will carry some amount of risk. That’s a fundamental truth both inside and outside of the business world. While there’s no shortage of motivational appeals to jump right into a new endeavor with both feet, that approach will frequently result in disaster. With all that’s on the line, why take those unnecessary chances? Without proper planning and preparation, you’re setting yourself up for failure more often than not.

The hard numbers will tell you the truth.

Preparation in a business environment means acknowledging the importance of crunching numbers and truly diving into detailed analysis of the potential pitfalls and benefits of any new endeavor. When you plan things out properly, you’re building the framework for success. When you fail to do so, you’re already starting out in the negative.

Facing fear for a change in your opportunities.

Of course, this doesn’t mean being afraid of change or opportunity. What it truly means is having the mental equipment to take a great idea from a thought to a reality. Whether opening a high-rise apartment building or running a mom-and-pop shop, any type of ownership will require an understanding of the importance of getting into the nitty-gritty of numbers. It’s the essence of truly being prepared to put your thoughts into action.

How will you research?

In order for numbers to be crunched, you’ll need to gather them first. Research, in a business context, can refer to a number of different methods. There are a multitude of ways that you can gather data for your company: from focus groups and customer surveys, to web analytics to measure your online presence, to the budget numbers in your internal books. Depending on the decision to be made, proper and thorough research must be performed accordingly.

Read publications online about your subject.

There may be other businesses with experience in whatever venture you’re trying. While you’re not always going to be the first to try a particular idea, you can be the best with intelligent and comprehensive research. Even a cursory Google search can offer a wealth of information about the strategy you’re considering. Business publications both online and off are so numerous that there’s a good chance at least one of them has written something on the subject. You’ll be remiss if you don’t make the time to take a solid look.

There’s so much to be gained by thoroughly assessing your ideas and the environment you’re going to be working in that it should be a key aspect of every move you make as an entrepreneur. All decisions affecting the bottom line need to be up to your personal standards of rigor. Running a business means knowing every aspect of what’s happening within it, from top to bottom. If you don’t have that knowledge, you’re not doing your job, no matter what industry you’re in.

The importance of data analysis shouldn’t be lost on any business owner. Your organization might not have the need for big data gathering and software, but you will still need to be able to assess the information at hand in order for your company to perform at its best. Every piece of data, from sales numbers to office supplies ordered, should be informing the way your business is run for the most efficiency.

Business data, in its many forms, will provide a thorough understanding of the numbers that make up your company’s comings and goings. When you’re preparing your business plan, those numbers are what your investors are going to be looking for. When selling your ideas, you can always expect to hear the question “what do the numbers look like?” You might remember from school that math truly underlines all of life, and this wasn’t just something your teacher told you to keep you quiet. It’s incredibly true, especially so in the business world.

The major thing you’re looking for when you crunch those numbers are the patterns that will define the direction your endeavor goes. They might not look like much to the untrained eye, but they can spell out a business’ future to a properly prepared one. Pattern recognition is one of the fundamental aspects of learning and understanding, and one that you should be looking to master if you want to put your great ideas into practice.

A full grasp of this skill set means that you’ll see things that others won’t. In the data, you’ll find the indicators of a promising venture or a doomed disaster. Knowing how to ascertain the meaning of the hard data that you’ve gathered means the life of your enterprise. It’s about seeing the truth buried within all the numbers.

These skills are more valuable than ever. A study performed by GlassDoor to assess the top jobs in America based on satisfaction, salary, and openings ranked data and analytics-centered positions in 3 of the top 5 spots. What that means is that more and more businesses are coming around to the idea that you need to be able to crunch the numbers and assess your data to get to the top (or remain there).

By placing a high priority on data collection and analysis, you’re giving yourself a major leg up on the members of your competition that don’t. You might not necessarily have a dedicated research or analytics department, but if you can find it in your time to gather as much information as possible before making major financial decisions, you’ll see the benefit in short order. The numbers won’t lie.

NYC Is Spending $1.2 Billion On Homelessness. So Why Is It Getting Worse?

This post was originally featured on HuffingtonPost.com

It’s a little-known fact that the City of New York is legally obliged to provide housing for those without it, but with the explosion in the city’s homeless population, you’d be forgiven for not knowing that.

The number of people staying in shelters in New York City has grown by over 10,000 since Mayor de Blasio took office to more than 60,000, with no relief in sight. There is no official estimate for those who are not in shelters, but needless to say the total number of homeless in the city is a great deal higher. After committing to a record $1.6 billion in spending to fight the problem, the city has seen no reduction in the number of people forced onto our streets. Needless to say, there is no shortage of disturbing facts about this issue, but a look at our city streets is all one needs to realize it’s getting worse. What’s absolutely clear by now is that it’s not simply a matter of money. How could the problem be getting worse when our Mayor has made such a public stance against it?

One reason for the growth in the homeless population is also a fundamental source of consternation for most New Yorkers over the past decade or so. It’s no secret that, nationwide, housing affordability is a major issue, and New York City is home to some of the most egregious examples of this. As neighborhoods transform, housing costs go up and many working-class residents end up being priced out to make room for new arrivals. As you go down the earnings line, those at the bottom too often end up homeless after losing their jobs, sometimes even while they are still working. As much as affordable housing is a political bargaining chip, there is still not nearly enough of it to satisfy the needs of lower-income New Yorkers.

The buck doesn’t stop at City Hall, either. Decision-makers in Albany have made their own contributions to the crisis, depriving vital programs of funding. A proposed complex of affordable apartments in Sunnyside, Queens was scuttled by Governor Cuomo, invoking his authority over the MTA, which owned the land. Even going back to Mayor Bloomberg, his cancellation of the Advantage program which provided homeless with housing vouchers was disposed of for claimed reasons that the system was being abused. Today, fewer programs are giving the homeless the help they need.

The programs that do exist are often woefully inadequate. The overcrowded shelter system, the main infrastructural source of help for the homeless, has long been an insufficient source of support for people in need, especially families. Many users of the system have described it as a claustrophobic, prison-like environment where violence is an entirely too common sight. New York Daily News research found that in 2015, there were over 1,500 “critical incidents” of violence and ill behavior in city shelters, more than five per day. It’s no wonder that many choose to take their chances on the street rather than be locked in with a potentially dangerous population. Staying on the street is often a rational choice to be made over taking on the deteriorating conditions in the shelters.

Another inadequate option is what’s called “cluster housing,” where the city rents apartments in low-income neighborhoods for homeless families. Instead of having access to a support system, these families are instead placed at the mercy of landlords who are, in general, not attuned to the needs of their new tenants and are simply collecting checks from the city. The danger of these sites was thrown into the spotlight last December with the tragic story of two sisters under the age of 3 killed by a faulty radiator in a cluster apartment in the Bronx. Hotel placement has been similarly dispiriting, with conditions that are not much better. To his credit, Mayor de Blasio has vowed to shut down these cluster sites, but progress is slow.

A particularly unfortunate aspect of this crisis has been the lack of empathy not just from political leaders, but the population at large. Anger over housing for the homeless has erupted in several neighborhood protests of proposed housing for the homeless, with demonstrations in Maspeth, Queens shutting down a shelter that would have housed up to 220 people. These demonstrators frequently argue that new shelters are merely a bandaid for the problem, but a main opposition seems to be a simple desire for their neighborhood to stay the way it is.

All of us share in the responsibility to help those who need it. It’s clear that a serious problem exists, with no clear solution. What we can all do is maintain awareness and make a commitment to advocate and provide assistance for the unfortunate who live in our city’s streets. Not everyone needs to spend a few cold nights on the street in order for the city to possess some empathy for the less fortunate. We’re all New Yorkers, and we all deserve the dignity and compassion that’s been lacking for so many.

 

Looking Back: 7 Things I Would Tell My Younger Self

Listen to your gut.

This post was originally featured on Entrepreneur.com

When I was first starting out in real estate, I had a lot of passion, and I thought I knew what I was doing. But let’s face it, I was bound to make some mistakes along the way. But the great thing about mistakes is that when you learn from them, you gain some measure of wisdom. Now, some 20 years later, I still have that passion and drive, but there’s a thing or two I’d definitely tell my younger self. If only he’d listen.

1. Being good can be good for the bottom line.

Solar energy is the future. Fossil fuel has a definite expiration date, and it’s going to come sooner than later. Pollution caused by fossil fuel is getting increasingly worse, and solar energy can go a long way to offset that. Not only is it a highly efficient renewable resource, it is also good business. These days, there are so many tax credits, rebates and incentives that help encourage sustainability and going green. It’s an investment in the future in more ways than one.

2. Listen to your gut, not other people.

It’s not that I don’t value other people’s opinions, but I’ve learned that it can be even more important to listen to your own gut. If you look at most successful people, you’ll see that often, they did the things that others wouldn’t. If they had let other people dissuade them, they would have never created these incredible businesses or followed through on those seemingly crazy inventions and ideas that turned out to be brilliant.

When I was first starting out, I trusted the wrong people, and I trusted the advice and information that they were sharing with me. But that voice in your head exists for a reason. You should listen to it. Over time, you may find that it gets louder.

3. Take more risks.

There’s a Warren Buffett quote I love — “Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing.” When I was younger, I played things a bit safer, but as I learned more and learned to trust my own gut and gather my own intel, I began to take more risks. As everyone knows, more risk can mean greater rewards. You have to buy when others are afraid to. You have to seek out opportunities before others discover them. At the racetrack, you’re not going to win much money if you bet on the horse that always wins. Now, I’m not suggesting betting on the horse that always comes last. But if there’s a new horse that you’ve studied and looks like he’s the next undiscovered champion, you should probably bet on it. You just have to do your homework. Then your gut can make good choices and go all in.

4. Be consistent.

One thing that I’ve learned is that people want to do business with people they trust. The quickest way to earn their trust? Consistency. No one wants to work with someone who’s erratic and who can change their mind on a whim. They want to work with people who are reliable, stable and who they know will always keep their word. Wouldn’t you?

5. Learn to love numbers.

When I was just starting out, I didn’t realize just how much I would grow to love numbers. Often, passion starts with an idea, but numbers are just as important. As a businessman and investor, I crunch a lot of them. Before an idea can be turned into reality, the numbers have to add up. Without that, an idea alone won’t flourish. So loving and caring about numbers isn’t something you should look at as greedy. Rather, it’s something that’s essential for making sure that a business idea is sustainable.

6. Don’t be afraid to be different.

As you’ve probably realized by now, I am all for implementing environmentally friendly approaches to real estate — whether that means solar panels, like the ones in the Atelier condo building in New York, or other green technology. In a landscape that’s often referred to as a concrete jungle, making people feel truly at home means giving them something that connects with them in a unique way. So any project I take on, I try to give it a special twist. The Atelier, of course, has stunning views of the city and the Hudson River, but it also has the highest skating rink in New York, a huge health club, a basketball court and a movie theatre. Being involved with the Atelier really taught me how being different, taking risks and putting new ideas into what could have just been another typical luxury project can lead to others responding passionately to it too.

7. Don’t just try to predict the future. Learn from the past.

Keeping up with the trends and ahead of the curve is essential if you want to make good decisions. When I was starting out, I was especially excited about figuring out what would catch on in the future. But as I’ve grown, I’ve realized that it’s just as important to know what happened in the past. History keeps repeating, right? Besides, it’s much cheaper to learn from mistakes other people made in the past than make your own.

5 Troubling Statistics About Homelessness That You Should Know

If you live in a major city, homelessness is getting worse.

This post was originally featured on HuffingtonPost.com

In general, our country is seeing a decline in homelessness, but it’s still way too early to begin patting ourselves on the back for a job well done. From 2015 to 2016, the homeless population decreased by 3%, although that statistic is complicated by the fact that there was only a decrease among individuals living in sheltered locations (such as emergency shelters and transitional housing) while there was actually an increase in those living in unsheltered locations.

While many of the other statistics in The 2016 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress depict an overall improvement, there are no shortage of numbers from this and other surveys that when compiled, paint an ugly picture of homelessness in America.

1. If you live in a major city, homelessness is getting worse.

Results from the January 2016 point-in-time count from The Department of Housing and Urban.

Development (HUD) indicated that out of the total 549,928 people experiencing homelessness, 49% (268,322 people) were located in a major city. That may be up less than 1% from 2015, but it’s still a change in the wrong direction. One in five homeless people were living in either New York or Los Angeles with the majority of those in N.Y.C. living in sheltered locations while the majority in LA were living in unsheltered locations.

2. The Big Apple isn’t making it easy.

To add insult to injury: according to the Coalition for the Homeless: State of the Homeless 2017 report, changes to the application process for families to enter shelters have resulted in a decrease of homeless families receiving approval — from October 2016 to December 2016, the percentage of approved families dropped from 50% to 42%. What’s more, “ The percentage of homeless families forced to apply for shelter two or more times before being found eligible increased from 37 percent in July to 45 percent in December 2016,” and due to the complicated and time consuming process of completing new applications, homeless families are forced to resort to living in “emergency rooms, subway stations, or 24-hour businesses, and to miss school or work.”

And as I’ve written about before, the majority of New Yorkers have no savings, and that many are just about one paycheck away from becoming homeless. Considering the cost of rent in the city, this should come as no surprise.

3. Our ‘unaccompanied youth’ are between 18–24.

Unaccompanied youth, or individuals under 25 who are not with a parent, guardian, or their own children are most likely to be between the ages of 18–24. On a single night in January 2016, 89% of homeless unaccompanied youth were in that age range while 11% were under 18. In total, there were about 35,686 unaccompanied youth, making up about 7% of the entire homeless population. In Nevada, California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Montana, the majority of unaccompanied homeless youth are unsheltered while the opposite is true for Nebraska, Rhode Island, Iowa, New York, and Maine.

4. There are homeless college students.

Not all of us were lucky enough to enjoy dorm life and all its offerings. In the recent update to the 2015 report from Wisconsin HOPE Lab titled Hungry and Homeless in College: Results from a National Study of Basic Needs Insecurity in Higher Education, it says that 14% of community college students were homeless during their period of enrollment and among the former foster youth surveyed, 29% were homeless. They also found that out of all Black and multi-racial students, there were more who were homeless than there were who were home secure.

College is hard enough as it is without having to worry about where you’re going to sleep at night and how you’re going to finish your assignments and get to work on time. Perhaps what’s more troubling than the first statistics alone is that 51% of those who were homeless were balancing employment along with their schooling and more than half of them worked 20–40 hours each week with the majority making less than $15/hour.

5. There are ways to help.

It may be tempting to write homelessness off as a problem best left for the big guys to solve, but even people like me and you can make a dent in this issue. Visit the National Alliance to End Homelessness Take Action page for more information on volunteering on national and local levels. We can’t stand by and watch.

A New Yorker’s Guide to Using Solar In Your Business

The energy source no longer is the wave of the future — it’s good for commerce today.

This post was originally featured on Entrepreneur.com

With a constant increase in demand for electric power and surging oil prices, it surprises me that more business owners aren’t excited about solar energy.

Solar power offers reduced operating costs and a higher return on investment than many other energy sources. Plus, it’s largely maintenance-free, super-reliable and good for the environment. What’s not to love? If you’re planning to integrate solar energy in your business this year, make sure you’re prepared to make the switch.

Financing options.

Putting up a solar project is a long-term investment — a truth I learned during my Atelier experience. I also honestly can say it’s been 100 percent worth it. The initial expense can be relatively high, which is why leasing would have been more favorable in the past. Setup costs have gone down significantly in the past few years, however, making solar far more affordable to the average homeowner or small-business owner.

Single-family homes account for most of New York City’s solar projects. It costs $20,000 to $50,000 to install a residential system, but a combination of city and state public programs can pick up as much as half the bill. Then there’s this: Solar-powered homes reportedly have cut monthly bills by up to 85 percent, compared to previous monthly bills. If that’s not reason enough to front the startup costs, estimates reveal solar energy’s ROI beats the stock market in more 25 states, including New York.

Installation timeline.

Ideally, the entire process shouldn’t take more than eight weeks from start to finish. However, many factors at play could delay the timeline.

A few years ago, the permit-approval process alone could take up to two years. Today, there’s better coordination among government, installers, owners and utilities. New York City’s Department of Buildings now can issue permits in a matter of a few days. It’s a welcome change from the weeks (at best) that earlier applicants waited for a decision.

Signing the paperwork officially gives your installation team the go-ahead. It’s an easy step that should take 24 hours at most — if you have the capital in hand. If you need to secure an improvement loan from a bank or other lender, you’ll wait longer.

Next, your team’s engineers gather site-specific data and create a design for your system upgrade. By now, you’re firmly into week three. Simple designs might take just a week, but owners would be wise to budget roughly three weeks for complex or large solar arrays.

Once you approve the design, you’ll need to submit a permit and wait for the Department of Buildings to greenlight your application. Things move quickly after you get the thumbs-up: You’re now clear to schedule the installation and then await inspection from the utilities department — typically a week or two after installation. The utility company changes the meter, and you’re good to go.

NYC’s permitting process.

Before you install solar panels, you’ll have to go through the City of New York’s permitting process, which begins when you file a permit. You can file this request under a New Building or Alteration permit. You also have the option to file separately as an Alteration Type-2 at borough offices or The HUB itself. The Department of Buildings will inspect the premises and use that information to help make a determination about your application’s future.

Local and state incentives.

Through NY-Sun, the State of New York offers a range of incentives to build a more affordable and sustainable solar industry in New York City. The program offers loan financing for residential, small-commercial and commercial projects. The terms vary depending on the type of borrower. Residential and small-commercial customers can finance up to $25,000 with a repayment period as long as 15 years. Commercial borrowers may finance up to 100 percent of any-sized solar projects and secure an interest rate in the range of 4 percent to 6.5 percent. As an added motivation to participate, NY-Sun also extends reduced installation costs to borrowers across all three categories.

Net-energy metering.

Net energy is the difference between the energy produced and the energy consumed. Many households use less than solar panels produce. Excess energy is pushed back into the grid. The net-metering structure credits the owner for this power returned to the overall system. As an owner, you can use the offset to cover future bills, though you’ll still need to pay the monthly connection charge for the service of using the utility’s grid.

There’s no denying the decision to switch to a solar system can be tough. Even with government support, the one-time setup fee might be too steep for some. But solar undoubtedly is taking over. New York City experienced a surge in installations during 2016. That’s on top of the substantial increase over the preceding years, when residential and commercial installationsdoubled between 2014 and 2016.

The earlier you get on board with solar, the greater benefits you’ll enjoy over the long term.

 

How Bad is Homelessness in America, Really?

The GDP of America is an astronomical $18 trillion. To put it in perspective, if California seceded from the United States, it would have the eighth largest GDP of all the countries in the world (just beating out Italy).

When you start to consider just how much money exists in America, it makes the fact that we even have homelessness seems all the more absurd.

Depending on where you live across the country, you may have different ideas about how prolific the homeless situation is in this country. That’s why stats can help make the realities a bit more clear.

 So the question is: how bad is homelessness in America, really?

How bad can it be?

Let’s start with the definition: an individual may be considered homeless when they lack permanent housing and have to stay in shelters, abandoned buildings or vehicles, on the streets, or in other forms of unstable situations. They may also be considered homeless if they have to “double up” with friends or extended family members because they are unable to maintain their own housing situation.

We’ve seen this issue arise in some form since the 1870s and it’s continued to pervade our society into the present day. On a single night in January 2015, for example, 564,708 people were considered homelessness in America, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness. That’s over half a million people without a roof over their heads.

In a single night in California in 2016, 21.48% of the population experienced homelessness. In New York, 15.7%. That’s over 100,000 people in California and 80,000 people in New York.

Homelessness is an issue that pervades many societies around the world but it seems to be an exceptional struggle for the United States. Among the top homeless cities in the world, New York City ranks the second highest on the list, with Los Angeles following at a close third. Other American cities featured include Boston, Washington D.C., San Francisco, and Phoenix.

Although the national rate of homelessness has gone down from 21.5% in 2007 to 17.7% in 2015, there is still a lot of work to be done––the rate of homelessness amongst individual states continues to be high and the amount of affordable housing remains painfully low.

So what can we do?

As a volunteer EMT, I’ve seen my share of what can happen on the streets. Many homeless die when it’s too hot, too cold, or too wet. These are real people who need real resources, like shelter, food, and clothes. We have to do more as a nation to stop treating the homeless as invisible, and start treating them as human beings. We must do more, as fellow neighbors, developers, lawmakers, citizens, to solve this problem and get people off the streets, because everyone, everyone, deserves a home.

But have we already built a system against homeless by design?

Anti-Homeless Design

Have you ever wondered why some public benches have that third arm rest in the middle? Or why some are just not that comfortable? I never used to give it a second thought. I reasoned it was just the cheapest design available. 

As it turns out, they were specifically designed in this way to dissuade people from sitting too long. Or to deter people from sleeping there.

This kind of design practice is subtle but everywhere in our cities and even has an actual term: hostile or defensive urban architecture. It’s used to discreetly target loitering and reduce the visibility of those deemed “unappealing” to the aesthetics of the city: the “reckless” teenagers, the poor, the homeless.

Other measures include camping restrictions and even banning private food donations to the homeless. In 2012, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg outlawed food donations because “the city couldn’t assess salt, fat, and fiber content” of the food. Apparently it was more important to monitor the healthiness of what his people were eating, even if they were eating nothing at all.

A solution for $46 a year

For a more explicit solution, I think we should look towards Housing First, “a proven approach in which people experiencing homelessness are offered permanent housing with few to no treatment preconditions, behavioral contingencies, or barriers.” The project believes that the issues that cause a person to be homeless–unemployment, poverty, mental health, etc.–can be better addressed once they actually have a home.

And the best part is, the program’s proving to be working. Using this approach, homelessness could be eliminated at an annual additional cost of $1.7 billion. If this sounds like a lot––it’s not. It’s about $46 a year per person. Or put even more in scale: 88 cents per week.

Considering it can cost over $100,000 annually to support a chronically homeless person vs. the $35,000 per year to provide permanent housing, this may be a mutually beneficial approach.

Either way, we must continue to take steps towards eradicating homelessness in our country and ensuring that everyone has the basic necessity of shelter. I’d be willing to pay 88 cents more per week for that. Wouldn’t you?

This article was originally published on DanNeiditch.org