Kicking Recycling Up a Level

shelter.png I've been spending the past few weeks developing summary videos for some of the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy's "Marketplace of Ideas" events. The events all focus on a public policy brought to fruition on a state or local level by politicians and activists. An audience member at one event, "Rehabilitating Vacant Buildings into Affordable Housing," centering around the "Leading the Way" program of Mayor Thomas Menino of Boston, made a comment that particularly resonated with me. Sam Miller, Lead Organizer of Picture the Homeless, stated: "We found in Manhattan, real estate ground zero, and yet we found 24,000 potential apartments in vacant buildings and lots. Which, at a time when there are 9,000 families in homeless shelters, 7,000 singles in homeless shelters, and the city estimates 3,000 or 4,000 living on the street. So that's under 24,000. You could house every homeless person in the city in Manhattan alone."

Our society runs on excess and an obsession with "new"-ness; the goal of life increasingly seems to be to buy the best, fastest, sleekest gadget. With this lifestyle, however, comes a lot of waste. Things are not fixed or rebuilt, they are trashed and replaced. When it comes to housing, however, this waste is particularly detrimental to society at large. The fact that Manhattan has enough buildings to house every displaced person in New York City, coupled with the fact that little is being done to take advantage of this on a governmental level, is inexcusable. If we were able to alleviate shelters and give homeless people stable living quarters, we would vastly improve the productivity of the city, not to mention the human rights levels of a large group of citizens.

Enter Picture the Homeless. This non-profit is doing commendable work in the fields of human and legal rights for homeless people (all homeless people- even LGBT citizens, who make up a large part of the homeless community, but are often ignored by other non-profits), housing campaigns, and rental subsidies. PtH's goals and methods are powerful and effective. It is time we started to use what we have already built, recycle what was yesterday's rubbish, and create something new for the benefit of all. To see how you can help, check this out.

Dana Variano

Posted at 1:00 AM, Feb 18, 2009 in Poverty | Permalink | Comment

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