Musings: homeless…

After listening to a really good piece about the homeless at the Nuyorican, it really got me thinking – why are there so many homeless people? So I ended up having a short chat with two of them – laid off, no job, surprisingly well-spoken. So are these the people who make micro-lending work?

There must be many jobs around town that they could perform to make enough money to get something to eat. But for that, they need some basic skill and presentation. So perhaps it might be a good idea to have a city-driven program that would:

1) offer information pamphlets giving information in an accessible manner
2) offer testing services to evaluate one’s knowledge of the material, for which the test-taker would be paid some miniscule amount of money.

The main idea is that there is a level of income that makes a person content. The presumption (albeit may be a false one) is that a homeless person would prefer to make money through work, but lacks the knowledge or the initial funds (which is why micro-credit lending works). Therefore they need to be given immediate insentive in form of money to learn the material, and then be given incentive in form of ability to provide services to make an income.

What are services that they could perform:
1) personal guide serivices to tourists talking about a particular place (cheap, personal, of questionable reliance) – more money to be made than through retaking the test.
2) cleaning – some places are filthy. This is a fairly easy job that could be hour-less that would do several things at once
3) artistic projects – grafitti – would require some basic skills

Work on the outskirts closer to poor neighborhoods – becoming a teacher to make kites, a helping hand, etc. The trick is setting up a credible system of giving financial reward for rendered services.


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2 responses to “Musings: homeless…

  1. Anonymous


    Most cities have departments, such as the DPW (dept. of public works) doing a lot of the services you have suggested. The problem with homeless people, oftentimes, is that many of them are mentally ill or drug addicted. Contrary to popular belief, there are actually plenty of shelters and programs that a homeless person could refer to if in dire need, but that requires a certain level of committment on their part.
    There is a great program in Jersey City called Ready Willing Able, specifically geared toward homeless and drug addicted individuals. Residents work by cleaning the streets of Jersey City and Harlem (they get bused in). Part of their earnings goes toward their rent/board, another part goes to them for personal spending (maybe $50/week max), and another part goes into a savings fund each one of them has. The program is about 10 months, and by the end of it, a resident comes out with enough money for a security deposit and first month’s rent. After a few months, they are allowed to work outside of the program, doing something other than cleaning the streets. It’s really great, but, unfortunately, many people will never find out about it until they go to jail and then come to us for placement…I think there need to be more proactive referral services. Actually going out and educating the homeless about their options. Because, really, help IS out there.

    • Re: Luba

      Interesting! So then what is failing is the information delivery system? Are there flyers distributed to the individuals on the street? I would, for instance, gladly carry a couple with me and give them to the homeless I encounter in NYC rather than giving them change (if that much)… if indeed the reason they are not in these programs is ignorance rather than some deterring quality of the program.

      Are there such programs in NYC?

      Also, if, as you say, the problem with the programs you mention is that level commitment required of the individuals (i.e. if they had it, they wouldn’t be homeless), are there programs for such individuals to acquire skills that can have them moving from one job to the next without necessarily making long-term commitments? Inferior pay, but to many may be a better option than entering any institution where there are obligations.

      Don’t you have an LJ account? 😉

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