Therapeutic, "self-healing" community
John Wardlaw, formerly ED of a Housing Authority, studied the many problems residents had. He said over 90% of the problems could be traced back to single parent household/families not being together. He knew he would never even get 5% of the money he needed to address all those problems - reactively.
He wanted to be proactive. So he started a family reunification program. It was successful enough that the state has a program to do the same thing.
There was a young man in my building, who grew up in troubled neighborhoods. He sold drugs, and was jailed for it. When I met him, he had somehow wangled his way into a University, I don’t know how. He had a religious epiphany. I did everything I could think of, to encourage him- books, pep talks, whatever. I didn’t think it was much. However, I was one of 4 people he invited to speak, at the church celebration of his graduation, in May. He is now in grad school. No-one took the time to help him with the simplest details; his father invested no time in him at all. I told him theater, sales ability, Vision, a sense of urgency, and persistence would get him through college and life; he said later he knew he would make it through college, when he heard that. The young are mentored, in every community on the planet- except in America.
A HUD employee was working to introduce Therapeutic Community concepts to Public Housing. This is basically a process of resocializing addicts, so they have healthy ideas of how to live, instead of dysfunctional ones. Daytop is an example of this. This is not limited to addicts, and does not have to be expensive; we need only redesign our systems, to foster this. You can achieve the goals you seek- if the systems are redesigned, to be effective. Systems redesign is the only path to making sure everyone has a place at the table. A few family projects have Resident Services Coordinators to get this process started. I am astounded that we do not require RSC’s in our subsidized family projects- as this is a critical part of making a place for everyone. The Return on Investment (ROI) for RSC’s in elderly projects can be as much as 1,000% of their salary, yearly, measured objectively; the American Association of Service Coordinators is gathering data on this, if you want data. An eviction prevented through RSC intervention saves the project $1,500-$2,500, in my state, and a lot of other costs to the community. Just 20 of those pays their salary, and this doesn’t count their other activities, or the savings in not having to clean up vandalism, etc. All RSC’s reduce vacancy loss. Show me any bank that offers 1,000% per year ROI on any investment you care to name. They don’t, in my state.
This is not even a new concept. The Cherokee ran self-sufficient "Peace Villages" in areas they controlled until the 1830's. These villages were also a kind of college town, homeless shelter, and "skunkworks" to exchange creative ideas. Any person accused of a crime could seek refuge in one. After a year and a day, they were free to go- from these very spiritual communities, which had healed whatever had caused these people to commit crimes. The tradition was strong; Europeans accused of crimes and escaped slaves were allowed refuge [which is why Andrew Jackson deported the Cherokee on the Trail of Tears]. Since refuge cities were self-supporting, they were of course much cheaper to run than prisons, [free vs. $40,000/year/inmate, in Connecticut] and their graduates contributed much more to society. The Hawaiians [at Pu’uhonua Honaunau, for example], and Chinese monasteries during the Ming and Sung dynasties, had an equivalent concept of a City of Refuge, and the Bible mentions 6 refuge cities, 3 on either side of the Jordan River. The Temple of Hercules, in Canopus, Egypt, and Durham Cathedral, in England, were also noted as refuges like this. The European Industrial Revolution of the 10th century came out of monasteries run similarly.
I’ve seen statistics that over 25% of minority men are in the Criminal Justice system. There is one word for this: Treason. This is a Treasonable waste of human resources, especially when the cure costs so much less than maintaining the disease.
It is far easier to sell an idea that is in actual use, rather than just a theory. Use the Hawthorne effect, and designate at least one HUD community in each city as a therapeutic community, with goals for a certain number of residents to be transitioned to jobs, and homeownership. Until the late 60's, 236's functioned this way. How are we going to make our housing transitional, if we don't start making it transitional?
Through the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program, HUD currently funds FSS program coordinators at Housing Authorities in order to link families to community supportive services, including a variety of self-help activities such as addiction counseling and therapy. These connections with neighborhood partners typically begin at the local level and PHAs are solely responsible for running the FSS program.
We encourage you to get involved and work with your local PHA and community groups to enact your ideas. Any guidance as to how HUD can further promote or support such efforts, or further details on the programs you desire, would be appreciated.
Invite housing groups to show what can be done, at communities.
If you have a more specific idea about which services should be provided, please post it as a separate idea! Thanks!
When you said "$40,000" Per year to house an inmate, consider how many people even earn that much in a year. If there was a way to turn that money into a job for someone returning from the prison system it would be a great beginning. I am a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor whose caseload is full of convicted felons whose disability is substance abuse, or some form of mental illness. They do not have acccess to adequate housing or job opportunities that will keep them from returning to prison. There are lots of ideas out there, but which one will be the key to giving opportunitites to black males when they return to society?
Bill Johnson commented
Garden Planet, by Kotke, goes into a little more detail on this.
A number of practical, specific methods are described for achieving self-sustaining communities that handle their own inputs and outputs comfortably within a bounded local watershed or bioregion. The solution in the book is intentional communities, sensitively cultivating a given watershed-bounded region according to principles of Permaculture and Jeavons biointensive gardening. He whooshes through a whirlwind tour of alternative practices in economics, medicine, child-raising, conflict mediation, language, etc. These are not described in huge detail, but enough info is given to pique curiosity and breadcrumb trails are offered for those who want to trace on to further education. WHatever HUD does along the lines of the goals cited here, they will be partially, and probably blindly, on the path to something like the future this book lays out.
They just don't care.
Elizabeth McCarthy commented
At last year's point-in-time census, surveyors in my state, which is not big, found over 4,000 homeless people in the state, including over 800 children. Seventeen percent of the single adults surveyed were on probation. Nearly half of my city's homeless say they are without an address because they were released from jail and had nowhere to go. That is a large number.
here is one way this is already happening in a small way
One route to creating old-fashioned neighborhoods
What makes cohousing communities unique
The cohousing idea originated in Denmark, and was promoted in the U.S. by architects Kathryn McCamant and Charles Durrett in the early 1980s. The Danish concept of “living community” has spread quickly. Worldwide, there are now hundreds of cohousing communities, expanding from Denmark into the U.S, Canada, Australia, Sweden, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Belgium, Austria and elsewhere.
In a cohousing community, you know who lives six houses down because you eat common meals with them, decide how to allocate homeowners dues and gratefully accept a ride from them when your car’s in the shop. You begin to trust them enough to leave your 4-year-old with them. You listen to what they have to say, even if you don’t agree with them at first, and you sense that you, too, are being heard.
Cohousing residents generally aspire to “improve the world, one neighborhood at a time.” This desire to make a difference often becomes a stated mission, as the websites of many communities demonstrate. For example, at Sunward Cohousing near Ann Arbor, MI, the goal is to create a place “where lives are simplified, the earth is respected, diversity is welcomed, children play together in safety, and living in community with neighbors comes naturally.” At Winslow Cohousing near Seattle, the aim is to have “a minimal impact on the earth and create a place in which all residents are equally valued as part of the community.” At EcoVillage at Ithaca, NY, the site of two adjoining cohousing neighborhoods, the goal is “to explore and model innovative approaches to ecological and social sustainability.”
Many other communities have visions that focus specifically on the value of building community. Sonora Cohousing in Tucson, AZ, seeks “a diversity of backgrounds, ages and opinions, with our one shared value being the commitment to working out our problems and finding consensus solutions that satisfy all members.” Tierra Nueva Cohousing in Oceano, CA, exists “because each of us desires a greater sense of community, as well as strong interaction with and support from our neighbors.”
For more on "What is Cohousing," see the widely quoted Six Defining Characteristics of Cohousing.
Mr. Ed commented
Where is the HUD Best Practices website, in which users post their good ideas on this, so they can be shared easily?