Design for the homeless

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    Trace One

    You quote a politicians program passed in the face of rising homelessness..Check out the comment section of  your pasted article, and you will see a different perspective..Like one guy says, the world is not flat..It is a complex problem, with complex solutions – there are many reasons for homelessness..

    I come from a much more “there but for the grace of god go I” perspective, Jason..Have you never met anyone down and out due to circumstance? I think we are a better society if we are based on compassion, on presumption of innocence, rather than some sort of violent world that will toss you out, while protecting the barriers for the rich..

    The system is gamed for the rich, for the most part..Extensively so..To shaft the poor is neither good social policy nor good karma..Mayor Koch wanted to scoop up all the homeless and force them into shelters, but he ended up with poop on his porch every day..You can’t fit everybody into one box..And if you read anything, you knkow that a certain  percentage of homeless are considered intractable – can’t change ’em, no how, no way..

    As for the wine, it is my new experiment..It’s a teeny  bottle, 187 ml…gets some big smiles, and I am committed to alternative realities as being helpful for facing life, at times..


    Heather Smith


    I responded to some of your past statements regarding the homeless…questioning your belief that the homeless choose to do so…because being homeless is great, right! Oh goodie! Men being beaten to death by teenagers, women raped, children sleeping in boxes…I mean who wouldn’t choose such a great lifestyle. I am not going to go into my own personal experience with my birth mother or my experiences with living with her. Just have to point out that dehumanizing people because a solution hasn’t been found to deal with the challenges of the homeless is incredibly rude and does not speak well for you.

    In regards to the OP, I think it is a given that people will use fountains, etc. for bathing…because first and foremost they are humans and do indeed appreciate bathing and clean water. They will use what is available to try to do the same things you or I do…bath, cook, relieve themselves…in some ways the way homeless live would be a very interesting study and I am sure it has been done. Much like shanty towns, homeless communities in the US do indeed begin forming rules and appropriate behaviors that are acceptable within them. I know this has been looked at before. Other interesting perspectives would looking into how people end up this way…some of this reminds me of Jane Jacobs…talking about the death of communities. I remember a professor asking us why our neighbors don’t check on each other, why a person can die and not be discovered for a year in their house? We as a society, do not believe we are responsible for each other….and so the question of homelessness is a very, very broad subject. What leads people to homelessness is probably closely related to the support or lack of that people have within their own communities. With the large rates of mental illness we can see that our society as a whole has failed to address the challenges of providing the tools these people need to stay out of jail and off the streets.

    I feel a lot of sympathy for these mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and children that find themselves in unsafe and unsanitary conditions.

    Heather Smith

    Have to laugh at the wine…that is Biblical! haha.

    Give beer to those who are perishing, wine to those who are in anguish;

    Very christian of you Trace!


    Simple: the homeless does not pay taxes or vote…well, most of them and this being a huge reason they are ignored. Cities don’t think long term solutions and just close down areas where homeless accumulate. They then go to another part of city and the process starts all over.

    Heather Smith

    My husband I saw this very clearly in Vancouver, B.C. where they literally were moving them out towards the industrial parts of town while taking low income housing and turning them into very expensive condos. It made it very hard to enjoy the high class, beautifully designed parts of town when I knew that there were hundreds of people on the streets. They have a very severe drug problem up there and to me, it appears they would just rather sweep them aside and pretend they don’t exist. They even had routes where they directed you so as to avoid them. Our hotel, being cheap, was right in the middle of the district where the main population was gathered, literally dozens standing in the entrance to the library due to availability of shelter and restrooms. It is heartbreaking…so much so that when we gave our presentation to faculty about our trip I couldn’t help pointing out how odd the experience was seeing millions poured into high rises and finding needles on the street and seeing people stumbling around in broad daylight.


    This is a very interesting subject that I use to give a lot of thought when I was younger during my “save the world” period. I carried a certain amount of guilt for using my talents to make pleasing places for corporations, well to do communities and wealthy individuals. I wanted to make life better for poor down and out people. Why not use my formal landscape architectural training and street knowledge to create ideal spaces for urban people.


    Well I got my chance when I moved back home to Cleveland after 14 or so years in Dallas. I started working at a firm that did mostly inner city projects. I went from designing high-end brick wall enclosed communities to a full scale renovation of an old partially abandoned public housing complex for my first project. So to make a long story short, I ended up spending a lot of time in some of the roughest areas that this country has to offer. Cleveland is a great town, but where it’s bad, it’s the worst. Spending so much time developing my skills as a young LA in an environment where there was so much homelessness and other negative social conditions, I couldn’t help but be aware of it.


    That experience helped me realize that things like homelessness, drug addiction and mental illness are so complicated; each individual has their own issues. As a landscape architect I don’t think that I can design for the homeless. I can design for people. Homeless people are just another group of people that need to be considered in designing a public space. Like skateboarders, the disabled, toddlers etc.


    The sooner we really deal with the homeless problem, instead of just making them move so that they’re out of sight the better off we’ll be. I would rather my tax dollars go to taking care of a person that just can’t take care of themselves as opposed to building new stadiums and convention centers.  As far as I’m concerned, the homeless are US and we need to fix us.

    Leslie B Wagle

    Amen to the comment on stadiums. My town has a privately funded “action” group (actually a big trust left by an industrialist now in the hands of a former mayor) that just decides what it thinks would be a great idea and pushes it forward with little input from anyone, and whoosh!, the local government always goes along with the plans because each one looks like such a “gift.” However, it’s the city that then has to take over these “gifts” for eternal management and maintenance. And one of these was a baseball stadium that was supposed to give a big boost to downtown. It looks okay as far as stadiums go, but I can’t see any real impact on downtown and the local paper in followup stories can’t confirm any, either. When I’ve passed by it during the afternoon games, there are school buses of young kids from surrounding counties all over the streets (they can get out of classes and travel in a public bus to see a game?) but that population hardly adds to the “night life” or walks the several blocks it would take to help any struggling retail.


    Back onto subject of the homeless, my earlier link does seem to be a “relocation” solution/bandaid, but what would it take in the Vancouver example? If the group that was noticed were all just GIVEN units in the new condos, plus some kind of supplied foods delivered, would they drop the drug habit? Would they no longer visibly congregate? I’m not so sure government has swept anybody anywhere out of malice but they only have so much reach where it concerns the non-criminal. I suspect that a real grab-the-problem with heavy intervention might involve semi-institutional housing with serious drug cessation and job workshop activity intervention, who knows? But the population that could benefit just may not have responded that well to earlier efforts, other than women with children who do seem to be more sheltered. If there were really some good in depth tackling the matter on that level, then I’m sure project-related LA’s would want to be a part of it. In the meantime, the mess we see could already involve legal issues most of us aren’t familiar with. I think the place to voice concerns is in the role of citizenship input. We can’t just add on and detail our own ideas for this outside of the project objectives without wider buy-in for it, any more than we can independently latch onto any other “good cause,” like providing for cavity nesting birds or use of grey water, etc. I guess that’s obvious but I thought that’s important to stress in reporting on the degree of activity seen/not seen while trying to address the original question.

    Heather Smith

    I agree with you both Craig and Leslie. If communities invest in large projects like this without taking care of the real issue the original investment is usually lost or devalued due to vandalism anyway. If people don’t feel safe, they won’t go anyway.

    I am not sure what a place like Vancouver should do…but there is some sort of breakdown occurring at an alarming rate.

    Check out this mini documentary…it is kind of funny and enlightening.




    Oh well Jason I’m going to have to fall in the “Nasty Brute” category with you.


    “…I am committed to alternative realities as being helpful for facing life, at times.”


    WTF! You passed out little bottles of wine to homeless people. I hope you got the results you needed from your compassionate little social experiment. Why didn’t you just pass out a little party sampler to help them cope? A nickel bag of blow and a little taste of black tar with a little chardonnay delivered straight from the ‘burbs in a cute little gift bag. Now there’s a way to help someone down and out on the street.


    If you really want to help the homeless, why don’t you take one home with you and let them take a shower and wash their clothes. How about letting one list your address as a place of residence so that they can receive mail, etc.? If you want to help someone really help them versus pacifying them for the moment.


    I realize that there’s a segment of the homeless that don’t want to live like everybody else. Some in this group are mentally ill. But, as long as they are peaceful and mind their own business, I say leave them alone. If a person really wants to get off the streets, help them. If they need drug counseling and psychological help provide it, teach them life skills, educate and train them to be productive in society. The ones that are too far gone and can’t coexist with the rest of society need to be locked away and treated as humanely as possible.


    The problem is that we have people living on the streets that would be more than capable of working hard, sustaining a home and being tax paying citizens that aren’t getting help. They’re left with doing whatever it takes to make it through another day while resources are being used to pacify people who are just playing the system.

    Trace One

    Yeah, you are probably right, Craig..I can’t do what you suggested, obviously, but I think water is probably (here in Fresno) a better thing to pass out..One guy I know gives out sun screen – they really need it!

    but as for giving each one you encounter nothing, that I disagree with..If it was you standing out there, that one sandwich may be the one that gets them to the right spot to move on. I think the individual act of compassion, me and the bum, trumps the ideologue, who turns up  his or her nose at the unwashed on his street, because he assumes them to be craven, undeserving, louses.

    The Torah and the Bible are full of such anecdotes.. It just makes more sense to me..Better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness.

    Trace One

    r@ Jason, right, you think ikea was being raided by the homeless? It was being raided by middle-class whites looking for a small freebie..

    Your Bloomburg post has absolutely no facts at all..My post is nothing but statistics..sorry, Jason, you are one down, in your interpretation of realilty.

    And this anti-science mantra that just because it is an advocacy organization nothing it says can be believed is worthy of Michelle Bachman – it is just a republican way to get around facts..This mantra is a travesty, and I am surprised that  anyone is a  profession based on scientific principles would have so little respect for numbers.

    I am sure I am talking to a wall, however, as are you..The twain shall never meet, except in the voting booth…

    Jason T. Radice

    I do in the current timeframe…and personal experience in my family in the past.


    I think that the most part of the cities’ urbanists don’t really take care of homeless.. but i saw some interesting projects for them… for example a good project was from an australian firm: some public benchs could became sort of beds with ‘roof’ for the homeless


    Trace One – I think it’s better to let them be if you’re looking at them as bums to be used as social experiments. And perhaps it’s better for a regular Joe that really wants to help to focus on that single person that’s trying to get off the street rather than indiscriminately distributing product to faceless strangers. If you don’t get to know a person you never learn what they need. Passing out sunscreen to a drug addict that hasn’t eaten a good meal or had a shower in days is a total waste. UV rays are the least of his concerns.


    I guess I have a big problem with charity for charity sake. Help the people that can’t help themselves or have fallen into hard times for whatever reason. I just don’t think I’m helping an addicted homeless person that’s not trying to get clean by making that lifestyle any easier for them. If a junkie wants to pollute their body with s**t, I could careless weather or not they’re hydrated.

    Trace One

    @Craig, I see it differently..It is exactly when I am there on the same corner with the bum,that the moment has the most personal consequences and interaction..that bum, at that second, could use some water…that is it..or a  piece of fruit or a is when one either judges them as a whole as useless and craven, or when only advocating one-size fits all solutions like Mayor Bloomburgs or Mayor Koch, that you are going for the ideological, over the personal human act..I would far more trust the bum to be telling me what he needs ( a sector of them really  don’t want housing, they just want that sanwich, right then..) than I would to, god forbid, trust the Catholic Church to distribute things justly..(insult to all Catholic Church believers intended – reading about the Catholics war on women and accrual of filthy lucre continuously amazes me..but I digress)

    I am  not saying societal programs to help the homess, the addicted, etc., are not worth it..(they have proven to be more cost-effective, given our riduculous health care system – I think one can find studies on the cost of dealing with a bums health, when they to  speak.)

    But I can’t dehumanize the people I encounter – they are NOT faceless, you see them every few days usually – the guy in the dress outside of the Vons in LaJolla – everyone  knows  him. I tried to give him chocolate doughnuts I had bought in the store, and he turned me down..hee..lesson in that.. And I try not to judge them, just give them a teeny bit of hope..or does help if they are not threatening or too unattractive..(poking fun at self..everything has two you an opening to pile on!!!.)

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