Tom Durkin: Trailblazing a Home Path
When I wrote “Housing Now! — A call to action” back in June, people actually took me seriously and answered the call. Some of us have been meeting over the last few weeks to figure out what we can do about homelessness now — right now — not a year from now. Last Saturday, we voted to call ourselves Home Path, because Housing Now is already taken.
We’re just some disaffected citizens trying to do what the county and cities should be doing, which is providing sanctuary, safe ground for their homeless citizens camping in the wildland and living in cars.
Providing sanctuary with supportive services is not only the right thing to do, it is the safe thing to do. As if we need any reminder, an escaped campfire or parking a vehicle with a blazing hot catalytic converter parked in the wildland bears clear and present dangers to us all.
Furthermore, unregulated sewage disposal is contaminating our environment.
Government officials proudly point to all the things they are doing to provide low-income housing … in the coming years.
Hundreds of people have no place to sleep or go to the bathroom tonight.
Apparently, that’s acceptable to government officials.
It’s not acceptable to us. We’re not particularly organized. We don’t have a leader. I am guilty of calling the meetings, but it’s not like I’m charge. I don’t want to be in charge. I’m just the piano player.
Instead of one large camp, we’re looking at distributed micro communities that would serve people of different levels of support needs and personal responsibility.
In building a camp, our first priority is sanitation. Toilets and showers. Maybe not up to code, but Porta-Potties, septic pumps, composting toilets are safe waste disposal alternatives. It’s not a sanctuary if it’s not safe.
We have identified three possible sites for communities of no more than a dozen units (tiny houses/homes, trailers, RVs, cars, tents).
As we build out, we’ll add a community kitchen. Perhaps a garden. Of course, potable water. Maybe solar power.
If sanitation is our first priority, community-building is our top priority. The residents must hold each accountable to the community rules they establish. This is not a phony reality show. This is reality. They can vote you in, and they can vote you out.
All the residents would have to pay rent. We’re talking no more than a third of their income or maybe $200 a month max. The idea is not to make money. The idea, literally, is to get their buy-in to a safe dwelling in a supportive community.
It’s an opportunity to save money for whenever the county and cities finally fulfill their legal obligations to provide enough low-income housing for all its citizens.
Late Monday night, I was told two of our members are near to finalizing the first Home Path placement. It’s just one tiny home for one homeless veteran.
I’m not going to tell you who’s doing it or where they’re doing it, because we’re operating on the premise that is more blessed to ask for forgiveness than permission. We’re pretty sure if we asked, the answer would be no.
We’re just starfish throwers, making a difference to this one.
And this is where you come in. We need help. We need a lawyer and a social worker. I think we have a nurse. We need building materials for tiny homes. We need trailers to use both as community kitchens and bathrooms as well as actual trailers to live in.
Another one of our members has been placing people, primarily families, in trailers on private land for quite some time now. He has a waiting list.
If you have a habitable trailer to donate or have a trailer on your property you’re willing to rent to a working-poor person, contact me by the email at the end of the column. I will put you in touch with the right people.
Please contact me if you are willing to contribute in any tangible way to housing homeless folks now. Of course, we’ll need money, but we are not yet set up to manage money in a responsible way. We could use an accountant and a nonprofit to adopt us so donations can be tax deductible.
Just, please, don’t talk to us about forming a committee. Committees are where good ideas go to die. Several of us are committee veterans. We’ve been proposing a sanctuary camp for years. We’re done talking. We’re doing what we can with what we’ve got.
Tom Durkin is a freelance writer, editor, photographer and member of The Union Editorial Board. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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