So, like any news article, the oregonlive article on the Bootstrap project has gotten comments that range from helpful and cautionary to helpful and enthused, and some mean-spirited rants. One of my good friends, a man I deeply respect, a Quaker who actually has kept several friends from homelessness, had this to say to the people whose prejudices were falling out of their mouths:
It’s amazing how many people believe that alcoholism and drug use are the primary causes of homelessness, rather than something that a few highly visible homeless people use.
The truth is, there’s a lot more variety out there than people realize. There are drug users and there are good, generous, competent people out there who hit a rough patch, or grew up in poverty and never had the kind of family help most middle-class Americans take for granted. There are people who had to quit their job, break away from their old life completely, move to a new city, and seek help in order to get clean. And they DID get clean. There are lots of people who tried everything they could think of to avoid homelessness, and couldn’t make it. There are carpenters, steel-workers, housewives, teachers, waitresses - people who thought of themselves as middle-class until they were laid off or had a medical emergency.
There’s also help for them. One of the things I was noticing in the comments was the genuine ignorance of what help is already out there. If those people were suddenly homeless, they’d have no idea who to turn to for help, and neither do most of the people who end up homeless.
I can be a research hub for these people. I’m happy to be a research hub for these people. The visibility of the Bootstrap Homes means I’m well-positioned to be something of a community/homeless interface, and the sweat equity construction time gives me a chance to talk to people, figure out what they’re looking for, and tell them where to find it, without insulting their intelligence.
I don’t want to be a bottleneck, though. I’m only one person, and very much an introvert. Therefore, my plan is to post designs and construction manuals for anyone to use, get hardware stores to carry kits, talk to news reporters to spread the word, and post all the links I can find to helpful projects.
Like Transition Projects, here in Portland. They’re awesome. Or EDAR, who make little tent-carts and provide space to park them.
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