There is a group out of Atlanta called The Mad Housers that provides 6′ x 8′ x 10′ huts to the homeless, and Council member Jack Christie wants to bring this concept to Houston.
Before going any further, I need to clarify that I am NOT against helping the homeless. In fact, I have helped negotiate for several people, who were facing foreclosure, to keep their homes so that they would not be homeless.
In this case, however, I think this idea is ridiculous. There are so many issues with these shacks that I almost don’t even know where to begin.
1. According to their website, Mad Housers doesn’t own the land to which they build the huts. From their site:
“Do you get permission to build at a site?
When we can. The issue of land ownership is very delicate.
We don’t create camps. We find existing camps and make improvements, namely shelters. If a camp has been at a site for a long time, then either:
- the owner is either aware of their presence and okay with it;
- the owner doesn’t know that they are there, or;
- the ownership of the land is in dispute and homeless individuals are living there until things are straightened out (which could be years or decades).
So, do we ask? Only if there is an existing communication between the camp and the landowner. Otherwise, we might wind up getting a camp broken up, all with the best of intentions.”
So the first clear problem is where would these huts go in Houston? Will it be city-owned land, or are we really going to allow a group to come in and start building things on land they don’t own?
2. Mad Housers basically builds the huts and then leaves. There is no upkeep in anyway.
3. According to their website, “Each hut has a pitched roof, a sleeping/storage loft, a locking door, and a wood burning stove for both heating and cooking.” So in the hot Houston summers, the homeless will still need to use a shelter to cool down.
4. It costs $400 (about 90% of that is the cost of lumber) to build one hut. CM Christie mentioned that he didn’t see this money coming from the city. He did not mention where the money is to come from nor did he mention why he wants this to be a city project if it appears to be both funded and handled from a non-profit group.
5. CM Christie said that these huts will be “less unsightly to the city” than current tents that many homeless use. Look at a picture of one here. I don’t see how this is less unsightly at all.
So basically I am confused all around. I just don’t see how this is helping anyone. I know shelters in Houston are not idealized, but I just can’t see this being any better. It seems like a better use of money to fix existing shelters, build new ones, and work with the homeless to find jobs, when available.
As with all the new council members, I will give him the benefit of the doubt with this one for a little while until more details pan out.