There's No Place like Home: Anthropological Perspectives on Housing and Homelessness in the United States

By Anna Lou Dehavenon | Go to book overview
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State, County, and Local-Level Recommendations

Recommendation #4. Atlanta and other municipalities should set a high priority on developing plans and timetables for using federal housing funds. Citizen advisory boards overseeing the allocation and timely disbursement of CDBG funds should include representatives from nonprofit, religious, and business organizations.

Recommendation #5. Local public housing authorities should apply for federal funding to repair and renovate their vacant apartments, which then could be rented to homeless persons and especially families.

Recommendation #6. Application processing for the various social services for the homeless should be centralized, and enough social workers should be employed to allow social service offices to be set up in some of the large shelters.

Recommendation #7. Cities should formulate plans for quickly expropriating tax-delinquent vacant buildings that could be made available to nonprofit housing providers for renovation and rental or sale.

Recommendation #8. Developers should be required to replace housing that is converted into condominiums or torn down for new commercial construction.


CONCLUSION

We have described the Mad Housers organization during its first five years, as it pioneered the strategy of using volunteers to help homeless people build simple shelters of their own. It is a project that goes beyond mere construction, by providing a program for problem-solving aftercare visits and encouragement of mutually supportive communities among the clients living in the huts. We do not regard the homeless as isolated individuals. Instead, we look at their social networks and low- technology survival skills as assets that can be recombined, adapted, and used again to fit the always uncertain environment of the streets.

Since April 1992, several major changes have occurred. The Gardens Site, as noted above, was put up for sale by owners of the land, and its residents were relocated. Most of the huts were torn down by the landowner, although nothing else has yet been built there. The Hutville Site in the heart of downtown Atlanta stood in the path of construction of a new domed stadium. The Mad Housers assisted in negotiations with the city to relocate the hut residents to permanent housing. In July 1992, the Georgia Dome Authority financed a $105,000 program supporting the moves of seventy-eight hut dwellers into an apartment complex, with their rent and utilities paid for the first six months. The residents insisted during negotiations that they be relocated together rather than scattered among different apartment buildings. At the end of the six-month period, forty-nine of the seventy-eight residents remained in the apartments, paying their own expenses. Some who left moved in with their families, while others are enrolled in long-term alcohol and drug-rehabilitation programs.

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