Homeless Hotels

How to end homelessness, the capitalist way
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Homeless people are a big problem. They look bad. They smell bad. They talk bad. They scare us.

But really, homelessness is a problem and it's on the rise. Unemployment and underemployment contribute to foreclosures and broken leases, forcing people and whole families to live on the street. And when you're living on the street, things as simple as a toilet or a shower are just pipe dreams, nevermind the hope for a warm bed and clean clothes.

The root cause is capitalism, which is institutionalized greed made socially acceptable by our own inherent selfishness. But more on that later...

We all want to help the homeless, but how can we actually do it and make a difference? In order to end poverty on any real scale, you'd first have to provide free food and shelter. But how do you provide free food and housing without impacting the livelihoods of farmers and construction workers? Well, as it turns out, we've got a ton of existing living space that goes unused every day! I did some math on that wasted living space.

On average, 32-34% of hotel rooms go unoccupied each night. Empty beds with clean showers and toilets sitting vacant. What I suggest is opening these rooms up to the homeless. This makes use of the existing unused living space. Hotels have the infrastructure already in place to clean the rooms and launder the sheets. They're perfectly equipped to provide temporary (one night) shelter for a person or family in need.

The best way to manage this would be to establish a non-profit organization which would interview homeless people and issue them an ID card. Local hotels can voluntarily partner with the non-profit organization to provide their vacant rooms. The homeless person can then present the ID card to a partner hotel after 10 or 11pm each night and be allowed to stay in one of their vacant rooms for free. The partner hotel can then deduct the price of the room from their taxes as a charitable contribution to the non-profit organization. This partnership could also be expanded to include other services: laundromats, clothing stores, restaurants.

The purpose of the interview procedure is to help prevent abuse of the system and to ensure that those who are chronically homeless or suffer from addiction or substance abuse can be redirected to the appropriate agencies which are better equipped to help them than a Motel 6. There would also be additional requirements for the homeless - such as signing up and frequently checking in at a local workforce center.

This doesn't directly solve the cause of homelessness. But it would help a lot of people escape from a vicious cycle. It means a place for the unemployed father to shower and shave before a job interview. Families with foreclosed homes and parents who just lost their jobs would see this as a godsend compared to staying the night in an underfunded overcrowded public shelter. The reduced burden on public shelters would make those systems more effective, especially for those individuals that need more help than just a hotel room.

In case you're wondering, my friends and I also discussed doing the same for long-term residency with empty (foreclosed) homes, but there's just too much risk for the home-owner (the bank). Hotels already have the infrastructure to clean and repair after each guest. Banks do not have that infrastructure, so cleaning up after some messy tenants represents too much of a liability.

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