Monday, January 14, 2008

Housing The Homeless In Santa Monica

"If sleeping in closet-like capsules is good enough for Japanese businessmen, then it should be good enough for Santa Monica’s homeless," says local resident Randy Walburger.
In an SMDP story today, Walburger proposes to house the 2,000 or so homeless population of Santa Monica in makeshift plastic modules on parking lots and undeveloped land. The problem? "Finding the money and the space to make it happen," writes the SMDP. Welcome to Santa Monica. A city that has a reputation for being a 'People's Republic,' but whose walking the talk is more akin to NIMBY double-think.

"There is already a feeling amongst many Santa Monicans that City Hall has done more than its fair share to help the homeless and are looking for a reduction in services, or at least in the number of homeless people seen on the streets. By building campsites, there is a fear that more homeless would be attracted to Santa Monica," adds the SMDP. And they will be, as Skid Row's strong-arm tactics drive the homeless population towards the more humanistic beachside.

The center picture above features a capsule hotel in Japan, Walburger's template. The other two pictures are the best homeless can hope for in Santa Monica and in Paris. A Parisian bourgeois friend wrote us upset emails last year on how those homeless "scum" were advertising their ordeal on the most touristic sites of Paris. That was when French NGOs Médecins du Monde and Don Quichotte decided to provide free tents to the homeless of France. The main intent was to help the homeless shelter from the winter, but also to make a statement that homelessness cannot be ignored. Didn't one of them froze to death recently on Place de la Concorde, the ultimate Paris postcard? How can this happen?

Does Santa Monica have the capacity to welcome all the misery of the world? Of course not. But who in his/her decent mind can ignore sheer human misery -- unless they're not human themselves?
[edit 01/17/08: Santa Monica to survey homeless to gauge needs in SMDP]

illustrations: Santa Monica's shelters by Walburger/via; Japanese capsule hotels/Details magazine; Homeless shleter provided by Médecins du Monde in Paris.