Friday, June 22, 2007

In Twenty Years, Cardboard Boxes

[The subsidized apartment building I live in is called The Union Hotel. It's run by DESC, Seattle's Downtown Emergency Service Center. All the residents have been homeless. I write a column for the monthly building newsletter. The column is called Out of My Mind. I'm posting them here, because I can. -- wes]

Every month I go to the Single Adults Subcommittee for the Ten Year Planning Committee to End Homelessness in King County. I don't usually get much out of it. But last week, thanks to Bill Hobson, director of DESC, our landlord here at the Union Hotel, I saw the future and I found out that I have dodged a bullet.

What Bill said (I like to call the boss of my landlord, "Bill") was that another building that DESC runs, the 1811 Eastlake Building, doesn't consist solely of regular apartments, like the Union does. Instead, about a third of the units are what he called "carrels", and what I would call "cubicles", or "partitioned spaces", or "refrigerator boxes".

Bill called them carrels. Bill went on and on about the carrels at 1811 Eastlake, until I began to wonder if Bill didn't need to find some new hobbies. But then he sort of changed the subject to something more serious, and said that the King County Ten Year Planning People weren't going to get the money they needed to create all the new housing they wanted to create. He said they had to start thinking about other alternatives than expensive studio apartments. They need to look into housing people in carrels. They need to consider group living.

[Above: Design for future DESC apartment complex.]

So that's it. In the future, if you're homeless and you get into housing, it isn't going to be a 250 square foot locking room with a kitchenette and a private bathroom, with or without the private bath.

Instead, you're going to get a choice between the long-house, the teepee, the shanty, the pup-tent, or the bunk bed in a six-story bunk-house.

Now I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, I can go to the Jungle on Beacon Hill and live in a shanty or a pup-tent. Yes, you can, but you can't do it with the cooperation and assistance of the county. We're talking about being able to live like a homeless person, LEGALLY.

That's a huge improvement for homeless people, and it would be about time. But, you know, I don't do group living well. I am so thankful that I got mine, while the getting was possible.

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