Sunday, December 21, 2014

Housing





I've been wanting to do a series of blog posts about the things that rattle around in my head on a weekly basis, and the one being most paramount time and time again is housing.

It is the linchpin that is driving much of the suffering in our world. Just this week Notch of Minecraft fame bought a $70 million mansion in Beverly Hills-the MOST expensive one in the area. That my friends is a grotesque affront to all that could be done for good with that insane amount. Money, like time/energy, is a precious resource because all three elements are intertwined. Beyond that, until the property owners that be accept something other than cold hard cash, everything you spend on other than housing, is something that takes away from simply keeping a roof over your head. Yet so many people are hemorrhaging and flitting away their money left and right...when if they took a closer examination of their life, they would see the so much of their suffering is tied primarily to rent,  let alone the other bills and disposable income "living it up".Breaking the work/spend cycle takes time, and solidarity with others to provide examples and course of action always helps. Self inflicted damage is rampant.

 Food, clothing, community, entertainment etc can all be had for either free or extremely cheap. But try and find a reliable place to sleep that is safe, allows for personal space/storage and perhaps a few basic amenities(lavatory/kitchen etc),and you will be hard pressed. I've made a very clear intention to funnel 99% of my money towards housing...and lo and behold I am thriving.

I live in a very unique situation in Casa Tequio, where we have many people sharing rooms(fitting about 10-12 in the 2300sqft house). One guy lives in a 3x8 closet! He's my hero. :) Another hero of mine is Rob Greenfield who has done a lot to bring attention to food waste, cycling, alternative living and more. He too lived in a closet for awhile. Rob Greenfield 6x6 closet. Please check out his videos and blog, inspiring work on there.

Rob Greenfield


My quaint room is about 10x12, with a nice window that I enjoy the breeze from, a single bed, a dresser, a bookshelf, some storage room and a place I dump all my panniers at the foot of my bed. Above me is a loft space where my roomie resides, with a skylight and cozy confines of about 8x8 feet. I consider my space about as optimal as you can get without going to a walk-in closet. In combination with my work trade value exchange I do for the house, I pay $150 for everything, and I am eternally grateful for this setup.

My lovely room.

Even still... filling up this house isn't the most optimal use of the land. What would be ideal for an urban area is something like this :Eugene S.L.E.E.P.S.Or in my neck of the woods, Right2Dreamtoo and Dignity Village.

Cooking with Food Not Bombs at Right2DreamToo


A lot of people just want a place to sleep, store a few things, and build community around that. It's kind of unreal to think it's illegal to lay your head down in the vast majority of the landscape. I often find myself on bike rides around the city looking at places where one could crash in the open...it's slim pickings indeed.

Harassment from the authorities, hooligans, drug addled folks etc...it's not always safe to just lay down anywhere either, but I've ran across many that do as an intentional way of living outside the system. They don't want the overhead of managing a house/apartment and all the BS they entail; working full-time, giving your precious life energy to less than ideal endeavors just to sleep securely. There needs to be a contraction of resources, and in many places it's already underway. Detroit is one example of thousands of buildings being leveled, leaving many vacant lots for gardens or maximizing infil If we tore down our house and put a yurt village setup, we could probably house twice as many people with more private/open spaces for less money to rent the land...?

Detroit in Crisis: 60 Minutes

In places like Dignity Village etc, one of the issues is the stigma attached. These SHOULD be destination locations for freegans, activists, artists or anyone else wanting out of the rat race. Instead they are largely viewed as transitional places, or homes for the dredges of society...or "derelicts" as someone I know put it. One campaign in Eugene has a plan already fleshed out for a more long term area called Emerald Village. It's crucial we start modeling that there are alternatives...we are monkey see monkey do culture and the more we transition to alternative methods of shelter, the more it will snowball into manifesting on a larger scale.




Opportunity Village Design


I've often thought about the blurry line between travelers like bike tourers using warmshowers/couch surfing, and people who live in permanent locations. When does  a person shift from a guest, and into a burden? In what way can they add a net positive to those around them? Can't people just float around town, continously surfing and spreading the love? My friend Russel rotates between a few spots where he gives back value. and has built some awesome forts to sleep in. That's one way to do it. Another is a combination of couch/yard surfing mixed in with sleeping in wooded areas like Mt. Tabor, along the river south of Portland etc. I had a conversation awhile back with a long-time houseless advocate called Lightning about creating a craigslist type site that could pair housless folks with housed in whatever exchange of value they could determine. Hopefully creating a symbiotic mutually beneficial relationship, and easing the huge strain on the official channels that usually have to handle so many folks. Any given night here in Portland there are more than 2,000 people without a home.



 All these things are made much easier with bike transportation, as most houseless types tend to congregate around the resources(shelters, food, dry areas to sleep outside) while those more mobile fill in the outskirts. Even Forest Park is easy to slip into it's massive acreage for months at a time, like my friends Satya/Fallon have done in the past.

A more mobile option that utilized my beloved bicycle is  the Bike RV system. Bike RV A local houseless advocate actually has his own version, and he can even squeeze in his large dog for cuddling! I did copious amounts of research into living out of a van/rv, and even spent 6 months living in 25 foot 5th wheel trailer with my ex-wife and dog...a bit cramped, but not too shabby. Still, the overhead is too much in my opinion; initial purchases/outfitting, registration/insurance, fuel, repairs, can't be that stealthy, environmental footprint etc.

BikeRVproject.com


Typical housing uses up tons of resources to both build and power them, fill the insides and the countless hours people spend working just to keep them in operation. Contraction is already happening...with peak oil looming and other issues, people are going to have to live alternatively. There are also not enough quality jobs to go around to support the typical lifestyle...for every teacher, there a hundred baristas with Masters. I for one would rather live unconventionally thriving than work some 9-5 waste of my precious life energy. in exchange for more "comfort". I am time rich, but monetarily poor, and loving it.

Footprint-calculator


Decentralization is also a key feature of how many houseless live. They use parks, libraries, grocery stores, coffee shops, bookstores, FNB kitchens, tool shares etc to access the infrastructure they need. So many of these houses I see with vast areas of unused spaces, or rooms dedicated to art, exercise etc are a poor way to be efficient with space. Get some bunks, load up the largest room in the house, and use the other rooms as needed. Or use the micro-community model, anything but the standard way with huge houses for a few people...it's insane.

Going forward I hope to collaborate more with people creating these more permanent  communities around major urban centers, while continuing to challenge the notion of what one needs for shelter.

Cheers!

Great article on Tiny Home Villages in the NW