Every year, I watch the Christmas Village being erected in Love Park. Within a week, more or less, a little village of about 50 tiny houses pops up around the fountain. The often oddly colored water has been replaced with a huge tree, a vast improvement in my opinion. And, in previous years, there has been a mysterious macaroni sculpture to let you know Kraft has had a hand in the event, which is one of my all time favorite marketing ploys – along with the Oscar Meyer weiner-mobile, because who doesn’t love a huge macaroni, even if you wouldn’t eat the stuff and it’s been outlawed in several European countries.
Anyway, along with the little wooden houses, each to contain a shop, there are two larger tents set up to house the larger shop of Bavarian Christmas wunder stuffs and the Brauhaus Schmitz emporium of sausage/kraut goodness. Ideally, I would like to spend Christmas in Bavaria but I’ll take what I can get. It’s a little bit of Germany that I can see from my office window.
For a good part of the year, Love Park hosts the following types:
- tourists posing for photos in front of the LOVE sign, which is much smaller than I thought it would be. Unlike the macaroni.
- locals meeting each other.
- random protesters.
- ranting lunatics.
- homeless people who use the fountain as a bathtub.
It’s this last group of people, about which I had this eureka thought this afternoon. I recently read an article, that has been forever lost in my Facebook feed, that said a majority of young people, younger than 30, have been homeless at one point in their lives, for at least two months at a time. Most homeless people don’t want to be so and many homeless are actually working, just not making enough to have a place to live. Shelters are overcrowded and have weird hours that don’t allow people to come and go as they need to in order to work. The worst is when there are children involved. It was very sobering.
I watch the little houses being built across the street and think, if the city can put together a Christmas Village of 50 little houses in a week, why couldn’t they put together slightly larger houses for people who just need a place to stay while they get back on their feet. Each little house could be insulated and have enough room for two bunk beds and a table. They’d be heated by a shared heating system with underground duct-work, connecting the houses. Maybe utilize solar power. For every ten houses, you get a communal bathroom with lockable stalls, in which there is an all-in-one shower and toilet system, and maybe a communal kitchen. You’d have to agree to be a contributing member of the mini-community – keep things tidy and whatnot. Perhaps a very low rent to cover the utilities, maintenance and security.
In an ideal city, there would be several options for residents in each neighborhood. Not unlike public housing but one step below. A dignified way of keeping anyone who doesn’t want to be on the street, off the street. I’m sure there are a million reasons why this wouldn’t work but all it needs is one reason why it would.
Update: Looks like someone had the same idea!