Couldn't we recycle Styrofoam to make homes for the homeless? They could be coated or covered by something hard, like a shell, made out of other recyclables. It doesn't take much money or space to shelter people while they sleep. Why don't we? —Y, Y, Y?
"Coated or covered with something hard, like a shell," eh? Pardon my confusion, but for a moment there it sounded like you were proposing to end homelessness by laminating the disadvantaged. "True, she still has nowhere to stay—but as you can see, she's now completely weatherproof!"
The main problem with your idea is the fact that polystyrene foam can't be recycled. That's why it's so unpopular—it just crumbles into ever-tinier pieces until it winds up in the abdomen of some unfortunate seabird.
And that, Y., is why your plan sucks! But in a larger sense, you're onto something: What if we built small, modest homes for the less fortunate in existing neighborhoods?
This is the idea behind the "A Place for You" pilot program, first reported by WW in March. Basically, Multnomah County will build a granny flat in your backyard if you let a homeless (and usually dadless) family live there for five years.
So far, there are plans for just four units. But let's hope for more, because if there's one thing poverty wonks can agree on, it's that getting poor folks into middle-class neighborhoods improves outcomes to an extravagant degree.
It's a way to get the widely touted benefits of mixed-income housing without waiting for action from penny-pinching developers or skeptical neighborhood associations. When they ask, "In whose backyard?" tell them, "Mine."
PS: This is Dr. Know #400. Please summon a visual of your host forlornly blowing a children's party noisemaker while wearing a tiny party hat on his barren head. Then send money.
QUESTIONS? Send them to email@example.com.