Vacant Buildings—Homeless People: Connect the Dots

July 6th the front page story of The Salt Lake Tribune was about the alarming state of homelessness in Salt Lake City (See my op-ed http://archive.sltrib.com/article.php?id=5505863&itype=CMSID#sthash.eYa3sPDU.gbpl .)  That same day, the front page story on USA Today was about the Veterans Administration plan to get rid of more than 400 underused properties.  This is a common phenomenon.  A few years ago we were studying solutions to homelessness in Baltimore, and there was an article in The Atlantic that described the incongruity of the existence of thousands of vacant homes in proximity to thousands of homeless persons (for full article go to https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/10/can-homeless-people-move-into-baltimores-abandoned-houses/381647/ ).  As Rachel Kutler, a community organizer put it, “Clearly there’s a moral crisis when you see so many people in need of homes and there’s such a glut of vacant ones.”  As documented by the National Vacant Properties Campaign, vacant buildings result in threats to public safety and a decrease in local property values.  Homelessness has a similar impact on communities and much more dire consequences for the homeless themselves.  Hmmm: lots of empty buildings and lots of homeless people.  What to do? The problem seems intractable and overwhelming.  Wait, I’m thinking.  I’ve got it! Perhaps one solution would be to give the vacant buildings to the homeless who could then maintain the properties, and if they need assistance from an organization like Habitat for Humanity or APTS, fantastic.  Seriously, this is a no-duh, no-brainer.  No new technology, critical thinking nor genius is required. Bureaucrats and/or property owners simply need to take their pens and connect the dots.  It’s the right thing to do.