Architecture for Humanity - SF
Friday, April 02, 2004

While it is important to ‘build alliances’ in order to draft a research-driven and aptly modeled 10 year plan for assisting the city’s homelessness to legitimately compete for Mangano’s federal funds, it is estimated that “If the City takes up the task of building new supportive housing for the 3,000 chronically homeless individuals who live here, the cost, the Corporation for Supportive Housing estimates, would run about $450 million -- about $150,000 per unit. On top of that would be $39 million in yearly maintenance costs.” Sounds like a lot but 10 year plans have proven successful in other cities and given the right plan and the right funding, SF could make a dramatic difference. Though critics are already raising a warranted concern, that too much focus and emphasis on the chronically homeless will only divert attention away from the 90% of the average homeless people who are the most visible. Chronic homeless are said to be only 10% of the homeless population in SF, but use around 50% of all the city’s resources. While these articles are informative, I am always blown away that our government is some how just now realizing, or admitting, to the real systemic causes of homelessness, which is not just a business problem that has been poorly mismanaged, or some resistance on the part of the poor to help themselves. It cracks me up to hear everyone blurting “Supportive Housing” “Supportive Housing!”. It’s like some buzzword the politicians are just now catching on to, and it’s hard to believe that our city has put off this type of research for this long. For anyone who needs a contact for the Homeless Council Reg Smith can be emailed at regsmith@ix.netcom.com.

Meanwhile the rebirth of Care not Cash has stirred a flurry of lawsuits against the city, homeless people claiming their cash benefits will be taken away without ample trade for responsible housing that Supervisor Daly has amended the legislation to require. And as usual, in the trenches to report on how these programs and CNC changes to them are really affecting our service providers, is the intrepid Chance Martin. He wrote this article for the Sentinel about Conard House and how they are being reduced to “human ATM machines” …at a loss ofr services now due to the money management revisions that have taken hold of the sector. Are our policy changes having the right effect in the field on the clients themselves?

And in case you haven’t been following, Jim Reid was evicted and ShelterOne has been moved to 13th and Mission. From what I have been told he is trying to assemble a coalition of clean and sober homeless people to pool their GA and other cash funds in order to purchase the old armory building at 14th and Mission. And Gonzalez is supposedly in the process of drafting a resolution for the board that would allow certain zoning restrictions to be lifted for ShelterOne to possibly be implemented around the city.

Key West is apparently exploring a Tent City, like Dignity Village in Portland which is being referred to as a model for Denver’s proposal as well. Tent City has a history in this country, and the popularity is rising around the nation with a demand for them. Proponents claim that while Tent Cities institutionalize the homeless to some degree, the organization of a greater visibility is what urges local governments into more action to actually resolve homelessness. Denver’s proposal is a great read.

Other links:
SF Housing Element Ever Delayed
Homeless Architecture in Japan
Anonymous Collective - Taking Over Buildings Direct Action
Affordability in Pittsburgh? What has happened to our cities is now happening in our poorest suburbs.


"There's an old saying, 'You only have one chance to make a first impression,' " Davis notes. "If homeless people come to a facility that's impersonal, institutional and threatening, they may just turn around and leave. " This comes from a recent article about Sam Davis, his new book, and turning Nightclubs into Shelters for homeless youth. Sam Davis is lecturing later this month.

More news on local landscape architect pioneer Walter Hood.

``I'm interested in how the everyday mundane practices of life get played out in cities, the unheralded patterns that take place without celebration,'' he said. ``There's a structure to cities, a 4/4 beat. Designing is like improvisation, finding a sound for each place.''

Gregory Burgess won the gold medal of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects.

"I don't think your hand becomes invisible because you're doing collaborative work," he said. "That's something I've come to realize – I have to be there strongly, to kind of lead the dance, or to encourage other people to join the dance, and listen to people and find the right step, the right rhythm. The cult of the egomaniac hero architect died some time ago."

And here is an interesting story about a man who turned a South African dump into an urban garden which has now enculturated the entire area with a new positive environmental emblem.

Some Experimental Stuff to check out:

Container City
Pod Village (beautiful displays at Black Rock)
SHELTERPOD - Emergency Portable Housing
Tadashi Kawamata
HABITAFLEX (this one is utterly generic, but simple)

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