Garbage Homes for Garbage People

How America Could End Homelessness in One Year With Something We All Throw Away Every Day

Yes. The solution to ending homelessness in the United States is taking people who live without housing and asking them to live in garbage. Homelessness is so bad and homeless people are so desperate that they would live anywhere, even in a house made of garbage.

Look, I get that this is a creative solution that has the nice benefit of crossing over into eco/green/recycling/earth-friendly territory. Some people might like to live in, like, a regular house made out of wood or whatever, but I’ve concluded that the people who think this is a great idea must assume that homeless people live garbage lives already so they would probably be pretty comfortable living in garbage, too. Right? After all, if wishes were houses beggars wouldn’t have problems attaching to other people and end up on the street addicted and vulnerable to the capricious whims of the homed and their police force. Also, if wishes were houses people might have a house. But why would they want one when we built them this nice one made out of trash?

I guess it’s not such a surprise that this seems like a viable solution to enough people that I see it in my social media feeds twice a week. We already pawn off the excess of our consumerism on the poor as it is. Why not build it into shelter for them while we’re at it? A garbage house is better than no house, after all.

Except that it’s a bandaid applied and applauded with such breathless enthusiasm that there’s surely little thought being put into its implementation. We can be sure the thoughts and feelings of those who we expect to joyfully accept their new pile of refuse have not been considered. And the root causes of homelessness either go unnoticed or are actively ignored. Homelessness is a problem not only of economy but also of power, privilege, culture, society, psychology, and family history. It differs from person to person, life to life, individual to individual.

The garbage homes “solution” to homelessness arises from a mindset that sees homelessness as a inexplicable phenomenon and people experiencing homelessness solely as a problem. This disregards the humanity and individual identity of folks living lives which do not conform to the majority of the population of a given society. To offer simple solutions to homelessness, even with the best of intentions, not only further marginalizes and dehumanizes the people experiencing it, doing so reifies the matrix of causes that lead to homelessness in the first place.

A person is not a problem to be solved. The task, then, is to treat people not as objects, but as the subjects they are. In other words, don’t treat people like garbage.