Editorials

An innovative approach to helping the homeless

The founder of Rock Hill’s Renew Our Community is promoting the idea of providing inexpensive small homes to people who now are living on the street.
The founder of Rock Hill’s Renew Our Community is promoting the idea of providing inexpensive small homes to people who now are living on the street. Herald file

One way to help the homeless is to provide them with homes.

Dale Dove, founder of Rock Hill’s Renew Our Community, a nonprofit that seeks to address the problem of homelessness in the community, is promoting the idea of providing inexpensive small homes to people who now are living on the street. Dove and a construction team of 12 are working on a prototype of the home in hopes of building more in the future.

The 120-square-foot house will weigh fewer than 10,000 pounds and will have wheels so it can be moved to different locations. A truck will be able to haul the structure without getting a wide-load permit.

The dwellings will be assembled with screws and glue. Once situated, they will connect with municipal water and sewer services. Dove estimates ROC can build a new home every 20 days once they have developed the prototype.

The design may prove to be the easy part. Dove has been talking with city officials for more than two years about where the homes might be located.

The city has a variety of concerns about placing the small homes. It seems unlikely that the homes would be welcome in existing neighborhoods. Residents might also object to locating dozens of these small homes in one place if it is near a residential area or a business.

But we hope ROC can overcome these obstacles and move forward with its plan. Dove and his partners are riding the crest of a new wave in dealing with the continuing problem of homelessness nationwide.

In the past, cities and service agencies required homeless people to seek treatment for substance abuse and other mental and health problems before they could become eligible for free or subsidized housing. The new trend, however, is to provide shelter immediately to the homeless and worry about dealing with health problems later.

Many of the nation’s largest cities are adopting this approach. While providing free housing to the homeless is initially expensive, it significantly reduces problems that result from living outside on the street, such as chronic health issues that require trips to the emergency room, crime and panhandling.

Some critics object to the idea of giving the homeless a free home, saying that it encourages bad behavior. But it ultimately is less expensive than paying for emergency care and maintaining temporary shelters, and less traumatic for police and public health officials than dealing with the homeless people who have no reliable shelter.

A home such as those being developed by ROC, tiny as they may be, offer security, a place to retreat from the weather, a place to sleep comfortably, a place to store belongings and a bathroom and access to water. In short, they offer the homeless a home.

The city of Rock Hill and ROC must work out the details, foremost of which is where the homes will be located. But this is a humane and forward-thinking approach to dealing with the problem of homelessness.

We salute Dove and others in his organization who have doggedly pursued this project for many months. Here’s hoping they succeed.

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