This concise video from City Beautiful explains the realities of homelessness in American cities and proposes practical and humane solutions for ending it. They ask us to view homelessness as a crisis facing vulnerable people in need of help, and encourage compassion by providing affordable housing for the homeless and those at risk of becoming homeless due to an absence of affordable housing. Citing the success of Finland, City Beautiful makes a case for using a “housing first” strategy rather than a “treatment first” strategy. It is much easier to get clean and find a job with shelter.
When architects address this issue, given limited city budgets and even limited tolerance from adjacent homeowners, camouflage rather than exhibitionism makes the most amount of sense for affordable housing. One of the reasons for Pruitt-Igoe’s monumental failure was that its designers tried to create a “machine for living” rather than a “home for living.” Forms of such housings should emphasize contextually generic sameness in order to encourage empathy rather than emphasize poverty. If the design should contain aspirational aspects, they should be expressed as subtly as possible.
Kindness from the neighbors can be elicited only if affordable housings are anti-monuments. Architects involved in affordable housing or homeless shelters should prioritize compassion and understanding above all else. Also, as compassionate citizens, we should support government candidates who support the “housing first” approach to homelessness and are willing to commit money to make it happen.