Homeless in Foyers?

Ever had an idea cling to you like a cotton ball holding on to Velcro in a wind storm?

After writing a final exam for the Critical Thinking course offered at Queensland University, I was met with a challenge. In order to tap into 5 more points on my final mark, I could think of a Plan where I could put my new-found skills to work.

My profs explained: “You need to select a topic that you’re passionate about. Look around you and see what’s broken or dodgy. Where do you or other people seem to rely on fast, automatic, instinctive, emotional, and stereotypical thinking instead of slow, ‘effortful’, deliberative, analytic, and logical thinking?”

Pop! My relentless idea rose from its slumber and demanded an airing.

Cities have huge high-rise office buildings. Many of these structures are primarily empty at night. Many have foyers that are devoid of furnishings and are merely passageways to bank of elevators that can be “user-controlled”. Many foyers contain washroom facilities. Many are heated throughout the night.

What’s stopping government from giving Businesses perks that would allow homeless people to sleep in their foyers in inclement weather?

Yes, someone would be on night duty to keep everything under control.

The homeless would be required to leave at, say, 7:00 a.m. and cleaning staff would need to come in at that time to clean the foyer.

Businesses would demonstrate their goodwill and get some very positive free marketing. Government could give them a tax break as incentive.

Yes, I’ve worked in such high rise office towers. Yes, I’d want to be able to come into work without stepping over the homeless. Yes, I know it would take planning. However – yes, I’d like to work for businesses willing to meet such a humane challenge.

I wrote to my MP, shared this idea and asked if it was completely irrational or if it’s one of those simple ideas that could turn life around for many. If the idea is worth considering – in some way – I asked which part of government to approach.

Whatcha think?

27 thoughts on “Homeless in Foyers?

  1. Anything that offers a modicum of comfort to the less fortunate should bear thinking about. In return for tax breaks the companies concerned could afford to employ cleaning staff to take an early shift. Maybe some official body like the red cross could do their soup kitchen there and hand out blankets, help people fill out forms etc.
    Maybe if there has been a large office block empty for some time in the recession, the owners would sell it off to the Government to convert into small bedsits to get people off the streets in all weathers, it would be a small investment compared to some made for overseas aid.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

    • Thank you, David, for your “add-on” ideas. It’ll be very interesting to see what comments come back from this concept – I’ve posted it far and wide. Various countries, cultures, communities can conform and reconstruct into their own needs.

  2. I suspect that ‘fear’ will be the over-riding emotion to this excellent suggestion…unless someone on the staff of the corporation was once homeless.

    • Big time, Charles. And all the rationalizations will be the kind of thinking we studied in this course – as well as in the Immunity to Change course. It’s all about fear.

  3. What a creative idea, Amy! As a former Social Housing Officer, I’ve worked with the homeless, so it’s a cause dear to my heart. And David’s suggestions take your concept to the next level! But, as Charles says, I think that fear would be the main obstacle, along with prejudice about rough sleepers being too lazy to find a jobs and afford a home of their own. They are often deemed as not worthy of any help, a sad reflection on Western society. I’m interested to learn the outcome of your campaigning ~ please keep us posted of any response you receive. 🙂

    • Wow, thank you for sharing your insights, Jacqueline – especially since you have the experience to back your ideas! I wrote to my MP because I wanted to explore the idea of giving tax breaks to any business that does this. Plus since Governments do spend our tax dollars on advertising some things, this would be deemed free marketing. I’d love to see ads where employees chat up their company for being willing to extend their goodwill to the community – not just monetarily to shareholders and/or political causes!!

    • The thing about creative thinking – as YOU know, Kim – is to nail the result you want. If the seed is flung to the far fetches, the person/people with the know-how to put it together WILL. I wouldn’t have a clue where to start – because we all know that Business would draw back in repulsion! BUT give them a reason or a perk and the means to do it (instead of spending money on more shelters) and it could happen. I think Gov’ts have to provide the support, but not with a bunch of bureaucratic who-hah! That turns Business off instantly!

      How to get this concept OUT there is the question.

  4. I think it’s a great idea but I don’t expect businesses to jump on it. I must be terribly pessimistic. I can see the objections now but one can hope and pray. I think businesses willing to do that would be, in terms of Karma, blessed with much success.Jacqueline makes really valid points that I suppose underlie my concerns. I went back and read it after the first part of my comment.

    • Yes, I know Business would swallow it’s annual report – in one gulp – over this concept. So what can Business be given that would motivate them to actually consider it?

      • The only language they hear is financial incentives. Wouldn’t it be great to pay them to spend a few nights on the street (in winter)–but I’m not sure that would open their hearts. I hate to sound so cynical because I am pro-business. The more business grows, one would hope the more jobs would be available.

        Another thought–if they really had a chance to sit down and talk to some of these homeless–persons, perhaps, who had similar backgrounds to theirs, would that make a difference?

        I read your post just after I finished a final edit on my next novel which has a strong thread of homelessness in it. It spoke loudly to me. That’s what I call serendipity. The reality is, homelessness is something that can happen to any of us.

        Another thought, in the newspaper in the desert there is a weekly feature of an interview with a veteran. What would happen if someone could do that with the homeles?. Let them tell their story. True, there are people who choose homelessness. We used to call them “simple schizophrenics” when I studied psych nursing in a 5000 bed hospital…before they were decentralized here in the US. They were people who simply couldn’t function in society. Now many are vets with PTSD, often accompanied by addiction. And there are a few, perhaps, who would take advantage of the system.

        Maybe they could introduce your idea with the way-too-many women and children who are on the streets because of the downturn in the economy. Perhaps that could be in inroads.

        Now, are you sorry you rev’d up my problem solving machine? Politicians seldom know how to think outside the box, as they say. They know one solution it seems. “Let’s raise taxes.”

        Now, off the soapbox and to bed, Victoria!

        • I agree – government is so policy oriented and so specialized, employees have a challenge to even recognize they’re in the box. If this idea sparked questions about how this could possibly happen, the first thing I’d do is access young people and ask them for ideas. I suspect Gov’t would have to see it as an opportunity to save money and Business would probably need to stay at arm’s length while looking like the “good guy”.

          I know this is far out and sounds too impossible to happen. My mother used to warn me that the way to plant ideas is to let the “action center” think it was their idea. Maybe that’s the way it could happen. I’d love it if the idea was picked up and some corporation claimed it as theirs. Hurrah, I’d say!!

  5. I LOVE this idea. Giving tax breaks to businesses that help homeless weather the storms is far more palatable to me than giving them tax breaks to pollute the air and water. That said, I think the biggest obstacle will be resistance by those who think we make it too “easy” to be homeless. Yeah, I know…believe me, I don’t subscribe to this idea, but I know a lot of people, particularly business people, do. Maybe by pointing out a safety advantage to having homeless stay in lobbies rather than outdoors where they are “more likely to prey” on innocents…. I don’t like the sound of that but, I think you’ll catch my drift. Good luck with this. Keep us posted.

    • Maybe, Linda, the only hope for this is if it went viral. I believe it is a good idea – utilizing what already exists and sits empty during critical times for some folks. Maybe a cool video would capture the attention of enough people so the pressure would be on.

  6. Good idea! I hope it will find some traction in your community. Maybe if you can create a successful model, it could be exported to other communities…wouldn’t that be nice?! ~ Sheila

    • If I still lived in a city, I’d certainly know where to be sowing these seeds. I’ve written to my member of parliament. When people hear the idea, they think it’s creative, but if anyone with any power has seen it, they haven’t done anything to indicate interest.

      I can imagine the idea sounds totally bizarre to some –

  7. O.K. Amy here comes the black sheep, the fly in the ointment, the doubting Thomas person, but here’s the thing. How many of us have children who have flown the nest, leaving in their wake an empty room or two at home? Would any of us let a homeless person use that un-used room overnight? I doubt it and yet charity supposedly begins at home. It’s easy to expect the corporate world to deal with these issues, facing considerable logistical challenges in doing so. So stop passing the buck. If anyone out there TRUELY feels passionate about homeless people, then think about doing something for just one of them on a personal level.

    • We do many things for the homeless here on this little island – including housing and meals during inclement weather. We offer a house that is used for other purposes during daytime. Oddly enough, some homeless don’t feel comfortable at shelters – especially in cities. Some on our island prefer their hidey-hole with more coats or blankets. No, Christine, this concept is not taking away from open hearts at all.

      During my career days, living in cities and traveling across Canada, I would hear of cities having problems finding space to shelter street people during inclement weather. I had to walk through all these big, heated, empty, bathroomed foyers to get to the elevator. Many elevators are keyed – or there’s coded access – so the offices would not have to worry.

      It would mean staffing a nightwatchman and 7:00 am cleaning staff to make sure the foyer is sparkling before employees and clients begin head for the banks of elevators. Those two positions would be cheaper for the gov’t than finding shelter space.

      So, Christine, this would be for people who are located no where near residential areas. These are people who do not want to be in residential areas…

      • It’s heartening to hear of the efforts on your island although worrying too that you even have a homeless situation. Over here the problem tends to be restricted to cities and large towns. Good luck to you with your efforts.

        • As Victoria shut down certain mental health wards in hospitals over the past few years, we learned some of the patients were told our island was a safe place with kind people. So, yes, we have those who dare to venture away from the city.

    • Ahh…hello Ginny! Thank you – I’m so glad you enjoyed them. Can you not get your computer to enlarge the print for you? Try “shift” then hit the “+” button.

  8. Pingback: Finding Soul in Government | Soul Dipper

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