Simple solutions can be perceived as teetering on the fence of lunacy. However the fence is shared by a neighbour with the name of brilliance. Being such good neighbours, it can be hard to tell one from the other.
(Note to those who have read “Homeless In Foyers?” – please feel free to skip my “re-seeding” verbiage in the first few paragraphs (in a darker shade of black) and check out messages to/from my Member of Parliament, Elizabeth May. She’s a politician with soul.)
A while back, the professors of Critical Thinking, through Queensland University, challenged us at the end of our course. We had to submit a 3 minute video describing how we planned to take our knowledge into everyday living.
Two plans jumped out at me. One was at my fingertips: a friend was dealing with an emotional client whose complaints grew with each effort made to appease. I was helping my friend use critical thinking, i.e. stick with the facts and not be trapped into the emotional maelstrom.
The other idea? It required a leap onto the lunacy/brilliance teeter-totter: let’s revolutionize thinking and use a new approach for sheltering the homeless during inclement weather in cities. Let’s make use of empty, heated, softly-lit and bathroom-ed spaces in foyers of enormous highrises in cities. Instead of the government renting and staffing shelters that homeless people would rather avoid due to thievery of their meager belongings, let’s give businesses incentive to allow the homeless to sleep in their empty foyers when the weather turns inclement. Government money could go towards night security personnel and an early morning cleaning staff.
What kind of business would even consider it? What incentives would capture their attention? Has anyone asked business? Let’s be creative, resourceful and humane. Yes, business would need assurances of supervision and security for their building. Yes, upper floors would need to be completely off limits. Business and homeless would both share concern for their “assets” to be safe. The homeless would need to exit early so cleaning staff could guarantee the foyer being in its usual clean and hygienic state. The hours for this humane and possibly tax-reducing gesture? The hours between early evening and early the next morning – established with owners.
Yes, there are many details. Details can be managed when the motive holds nobility.
The idea, in its simplicity, could sound like lunacy. I had to shift factors to spotlight brilliance. Where to begin?
Here’s part of the message I wrote to my Member of Parliament, Elizabeth May:
“We have cities with many business buildings downtown that have huge empty foyers – heated and locked all night – (with bathrooms?) that could be a place where homeless could sleep in winter. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? What’s in it for the business? After all, they’d have to have a watchman clear the foyer by 7:00 a.m. They’d need a cleaner to be there at 7:00 a.m. before all the office people arrive. Etc.
The businesses would receive free advertising – all their good will would be evident.
And now to tap into your fabulous brain: Is this a totally undoable bit of nonsense? If it’s creative enough that it just might be possible, would some aspect of Government possibly be willing to give a tax break to the Building owner or some other creative perk?
It’s wild, I know, but I have to sow the seed.”
Usually government responses read like fresh heart grated through the legal department and left in the political refrigerator for some time. Not so with Ms. May:
“Thank you for your interesting suggestion for your class. I applaud your creativity and wish to congratulate you for completing your course with such a high mark.
I believe that this plan might be a feasible interim solution to ending homelessness. This would fall under the purview of Employment and Social Development Canada, although I am unsure if this current government would take this current plan seriously.
Our biggest problem would be the inherent risk adverse nature of commercial real estate owners, by which I mean a fear of insurance costs and liability. But I still think that this is a great idea.
Thank you again for sharing your wonderful ideas with me. It is an honour to be your MP.
Thank you, Elizabeth. Your soulful authenticity is showing. It gives hope. After decades in the business world, I agree – the main risk would be insurance and liability claims. Insurance companies have laid fears on our shoulders with endless “what ifs”. They know we have no recourse – arguing against “what ifs” is an argument of odds. Too frightened to live without their coverage, evolution is stymied as fear is served with their one hand as our gold fills the other.
However, big insurance companies with big highrises have solutions. What if they were forerunners? What if they practiced probity? What if they showed clients how humane, loving or kind support can be a profoundly creative way to protect their assets? What if business discovered how most street people, like most members of society, quietly honour and respect perpetrators of kindness?
More critical thinking. Do I check the availability of soul in the Ministry of Employment and Social Development Canada? Do I wait for a new government? Do I appeal to the opposition parties now?
I’m going to mix soul with critical thinking and explore all the openings.