Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Homeless model: New York's hidden homeless (bbc.com)
131 points by yitchelle on Oct 27, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 96 comments

A friend of mine was in a similar situation as Reay. He had no addictions, and no psychological problems, but ended up homeless.

He used his remaining 2k to purchase a 1 year membership at Chelsea Piers sports club. It turned out to be the smartest way he could have used that money. Chelsea Piers is an enormous facility with 20 showers, locker room, huge lounge area with Wifi and couches. He hung out there for most of the day, worked out, learned php, took some freelance web development gigs, got enough experience and knowledge to eventually move on to a full time programming job. In a few months he saved enough money for an apartment in Queens.

Where did your friend sleep?

On the street most of the time, and occasionally he'd crash at a friend's house. He'd lock his valuable possessions (laptop, etc) in the locker room.

I remember hearing on the radio about the UK Government, many years ago doing a census of all the homeless in the UK.

They had somebody on the radio who worked with the homeless who was tasked to do it in her area. Her instructions were only to count those on public property - i.e, if they were in a shop doorway or a car park they didn't count.

Funnily enough the count showed a large decrease in the number of homeless, congratulations all round etc etc.

I've been homeless. Counting people in shop doorways,etc would be a poor measure anyway.

And, someone 'who worked with the homeless' would be unlikely to spot the majority of people who were homeless.

It's not something you go around advertising unless you're in a certain outlying subset.

To my mind, in the UK at least, many of the 'people who work with the homeless' are often part of the problem.

> many of the 'people who work with the homeless' are often part of the problem.

How so?

They spend much of their time and budget helping people with problems that can not be easily solved. For instance, someone with a dependence on alcohol or drugs gets priority over someone who doesn't.

A lot of homeless people could have their lives turned around with a timely and cost effective intervention but they are often ignored at the expense of those who are deemed to be 'more vulnerable'.

I was helped by a total stranger who offered me a place to stay. Within a few weeks I was working, back on my feet and paying taxes.

Many of the people I saw drinking in the park every day 4 years ago are still there, with the well meaning support of the local homeless charity.

When I asked for help I was told there was nothing they could do for me.

I'm not saying people with drug and drink issues shouldn't be helped. They should but not under the limited remit and resources of the homelessness agencies.

Sounds like there should be two separate organizations, with one providing "get back on your feet" lodging and job placements, and another providing "palliative care" for the unfixable cases with food, medicine, drug counseling, etc.

I can see a lot of people I know having to use some help getting back on their feet if things really fell apart for them, and I can see them succeeding in doing so. I can't really see any of them reduced to abusing drugs to the point of homelessness.

That sounds to me like using the "longest job first" scheduling algorithm in your OS--very inefficient, and certainly not fair.

If every homeless person had an estimate attached for the amount of effort required to return them to mainstream society, you have made the problem of allocating caseworkers to people analogous to CPU resources for a process. An automated algorithm could make the perfectly rational decision to prioritize someone who just needs to find some affordable housing quickly over someone who needs a few weeks in rehab, a psych counselor, vocational retraining, lifestyle interventions, etc.

Select a fair algorithm, and you get a fair allocation of limited resources, without having to "nice" any process so far down that it never actually gets to execute.

I think it is far worse than that.

I have chronic health problems and was abused as a child. Here are a few of my opinions:

A very high percentage of people in "helping" professions have a deep need to be needed. It strongly inclines them to want to help you in a way that keeps you in need of a crutch and subtly but actively discourages or prevents you from ever standing on your own two feet.

Many programs have such unhealthy paradigms, you are better off avoiding them if at all possible.

The way we define services has a tendency to entrench the problem.

I am currently homeless and have had a college class on homelessness and public policy and generally read a fair amount over the years about things like the origin of American welfare. I am gradually resolving my very challenging personal problems -- getting healthier, paying down debt, earning more money -- and I run a website aimed at helping homeless people keep their freedom, dignity and agency in the face of a really broken system of assistance.

We need to come up some better language for people who could afford a house in another town, but prefer to live in the open in order to be in some particular geographic spot. "Homeless" is much too broad. Are you homeless if you prefer "high-profile but low-profit" jobs, as this man did? Well sure, but being homeless does not always mean that conditions outside of your control have left you with no place to live, which is the way it's commonly used. Sometimes you make choices to do things you want.

There was a great story a while back about some guys who came to YC and were living in their car -- they thought that everybody just did it that way. They managed to save, get funded, and graduate YC. They all probably have nice places to live now because they made some choices earlier. Not my thing, and they probably wouldn't make those choices again, but at the time it all worked out for them.

People talk about self-driving cars as being the thing that destroys traditional car ownership, but I'm not so sure. If electricity is cheap enough to be almost free, and cars can take themselves from place-to-place without needing any attention, I imagine there would be a lot of folks -- myself included -- who would consider owning a "room that goes places" instead of a traditional home/apartment. Are those people homeless also? Nyah, the word just doesn't work everywhere we try to use it. Need some other term.

>about some guys who came to YC and were living in their car

Outliers, likely in many ways. Young, talented people, wealthy enough to own a car and smart enough to get into and through YC. They probably had family and a home life to return to if they failed. I agree, that isn't "homeless". You can't point at such examples as the model for most people on the streets, though.

>We need to come up some better language for people who could afford a house in another town, but prefer to live in the open in order to be in some particular geographic spot.

How about "homefree" for voluntary homelessness? Much as people who deliberately choose not to have children have adopted the term "childfree" to describe their lifestyle, as opposed to "childless".

> I imagine there would be a lot of folks -- myself included -- who would consider owning a "room that goes places" instead of a traditional home/apartment

You've heard of a Motorhome or "Recreational Vehicle", right?

I find it hard to understand what circumstances force them into this kind of homelessness. In most cases, within a 1 hr public transit commute, you can find a reasonably priced studio apartment. This reminds me of how poverty can sometimes be tied to behavioral issues, Esther Duflo of MIT has written about this- poor people spending extra money to buy a TV instead of more calories, for example. I wonder if something like that is in play here.

Curiously I was reading an article about the state of homelessness in NY this morning on the NYT, which is interesting in its own right.

Further reading:


That are just shocking pictures to me. Well educated (as it seams) and hard working people, that can not afford at least a small regular spot of living.

With the last big real estate deal in NY, the problem will be rising.

The federal poverty line does not consider the greed of investment companies. It also does not help, to count the number of breads you can (theoretically) buy.

Lets face it: Human labor is losing it's value. The reason plainly is, that more and more interest has to be drawn for the "investors". Somebody has to pay the bill for the parties held in the financial districts and for the money, the governments squander on the banks.

In the high-payed tech sector, this effect is not so much felt currently, but this will change in the future, when the low-income sector is so much bleed-ed out, that the interest for the big investors has to come from elsewhere.

But isn't most people's response to high rent in NY to commute from NJ and not live on a roof? I can't help but think that this man's choice to live on a roof isn't the one that most people would make.

He didn't have a stable enough income to always maintain a gym membership. I doubt a daily commute and rent would be cheaper.

Of course there are different solutions. But is the solution really to travel more? ... and even more, when the rents in the adjacent areas also have gone up?

In this particular case, having read the article, it didn't seem as if the man in question really minded the lifestyle of homelessness.

There is a perception that to be without a static home is a terrible, terrible thing, but really, I can imagine for someone who appears to have his life together in many other ways (and free from other issues that plight the homeless community such as addictions) - then it could possibly be quite a liberating lifestyle.

I can of course see the other side of the equation where it would also be a prison - having to lie about his home for embarrassment etc. But in this very specific example, he seems to have got on with it and made the most of the situation

I've significant amounts of time living without a static home. In 2014, the longest time I spent in one place was 2-3 months at one particular low end hotel, not really by choice (prepping and recovering from spine surgery). Significant chunks of my time were spent living in shared housing - 8-12 bunk beds to a room, no real privacy, shared baths. In the west, if such a living space were filled with crazy drug addicts, it would be called a homeless shelter.

When a westerner has this experience in Asia it's called "backpacking" rather than "homelessness", and most folks will object strongly if I were to describe myself as homeless. Perhaps we should come up with a similar term to describe it when folks do it in the west and similarly compartmentalize their experiences.

When people say "homeless" they generally refer to something akin to "not having a place with a roof to sleep in and don't have a choice to have one". If you are staying at a hotel or if you have a home you can go back to abroad you're not considered homeless in that sense.

Who said I had a home abroad? And the hotel was just my longest stay, mostly for medical reasons. My primary accommodation was youth hostels and PGs, which are (materially) more or less homeless shelters.

(Of course they are much higher status. Is this discussion really just about status?)

The premise of gloves' comment (which I'm accepting for the purpose of my comment) is that the person described in the article is also homeless by choice. He certainly seems functional enough to get and hold a job at Chipotle and rent a flat in distant Brooklyn if he wants.

The suggestion is that - much like me - his lifestyle is a choice. Just like you want to compartmentalize my experience with a different label, maybe we should do the same with him and similarly situated folks.

It's at least partly about status. But in the UK one of the possible outcomes of the housing system is a family being accomodated by the council in B&B or hotel accomodation on a "temporary" basis. This is for the very sensible reason that having children sleep on the streets or in homeless shelters is especially bad for their safety and future development. But it can still produce some very weird outcomes, especially when extended for weeks or months.

Agreed - how was your experience? Maybe it's just not a thing yet!

I'm currently in this situation myself, but living slightly up north in Canada (expensive city). I live at friend's mostly empty office, luckily for me it's inside an empty room.

I've also gotten a gym membership for a 24 hour place so I can go shower every day.

I highly doubt he's 'ok' with the lifestyle, it's simply what's available right now to him. not having your own space really sucks.

sadly the building is being sold in a few weeks so I hope I'll have enough by then to get myself a place.

Good luck!

I have the same opinion and said the same thing in discussions with some friends. Being powerless is the element that needs to dealt with, by being homeless against your will for example.

I could imagine myself being homeless just because I choose to do so. I could also imagine that I'd live in a home and feel imprisoned by obligation. Between those two cases, I'd prefer self-chosen homelessness.

I don't mean to say those who are homeless without choice have it easy by the way, or that people choose homelessness. I appreciate there are a world of reasons why people find themself homeless, most of which are bad.

Simply making the point that living in a home is an interesting quirk of society.


I feel, and again only speaking for myself, but the thing I strive most for in life is choice, or options.

Having the option to choose whether to live in a home or not. If I was to choose homelessness, I wouldn't see this as a bad thing, but a lifestyle choice. Thinking about it, it's quite a strange concept to return to the same place each day when there is such a big wide world out there full of experiences.

"We live in a city with 1.5m people living below the poverty line - that means we have 1.5m people at risk of being homeless."

Not exactly. First, the poverty line is federal and does not move with the ebb and flow of NYC life. Second, a lot of homeless in NYC are that way by choice rather than by direct inability to get a room somewhere. Sometimes this is due to mental issues which are not caused by low income. Third, there are people who make money but spend it all, ending up paying taxes above the poverty line but actually having zero or negative savings. Plenty of people in NYC are in that category.

> Second, a lot of homeless in NYC are that way by choice rather than by direct inability to get a room somewhere. Sometimes this is due to mental issues which are not caused by low income.

I've been homeless, so perhaps you'll forgive me for being biased against thinking like that.

I would never class mental illness as a choice, or of poor decisions whilst someone is suffering mental illness as a choice.

It sounds to me a lot like victim blaming. That a person may "choose" to be homeless because they have mental illness... isn't that more like a lack of compassion by fellow citizens to help support those who are suffering from mental illness?

Would it be different if it were a physical illness? That man is homeless because he chose to be due to having a broken leg. That sounds ridiculous, and frankly that's how your statement sounds to me.

I "chose" to be homeless. Sure, my choice. I could've stayed in a violent and sexually abusive environment and living in poverty. But instead it was my "choice" to sleep on the streets to escape it.

I didn't even choose hostels - I voluntarily declined a bed to sleep in - because when you've come from a shared sleeping environment in which you were not safe and feared physical abuse nightly, then you may understand my reticence to enter a shared sleeping environment with strangers, some of whom as you pointed out may have mental illness.

Perhaps this is all just a mental construct to make you feel better about yourself. If you are able to imagine that these people took responsibility for themselves and this was a free choice, you are able to absolve yourself of any individual part of the responsibility to show compassion and empathy towards fellow humans.

If all we've got to offer people as a society, is a "choice" to sleep without shelter, without warmth, without safety... I'm not really seeing how anyone can say that people "choose" this.

Edit: Whilst this issue has attention: http://crackandcider.com/ I'd urge anyone doing secret santa's, or just feeling flush to go there, and buy things for homeless people. They're good people, taking no profit but covering costs, and just giving this stuff to people who need it.

I'm moved by your story, but wonder what would you propose as a workable alternative for someone in your position?

It seems like the requirement that you not share sleeping space makes your situation a very difficult one to address, no? No-cost private hotel rooms seems financially a non-starter.

I read about a scheme in the USA, where they had built single-room accommodation on the edge of some town. These were small huts, no larger than a shed, and held a very small studio/bedsit setup. These were standalone units, basically sheds/huts.

The huts were cheap, and being self-contained they were good tools to help someone re-enter the world of housing, of taking care of housing, of cooking for oneself and cleaning, etc. Training grounds for all the skills you need to survive when you finally get somewhere larger, but also large enough not to give you shelter, security.

They had other things, like a central place to go and socialise, to get used to humans again, and counsellors and support people... but the key thing is a very small space that is yours.

That would be enough... a shed.

It need not be permanent, just enough to lift someone from the very lowest point in their life to a point fractionally above that.

In effect I did this too. For shelter from snow over Winter I would trespass onto building sites after they had closed and would sleep in the site office. It was shelter, there was generally a heater and a kettle. I could make a bed, I would leave the place tidy. But most of all, it was safe and I always felt confident I would survive the night (something I wasn't sure of the times I lay shivering violently under bushes in Manchester).

Little steps, lots of support, understanding. Just giving someone an apartment isn't the answer, it's about supporting people, to help them re-integrate. A home isn't a magic bullet for people not ready to live in one.

Informative answer; thank you for that and I wish you the very best in your path to re-integration.

Oh, I'm done.

I've been off the streets for years, and now have work I love, skills I enjoy, an MSc, and stable accommodation.

But that never lessens the rawness of the memory. Those memories involve traumas, and those don't fade. One lives with ones scars.

The way I see it (my background is Austrian economics), the poor and the homeless are people who cannot afford to live in a city. City-living isn't a right, it's for those who can afford it. No one is owed anything for not having enough money to live in a city.

That means in general I am against helping the poor and the homeless stay in the city, since the point of city is to be a wealth-creation center, not a welfare experiment.

You say you have been homeless. I'd like to ask you what you think of my idea: instead of giving the homeless shelter in the city, and having them drain resources from people who produce wealth, meanwhile not producing anything, why not give them a cheap house in a small farmland with some chicken or turkey, rabbits, a vegetable garden, etc?

That way we solve many problems. 1. the poor are now productive, they produce their own food instead and don't need to drain other people's resources to have food and shelter; 2. they are far from the city, which won't encourage laziness by sending people a message that they can't try and game the system by getting help while still living in the city as a non-producer; 3. it will teach these poor people good work ethics and how work is necessary for everyone to survive, and that they can't just rely on the fact that other people work.

I'd say that besides the farm life, they should have good public libraries nearby in case they want to learn something in order to be able to later join the city life again, this time as a productive member.

Am I being inhumane for trying to make producers out of every human being, and for thinking even the disabled can help pick fruit from bushes or wash them or otherwise contribute in a communal farm setting? Would you be for a program to send the poor and the homeless to farms and basically instate a rule where you can't live in a place you can't afford?

> You say you have been homeless. I'd like to ask you what you think of my idea: instead of giving the homeless shelter in the city, and having them drain resources from people who produce wealth, meanwhile not producing anything, why not give them a cheap house in a small farmland with some chicken or turkey, rabbits, a vegetable garden, etc?

I have been homeless, it's not something I just say.

I disagree with your entire post. It's based on this false assumption, "the point of city is to be a wealth-creation center, not a welfare experiment".

Definition of a city: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/City "A city is a large and permanent human settlement.[1][2] Although there is no agreement on how a city is distinguished from a town in general English language meanings, many cities have a particular administrative, legal, or historical status based on local law."

Nothing in there mentioned wealth, or welfare. Remove that personal bias/motive from your proposal and your proposal very quickly falls apart.

That is before one would progress to the more offensive part of your argument: That those with money and wealth have more right to live in a city than those without. That those who work in lower paid industries have less of a right than those in higher paid industries.

It seems horribly convenient as a concept, that you could put the poor and homeless on buses and drive them out of your sight.

I would like to see the idea of a city as 'wealth creating' proven. It does seem much more complex an establishment.

That said, if people don't own land in the city and can't afford to rent some then they should not have a 'right' to use other's land there. Land ownership is a pretty basic part of society and I'd be hesitant to give everyone 'rights' to land in a city.

Those are the easy arguments to make. Let me also make a hard and unpopular one: Spreading our resources to people who won't provide ROI is a waste. In defending this, let me first claim broad experience here; I've let homeless people I barely know stay in my house and given them my keys for weeks. I have given out loans without paperwork. I've hung out with a lot of segments of society from prison inmates to college students from small towns. Just anecdotally, I think the ones who can provide real value are already finding their way through the system. For example, owning a computer and occasionally an internet connection is pretty much the only capital investment for getting a median-income job programming. I've lost count of how many poor people won't even try. Is that their fault? The fault of their upbringing? The fault of their genetics? It doesn't matter. If we throw our value away on them no one will get anywhere. Even putting aside questions of morality and property rights, if this was a communist dictatorship, the optimal choice is to play favorites with those that produce good value. And naturally we do invest in the ones that can generate value. One day that might not be true, but it still is today. Just last week I read about Ortega using Zara to turn himself from rags to richest person in the world. That's incredible upward mobility. There is more opportunity today than ever before. We just have to accept that opportunity != reality for everyone, ourselves included. I have limits. I know I won't reach the that level because I'm not good enough. But I'm good enough to admit I don't want to bring down those that can.

Regarding your first premise, specifically the poor. If I live in a city, and work, but my work only pays enough for me to be poor, you are saying I should be shipped out to the country and given a farm?

Under Austrian economics, how would your plan pan out? If the city removed all the poor people, who would do the work they were doing? Does Austrian economics believe that suddenly the wealthy, or rather the people who can afford to live in the city will suddenly pay increased wages to people wash dished, clean streets, do people's laundry etc.?

I could see it might work if as you say, its illegal to stay in the city unless you make a certain amount, therefore making it illegal to pay less than a living wage. Is 'minimum wage' covered under Austrian economics? Would it be set higher for more expensive cities? Or would the wealthy just keep the status quo by busing in people from the mandatory farms and still paying them shitty wages?

Also, do you think that people would be able to learn enough from public libraries to become a 'producer' as you say? Not everyone is an autodidact.

Lastly, what would you do about someone like me? I was homeless and jobless in Hawaii for 6 months because of bureaucratic reasons (I am a US citizen who lived abroad for all my life, and when I moved to the US I had no Social Security Number, therefore couldn't work legally until one had been assigned to me) I have been homeless a few times, but I have never once had to claim welfare of any type.

Would your system have me picked up by the cops for breaking the law and shipped to 40 acres with a mule to til the earth until I have learned the error of my ways, and good work ethics?

Or would a system that tried to treat the root causes of poverty instead of symptoms be more effective?

Instead of small farms and deportation of the poor how about livable minimum wages? Instead of good libraries, how about free university education? Instead of making producers of every human being, what about addressing the people who benefit off the production of tens of thousands of people, yet give little back to the system that allows them to do this?

I ask this straight forwardly, as I do not know Austrian economics. But while I wait your reply, I shall look it up online and see what it is all about.

Surely you don't believe that subsistence farming is the maximally productive occupation for every homeless person!

I agree that living in a city is not a “human right”. While, problems 1, 2, and 3 are apparently the most important poverty related problems from your point of view (perhaps because you don't want to pay for them), it's not clear that they are the most important problems causing poverty or homelessness in cities. For example, I have had many years of education, but I have sometimes been unemployed. Without the ability to move or retrain I would have been homeless, but not because I was completely uneducated, or unwilling to work, or unable to learn new skills. I'm sure you recognize that the labor market is dynamic and not perfectly liquid.

Either you unnecessarily assume that the homeless must all be un-, or under-employed because they have no education at all, or prefer to "game the system" rather than work, which is not evidenced, or you don't care that most of them could be more productive in some occupation other then subsistence farming, which is not efficient.

Only if all poverty were cause by ignorance, stupidity, or sloth, would subsistence agriculture be the most productive conceivable use for the labor of all homeless people. This could be true of a few homeless or poor people, but certainly not all. Supposing that we care only for efficiency, and not a bit for human dignity or other peoples' happiness, wouldn't you and I still be better off if we chose to retrain or relocate people so that their skills offered some competitive advantage, rather than remove them entirely from the economy?

The idea that the poor are just too stupid to know how to work is insulting. And 'transporting' folks is what they did to criminals in Britain in the bad old days (usually to Australia).

The point of a city isn't anything like what is suggested. Its a place where a lot of people gathered to live. Some got squeezed out as prices and the job situation changed rapidly. Blaming them is pointless.

I don't think this plan will get much traction.

> The idea that the poor are just too stupid to know how to work is insulting.

I read it twice, and I didn't see anywhere in which planfaster suggested that the poor were stupid. Either I'm missing it, or you're reading in to something that isn't there.

> Some got squeezed out as prices and the job situation changed rapidly. Blaming them is pointless.

I agree that the point of cities is inaccurate, but the problem isn't that they've been squeezed out, it's that they don't have homes, but are otherwise still there. Perhaps I'm just being pedantic here, but squeezed out implies that they aren't there any more, and in the case of city homeless, they generally are.

That said, you've completely ignored the point of the post. Utah has had success in giving away vacant homes to their homeless, with the qualifier that if you're getting a free home, you don't also necessarily get to pick its location. Comparing it to penal colonies is a straw man, but regardless, the question is whether or not a homeless person in NYC would accept a free home, perhaps slightly upstate. If not, why not? There are currently more vacant homes across America than there are homeless persons, and it's not infeasible to suggest that if adverse possession were slightly restructured, we could completely solve the problem of involuntary homelessness within a decade, though of course any such solution will introduce new problems as well.

Poor are stupid: #3

Transporting as straw man: #2

Vacant homes across America are there, because there are no jobs there. Many of the homeless in the city may have actually come from those empty houses, abandoned with their upside-down mortgages and no jobs, hoping to find work.

> The idea that the poor are just too stupid to know how to work is insulting.

If you think that is insulting, try getting your ideas attacked through a straw-man argument - that's even worse. What most poor people do not understand, however, is that in order for them to live off welfare, somebody else is personally sacrificing their own efforts, labor, life, money that could be saved for their kids, just to pay for some guy who not only has no skills to help society in building wealth, but has a strong enough sense of entitlement to demand that someone help them survive while they get to pick where to live. I want to help all the poor, but being mathematically literate I know this can only work if we put these poor people in a situation where instead of takers, they be producers.

> The point of a city isn't anything like what is suggested. Its a place where a lot of people gathered to live.

You are over-simplifying it to the point of being ahistorical. No, actually cities came about because farmers increasingly wanted to take their chances at being entrepreneurs or employees in an industrial setting. So if you fail at your chance of making it in the city, then you should go back to a farm. Sounds logical to me. That way everyone can keep trying to make it in the city without being a burden on anyone else.

> And 'transporting' folks is what they did to criminals in Britain in the bad old days (usually to Australia).

This reads like an emotional sophism to make me feel bad about giving the poor food and shelter that they can actually pay for themselves. Again, think back to our recent past pre Industrial age (1850 and before). Most people were farmers. That's the default. Living in the city, where you can't produce your own food and have to rely on other people's services (which costs money) is not the default. If everyone in the country can never be poorer than owning a small self-sufficient farm where one can live by oneself without needing money, then can you better point at the part of this plan that makes you be against it? I honestly see no problems here, not even an inkling of disrespect towards the poor.

You make it sound like living off the land with a small farm is a particularly easy thing to do, and I don't think that's true, especially for someone with no experience with that lifestyle.

I can't imagine that a person who is unable to keep a home or job in the city due to mental or physical health issues would be able to sustain themselves on a farm.

Though I suppose rurality could help with drug and alcohol addictions by limiting access, you can't just pick people up and move them like that.

I'm sorry, are you proposing literally serfdom?

I don't know, you tell me.

If you receive a plot of farmland that you can live off of without any other citizen's help, and you don't owe anyone anything for having received that plot of farmland, then are you a serf?

Plus, after living in that farmland for a while, whenever you think you have the skills to be employed in the city, you are free to try again. But it would be illegal to be homeless in the city, so that if it doesn't work out, you'd have to go back to the farmland you own.

Is that serfdom? The answer is no, and contrary to your question, you are not really sorry you asked, you are just doing this coy exaggeration routine that people who aren't interested in engaging in argument but still want to poo-poo it do.

I like this idea of receiving free property - real estate, housing, animals, etc. - all for the low, low price of not renewing my lease at the end of the year and quitting my job to tinker on a farm during springtime, before getting another job, paying someone else to make sure my chickens don't die.

Did you get your background in austrian economics from 4chan university? Cause thats what it sounds like, heck you overtrolled me.

Yes, just giving homeless people there own private rooms is a cost-effective solution. Having people live on the streets ends up being very expensive (emergency rooms, jail, etc). Shelters with shared rooms are scary and unappealing. Giving people stable, long-term, private homes helps them get their lives together and saves society money overall. It's important for these programs that people have privacy and automony to bring friends over and use alcohol and drugs in their home if they choose.





I know this is a highly unpopular opinion, but I believe there is a difference between mental illness and physical illness. There is typically at least some semblance of control over mental illness. Yes it may not be constructive to "victim blame", but doing the exact opposite and assuming absolutely no responsibility for bettering your own mental situation is equally unconstructive. Unlike a physical illness, a mental illness can not be cured by popping a pill. Typically it requires some effort on the part of yourself to fix it.

For example, I used to have OCD. To fix it, I had to make a huge concentrated effort on my part. This meant moving to a new environment, forcing myself to be social to get out of my head, and basically just making a concerted effort not to be OCD. If I had the mentality that "oh it's not my fault, I'm a victim", then I never would have taken the extraordinary amount of effort required to overcome it.

And same goes for depression. Most depressed people could fix it by making some massive lifestyle changes (eg. being more social, exercising more, changing their environment, making new friends, changing their outlook on life). Anti-depressants might temporarily boost you by numbing you to your pain, but they're not going to solve your fundamental issues.

So to summarize: yes it may not be helpful to "victim blame", but relinquishing people of any responsibility for their own mental problems (excluding conditions like autism) most certainly isn't helpful either, and if anything seems more harmful because there's no semblance of control over it. The cure to alcoholism is to stop drinking, and having a victim mentality will definitely prevent you from curing it.

>Would it be different if it were a physical illness? That man is homeless because he chose to be due to having a broken leg.

His leg doesn't make decisions. His mind does. So if a mental illness shapes a person's thoughts for him to "decide" something, then it is choice, albeit manipulated by sickness.

Excellent points, and thanks for reliving that triggering-sounding situation to educate people for free. Hope we don't disappoint... too much.

It is misandry.

Yeah right ... while some people love to be nomads and not settle permanently, no one chooses to be shelter-less - sleeping outside with improper gear in November rainy night is mightily miserable experience.

While food, clothing, tech, even a lot of services have gone way down as a portion of median income, housing has gone disproportionally up. The only thing to compare it to is healthcare costs.

Various government intervention that collude together to make this happen - mortgage interest tax deduction, building ordinances for areas, housing bubble bailouts. That is, it's mostly artificial.

Innovation in this area seems prime, therefore. This could mean forcing the rules to bend, or by allowing ways to opt out of housing all together as the man described in this article does.

I believe the biggest disconnect is that working requires government authorization but owning real estate does not. Ordinary citizens not only compete with locals for real estate, they compete with the world's millionaires who are looking for (relatively) safe investments.

The basic issue is that food, clothing, and technology are treated as consumer goods, if sometimes durable consumer goods. Housing is treated as an investment asset, and the economy currently runs on asset bubbles.

Housing won't become affordable until we shift the growth-engine of the economy back to sustainable, wage-driven consumption.

Housing is only an investment asset in certain disfunctional housing markets (e.g., NYC, SF). The problem in these markets is that it's illegal to sell only housing - you can usually only sell housing + weird quasi-property rights (rent control/stabilization, landlord isn't allowed to easily get rid of tenants, etc).

In a market of renters who have leases that don't need to be renewed except via mutual consent of both parties, housing is very strictly a consumer good - you are buying X months of housing at a specific location for $Y.

Houston has a very functional housing market. Their secrets? No exclusionary zoning, no NIMBYs (Houston issued 64k housing permits in 2014, California issued 83k), no rent control, just build what people want and then sell it under mutually agreeable terms.

Yet ask people where they would prefer to live and more want to live in New York than Houston. A city is more than just a sprawl of houses. Much of the attraction of cities comes from other things.

I'd rather live in Houston than New York.

Of course, I'd also rather live in a paper bag at the bottom of a wet ditch than to be subjected to the local culture, politics, and economy of some cities. (Looking at you, DC sprawl.)

You just can't effectively reduce the personal appeal of cities to a single input variable. But in this case, the ratio of living expenses (incl. housing) to median salaries in the usual suspects roundup of job titles provides a clear advantage to Houston.

Public transportation tips toward New York. Compatibility with local culture tips toward New York. Local politics tips toward New York. Pleasantness of the weather barely tips toward Houston. Non-homogeneity of the populace is a wash. Lower crime rate goes to New York. Availability of tasty food is a wash. Public politeness goes to Houston. Lighter tax burden goes to Houston, big time. On public education, I don't even know.

You can attach an a la carte dollar value to each of the attributes of a city, and sum them up to get a rough desirability value. That's essentially the answer to the question "How much extra would I be willing to pay to live in this new place instead of where I live now?"

You can establish a base value by adding differences in salary and expenses. Then you assign a value to all the subjective things, like being able to buy corn on the cob from a street vendor, or being able to escape the urban sprawl for weekends and vacations. How much is it worth to you to have the option to not drive a car, or to easily find a parking space when you do? How much would someone have to pay you to have neighbors that freak out when they see a dandelion on your lawn? How much would you have to be paid to put up with heavy pollution, or a torturous commute? Add it all up, and the highest-valued city is where you would probably be happiest.

Depending on your preferences, the presence or lack of zoning might be a single factor that could cause you to prefer one city over another, but probably only to the extent that it affects your monthly housing expenses.

Even more relevant, should Houston become more preferable to New York, you'll see the same silly regulations and rules crop up to keep the riff-raff out.

> "Housing is only an investment asset in certain disfunctional housing markets (e.g., NYC, SF). The problem in these markets is that it's illegal to sell only housing"

What's the reason for dysfunction in the UK housing market then? It's perfectly legal to sell only housing over here (note that this graph is adjusted for inflation, people are spending roughly 4x the amount for a house compared to 1952 after correcting for inflation):


I would guess the severe restrictions on building new homes which leads to a dramatic undersupply of new housing stock. Which in turn pushes up the price of existing stock and feeds an asset bubble.

That's part of the issue, the but another part is bankers seeing property mortgages as safe ways to invest money, which has led to higher lending over time.

I'm confused by your link, which describes the price of a speculative investment rather than a consumption good. What dysfunction are you referring to?

Property prices in the UK have risen rapidly at least in part because they are seen as a long term investment. You previously implied that housing 'is only an investment asset in certain disfunctional housing markets (e.g., NYC, SF). The problem in these markets is that it's illegal to sell only housing'. I am providing a counter-example.

"Only housing" means a rental of a flat to live in for a fixed term. It's a consumption good. Buying property is a speculative investment.

Similarly, buying an iPad is consumption while buying AAPL is investment.

I don't understand what you mean by '"Only housing" means a rental of a flat to live in for a fixed term.'. Are you referring to investment in the rental market?

I'm referring to consumption of housing. Renting a house to live in with no prospect of reselling it.

You are discussing the purchasing of a long term stream of housing with the prospect of resale at some future point.

> "I'm referring to consumption of housing. Renting a house to live in with no prospect of reselling it."

If you rent then you don't have the rights to sell, renting a property isn't an investment anywhere in the world (as far as I know), how is that different in NYC and SF? Is this some sort of freehold/leasehold issue (leasehold may be a UK-only arrangement, not sure if it exists elsewhere)?

In NYC and SF, you can't generally rent for a fixed term:

"Can my landlord evict me and use my stabilized apartment for his or her family, and how many apartments in the building can the landlord take?

One of the advantages of being a rent stabilized tenant is the statutory right to renew your lease."


Once you lease a unit you essentially hold weakly transferable long term property rights to the unit. You also own, via local zoning regulations, the partial right to prevent neighbors from doing new things with their property.

>Housing is only an investment asset in certain disfunctional housing markets (e.g., NYC, SF).

We don't have rent-control in Boston, but we do have a housing bubble.

>> "...and the economy currently runs on asset bubbles."

@eli_gottleib: Where can we read more about this? It feels true but I'd like to see more details.

Buckminster Fuller was a pioneer of affordable and efficient housing engineering who began his career shortly after the Great Depression. In his 1980 book Grunch of Giants, he makes the prescient observations of the cyclical failure and subsequent bailouts of the US real estate and automotive industries and the high barriers to entry for innovators in this area:

>The first Beech-produced Fuller House was widely publicized. Soon 36,000 unsolicited orders, many with checks attached, were received for the Fuller House. At this point it was discovered that no distributing industry existed. The general building contractors had none of the complex tools for several-in-one-day deliveries of the dwelling machines. None of the building codes would permit their erection. The severest blow of all was that both the national electricians and plumber's organizations said they would have to be paid to take apart all the prefabricated and pre-installed wiring and plumbing, and put it together again, else they would not connect the otherwise "ready to live in" house to the town's or city's electrical lines and water mains. They held exclusively the official license to do this by long-time politically enacted laws. No banks were willing to provide mortgages to cover the sale of the Fuller Houses.

>Fortune made the mistake of assuming that "the industry industry missed" had at last come of age. But evolution's inauguration of the "livingry" industry had to wait until capitalism had graduated, from its forcenturies-held assumption that physical land property constituted capitalism itself, to the startling realization that the strictly metaphysical, technological "know-how" had become the most profitable property as the key to exploitation of the invisible industries of chemistry, metallurgy, electromagnetics, and atomics.

>Reorganizing all its strategies, capitalism has now unloaded its real estate property onto the people by refusing to rent and forcing people to buy their condo or coop homes. Evolution had to wait upon the government guaranteed, forty-year mortgage-financing of housing's costs to exceed humans' financial capability to acquire. Evolution had to wait until the U.S. mass-production of automobiles exclusively as a money-making business had been made obsolete by the technological felicity of manufacturing by other countries' producers, thus leaving U.S. productivity to reorient itself to the necessity of rehousing all humanity in mass-produced, aerospace-level-of-technology livingry.

>Evolution was clearly intent on postponing the inception of the livingry service industry until humanity had graduated from its pre-twentieth century condition as a planet of remote nations to an integrated global society, all of which waited upon completion of a world-around network of highways, airlines, and telephones, and automobiles and jumbo jet airplanes. All these evolutionary events (requisite to the livingry industry) have now taken place or are about to take place in the very near future. If the political systems do not eliminate humanity with their weapons, the half-century-gestating, world-around livingry service-industry will soon be born.

The reason (or at least one of them) is, that our money in the western countries has lost it's value much more, than we should believe. Costs for food and the like is kept low -- so we get the impression, that we get the same for the dollar as before. But in reality, the devaluation of the money is much higher, because of the masses of money that is pumped into the system since 2008 in the US and also in Europe.

The cost for food is kept low, because of different reasons, for example rationalization and also because worker-costs for low-cost work is not rising but falling. But, the discrepancy of our system, where a very small number of people have much much more money has to become manifest somewhere.

If I couldn't afford both an apartment and office i'd get something like this http://www.podtime.co.uk/

That's assuming I was doing IT work which required having a business address.

According to the FAQs, the pod's internal temperature matches that of its surroundings. So, unfortunately it will still be brutal in the winter, albeit better than exposed directly to the elements.

But more importantly, where do you put this thing? If you were living in NYC without an apartment, I can't imagine you could just plop this down in the middle of Central Park.

in an office

Reading this, I'm reminded of the Google employee who lives in his van.

"I never wanted my problem to be someone else's by asking for charity or living on someone's couch for free," he said.

Brave. Men don't get anything for free anyway.

> Brave. Men don't get anything for free anyway.

Do you mean that male humans don't get anything for free, or do you mean that as in people? Because in certain societies (ahem large swathes of Europe) there are social safety nets in place to prevent precisely this type of thing from happening. Lose your job? You get a percentage of your old salary for a fixed number of months to allow you to transition to a new job.

But i'm not quite sure what you are trying to imply.

I think that he is trying to imply that society imposes men the burden to endure things. We cannot complain nor show suffering. If we do so, we are discriminated.

I see this behavoiur a lot.

There is no way I can get away with it on HN, but in my mind, I call it Neoliberal Personality Disorder (not because it is a personality disorder, I mean it as a pun on Narcissistic Personality Disorder, which in turn is a placeholder for itself plus related disorders). A set of soundbites and rationalizations that lead people to talk and behave (about and towards not directly present people) as if they were devoid of empathy, while considering the expression of suffering (especially suffering they are made in some way made indirectly and partially responsible for), as an affront in itself, and the only problem to be solved (or ignored). Certain ideas are so deeply ingrained that they don't even need to be articulated or seriously defended, and poking under the facade is met with aggression or silence (or flowery explanations of why it's pointless to communicate, shallow non-communication etc., which are the same thing in effect).

The problem isn't that corporations, political parties, fan clubs etc. aren't fully developed people, how could they, they're groups of people; it's that they in some weird way sometimes tend to "think" they are, and think their lack of empathy and unwillingness to self-criticize is strength, just like a damaged person might. How those then train and filter people reflects that, which creates feedback. Also note that I don't mean to say that "all corporations are X" or "all neoliberals think Y" - calling corporations or capitalism sociopathic is overused anyway, I know, but I really think there is something there, and just like personality disorders and related traits in humans, it's not black and white but rather on a spectrum.

Put differently and rephrasing what many people said before in the last 100 years, it's the pathology of a "system", not (just) that of the people in it. Though I wonder how long it takes to rub off, and where the lines blur, how it affects language which in turn affects thought and our ability to even see it. Take it as food for thought more than a claim, and sorry for rambling.

> it's the pathology of a "system", not (just) that of the people in it.


Not to mention that sunlight, air and water are pretty much free. Most fruits, vegetables and game are also free (though it requires some effort to take, you're not engaged in a traditional capital transaction with another owner), provided you don't hunt it to extinction. Then again, freezing to death in a snow storm is also free. There's lots of free to go around.

> Most fruits, vegetables and game are also free

if you owned the property you caught them on. Otherwise, no, i don't believe you are allowed to "live off the land" in these day and age.

In some nations/states, you don't own any of the species that typically migrates on and off your land. So you don't own the deer in your forest, unless you have a deer-blocking fence running all the way around your property. You don't own migratory birds, ever. Fishing in a stream that flows across your borders? Better have a license.

That said, if you are inconspicuous in your harvest, and stay away from the rangers on public land, you are not likely to be caught poaching by landowners, especially if they are absentees that do not live on or visit the property.

So you aren't lawfully allowed to do it, but you could probably do it anyway without much consequence. Just like homelessness in the city, really, except much, much more difficult.

Lots of cities plant decorative fruit trees, and more rural area often has feral fruit. You're allowed to harvest fruit on public property (at least where I live). It's actually better if you do, the sidewalks can get nasty if the fruit is left to fall and rot.


In the neighborhood around my work we have cherries, plums, apples, blackberries and raspberries. By my house there's more cherries, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries. There's tons of it everywhere in the summer and I rarely see anyone picking it.

Won't do you much good out of season, though.

You're not legally allowed to live off the land in many places, but no one is going to stop you either. Especially if you're not uprooting native plants or whatever. If you go into someone's garden and start eating their hostas then that might be a different story.

> Brave. Men don't get anything for free anyway.

What? Did I travel back to 1940 and nobody told me? What's wrong with caring for everyone in society, whether they be man or woman or anything else?

I am just pointing out the fact. Unless you are ready to be degraded everywhere in your society called as a beggar, you are not going to get anything for free. I am pointing out the fact that men who don't complain are called grown-up. It is fact, just as the fact that you can exchange money for stuff. I have not pointed out any right or wrong.

And by free I mean free as in money, not free as in freedom. So free air and free water doesn't count. You can count free hygienic bottled water. And yes there are places where the alternative is sewage.

Capitalism is not a victim-less crime.

From each according to his ability, to each according to his need?

Applications are open for YC Winter 2022

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact