4) Invest your own money.


<– 3) Get your hands dirty. Home 5) Pray for the public schools. –>

Mitt Romney does.

Again, don’t use the state as a proxy.  On the one hand, the taxpayers have no need to bankroll your personal altruism.  On another hand, the “underclass” are, by definition, folk The System cannot reach; no state action has any real effect on their lives.

Three sectors come to mind: employment; homeless shelters; and low-income housing.

In “Obstacles to my prosperity,” I said, “The great need of the job market is a matching of candidates to opportunities. The online job search is an endlessly depressing, needle-in-a-haystack proposition.”  I’ve lost patience with workforce development, “job readiness” programs that do no more than record a candidate’s attendance awhile, equip her or him with a resume, and then toss him or her to the wolves of the online job search.  There is a need for private-sector entities that actively match up workers with jobs.

During the composition of this post, I have been sensitized to the fact that, although I stay at the best shelter on the East Coast — it is not only the only one like it in town, but nationwide there’s a crucial lack of shelters with acceptable conditions — acceptable enough that homeless folk are actually willing to stay there.  From a recent L.A. Times editorial:  “It’s also worth noting that the existing shelters vary dramatically in quality. A recent study by KPCC found that some were so infested with vermin or otherwise unsafe that homeless people said they preferred to stay on the sidewalk.”  Now, that’s thousands of miles away from me, but it also describes the nearest other shelter to mine, the one I normally refer to as “around the corner.”  That place actually needs to be torn down and rebuilt from the ground up.

And frankly, as big an issue as homelessness is in this country, and as big a heart as folk talk about having, I’m astonished the private funds have never come forward to do it.

Finally, there’s affordable housing.

Here’s a field where you can literally invest your own dollars, either developing expertise on your own or partnering with others who are experts.

Housing is the only commodity I know of that can’t be converted to cash.  It matters.  The clothes window at the shelter where I stay gets depleted, because men take clothes not to wear, but to sell.  The past several years, my church has participated in a major giveaway of Thanksgiving dinners — 200 sometimes — and as we go home after church, we see people on side streets trying to sell their donations.

Be forewarned that this is a high-maintenance population, and these will be high-maintenance properties.  Section 8 can’t and won’t house all the poor, and there’s still need for private sector ownership of those units.

Related:  Housing the homeless ain’t that easy

I had a rocky relationship with my last landlady — I stayed there five years.  We’re somehow Facebook friends, and I send her prospective tenants.  She owns a half dozen houses.  For all her shortcomings, she’s done this with her own money, and she’s not ripping anyone off.

She gets her hands dirty.

<– 3) Get your hands dirty. Home 5) Pray for the public schools. –>

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