Yesterday evening I was in Arroyo Grande, which is in southern San Luis Obispo County. I had gone with a gentleman to the Green Home Galleria – home of "Made In San Luis Obispo" – a business that displays and sells items that have been produced by local artisans. The best part of all of these products is that all of these items are made from "recycled" materials and all natural products from within SLO County.
What happens is that the artisans use things that would normally end up in a landfill somewhere, but that don’t biodegrade.
For example, on one wall are five "fish" that the artisan created using broken surfboards. Which to me is actually pretty cool. And, there are a variety of other such items for sale.
At one point, I pointed to the floor in one section of the complex and asked the owner if the boards that had been used were also recycled. He told me that they had come from a "renewable forest."
A renewable forest is literally a "tree farm." It is designed to provide lumber for building without having to destroy "old growth" forests in order to harvest wood. It’s actually quite an environmentally friendly solution to being able to provide lumber to the building industry.
The owner of the complex pointed out that the wood that had been used on the flooring was a "soft" wood. He pointed to some of the dings and scratches that the floor had taken since it was originally installed. In return I said that the dings and scratches actually added character to the floor.
Afterward, the two thoughts that kept going through my mind were: renewable resources and character.
I’ve always been of the opinion that one of the best ways of reducing the numbers of homeless in our society isn’t to write and adopt ordinances that penalize the homeless for not having homes or for performing life sustaining activities in public, but by creating a method for them to become self-sustaining productive members of the community.
In a nutshell, what is needed are programs that will help the homeless help themselves.
However, it will take more than just sending them to the Department of Social Services for food stamps, or to some generic employment training facility. It is going to take the local business owners willingness to actually hire them – and at a livable wage. Moreover it will also take property owners and property managers willingness to rent to someone who is homeless and may not have a perfect credit history. But it will also take some property owners lowering the amount of rent that they are currently charging.
The truth is that there simply aren’t enough affordable housing units anywhere. The price of renting had skyrocketed, the price of owning is prohibitive for those who are trying to get back on their feet. And very few are willing to give a homeless person a hand up.
I’m enough of a capitalist to understand that everyone needs to make a profit. But there is a fine line between profit and greed. Profit helps everyone. Gives everyone an even break. Greed, on the other hand, does nothing more than to destroy the potential for a healthy economy. Greed actually puts everything out of everyone’s price range and before you know it no one can afford anything.
There are many homeless people who would love to find gainful employment. There are quite a number of homeless people who could become productive members of the community in which they live if allowed the opportunity to do so. In fact, you might even say that there are quite of number of homeless people who could and should be considered a "renewable resource."
What I wonder is if we have the character to allow these renewable resources to become a part of our society again.