Their answer — also a departure from conventional practice — is putting a no-nonsense house manager in charge.
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She knows homelessness firsthand. There are people who just got derailed. Estrada came to the team from SHARE — a Culver City group that leases single-family homes and places homeless clients in them, two to a bedroom.
The idea is both to pool the rent of low-income tenants and to counter the isolation the group considers an impediment to escaping homelessness. But they hired Estrada full time and continue to follow the philosophy of SHARE, including its reliance on self-help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous.
Estrada shuttles among the three properties holding house meetings, giving residents pep talks, checking up on exercise and hygiene, mediating conflicts and, when necessary, shuffling roommates to get a better fit. Roberts credits Estrada with resolving the turmoil that erupted, catching the couple off guard, soon after they opened their first house near 88th and Main streets with 28 residents.
She said she has been shunned by the heads of nonprofits, bureaucrats and political leaders, all of whom have questioned her motives for supposedly seeking to profit off homeless people by placing them two to a bedroom. But as public anger mounts over the spread of homeless encampments, doors are beginning to open, she said. United Way of Greater Los Angeles, which has been closely aligned with the conventional housing model, recently convened a working group to study shared housing.
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That could be anything from board-and-care homes to multiple bedrooms with a common living room and kitchen. Keris Myrick, head of peer services for the agency, said Haaven could obtain funding for its peer specialists but would have to compete with other agencies in a bidding process. Roberts has begun talks with groups that have existing contracts in the hope of becoming a subcontractor. Roberts, a former advertising specialist, and Betz, a pilot at Los Angeles Harbor, see themselves as challenging the mainstream system of building heavily subsidized projects with on-site services and private quarters for every resident.
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So they decided to take the next step themselves. PATH and other agencies continue to be responsible for them and provide their case management. They consider the couple to be landlords. He hopes to gain access to the county data system. Meanwhile, Roberts and Estrada track all their residents as if they were Haaven clients.
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In addition to the 51 current residents, 47 have come and gone. One died of natural causes, six transferred to mental health facilities, 24 got other homes or reunited with families and 16 are unaccounted for or in jail. The doors will always be open, she said. We came into this wanting to make all this systemic change. What we got out of it was all this love. She visits the homes regularly and is on a hugging basis with many of the tenants, whose names and stories she knows.
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Read: The coming commodification of life at home. This finding, Bellet reasons, has to do with how people compare their houses with others in their neighborhood—particularly the biggest ones. In his paper, which is currently under peer review, he looks closely at the construction of homes that are larger than at least 90 percent of the other houses in the neighborhood.
By his calculation, if homes in the 90th percentile were 10 percent bigger, the neighbors would be less pleased with their own homes unless those homes grew 10 percent as well. Moreover, the homeowners most sensitive to such shifts are the ones whose houses are in the second-biggest tier, not the ones whose houses are median-sized. The largest houses seem to be the ones that all the other homeowners base their expectations on. Bellet sketches out an unfulfilling cycle of one-upmanship, in which the owners of the biggest homes are most satisfied if their home remains among the biggest, and those who rank right below them grow less satisfied as their dwelling looks ever more measly by comparison.
He estimates that from to , the size of the largest 10 percent of houses increased 1. This means that the reference point many people have for what constitutes a big home has shifted further out of reach, just as many other lifestyle reference points have shifted in an age of pronounced wealth inequality. To reach these conclusions, Bellet scraped data on millions of American homes from the real-estate website Zillow, and grafted it onto data from the American Housing Survey, which has been conducted by the Census Bureau since and records, among other things, how big new homes are and how satisfied homeowners are with their houses.