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January 4, 2011

I had to haul around my laptop the other day. Due to not having a trunk in my car this meant dragging my heavy backup into the doctor's office, than around me all day on the first day of classes. While in the library during a break I had to pack everything up just to walk over to the bathroom only to return a few minutes later. It's frustrating, but of course the consequences of not taking my valuables with me are overwhelming and far outweigh the trouble in hauling my stuff around. I began to reflect back on how there are no lockers on campus and how for security reasons no lockers at my high school. Obviously, the lockers themselves might not have been that secure but as a commuting student sometimes I lament a place I could stash some books for a few hours and not have to carry them around.
Then I began to wonder what it's like for those don't have a home or a car to keep their things in. The stereotypical homeless we can picture with shopping carts or large trash bags. Ratty looking, but I wonder if that doesn't discourage someone assuming their valuables are worth stealing. I would suspect homeless are a highly vulnerable population to theft and how difficult it must be to not have anything of value that you can't carry around with you. I wondered if there are solutions for these people. The shopping carts they use are technically stolen property and might get taken away from them. City workers might see their stashed belongings as trash and throw it all away. Does anybody have in mind backpacks or carts that could help the homeless? Or how about a safe place to keep their things?
A little digging pulled up this program for a homeless storage facility in Portland, Oregon. There's also this program at the First United Church in Vancouver. It's not a permanent storage facility, but a place that people can leave things while they go to job interviews or appointments. It's interesting as a society we focus so much on where we are going to house our homeless, which is important, but other things that make such a big quality of life difference are perhaps overlooked. I see this as akin to internet access for the homeless. It's important we realize they are people like us and the needs we have are the needs they have but with no property their lives are extremely complicated. I wonder if it might not be more beneficial if many of the engineering solutions that we look to implement in third world countries as affordable healthy and quality of life enhancers weren't applied to our poverty stricken population. Urban homeless may not have the same needs as rural third world poor but they do have needs and I'm not sure it's getting enough attention at the moment.
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