Recently, Bad Pants and I drove through a housing development that is on the other side of the hay field across the street from us. So, maybe a quarter mile away. Part of why we drove through was to learn our area better. The other reason was that I’d seen houses for that neighborhood marked as low as $49,000 on zillow.com. Yeah, you read that right.
Forty nine thousand dollars.
New, never been lived in construction. Or, new construction before the market crashed. Not all the planned houses for that neighborhood are built yet. Most are standing empty. Okay, more than 75% are standing empty. It boggles the mind.
There are many neighborhoods that are like the one down the street from me that are empty or mostly empty here in the Atlanta area. New construction is standing vacant, with algae growth on the siding, windows that look like cold, empty eyes, just waiting for a family to come fill them with warmth, joy and laughter.
And just moments ago, the news reported that there are 20,000 homeless people here in Atlanta this Thanksgiving. The news segment was talking about how many people the Atlanta area soup kitchens will be trying to feed. Let me repeat that number for you again.
Twenty-thousand people without homes.
Twenty-thousand people living on the streets, in homeless shelters and in abandoned homes without heat or hot water.
That is approximately 1/5th the population of Anchorage, Alaska. That is the size of the population of the town in Oregon we just moved from. That is seven thousand more people than the town I first lived in when I moved to Alaska. And that is half the population for the county census records of the county where I grew up in Washington while in high school.
Why has the government not stepped forward offering tax incentives to builders encouraging donation of these empty homes to the HUD program? Why are we, as a society, allowing homes to stand empty when there are so many homeless people without a warm, safe place to sleep? Instead, we let these homes stay empty and cold, lowering the value of neighborhoods and increasing the risk of vandalism.
So, this holiday season, while you’re making your list and checking it twice, getting that just so gift for Aunt Marge or a sweater in Grandpa’s favorite color, don’t forget the homeless on your list. Yeah, look down at the bottom. They’re written in right there in invisible ink. Go ahead. Get out your de-coder ring. I’ll wait.
Did you look? Good. Now, where were we? Ah yes! Helping out the less fortunate! Donate a toy, make a contribution, spend your free time helping out at a soup kitchen, cook a meal for someone. Your gift may very well help someone you’ve met in passing and didn’t know what their life situation was. It might help that checker at the grocery store, the guy that pumps your gas (at least in Oregon!), one of your child’s school mates or that family that sits in the pew at the back of the church.
Don’t forget the homeless this season. Because, the life your generosity touches may be that of somebody you know.