“Brother to a Prince and fellow to a beggar if he be found worthy”  -Rudyard Kipling,  The Man Who Would Be King

- Stephen M. Long, AIA


Sadly, the truly needy homeless tend overwhelmingly to blame themselves for their condition, and many lack the sustained will and/or resources to methodically elevate themselves from their present state.  Despite some preconceptions, people from all walks of life contribute to the homeless, including educated professionalsIt is estimated Veterans of the Armed Services may comprise 23% of the US homeless population.

Many creative solutions have been developed to attempt to address the problem, ranging from ephemeral temporary shelters...

Gentleman of the street Copyright Sheila Smart

In Chicago, a creative solution arrived in 1992.  A group of concerned city business people joined with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless and created the “StreetWise” Program.  It worked by employing the homeless as Newspaper Vendors.  They had to carry a certified ID tag, and were expected to sell a number of newspapers as their way of earning their place in a homeless shelter each night.  If they sold more than their quota, they could keep the money and gradually build their savings.  For the homeless in the program, it provided a welcomed focus and sense of purpose that captured their interest.  For other people who were interested in helping somehow, it allowed them the assurance that their donated money would go directly toward housing and/or feeding the homeless, and possibly contribute to their rise from poverty.  The StreetWise Newspaper was edited by volunteer journalists, though its articles were sometimes written by the homeless people themselves, and provided an informed grass-roots perspective, and a unique social consciousness.  A video introduces the program:

... to more permanent buildings:

Shelter Cart by Zo-Loft Architecture & Design, Treehugger


The program has been amazingly effective and successful.  Today its more than 60,000 readers make it the 3rd largest newspaper in Chicago, which supports 200 vendors.  It’s one of the largest in the US and a model for other programs in other cities.

From the http://streetwise.org vision page:  “StreetWise will provide Chicagoans in need with “a hand up, not a hand out.”  To this end, StreetWise will assure that, by giving any person who is willing to work a stable foundation from which they can move themselves out of crisis, no one will find it necessary to beg in order to survive.”  Hearing the stories of some of the StreetWise Vendors can also be a moving, cathartic experience.

Bridge Homeless Shelter in Dallas, courtesy Trey Farmer

Richardson Apts Copyright Bruce Damonte Photography

courtesy StreetWise

One facility, the award-winning O’Brian House, serves recovering alcoholics and substance abusers, and employs its

residents as landscapers.  The

CAAH One-Stop Homeless Service Center

can be found just east of downtown at

153 N 17th St Baton Rouge, LA 70802. 

Their telephone number is (225) 388-5800,

and email is contact@homelessinbr.org .

Capitol area alliance for the homeless

In my present home state of Louisiana, there is an estimated 12,500 homeless, over double what it was when the recession started in 2008, making it one of the fastest growing homeless populations in the US.  Of those over 900 are estimated to be in Baton Rouge at any given time, and nearly half of them suffer from substance abuse.  Churches were probably the first organizations to try to provide assistance for them, and since 1993, the Capitol Area Alliance for the Homeless (CAAH), a consortium of 35 nonprofit agencies, has coordinated comprehensive programs in the 7 parish area to provide housing, outreach to the homeless, behavioral health referrals, substance abuse treatment, veterans services, life skills training, job training/placement, youth shelters, and literacy/GED classes. 

O’Brian House courtesy Domain Design Architecture