Sunday, November 22, 2015

How Syrian Refugees Can Help America

I haven't worked out the details of how this might work, but here are the basics of my Great Big Plan For America.

Bring refugees here, have them live wherever they can be housed. I know this is complicated, but whatever the economic or political conditions, there are a lot of empty homes going untenanted in various parts of the country.

One area in particular should be considered: the Rust Belt. Not the best place to be in the winter, but if we put able-bodied refugees and Americans wanting work to work (at whatever time of year) making the empty and abandoned homes in these places livable, it would completely reboot the local economies. All sorts of infrastructure in places like Detroit need rebuilding, and with major funding and impetus from the federal government-- something like the New Deal programs that got people to work in the Depression era-- you could rebuild old cities, get lots of people working, house lots of people-- and heat their houses-- for whoever needs it, both Americans and refugees. You might even end up fostering goodwill between Americans and Syrians.

See also: Utah has a program called Housing First, which has proved an effective and MONEY-SAVING way to house people who need homes. Policymakers, activists, and others can learn a lot from this, not just in how it applies to the homeless, but in how to house anyone you don't know how to house, e.g., refugees. In other words, I think investing in low-income housing on a large scale, in a way that also helps the other people already living in underserved places like Detroit by getting people jobs and building infrastructure, would be a win-win for citizens, refugees, and taxpayers, as local governments could save money on any number of problems (crime, the need for emergency healthcare for the suffering) that are exacerbated by not housing people.

And hey, even Detroit can't be a worse place to be than Syria right now.