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Blog 2 - Advocating Affordable Living Programs

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The Amherst H. Wilder Foundation deals with several social issues that I find to be very important issues in today's society. When it comes to America, we are actually much better off than most other counties, however, there are still millions of people that struggle to survive everyday. The people that are most in need are the youth, the elderly, and the poor.

The Amherst H. Wilder Foundation focuses on helping the elderly to live active and productive lives as well as helping troubled youth. One thing that they do that I find most important is providing affordable housing for families with housing needs. While this is not as pressing an issue as things like severe poverty or healthcare, I think it is important to understand that if people that aren't able to pay for housing are not provided with affordable housing, they will soon be added to the list of people living below the poverty line. Providing affordable housing is a preventative measure that we can take to keep people from living on the streets in the first place.

The Amherst Foundation originally provided people with extra money to pay for rent when they were not able to do so. However, after some inspections, they found that some of these houses were unsuitable for people to live in, which made them decide to start providing affordable housing in. Along with affordable housing, they are working to help the families build their skills in order to get higher paying jobs and be more successful in the future.

Another program outside of this foundation is called the ROOF project. Its goal is to get people off the streets and provide them with affordable housing as well as provide opportunities for employment skill building to improve their income. A specific development within this project that I found to be particularly exciting is the Jackson Street Village Development. This development was built to provide support for previously homeless or in-need families. They also provide the families with employment opportunities as well help families address chemical abuse and mental health issues. Even though this is affordable housing, the developers are still working to make it sustainable and healthy for the people that live there, which to me is a perfect way of connecting good design to a pressing social issue. Here is how they built the housing (straight from the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation webpage):

"To help reduce respiratory infections and improve the overall health of tenants, each building was constructed with materials that reduce indoor particulates and technology that increases the circulation of clean air. These features were revolutionary in affordable housing -- the first multi-family Health House in the country.
The buildings were constructed using an aggressive thermal moisture management system on the walls which contributes to an air-tight, energy efficient shell. This system not only aided in control of moisture and indoor air quality, but was enhanced by a geo-thermal heat pump system that reduces energy consumption." (http://www.wilder.org/531.0.html)

I would love to work on this type of program. I think that just finding sites for and designing the affordable and energy efficient housing would be interesting in itself. But really working with the people that live there to start a better life brings in a whole new social aspect that I think is really great.

Homelessness is a huge problem in the United States and all over the world. Instead of just providing families with money to do as they wish, we need to provide them with opportunities to grow and build their knowledge. We can't let the cost of housing be a reason that someone becomes homeless. While we must help the people that don't have homes at all, we must look to affordable living programs as homelessness prevention for at-risk families.