Visit this page every week for ideas that we can tweek, build-on, play around with, and work together to improve the overall quality of life in the State of Maryland.

3/8/14 - Homeless Worker Renovation Program

3/8/14 - Single-Room Occupancy

Doug Barry

Historian, Political Philosopher, Veteran


We need to get creative. We need to be innovative. We need to make investments that will bring a greater return to the State. We can form partnerships between the State, private investors and non-profits. We can use targeted tax breaks to lure emerging industries into Maryland, and to encourage entrepreneurs to start new businesses. We can create trial programs at low cost, and expand when we have successes. We need to brainstorm to come up with new ideas, and bounce ideas off of each other. We need to work together to come up with new ideas to move the state forward.

3/8/14 - Homeless Worker Renovation Program

3/8/14 - Single-Room Occupancy


Over the course of the year, over 30,000 people in Baltimore will have been homeless. More than 50,000 in Maryland. At the same time, there are thousands of vacant houses in Baltimore and across the state. Baltimore already has the Vacants-to-Value program to help make the best of the situation ( The Mayor also has her initiative to end homelessness in Baltimore within ten years
( But with new ideas we can do even more.

Through a partnership of licensed contractors, charitable investment and State government, we can create a trial program at relatively low cost to train carefully screened homeless men and women as construction workers, home renovation specialists, pest control specialists and remediation experts for environmental hazards. Initially the program should target individuals without families, but as the program grows, homeless families could be brought into the program as well.

Through the program, vacant houses would be purchased at low-cost, or properties already owned by local jurisdictions could be utilized. A small renovation team would be created and moved into one property, with the task of renovating a nearby property. Work would be supervised by a licensed contractor, who would be given a small financial incentive, but would be also asked to volunteer some of their own time. Participating contractors would be given liability protection, plus additional incentives, such as an opportunity to bid at an advantage on other properties that they could renovate as a completely private enterprise.

Workers hired through the program would be paid minimum wage, plus be given a free place to live. Their home would change from time to time, as they move from house to house when they move on to the next renovation project. The renovation of each house would be thorough. Houses would undergo sufficient lead abatement to be certified lead-free, so we can gradually work towards eliminating the problems associated with lead contamination. The property involved, along with the surrounding area, would be subject to pest control, to eliminate rats and stray animals from the area. Workers would also be given some neighborhood watch responsibilities, to improve the overall quality of the neighborhood when needed.

When the renovation work is completed on a property, the houses could be sold at a profit, and the profits could be put back into the program, so that more homeless people could be hired. As the program grows, we would be working towards eliminating homelessness, we would be turning around deteriorating and declining neighborhoods, we would be adding to the tax base through individual tax revenue and we would be decreasing the expense of social programs.


There should be a minimum standard of living in the city and state, even for the worst of the hard luck cases. No one in Maryland, or even in America, should be living in a cardboard box on a street corner. No one should have to move into a shelter where they fear for their safety. People need an established address when they are looking for a job, and one that can't be identified as a place where homeless people go.

It doesn't have to be a big place. IKEA for a time had a display with a complete living space in 100 square feet, and apparently a comfortable living space. The bed folded up during the day, to allow for a living area, and the space had a kitchenette and a bathroom with a shower. A potential design is shown to the left. This unit would be 7 feet x 16 feet (112 square feet). The bathroom would have a pocket door, so that it wouldn't hit the main door. There would also be a small linen closet in the bathroom. The kitchen counter would have a microwave and/or a two-burner stove, along with a small sink. The bed would have storage underneath, and would double as a sofa with cushions that would be stored above at night. Slightly larger units could be designed for families.

The units would be contained in two or three story buildings, with six to twelve units per building. They would be constructed with green technology to minimize utility costs. The funding would come from a combination of state funds and charitable donations, with an appeal to the federal government for funding for a pilot program. The buildings would be located in proximity to work centers, designed to teach residents to become self-sufficient, after which they could pay rent for the units in which they are living. The program would be designed to become self-sustaining.