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Sonoma County Gazette
Dome Housing

OPINION - a Different Approach to Solving the Homeless Crisis

Nov 21, 2017


By Robert Sterler

I propose a different approach to solving the homeless crisis. We obtain a large piece of land (500 acres) in a remote part of the county. On this isolated land we build a community from the ground up. We build a community in which we construct – everything. We build our own shelters – grow and produce our own food – build our own furniture – clothes – schools – entertainment – art – music – theater – hunt wild animals when permitted – fix and build our own machinery – produce our own electricity. In other words – teach everyone to do everything. We want a community that strives to be independent and self-sufficient. We would not be detached from the world, but somewhat separated.

The facility needs to be remote for a number of reasons. Remoteness has the effect of coming into conflict with the least number of people and institutions. Do you want to live next door to a homeless shelter? Additionally, in order to enforce strict rules, we need to be physically away from corrupting influences. Remoteness has the characteristic of promoting independence. Without the stimulation and corrupting-influence of society people feel alone individually. This is important for building cohesiveness and solidarity in the group. The military uses this concept quite effectively in boot camp. In a very real sense, this is a type of boot camp.

Teaching people to build is a powerful methodology. Building your own house is transformative in many ways. On a practical level – building a shelter is desirable because no one wants to sleep in the rain and cold. The psychological revelation is that the homeless individual can reshape their own real world.

We have an opportunity to transform the homeless from some of the worst of society – to some of the best. The purpose of this community is to produce people who think of themselves as self-sufficient. We want to transform the people who inhabit this community and liberate them from thinking insufficiently of themselves.

We take the approach of pragmatism – we do what works. If something we try does not function properly – we make modifications until we find something that does work. One thing that does not work in relation to homeless is giving resources away without really asking for something significant in return. This is not a theoretical issue – it has been shown repeatedly in this county and across the country to be so. Housing a homeless person does not really change the mindset of this person. The publically sheltered person still has substantial low self-esteem. This person does not see himself as empowered or independent. Actually quite the opposite – they have achieved a type of con – big brother has taken control of their lives – and – now they don’t have to. They have convinced government and/or charities to take care of them – why should they change their lives – they are rewarded for being a bum. I say it is a disservice to the individual. They are now crippled and unmotivated to change this “receiving” mindset.

We now have in Sonoma County, after the fires, a much more substantial problem with homelessness. How many working-poor are without homes and resources now? I don’t know, but I bet the number is in the thousands. This same model could be used on a much smaller piece of land (say 30 acres) close to civilization. We would already have power, water, internet, etcetera. We could build many 20-foot diameter Monolithic Domes very inexpensively and fast. The Monolithic Dome is fire, wind and earthquake proof – and last for hundreds of years. Additionally, Monolithic Domes are esthetically pleasing both inside and out.

We all have a responsibility to think about our neighbors. “There but for the grace of God go I” – comes to mind. We must act fast – either publicly or privately and/or both. I say stand up and be counted.


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