Friday, August 01, 2008

A Lesson in Domestic Understanding

The family is coming in for a week or so. That means 11 people will be living in our 4-bedroom townhouse. This has given me reason to pause, to think about those who share housing and those who complain about over-crowding in homes.

A home has become a commodity, a luxury too many people cannot call their own. Home sharing is too often necessary but not always preferable. So what of people who live like this every day, room sharing and space sharing out of need?

In my mind, I have placed my family in my home as if this would be a permanent arrangement. Two people in the master bedroom. Two people in one bedroom upstairs. Three children in the other bedroom upstairs. Two people in the bedroom downstairs. Two people in the downstairs family room, converted to a bedroom.

Of course, with bunk-beds, there could be other arrangements. And each bump-out could easily be converted to a separate sleeping area with the help of room dividers. Depending on the genders and relationships of the family members, there would be some shuffling that would not match my visiting family's needs. But I can see how a large family could do it and maintain order with the 3.5 bathrooms, large kitchen, and living room. It's not impossible.

We are fortunate to have enough roadside parking to accommodate larger families. And we are fortunate enough to have playgrounds and landscaping within the subdivision. We have a community pool with clubhouse. Other neighborhoods are not so self reliant. Still, it seems with some creativity, safety rules, and neighborhood efforts, more neighborhoods could live with larger families who necessarily share homes, especially those neighborhoods where back yards are bigger than postage stamps.

Affordable housing is vital, especially in this time of recession. Those who complain about over-crowding would serve themselves best through neighborhood efforts and supporting affordable housing agencies. Demanding the county and state set aside reasonable housing for lower income families and at-risk residents is a crucial part of preventing crowding and many of the complaints we hear within our own county.

To make our communities inviting instead of intimidating, welcoming instead of hostile, open instead of resentful, we must make housing a priority.

If you don't believe me, try putting up your extended family for a week. I bet you will have a little more empathy for those struggling to survive on a daily basis.

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