Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"Think outside the box"

A 2007 homeless census revealed that on any given day there were more than 73,000 homeless people in Los Angeles County. (Some critics contend the number is overstated.) Downtown's skid row had the greatest concentration, with more than 5,000.

"I've always believed society is defined by how we deal with our weakest links," he said. "The best of America is when we take care of the less fortunate."

His first instinct was to build shelters, but then he did the math. Building a bed in a facility runs $50,000 to $100,000. The cost to house all of the county's street denizens would run into the billions. Besides, many of them resist services. So he thought: What is there that's better than a damp box on a rainy night even if it's not as good as a bed?

The idea of a mobile, single-person shelter popped to mind. Samuelson sponsored a contest at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena to design his "widget."

Eric Lindeman and Jason Zasa took the honors, with a mobile shopping cart-like apparatus. The cart features bins to hold cans, bottles and other recyclables collected by day. It folds out to create a sleeping platform, topped by a canvas cover with zippers and windows.

Samuelson labeled it an EDAR, and established the EDAR Foundation, whose slogan is: "Thinking outside the box."

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