Home for the Homeless – the Township Option

I have been reading with interest recent articles on the “new” LA City and County plan to deal with the growing homeless problem. It includes adding an estimated $150 million to the $1 billion a year that is presently being spent on the homeless. The plan includes increasing outreach workers, expanding homeless shelters, investing in new short- and long-term housing, creating a citywide system of mobile showers, and easing restrictions on overnight parking. Please, is this really new? It seems to me like just more of the same. This kind of traditional “help” while, with good intentions, has not solved the homeless problem, and some have argued that it has made things worse. A new approach is needed that will truly help the homeless crisis.

Perhaps it is time to revisit the Ted Hayes concept to build townships designed specifically for the homeless. Recently, I had the honor and pleasure of meeting with homeless activist Ted Hayes who shared his experience and vision. Over 20 years ago Ted founded the Dome Village for the homeless. The Dome Village was located in downtown Los Angeles and housed hundreds of homeless singles and families for over a 12 year period. Ted emphatically states, “The Dome Village worked. People got along, it worked very well.” Educational programs were offered including workshops on computer literacy, job seeking, and legal issues. The Dome Village came to an end when the rent for the land was raised so high it was no longer financially viable. Ted emphasizes the importance of getting the homeless into a new environment, a community that can provide for their unique and diverse needs. He also warns that if we don’t provide a village option our streets and parks will become over run.

The Township option is a larger form of the Dome Village that provides a safe, nurturing community for the homeless. Mental health services, general medical services, and alcohol/drug rehabilitation will be provided. Similar to Homeboy Industries of Los Angeles, the Townships will have business and manufacturing that will provide jobs and job training. Funding will be primarily from private donors and revenue generated from Township businesses. Volunteer citizens including veterans, retirees, and professionals can participate as an adjunct to staff. Men and women of all walks of life seeking a renewed, meaningful life experience are encouraged to help. Government assistance in the way of providing the property and facilitating permits will assist with the project. There are vacant US bases that could be sites for the Township. This is not an “out of sight, out of mind” program, it is a program to rehabilitate and care for our homeless. For some it will be a way to transition, while others may find the Township a place of comfort. Residence in the Township is voluntary and requires a vetting process.

The over 40,000 homeless people in Los Angeles County represent a diverse group, many with underlying aliments including substance abuse, mental illness, and physical disability. Because of the severity and diversity of the ailments, a variety of services are required to truly help the homeless. With the Township approach, we can offer the various services needed while providing housing and security. Townships have the potential to bring a real solution to the important and difficult problem of our homeless citizens.


Kenneth W. Wright, MD has experience for caring for underprivileged and homeless as he trained at Boston City Hospital, Boston, MA, Harbor General Hospital, Torrance CA, and worked at USC – LA County General Hospital for 10 years. He is an internationally respected pediatric eye surgeon, a Clinical Professor of Ophthalmology at USC Keck School of Medicine, and is on staff at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles and Cedars Sinai Medical Center. In 2001, Dr. Wright founded the Wright Foundation for Pediatric Ophthalmology, a non-profit, whose mission is to reduce blindness and suffering from eye disorders in children through research, education, and clinical care. To this end, Dr. Wright has established a special pediatric eye clinic that serves underprivileged children where no child is turned away. Presently Dr. Wright is running for the United States Congress District 33. Learn more about Dr. Wright’s campaign at drwright4congress.com.

Dome homes of the Dome Village: