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More than half a million people in the United States are homeless on a given night, according to a September 2019 White House report, with just under 200,000 sleeping unsheltered on the streets. However, John Paul DeJoria, the billionaire who founded John Paul Mitchell Systems, believes he has an answer to the crisis.
DeJoria built a community called “Mobile Loaves and Fishes” that has constructed 250 small homes in the city of Austin, Texas, for those who have been sleeping on the streets for over a year, he said. Homeless people pay $90 per month for their small homes but are prohibited from drinking alcohol and fighting.
DeJoria told FOX Business’ Maria Bartiromo he is giving displaced people a "hand up" in order to feel special.
“If we give you something — just give it to you — we’re giving you a handout [and] you don’t feel special. If you contribute, we gave you a hand up,” he said.
DeJoria’s program also affords the would-be homeless the opportunity to learn skills and earn money. It offers woodshop, auto shop, metal shop, crafts and gardening. This training allows them to earn an income and their gardens allow them to eat organically.
“So they have an income, now they’re able to pay that $90 a month rent, fill their part of the community — because we helped them work — and have extra money left over for other things,” DeJoria said.
He noted that the project is working so well, they are embarking on "phase two," which involves the construction of an additional 400 homes. DeJoria is also working with the city of Austin on a new program to build housing units for about 300 people.
A point-in-time count conducted by the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition suggested that 2,255 individuals were homeless in Austin in January of 2019, a 5 percent increase from 2018.
Programs intended simply to house the homeless both cost too much and are only “Band-Aids,” according to DeJoria, as they do not put the homeless back to work.
“There are so many jobs available right now that take minimal training, [but] that minimal training isn’t available,” he said.
Trade-based training like woodshop and auto shop are no longer in American schools, meaning that people who were once trained for jobs in those fields are no longer capable of working after graduating from high school. This has led to companies bringing in qualified workers from outside of the United States, DeJoria said.
He also attributed the crisis to taxation and over-regulation. While 25 years ago Austin had “hippy-like” people in the streets selling flowers and trinkets on the streets, now it has panhandlers, DeJoria said. Regulations and licensing laws require vendors to purchase permits to sell things on the streets and those without sufficient funds are deprived of work.
“What’s happening is taxes and regulations are getting so high right now, it’s kicking middle-class people out of a middle-class life,” DeJoria said.