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Joseph Leonard is a retired Army officer who was raised in Penobscot County. He is a candidate for the Bangor City Council.

Anyone who says that solving the economic and homeless crises in Bangor can be fixed easily is someone who clearly has not spoken with anyone who is homeless, let alone any of the professionals who work every day with our homeless citizens. With that said, this crisis is not unsolvable, but it will take a lot of patience and hard work. Fortunately, we live in Maine and there is a lot of that to go around.

In all seriousness, we are experiencing an unprecedented pandemic crisis that makes everyone’s daily lives twice as difficult, so any solution must take COVID-19 into account. That being said, when unprecedented crises strike, leaders must react accordingly. The same old solutions are not going to work; I get that.

The bleakness of the situation is not lost on me, but leaders must continue to strive to innovate and solve the problems set before them. Those who say a problem is unsolvable are either at their wits limit or they need to take in perspective and guidance from other sources to create solutions. Fortunately, there is a solution we are not considering that must be talked about: 3D-printable housing.

This solution will not create any immediate changes, but it will give us a safety net to help those in need adequately and humanely in a uniform way. This project will require coordinating with entities at the state level and even the coordination with the University of Maine. Yet, if we are driven enough to pursue this to thwart homelessness and to tackle our economic poverty levels, we have to be creative in our solutions.

This is not anything new either. China shocked the world when they used a blueprint to print 10 houses in a single day back in 2014. Six years later, this technology has only become more affordable than ever and has increased its flexibility for its uses. If the University of Maine can 3D print a fully functioning boat, then they can certainly be called upon to create simplistic inexpensive housing for the poverty stricken.

We can learn from what Utah has already done with its fight to eliminate homelessness, too. There are positives and criticisms of that program, but they decided to take action, which must be commended. The program taught everyone that any form of a universal housing program or poverty safety net must fall under the supervision and guidance of our social services network. This, of course, means we must expand our social services programs, which are already critically underfunded and understaffed.

There are solutions in front of us to solve the homeless crisis, but we must have the courage to recognize what actions must be taken if we are truly serious about solving these issues. The creation of a 3D housing industry can create huge amounts of potential for solving poverty and tapping into a market of need that the entire country is experiencing right now.

We can solve our poverty crisis while, at the same time, set the example for the rest of the country. At the very least, we must talk about outside-the-box strategies because what we are doing right now is not working.