I have a solution: Free Beer.
Just kidding, sort of. Hear me out.
The Methodology of Universal Love states that the best solution is the one that is a solution from all points of view. Downtown business owners would like their customers to be able to visit their stores without tripping over a sleeping person at the entrance. So the owners want the homeless to sleep elsewhere. Homeless people need a place to sleep. Urgently. Perhaps even tonight. Perhaps earlier. Anywhere they can.
How can we meet the needs of both?
Software developers speak frequently of two kinds of Free: Free as in speech, or free as in beer. Free-Speech sleeping is being able to sleep past dawn, which doesn’t happen in a homeless shelter (read the article). Free-Beer sleeping is not having to pay for it.
What if the homeless didn’t have to choose between those options?
Here’s my proposal: pick a plot of land on the edge of town, and declare it ok to camp there. Sleep in a tent, past dawn. Provide basic necessities for free: toilet, shower, laundry. Put in a kitchen and serve regular wholesome meals. Create community gardens, raise chickens. Put up a free thrift store, food drop-off, bicycle repair, yoga studio (this is Boulder). Run it like an Occupy encampment; serving and run by the community. Create micro-neighborhoods like Burning Man camps; family, rowdy, newcomers, etc. Those communities will decide what they’ll allow in camp.
Call it Free Town: Free living for the Free People.