NYC Sending Homeless Away At City Expense; NYT Sympathetic

The Bloomberg administration in New York has happened upon an idea for at least partially solving the city's homeless problem: Buy them tickets to get to the homes of relatives in the U.S. or abroad who will take them in.

Along the way, the New York Times's coverage of the story throws out an estimate of annual costs to take care of a homeless family that is either ridiculously high, or indicative of out-of-control bloat. The story also reveals the dense logic of a so-called "homeless advocate" who believes that the people sent away are still homeless. Finally and separately, though I couldn't find a reference myself, a well-known blogger asserts that a similar approach to the problem taken by another city was derided as uncaring.

Here are key paragraphs from the story by Julie Bosman (HT to an e-mailer):

City Aids Homeless With One-Way Tickets Home

They are flown to Paris ($6,332), Orlando ($858.40), Johannesburg ($2,550.70), or most frequently, San Juan ($484.20).

They are not executives on business trips or couples on honeymoons. Rather, all are families who have ended up homeless, and all the plane tickets are courtesy of the city of New York (one-way).

The Bloomberg administration, which has struggled with a seemingly intractable problem of homelessness for years, has paid for more than 550 families to leave the city since 2007, as a way of keeping them out of the expensive shelter system, which costs $36,000 a year per family. All it takes is for a relative elsewhere to agree to take the family in.

Many of them are longtime New Yorkers who have come upon hard times, arrive at the shelter’s doorstep and jump at the offer to move at no cost. Others are recent arrivals who are happy to return home after becoming discouraged by the city’s noise, the mazelike subway, the difficult job market or the high cost of housing.

The city .... spends $500,000 a year on the program ....

.... Once a family leaves New York, homeless services officials say they follow up with a phone call to make sure they arrive safely, then make a few more calls over the next two to three weeks. In rare cases, they will advance the family up to four months’ rent, a one-month security deposit, a furniture allowance and a broker’s fee.

.... The program fails to address the underlying problems that brought the families here in the first place, said Arnold S. Cohen, the president and chief executive of the Partnership for the Homeless, an advocacy group in New York.

“The city is engaged in cosmetics,” Mr. Cohen said. “What we’re doing is passing the problem of homelessness to another city. We’re taking people from a shelter bed here to the living room couch of another family. Essentially, this family is still homeless.”

Oh come on, Mr. Cohen. When they arrive, they have a roof over their heads and are with people who were willing to take them in. They're not homeless any more. Extending Mr. Cohen's definition, if there are two families living together in any dwelling, one of them must be considered homeless. How many immigrant and other families who are voluntarily crowded into single-dwelling living conditions would be added to the homeless stats under Mr. Cohen's definition?

No wonder there is so much baloney in data about the homeless. About a year ago, I noted that a detailed study by the city of San Francisco into that city's homeless population revealed that the city had 6,377 homeless -- including those who were in what is known as "supportive housing" -- and a related budget of $186 million, or $29,000 per homeless person, which is bad enough. New York's spending of $36,000 per homeless person is almost 25% higher, and is spread over a larger homeless population, as Gotham is about 12 times larger than San Francisco. So there should be economies of scale instead of increased bloat, right? Wrong.

The homeless-magnet City by the Bay's homelessness rate of 0.98%, if replicated in the entire country, would yield a homeless population of just under 3 million. But of course the nationwide rate isn't anywhere near that high, and when you subtract out those in "supportive housing" -- which, by the way, San Francisco believes is an appropriate step -- the nationwide number probably is in the hundreds of thousands.

Of course, we have the Obama administration presiding over the economy, so that number could start to rise dramatically in short order.

Interestingly, Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit recalls that when Houston did something similar, "it was proof of uncaring degeneracy. Now that New York is doing it, it’s progressive!"

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.