Thursday, July 08, 2004

More Money: I've been reading and hearing about this new San Francisco proposal on homelessness. Mayor Gavin Newsom has gotten good press for his "innovative" approach, and the NPR story last night was predictably glowing. Briefly, from the LA Times article linked above:
The new plan, which Bush administration officials have praised as a potential national model, would try to move the most desperate street people out of shelters and into permanent housing where they could receive treatment for addiction, mental illnesses and other chronic health problems.
Essentially, instead of giving money to homeless people (which is a rotten idea in itself) and hoping that they pay for housing with it, San Francisco aims to cut out the middle man, hold onto the money, and instead provide the housing itself. (Never mind that the city already provides the shelters.) In other words, the solution is to make these people wards of the state.

This is innovative and ambitious public policy at its worst. (No surprise, then, that the Bush administration digs it.) It is intended to solve a problem that either doesn't exist (homelessness due to lack of quality/affordable housing) or won't be solved by creating extra housing (homelessness based on mental illness, drugs/alcohol). Much of the praise heaped on the program on NPR focused on how, by bypassing the homeless and funding housing instead, the beneficiary can't use the money to buy drugs. Of course, if that were the case, we could just cut all of their benefits -- then they'd all clean up and get jobs at Prudential and Wells Fargo. Or cadge change, buy shitty drugs, use dirty needles, and so on. Whichever. The only homeless people NPR talked to were reasonably articulate folks who praised the system. Bully for them, but they didn't sound like the homeless I knew from New York, the ones who walked in circles and pissed on the curb.

It is axiomatic that when an employer offers better benefits, more people will compete for those jobs. Well, San Francisco decided a long time ago that it was hiring the homeless, and that no application would be turned down. They still haven't made the connection, and still attempt to solve the problem by upping the benefits.

1 comment:

Razor said...

Maybe San Fran is competing for the nation's homeless. Maybe that's why they're so darn articulate; they represent the creme-de-la-gutter.