Saturday, January 30, 2010

You take my homeless, and I'll take yours. Yeah, sure.

Colorado Springs officials think they can reduce their unsheltered-- that is, camping out-- population of homeless people by about 10 percent by putting them on a bus and sending them home.

The police department’s three-man Homeless Outreach Team will be working with people who have family members or friends in another city willing to take them in, and who just don't have a way to get there.  The team is hoping some 25 to 30 homeless people will take advantage of the offer, which is funded by the Salvation Army through a grant.  Some 300 to 500 people are estimated to be "camping out" in the Colorado Springs area.

Lancaster, California, a small city of 145,000, operated a similar program last year.  The city's mayor felt as if the City of Los Angeles, an hour to the south,  was sending their own homeless to overwhelm Lancaster's homeless.  But most of the homeless people who took advantage of the offer were local people who chose to go somewhere else.

For every touching story of a daughter who discovers her long-lost father in a homeless shelter and welcomes him in to her loving home, there are ten homeless people who can't go home again.  Maybe there is no home to go to, parents and siblings dead, or scattered to the winds.  Maybe families are why a person is homeless in the first place-- shelters have their share of the young, runaway victims of abuse.  Sometimes homeless peoples have slammed the door shut themselves, or had it slammed on them because of their own behavior.

But what if every homeless person went back to the city in which they were born?  Or in which they'd spent most of their lives?  The affluent communities, the small towns, the capital cities: what would you do if all the homeless people came home?

Photo from DavidX Zhang's photostream at Flickr.


MoonRaven said...

This certainly isn't a solution to homelessness. It seems like too many people think the way to solve the problem of homeless people is to get them out of their sight.

I only wish more officials started thinking about how to have more homes for more people, how to fund and improve the shelters, and how to get more services for those in need. Unfortunately, as times get harder, it's harder to get stressed out bureaucrats to look at things that way.

Barkha Dhar said...

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Barkha Dhar