New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg initiated a program in 2007 that provides one-way tickets to homeless Big Apple city dwellers back to their original hometowns. Is it a quick fix to improve the City's abysmal homelessness stats or a viable logical solution?
Over the course of two years the City has sponsored bus, train, and air fares for over 560 families spanning 24 states and five continents. Common destinations are Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina, and Puerto Rico, but the list also includes Paris, South Africa, Haiti, Peru, and Trinidad and Tobago.
Mayor Bloomberg defends his plan by pointing to the estimated $36,000 per year cost to provide shelter for a homeless family. He points out that government officials check to see what the situation is on the other side of the one-way ticket and even call to follow-up. The city reports that no families have returned to Big Apple shelters. New York City spends $500,000 per year on the program, and it's a bargain according to Mayor Bloomberg, considering the high costs that would be incurred to support the families in the City.
Not so fast, say some groups.
The Coalition For the Homeless reports an estimated 36,000 homeless people are in New York City shelters with 16,000 being children. It points out that Mayor Bloomberg launched a bold initiative in 2004 to reduce homelessness incidents in the city by two-thirds. However, instead of dropping, homelessness is estimated to have increased in the City from 8700 homeless families living in shelters in 2004 to an estimated 9500 in 2009, making critics wonder if the ship-out option is just a cosmetic fix to a real shape-up solution.
They question is whether sending a city's homeless to another location does anything to resolve the real issue---what led them to a state of homelessness. Skeptics are critical of the costs being expended to send the homeless away, instead of improving infrastructures within the city to prevent and alleviate homelessness.
However, for the families being shipped out, there is hope and optimism for a fresh start, a new beginning, and a chance to go big by going home.
- City Aids Homeless With One-Way Tickets Home (New York Times)
- Drop in Homeless Count Draws Skepticism (New York Times)
- Bloomberg's solution to the homeless problem: a one-way ticket out of New York (The Independent)
- Coalition for the Homeless
- NYC Dept. of Homeless Services