New York City pays homeless to get out of Gotham

Post by Daniel Fontaine in

4 comments


New York City recently paid a homeless family over $6K to move back to Paris as part of a comprehensive new scheme to reduce homelessness and save costs

There are many people living in Canadian cities who consider New York City as one of the most "progressive" (some say liberal) cities in the world. They are seen as a model of how millions of people can come together and transform a part of the planet into a harmonious melting pot of cultures as well as the financial centre of free world.

That's why New York's "innovative" way of dealing with its homeless people is raising a few eyebrows. According to the Guardian, the city is giving homeless people cash and asking them to pack their bags and get out of Gotham. Incredibly, one homeless family of five was actually provided with $6,632 USD to purchase one-way tickets back to Paris, France.

What is the rationale for this policy in one of America's most progressive cities? Well, Mayor Bloomberg feels New York has become a magnet for the nation's homeless people, and he simply can't afford to build enough social housing to keep up with the growing demand. Sound familiar Vancouver? Bloomberg's motto appears to be "build it and they will continue to come."

According to city officials, it can cost $36,000 USD per year to house a family in a shelter for a year. When you compare that to the purchase of an airline ticket home, you can see why the Mayor thinks it is more economical to pay for people (they have to volunteer of course) to move to other cities.

By comparison, it is reported that the Province of BC is spending about $1,875 per month per person to stay in one of Mayor Gregor Robertson's HEAT shelters. Using that calculation, it would cost provincial taxpayers about $90,000 to house a family of four for a twelve month period. Metro News in Vancouver aptly points out in one of their columns today that the average minimum wage earner in BC makes about $1,387 per month.

As you can see, Vancouver is facing a very similar problem to that of New York City. However, one could never imagine that city officials on this side of the border would pursue a policy anywhere near what our American friends have implemented.

That's because it is highly unlikely Canadians would see this is a "fair and just" policy. Unofficially, there are some Canadian cities that make if more difficult for homeless people to live in than others. That's why so many of them end up on the BC's south coast where not only is the climate friendlier, but so are city officials as well as the countless agencies that provide support to the homeless.

According to the Guardian:

Since the $500,000-a-year scheme was launched in 2007, 550 homeless families have been paid to leave the city. None have come back.

"We want to divert as many families as we can that need assistance," Vida Chavez-Downes, a city official said.

"We have paid for visas, we've gone down to the consulate, we've provided letters, we've paid for passports for people to go. Anyone who comes through our door." 

Not everyone is in agreement with NYC's new policy on reducing the homeless population. Arnold Cohen, an activist in New York told the Times:

The city is engaged in cosmetics. 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.

What do you think of NYC's new policy? Check out our online poll to cast your vote, or leave a comment below.

4 Comments

Allow the poor folks to go back to their beginnings, and retry their skills at life. Perhaps they will have learned from their mistakes and will do better next time out.
Everyone can contribute in some manor to assist society, being a leach is not one of them!!

oh oh -- where is the finest place for the homeless in all of North America? I hope Kerry Jang and Gregor can subdivide their basements into 205 square foot mini condos so we have enough room for the influx. We'll need more lawyers at Pivot, some extra board seats on VANDU and a couple dozen more housing agencies.

It's a lousy policy, it gives a small benefit to the municipality which uses this techinique and displaces a larger harm onto the receiving municipality. Imagine if all municipalities starting doing this, all our potential homelessness funding would go into flying and busing homeless people back and forth between competing cities.

This kind of thing becomes natural though when you have a social problem of regional and national dynamics without policies of a regional and national scope in place. Welfare and homelessness policy should be, if not federally regulated, the product of inter-municipal and inter-provincial accords, so that provinces and municipalities are not punished for having more advanced provisions for the poor by seeing more homeless find their way to that province/city because of it.

For instance an accord whereby the cities with the 5 highest percapita shares of homeless each agree to raise their homelessness budgets by a certain percentage per year would help. If it's every city for themselves this kind of thing, as useless on the whole as it is, is bound to occur.

Michael - Vancouver is known coast to coast in Canada as 'the destination' for addicts -- we have esentially become the defacto 'receiving municipality' you describe.
I would like to see a process whereby a person produces their last known photo Id with an address. The municipality on that id is responsible for housing you, counselling you and giving you free needeles or whatever it is the homeless need. Right now Vancouver takes ALL the homeless from Burnaby, Abbotsford, Surrey - right up the valley and right across the country. How can one small City carry the burden for an entire nation?

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