‘The most efficient way to spend money on the homeless might be to give it to them

On this side of the Atlantic Ocean, anti-homelessness programs, in the majority, continue to focus on the worthiness/ ‘readiness’ of a homeless individual or family to be housed.  In early November, The Economist reported on ‘risk taking in the provision of public services’ inspired by a “brave and novel” approach in London.

To wit, one organization decided to alter their offer to long-term street homeless people: Instead of a bed in a hostel (shelter), they asked the individuals what they needed to change their lives.   The answers were ‘sneakers and a TV’; another for a caravan site; none asked for money for drink, drugs or beds.  It was a small study — 13 individuals — but 11 moved off the streets.

Some said that they cooperated because they were offered control over their own lives, rather than being bullied into hostels [shelters to us].  Again, they were simply asked what they needeed to change their lives.

The cost of meeting each request averaged $1277; surely a shocking savings from the high cost of shelter.

The Economist went on to note the success rates of “an emerging international trend to use ‘conditional cash transfers’ to solve intractable social problems”.

I suspect that there are many who will/would scoff at such an idea; but I would like to note that that such scoffing is part of the demeaning attitudes and practices which keep families and individuals discouraged and unempowered.  Until our practices reflect an equality between ‘helper’ and ‘helped’, we will continue to waste public funds on institutions rather than homes.  We can do better.

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