One-way tickets not solution for homeless
Published: Sunday, January 8, 2012
Updated: Sunday, January 8, 2012 19:01
With a local unemployment rate of 9.7 percent, Central Florida has a case of homelessness that is becoming a community epidemic we cannot ignore. Behind the façade of Walt Disney World and Universal Studios, there are parents without jobs and children without food. These are not your stereotypical homeless panhandlers on the side of the road; these are families that never imagined that they would one day find themselves living on the streets.
So how do we solve the crisis of homelessness? You might remember back in 2009 when Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration began providing one-way tickets to persuade homeless families to leave New York City. The costs of some of those tickets were expensive but meager when compared to the $36,000 cost of keeping a family in a New York shelter. Families were flown back to Paris ($6,332), Johannesburg, South Africa ($2,550.70), or most frequently Orlando ($858.40), according to The New York Times.
Bloomberg's decision to transport the homeless out of New York City was a controversial idea, but it seems that the city of Fort Lauderdale is taking a page out of the same book with its newly approved $25,000 bus program. The program — much like Bloomberg's — aims to help the homeless by providing them with one-way bus tickets to relatives who are willing to take care of them. The program won't cost taxpayers a dime and is instead being paid for by money confiscated from criminals via the Florida law enforcement trust fund, according to CBS Miami.
Overall, it seems that those living in Fort Lauderdale are supportive of the program, especially since there is no cost, and no people are being forced to leave the city. Nonetheless, is transporting homeless families out of a city the solution to homelessness? Should Orlando initiate a similar program, or could that $25,000 price tag be used to fund another, more long-term, program?
Arnold S. Cohen, the president and chief executive officer of the Partnership for the Homeless, an advocacy group in New York, considers moving the homeless as a mere cosmetic fix. It may look better for the city, but in reality the issue of homelessness hasn't changed.
"We're taking people from a shelter bed here to the living room couch of another family. Essentially, this family is still homeless," Cohen said in a report by The Times.
Cohen is absolutely right. Spending $25,000 on a transportation program for the homeless will not help these families find jobs, normal wages or security. It does nothing to end the cycle of poverty nor does it provide rehabilitation for those who might need it. Sure, that $25,000 is virtually free for the city of Fort Lauderdale to use, but do you know how Orlando uses money from the Florida law enforcement trust fund? The city uses it to pay for initiatives like the Illegal Gun Bounty Program, a citywide effort to get illegal guns off the streets. These are the type of programs that have potential for a long-term impact on our community; asking the homeless to leave does not.
To be blunt, Orlando has even bigger issues to deal with when it comes to taking care of the homeless. You might remember members of the non-profit organization Food Not Bombs being arrested for feeding the homeless at Lake Eola. Then we have the growing childhood poverty rate of 25 percent, meaning that one in four children in Central Florida is homeless, according to the Orlando Sentinel. If we want to end homelessness, it's going to take more than a bus ticket. It's going to take contributions of spare change, donations of old clothes and lobbying to our legislators to demand more for the middle class.
This year, let's commit ourselves to being the change that we've been waiting for. If not now, then when?